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USA

Day 4 - NASA Tweetup

Part 1

sunny 35 °C

This was the first thing that I put on after my clothes! My official pass.... Wow.... Today was the day I was going to Kennedy Space Centre (KSC)

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When we arrived at KSC, We were directed into a huge room laid out for us all. Power sources so we could tweet during the afternoon.
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I sat at a table with some of my fellow housemates. We had to introduce ourselves saying our real name, Twitter handle and an interesting fact. My interesting fact was that I was the first and only female Manager of the Airfield at one of the Worlds busiest airports - London Heathrow! Hearing some people's introductions I did wonder how on earth I was there, Scientists, Mathematicians, Physics experts, Space experts and then me! - I will explain why I think I was there when I do my summary of the trip.

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We were all put on coaches and taken off ready for our tour, Places visitors etc never get to see. I had rough expectations what we would see but everything we saw, heard and did totally surpassed everything I had imagined.

The first stop was at the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)
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We were told do not look up when you first walk in, Just keep walking then look.... I felt dizzy when I did look up. It was so damn high and enormous! I have never been in such a building and had the sense of space, Not even Terminal 5 at Heathrow before it was fitted out. You could almost feel the emotions that people had left in their from when they had worked there. We were all so quiet and our heads I believe full of our own thoughts.
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Some facts about the VAB taken from Wikipedia:

  • The Vehicle (originally Vertical) Assembly Building, or VAB, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) was used to assemble and house American manned launch vehicles from 1968-2011. It is the fourth largest building in the world by volume.[citation needed] The building is at Launch Complex 39 at KSC.
  • The VAB is the largest single-story building in the world, was the tallest building in Florida until 1974, and is still the tallest building in the United States outside an urban area.
  • The VAB is 526 feet (160.3 m) tall, 716 feet (218.2 m) long and 518 feet (157.9 m) wide. It covers 8 acres (3 ha), and encloses 129,428,000 cubic feet (3,665,000 m3) of space. The building has 10,000 tons of air conditioning equipment, including 125 ventilators on the roof supported by four large air handlers (four cylindrical structures west of the building) to keep moisture under control. Air in the building can be completely replaced every hour. The interior volume of the building is so vast that it has its own weather, including "rain clouds form[ing] below the ceiling on very humid days",which the moisture reduction systems are designed to minimise.
  • There are four entries to the bays located inside the building, which are the four largest doors in the world. Each door is 456 feet (139.0 m) high and takes 45 minutes to completely open or close. The north entry that leads to the transfer aisle was widened by 40 feet (12.2 m) to allow entry of the shuttle orbiter. A central slot at the center of the north entry allowed for passage of the orbiter's vertical stabiliser. To lift the components of the Space Transportation System, the VAB housed five overhead bridge cranes, including 2 capable of lifting 325 tons, and 136 other lifting devices.
  • The American flag painted on the building was the largest in the world when added in 1976 as part of United States Bicentennial celebrations, along with the star logo of the anniversary, later replaced by the NASA insignia in 1998. It is 209 feet (63.7 m) high, and 110 feet (33.5 m) wide. Each of the stars on the flag is 6 feet (1.83 m) across, the blue field is the size of a regulation basketball court, and each of the stripes is 9 feet (2.74 m) wide, the width of a standard road lane.

I am hoping the above facts can really make you sense how big this building was.

We were told we were in for a surprise and walked round the corner and there was "Endeavour". I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. This shuttle had been into space. It still had "Space dirt" on it. Bumps, nicks and scrapes. This was the real thing! I have to admit that it just tore at my heart that I was seeing something as special as this. I just could not get enough at looking at every part of her. She was just stunning, A work of art, An engineering feat. Please humour me here as I am going to post quite a few pictures and facts of this wonderful piece of history.

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  • Space Shuttle Endeavour (Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-105) is one of the retired orbiters of the Space Shuttle program of NASA, the space agency of the United States. Endeavour was the fifth and final spaceworthy NASA space shuttle to be built, constructed as a replacement for Challenger. Endeavour first flew in May 1992 on mission STS-49 and its last mission STS-134 was in May 2011. The STS-134 mission was originally planned as the final mission of the Space Shuttle program, but with authorization of the STS-135 mission, Atlantis became the last Space Shuttle to fly.

