Saturday, January 28, 2006

Twenty Years Ago Today: January 28th

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the Challenger Disaster.

Besides being a Music Geek and a History Geek, Umlaut is also a Space Geek. Back in 1986, Umlaut was giving college "another go" (as the Brits say). Ironically, I was enrolled in an Astronomy class on January 28, 1986. After hearing about the explosion at home I spent the morning watching the news broadcasts on t.v. with the class. I was very caught up in the event.

Five years later, Umlaut was working at NASA.

I shit you not.

One of my Music Geek roommates and I both worked in the NASA / Ames Research Library at Moffett Field in Mt. View, California. For those who care, I was in the Acquisitions Dept. and in charge of ordering books for the library and its satellite location at Edwards Air Force Base. My bookstore experience actually proved valuable in The Real World. Who woulda thunk?!

I'd like to say that Christa McAuliffe inspired me to pursue a career with NASA.... but, in reality, I had dropped out of college again and I got the gig because my roommate already worked there and he recommended me. My interview was almost a formality. It was one of the easiest jobs I've ever gotten.

By 1991, shuttle missions were happening regularly again. Whenever a launch or landing took place during business hours, a t.v. was set up in the library's lobby and patched into the live NASA feed. It was pretty cool. Also, mission decals (featuring the mission's logo) would be given out to every employee:

(From the Umlaut Archives)

By my count there were at least 14 shuttle missions in the 1 1/2 years I worked at NASA. Trivia: As a prequel to the original Umlaut fanzine, I wrote a couple of newsletters telling anecdotes about my NASA experiences. I'd print these on stolen NASA letterhead and distribute them to civilian friends. I'll eventually post the newsletters in this space (pun intended). In the meantime, click HERE to read about one of Umlaut's NASA Adventures.

One of the NASA managers associated with the library had an autographed photo of Christa McAuliffe in his office. I always privately geeked out over it every time I saw it.

Yeah, it was kinda cool to say I worked "at NASA", and I think my parents started to see that I wasn't a fuck up after all (I just did things my own way). But working for the U.S. Government SUCKED. Having to deal with micromanaging supervisors... Having to interact with asshole military personnel (at the time Moffett Field was still a Navy base). Also, because Moffett Field was a U.S. Government site, even lowly library civilians were required to obtain a U.S. Government security clearance. So, I had to endure an FBI background check (including a drug test)... But that's a story for another time. Now, now... you'll just have to be patient.

In hindsight, my NASA Days were a trippy prequel to another adventure Umlaut would have in a galaxy far, far away some years later.

Ground Control to Major Tom.