We’re in New Mexico

We’ve arrived at the Elephant Butte Inn here in New Mexico. It’s a beautiful hotel, near Elephant Butte Lake State Park.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park features the largest and most popular lake in New Mexico. The lake is really a reservoir that was created almost a century ago when a dam was built across the Rio Grande River. The reservoir is about 40 miles long, and has over 200 miles of shoreline. The Park is a popular tourist attraction known for its water sports and trophy size fish, including striper, bass and wall eye.

“Elephant Butte” is an interesting name. Although fossils of the stegomastodon (a primitive relative of today’s elephant) have been discovered near the reservoir, the area was not named for its former and formidable inhabitants – which included the famous Tyrannosaurs Rex dinosaur. Rather, the name “Elephant Butte” was derived from the eroded core of an ancient volcano, now an island in the reservoir, in the shape of an elephant.

Elephant Butte
Elephant Butte

We’ll be greeting our guests this evening at the Celestis registration table where we will issue tickets for the vans that will ferry all of us (including our guests) between the Elephant Butte Inn and Spaceport America.

Tomorrow morning we’ll travel to Spaceport America and take a tour of the launch pad, see the UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL launch vehicle, and tour UP Aerospace’s mission control.

We’ll be getting to bed early Thursday evening as we have to board the vans again Friday morning at 4:15 am for the trip back to Spaceport America to view the launch.

Note: The photo above, and much of this text, comes from the Web site of the Elephant Butte Lake State Park.

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Student Payloads on Board the Launch Vehicle

The Goddard Flight, a Celestis Earth Rise service mission, is flying as a secondary payload on UP Aerospace’s SpaceLoft XL launch vehicle that’s projected to liftoff Friday.  The primary payload is a set of 27 experiments of elementary, junior high, high school and college students from New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.  The New Mexico Space Grant Consortium (NMSGC) at New Mexico State University is sponsoring the launch of this primary payload.

The rocket will loft 27 student experiments into space from Spaceport America, culminating nearly a year of development and planning. “Working together with our partners at UP Aerospace and many other dedicated, talented professionals,” said NMSGC Director Dr. Pat Hynes, “we are making every effort to assure the success of this unique scientific opportunity for the students.”

The student launch program was created by the NMSGC to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs for area students. This program supports the integration of space science in the classroom by providing annual access to space for student experiments at the end of each academic year.

Experiments include 35 sensors such as carbon dioxide detectors, electromagnetic field, radiation, acceleration, temperature, pressure and electricity sensors.  For example, students at Desert Ridge Middle School, Albuquerque, New Mexico have an experiment on board that will measure the Earth’s magnetosphere (the region in space whose shape is determined by the Earth’s internal magnetic field) as the rocket travels from Earth to space and back.  Students at Picacho Middle School, Las Cruces, New Mexico will study the success of packing materials in launching fragile items to space.  And students at both Sierra Middle School and Zia Middle School in Las Cruces, New Mexico want to know how four common raw materials (nickel, brass, copper, and silver) used to build space-rated hardware and equipment behave thermodynamically from launch to landing.

Descriptions of all the student experiments are available online at LaunchNM.com/payloads.php

The New Mexico Space Grant Consortium is a member of the congressionally funded National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program that is administered by NASA and sponsored by New Mexico State University. The program promotes and inspires lifelong learning in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as it pertains to space-related activities. The consortium supports a wide range of projects and scholarship opportunities, including the Student Launch Program.

Read a newspaper column by NMSGC Director Dr. Pat Hynes about her motivation for making these annual education launches a reality.

Participants On Board The Goddard Flight

Celestis memorial spaceflights always have flight participants with interesting and moving life stories.  The Goddard Flight is no exception.

Leonard MajeskeLeonard Michael Majeske, 90, of South Glastonbury, Connecticut was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated with honors from De Lasalle High School. He received an Engineering Degree from the University of Detroit Professional and a Masters Degree from Catholic University. While in school he was Midwest Editor of Design News magazine. He served in the U.S. Air Force in World War II and was a lifetime member of American Legion Glastonbury. His first career was as an aerospace engineer. This included a position with NASA working for rocket pioneer Werner Von Braun. He earned several patents on tank, automobile and airplane components. After retiring from engineering he became an educator with the State of Connecticut.

Leonard, also known as Mike, was an accomplished musician proficient in piano, guitar and his favorite instrument, the accordion. He was an avid duplicate bridge player and a founder of the Glastonbury Duplicate Bridge club. He was a lifetime member of Mensa, a published limerick writer and inventor of the sport of tunnis. He played chess for almost 80 years, earned grandmaster points and won several local chess tournaments. He was the Official Town Crier in Glastonbury and also appeared in advertisements for ConnectiCare. He was a strong vocal advocate for social change.

Brenda SartorBrenda Jean Sartor came into this world blessed with unwavering determination and a desire to live life to the fullest and make every day count. God knew that these character traits would be exactly the tools she would need to survive trapped in a physical body compromised by the effects of Spinal Muscular Atrophy – a form of Muscular Dystrophy. Diagnosed at nine months old, the doctors gave Brenda only two years to live – but they couldn’t see the passion and drive inside her little heart that would enable her to live an extra three decades – accomplishing much in her short 36 years.

Brenda’s engaging personality and desire to help find a cure for her debilitating disease led the Muscular Dystrophy Association to select her as both the Idaho State Poster Child in 1981 and the Northeast Florida Poster Child in 1982 & 1983. Thousands were touched when she read her poem “A Little Girl’s Dreams” on TV during the MDA telethon.

But as much as she was devoted to helping find a cure for Muscular Dystrophy, Brenda’s driving passion was outer space. She followed the space flights, devoured books and movies about space and space travel, became a sci-fi junkie, and even loved to eat freeze dried ‘space ice cream.’ She was granted a wish from the Make A Wish Foundation, and naturally chose a trip to NASA! Her personalized behind-the-scenes tour complete with an encounter with an astronaut in a space suit was one of the highlights of her life.

From the time she understood what astronauts did, Brenda’s goal was to become one and travel into outer space. Until Sally Ride beat her to it, Brenda wanted to be the first female astronaut! Undaunted, her goal then morphed to becoming the first disabled person to go into space. She dreamed of being able to move about freely in space – without the restrictions of gravity and a diseased body.

Space shuttle liftoff
Space Shuttle Atlantis takes flight on the STS-27 mission, Dec. 2, 1988.

At the age of 11, during one of Brenda’s many hospital stays, the Challenger explosion occurred. The television was blanketed with coverage, and Brenda, being bound to her hospital room, was a captive audience to the round-the-clock coverage. She was mesmerized by every detail of the launch and its mishap. The future astronaut was so impacted by the tragedy that she switched gears and fixed her sights on becoming an engineer and working for NASA to help ensure that such a catastrophe would never occur again. Brenda never wavered from this vision. She graduated from Middleburg High School with honors, and proceeded to earn a bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida.

Although her physical limitations kept her from becoming a NASA employee, her desire to become an astronaut never wavered. Her dying wish was to send part of her remains into space. Her thought was that if she couldn’t travel into space as a ‘whole’ person, she still would be able to fulfill her dream of orbiting the earth by sending her ashes after her passing.

We invite you to read the biographies of all Goddard Flight participants.

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