OV designation OV-105
Country United States
Contract award July 31, 1987
Named after HMS Endeavour (1764)
Status Retired
First flight STS-49 May 7, 1992 – May 16, 1992
Last flight STS-134 May 16, 2011 – June 1, 2011
Number of missions 25
Crews 148
Time spent in space 296 days, 3 hours, 34 minutes, 2 seconds
Number of orbits 4,671
Distance travelled 122,883,151 mi (197,761,262 km)
Satellites deployed 3
Mir dockings 1
ISS dockings 12

These facts just show how exceptional she was..... and I have seen her close up. Still amazed and emotional at the thought of it, Even a week later I can remember exactly how I felt when I saw her!

On the way out of the VAB we were shown on one of the walls where everyone had written their names who had worked on the Space Shuttle Programme - What a fantastic job they all did.
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Next stop on the tour was to the clock! I was going to actually touch and stand by "The Clock" that I had watched on TV so many times!
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Posted by Fidget 12:34 Archived in USA Tagged nasa grail tweetup Comments (0)

Day 3

Arriving for NASATweetup at the house

sunny 35 °C

Sorry for the delay of yesterday’s blog. It was such a busy, fantastic amazing day. By the time I got to bed last night all I wanted to do was sleep!

Woke up at 06:00, Just could not sleep was so damn excited. It was even more than waiting for christmas.
Vanessa arrived at my hotel, We had Starbucks and I tried my first Apple and Cinnamon bagel filled with cream cheese. I actually though, Oh no she is weird!! It was so damn tasty and wow - I want more!

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We both shared a cab to the airport to meet Erin another fellow housemate who was going to drive us to the townhouse we had rented.
Whilst waiting for Erin to arrive at baggage reclaim, Vanessa asked me to look after her stuff while she visited the ladies. On her return she said to me - That she had just left all her wordly goods woth me a complete stranger and I could have run away with all her belongings. I replied as an ex Airside Manager at Heathrow, You would have thought I would know damn well better than to look after suitcases while the owner wandered off!! We both found it vastly amusing and then I said oh well, You can now look after mine while I go!!
Erin arrived, It was obvious who she was as she was wearing her GRAIL T-Shirt. We went and got in the car. Vanessa made us laugh she went to get in the driving seat as it was a different side drive car. We both laughed but I have to admit I would have done exactly the same thing!!
Vanessa sat in the front as I thought she would navigate better than me. sadly she could not find a map in the book!

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Erin drove us to Wal-Mart (A supermarket)! WOW - Poor Erin and Vanessa were both mortified when I took my camera in with me to photograph the different types of food! All ready peeled coconuts, Drinks called Fuzzy Navel!

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The three of us then went to get our NASA credentials I received a tweet from Vanessa on route.Vanessa said do you think we should tell Erin she is driving on the wrong side of the road, I replied no as she may just drop us off and leave us at the side of the road with the alligators!
Were were one of the first to arrive and were given some extra goodies, I am the proud owner of a NASA Rubick cube! All my credentials tallied up so I was issued my NASA pass and a NASA goodie bag. We all put our lanyards on and it then became so real for me that this was actually happening!
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On arriving at the townhouse, Vanessa managed to work out how to get into it. It was such a cheap deal for the 10 of us to share, I was a little concerned what kind of place I had secured for all of us.
On entering the house the three of us just could not believe what we saw.... WOW, What a place. I won’t go into details as I am posting all the pictures. I was going to share the master bedroom with Melissa and Kelly. It was Huge!!
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The bathroom has the biggest spa bath I have ever seen, A big walk in shower, Toilet and 2 complete sinks on either side of the bathroom.

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We then fell about laughing our heads off - They was NO door to the bathroom!! So it was then decided no photography to be performed from the bedroom (Jason later added, well not for publication outside the house)!! NO damn way!!

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The kitchen and all other rooms were stunning!
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All the other housemates arrived - Jason with boxes of Chips (Crisps in American talk), Popcorn in a huge box, 3 packs of 35 bottles of water, Red and white wine and the bottle of Bourbon he promised to bring. It was fantastic to put a face to a name. All the housemates really started to mix and get on. I now know what BIg Brother must now feel like!

