The past week has been exhilirating and exhausting. My new book, Jessie, launched on July 16, in honor of the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11. I was fortunate enough to secure a slot on the Indie Books Show for my release weekend and had a wonderful chat with the host Will Wilson. You can download it from the archives if you missed it. I also participated in a blog tour July 16-19 and visited so many blogs I lost count. It was fun to share excerpts and talk about the book to so many different people around the world.
My fabulous Assistant Publicist, Pam, came up with an idea to do a giveaway through some of our local restaurants the weekend of the launch. Pam called me in a panic when four of the restaurants she’d approached all called back and said they were interested only five days before the launch date. A flurry of emails flew back and forth as we designed posters, entry tickets, and menu inserts. We became regulars at our Staples copy center over the next couple of days. Many thanks to the owners of Caffe Chocolat, Dixie Crossroads, Louis’ BBQ Shack, and Shiloh’s Steak & Seafood for your wonderful support.
One of the most exciting and completely unexpected things that happened during this time though was an opportunity to be a part of #NASASocial, which is a program to provide opportunities for NASA’s social media followers to learn and share information about NASA’s missions, people, and programs.
On the evening of July 14 my mom sent me an email about an event being held at Kennedy Space Center to rename the Operations and Checkout Building in honor of Neil Armstrong, who passed away in 2012. I was already in bed, checking mail on my iPad, but I clicked the link and filled out the application. Almost exactly 48 hours later I received an email saying I’d made the first round of approvals. I then had to go through some more forms and several more layers of approvals. Then on July 18, after I finished my interview on the Indie Books Show, I checked my email and found I had officially been approved. I was estatic!
The event included Neil Armstrongs fellow astronauts from the Apollo 11 mission, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins as well as Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 fame, and two of Amstrongs sons, Mark & Rick. The event was held in one of the hangers originally used to prepare the Apollo capsules, which is now being used to prepare the new Orion capsule. Another section of the building is used for astronaut barracks, which I read a lot about in my research. The history in that building is inspiring. If only those walls could talk.
There were 23 other social media reporters along with me, and we snaked our way through the growing crowd closer and closer to the front of the room. We jostled with members of the traditional media for places where we could see past all of the NASA TV cameras. I was excited to see one of my friends from church working one of those cameras. Seeing a familiar face helped calm my racing heart.
Our @NASASocial leader, slowly moved us to better positions and I found myself pulled out of the tightening clutch of bodies and placed on a dias to the side of the stage with four or five others. I may not have had the front on view, but I was only ten or fifteen feet from three astronauts that I had come to respect in an entirely new way through all of my research. Of all the speakers, I think Michael Collins was my favorite. He was hilarious. If you have some free time, you can watch the entire ceremony here.
After the ceremony we had a break for lunch then went on a tour of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The building is 524 feet tall and divided into four high bays and a transfer aisle. My dad worked in all four of the high bays at one time or another and I had a chance to visit one in 2008. Then the Space Shuttle Atlantis was in the bay being prepared for another launch. Now, three of the bays have been stripped down to their bare bones and all of the Apollo era offices are being demolished. On this visit I had a chance to go to the 35th and 16th floors for a view down into all four bays, and a closer look at the cranes used to lift the space craft from the processing bay to the transfer aisle so they could be rolled out to the launch pad. It never occurred to me that the vehicle needed to be lifted and moved from one side of the building to the center in order to exit through the tall doors.
I was sad to see the Space Shuttle program come to an end and believe it was put to rest too early, but I hope we will continue to explore space. The support of the country during the early days of the space program was key in the incredible progress that was made. I hope my book will inspire a new generation to reach for the stars and seek to go even farther.