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Everyone are just so great, Have wonderful personalities and I am total awe of all their knowledge on space etc... I have never felt so out of my depth. Everyone one of them have been fantastic. They are explaining as we go now. They have all been studying or working with space etc for years. Where as I have only been getting involved and interested since meeting the most wonderful friend Dr Lucy Rogers. ( I have a best friend who is a rocket scientist)! She has written a book called - It’s only Rocket science.... Really shows how rocket science is but in a simplified way. A great book to start with to understand... You can see it here Sorry drifting off there!! Thanks Lucy for introducing me to this subject and for everything else too!!
Back on track now.... Vanessa and I decided to walk along the boardwalk onto the beach infront of the townhouse. We both paddled. OK, I have not seen surf waves like it... We paddled, the water was so warm.... I went in and hey, I got caught by a wave which came from no where and soaked me... Off course Vanessa found it very funny!!
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Everyone started to get ready to go out for dinner to meet about another 40 people that were attending the NASATweetup at Dixies Seafood Restaurant. Putting more names to friends I had communicated with. Ordered a Margarita, It was good by my God it was salty.
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I tried a strawberry margarita. So tasty and did not taste of alcohol sadly as I drunk mine quite quickly!
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The food was tasty and good, I had 3 bacon wrapped shimps and 3 coconut shrimps with fries and coleslaw. So big and huge shrimps that were so delicious
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Sierra and I went outside for some fresh air, On the way she decided to try and chat up the shrimp!
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We then got chatting to the local Sherriff. A really friendly guy with a big gun! He put handcuffs on me!! What a laugh and I even got his business card!
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Back at the house later Jason opened the Bourbon he had bought from home. Wow... So smooth especially when drunk sitting with your legs dangling in the pool.
We finally all crashed out just before 1am!
What a great load of housemates - Thanks guys!

Night Night
xx

Posted by Fidget 20:39 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Day 2

A day of Mixed Fortunes!

sunny 34 °C

Woke up to brilliant hot sunshine, It is even better here in daylight than darkness. Slept so well for a change.
After grabbing a caramel machiato from Starbucks I realised the large shopping mail has an entrance from the hotel - Not good!
As I was sitting outside I got chatting to a lovely lady - BA cabin crew. This hotel I am staying in is where many cabin crew from the UK stay. Just like a busman's holiday. We chatted for quite a while and had a bit of a laugh swapping stories. I didn't get her name but I know she will be reading this so thank you for your company this morning.

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There are amazing little lizards walking around on the ground, Watched them in amazement, Sadly I didn't have my camera with me.
Went shopping, amazed at the prices so much cheaper than at home. There was even a store for just M and M's (M and M World) wow! got a few bits for the children. Had such fun wandering around looking at everything.

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There was even a M and M car in the store!

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As today is a chill day I spent the afternoon at the pool sunbathing and swimming, Total relaxation. The heat is wonderful and luckily there was a breeze as well. I know I had to have a quiet one today as from tomorrow it is going to be "Full on"

Decided after a few hours to go back into my room for a siesta, didn't want to overdo the sun on my first day.
This is when my fortunes changed!!

Wanted to go do some more shopping so got my "Pinsentry" machine (It is like a small calculator, that you place your BARCLAYS BANK card into, enter your pin and it comes up with a code that you enter then on the online banking website) I put my pin number in correctly 3 times and the message came up on the screen "your pin has been locked, please contact your bank"
So I called the customer service number for BARCLAYS BANK. After 4 different departments and £35 in phone call, I was told the only way to reset pin was to use a BARCLAYS BANK ATM machine, I explained yet again I was in Orlando and there were none. I asked if I could reset the pin at an affiliated bank. I was told no it had to be a BARCLAYS BANK ATM!! I explained that there surely must be a way so I can use my card with ALL my spending money on it. They said only other way was for them to send me a new pin number in 5 working days. Yet again I informed them I was in America. I had filled in the form before I left the country to inform them. Yet again I was told sorry nothing they could do. It had to be the worse customer service I have ever experienced!

I logged onto Twitter and put a shout out if anyone knew any BARCLAYS BANKERS (Yes I spelt that correctly)!
Many friends came back with advice and retweeted I was looking for banking advice.
One friend found the nearest Barclays bank was in Miami! He also found out that BARCLAYS BANK do not have a Twitter account but he traced the Director of Int Comms and messaged him.
I am pasting the complete conversation between us all!

This is what Brian's profile says - @brianmilligan - Associate Director of Digital Communications for a global Financial Services organisation. Views are personal and may not reflect those of my employer. (BARCLAYS BANK)

Fish - .@brianmilligan Thanks for getting back to @fidget02, she's in The States at the moment & unable to reset her PIN. Any suggestions for her?
Brian - @fidget02 we hope to launch @barclaysonline v soon. Hope this improved contact us page helps for now bit.ly/nVgyC7 cc @flyingwithfish
Fish - @brianmilligan The link you sent is where @fidget02 found contact info, racked up £35 in roaming charges ... and was told they couldn't help
Brian - @fidget02 I know this don't help but I'm not customer service. I'm group int comms. The link I sent is all I can think of
Brian - @flyingwithfish @fidget02 i found a non UK telephone number on UK website bit.ly/pGrBen. Watch out of @barclaysonline coming soon.
Me - @brianmilligan Brian, Any advice what to do in the meantime? Will you plz follow me and I will DM you to take this offline

NO RESPONSE

Me - @brianmilligan @flyingwithfish Surely though being group int comms & me being where I am as the only person invited by NASA to attend #GRAIL launch from the UK and having me having press coverage & my blog being followed by so many the bad press is not good for Barclays. Sorry but you can imagine how angry I am. If you can find anyone to help me jus@jusmack.com

NO RESPONSE

So here I am with BARCLAYS BANK dictating what kind of trip I am going to have. Surely in this day and age with technology where it is there must be a way. All I want to do is transfer my money from one of my BARCLAYS BANK accounts to my other and be able to use my card. There is no way I can be the only customer that this has happened to!

  • *RANT OVER**

So this evening I went for another wander around the mall (Not buying anything)! then sat outside for an hour talking to some Virgin crew. A really warm evening with a wonderful breeze.
I have arranged with Vanessa (Who has arrived from Australia for the launch) to meet me here early tomorrow morning, Then we are both going to meet Erin from her flight. Erin has hired a car and the 3 of us are all going to Cocoa Beach together, get our security passes etc from NASA.

So tomorrow is the start of the main part of the trip I have been waiting so long for. Cannot wait to meet everyone and really begin to understand so much more about NASA and Space.

Night from Bo and myself
x
P.S.... Bo had jet lag today so spent the day in the room!

Posted by Fidget 19:11 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Day 1

Journey to Orlando

sunny

The day begun early, 04:15am. Packed final last things (So pleased I am such an organised person)! My future son-in-law drove me to one of my former colleagues house and he then took me to Heathrow.
This was the first time I had been to Heathrow without being an Airfield Manager. Such a strange feeling! British Airways were absolutely fantastic and as always looked after me very well indeed. To be met with a tray of champagne to sip whilst unpacking your belongings is such a pleasure.

Whilst waiting for my flight I had some amazing Tweets from Family, Friends and Fellow #GRAIL atendees wishing me a safe and good flight. It put a big smile on my face. Actually shocked to be honest at how many Direct Messages etc I received.

I must say at this point “Happy Birthday Dad” Love you lots and sorry I am not there today to share your day. Glad I saw you yesterday though. (Hugs) x

So here I am sitting drinking champagne on my flight to Miami. What a fantastic way to start my actual trip. Feet up, reclined, just been given my menu to choose lunch from, On the menu today I can choose from the following starters:

  • Smoked Salmon and Trout Roulade with radish and fennel salad
  • Potted Barber’s 1833 mature cheddar with spiced apple chutney (My choice)
  • Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette

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Main Courses:

  • Slow braised British beef with rosti potatoes
  • Roast breast of chicken in a creamed tarragon sauce with garlic and sauteed potatoes (My choice)
  • Spinach tagliatelle with a mushroom truffle sauce
  • Chilled main course salad of curry scented prawns with mango and spring onion quinoa

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Ok, at this point I must say I have had 3 gins already! Water from now on. (The cabin steward is absolutely wonderful and keeps checking if I need anything, mainly alcohol!)

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Desserts:

  • Banoffee torte with caramel sauce (This has to be the only option)!
  • Clotted cream Ice cream
  • Cropwell British stilton and St-Paulin cheese with biscuits
  • A selection of fruit

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  • Chocolates and coffee

Wine List!!:

  • Pouilly-Fume 2010
  • Chateau Haut-Mondain 2009
  • Hahn Winery Chardonnay 2009, Monterey. California
  • Chateau Barateau 2006, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux
  • Vina Hermosa Reserva 2004, Rioja (My choice) - Rude not to have wine with lunch!!
  • Las Olas Malbec/Bonarda Reserva 2010, Famitina Valley. Argentina
  • Champagne cocktails of either Kir Royale or Buck’s Fizz
  • Glasses of champagne - Lanson BLack Label Brut NV Champagne or Ayala Brut Majeur NV Champagne.

So now while I await lunch to be served I thought I would write my blog. As I am travelling alone I brought Bo (Boeing) my teddy bear with me. He has enjoyed the champagne already as you can see by the pics. I got a glass, He was given the bottle! - Typical.... The bear pulls!!!

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Lunch is over - OMG! Wow! Amazing! Yum! Perfect beyond belief. I took pics which I will attach before posting this.

I must say the one thing I am really bugged by is the IFE (In flight entertainment) display. Firstly the buttons are hard to press, secondly the screen quality is dreadful and lastly everytime I see Bermuda on the inflight map - Damn Barry Manilow keeps coming into my head.

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Feet up now for a while with my coffee and watch a couple of episodes of E.R I downloaded before I left home. This is before afternoon tea!! Oh if you get hungry or thirsty before that. Just have to walk to the galley kitchen and help yourself to drinks, snacks, sandwiches, fruit or just whatever you fancy! I can’t eat again though! Chill time, Recline seat, footstool down and blanket out just like the main beside me.

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Will log back on to finish the flight blog later zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I never usually sleep on A/C but I actually just had 3 hours of sleep, Only 2 hours left of this flight. Everyone is starting to stir and blinds are starting to open. When I get to Miami I have to collect suitcase, Clear Immigration and Customs then check back in. Bag is already tagged and I have my boarding card so really straight forward.... I hope!! 3 hours until my next flight so no big hurry, At the moment we are scheduled to land on time.

Just checked the moving flight map, We are exactly over Bermuda, Is there still a triangle? About to find out! We are sitting at 38,000ft, Outside temp is -63, Time to destination 2 hours. 20 mph head wind and 832 kph ground speed for all my fellow #AvGeeks.

Afternoon tea has been served:
Salmon and cucumber sandwiches, Cheese and tomato sandwiches, Full cream tea and a cup of coffee. Def not going to eat for days!

Everyone on the GRAIL Facebook group recommended drinking plenty of water, starting a day or so earlier of arriving to keep hydrated with the extreme humidity - Thanks guys great suggestion on a 9 hour flight!!!!!!!!

Bo, The bear ended up on the flight deck having his picture taken with the captain and first officer. What a great crew, Really has to be one of the best I have flown with. Have swapped numbers!

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Got off the A/C and queued for nearly an hour for passport control, I was questioned when I got there and was asked why I was coming to the U.S. I had great pleasure in telling him that I had been invited by NASA to attend the GRAIL launch. Then proceeded to explain all about it. Ok maybe the people behind were getting a bit annoyed by this time!

Went out of the airport and Oh My God - Humidity, Well, I cannot explain it. It was nothing I had ever experienced before. I put a thin top on and still hot! Hoping I will aclimatise quickly to it. Checked in, Passed through security. No complaints, really professional and polite.

Here I am now on the 2nd leg of my journey, Miami to MCO, Short flight thank goodness as I am now shattered. Just want a shower and freshen up. We are doing a lot of weather avoidance en route to MCO. It is great though as its bumpy as anything and dropping altitude and coming back. Nothing like it! Sad or what that I enjoy it but can’t do roller coasters.

When I finally get to Orlando I decided I am just going to grab a cab to the hotel. Just want to get there and check in and kick my shoes off as I said. I have a few little bottles of gin in my bag thanks to BA so may have a night cap before settling down.

At the hotel and just going to post this with some pictures for the family etc to see my day.
Hotel is fab and room is huge and clean. Going to test the shower out and settle down to watch some TV and sleep.

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Night Night from Bo and I
x

Posted by Fidget 18:57 Archived in USA Tagged flight british aircraft airways grail nasatweetup Comments (3)

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