Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rocket Science and Urine


This week I took a journey to work with the folks at NASA in Huntsville Alabama. I was there a few years ago and really thought it was a cool place to visit, and so I was kind of looking forward to the trip. Since my flights left at 630AM, this meant that I had to get up at 2AM in order to get ready and get to the airport at least an hour and a half before my flight left. I seriously considered just flying as Matthew so that I could get one more hour of sleep, but the more I thought about it, the more I figured that it really didn’t make that much difference. By the time you are getting up at either two or three in the morning, your pretty well gonna be miserable in any case, and one more hour of sleep just isn’t gonna make you or break you. Of course I hadn’t counted on my sick one year old son and my one year old grand daughter both crying and yelling all night long and keeping everyone wide awake. When my alarm went off, it took an actual act of willpower to keep from throwing it across the room . . .

I wore a new dress that I just bought last week on clearance at Macy’s and I just love the thing. I love its style and all of the colors are colors that I think look great on me. Considering that it was a $90 dress on sale for only $18, I think it’s nothing short of awesome!

Huntsville AL 2011 02 002

As I approached the Delta kiosks to get my ticket, the male customer service rep grinned at me as always, and we had our obligatory comments about flying Delta versus the competition.
“Flying Delta again so soon huh?” he said with a laugh.
“You betcha! I always fly Delta of I can” I replied as I made my way to the counter to check my bags. My favorite CSR Mona, waved me forward.
“Good morning Mona! How are you doing?” I asked her as I lifted my bags on to the scale.
“I’m well Matthew, how are you?”
“Well, so far I’m doing OK, but my children are all sick so it’s just a question of time before I come down with it!” I laughed.
“Awe, that’s too bad.” she said as she handed me back my tickets and ID. “You know I love your coat! I need to get a new one myself.”
“Thanks, it is kind of cute isn’t it?! I looked for a couple weeks before settling on this one. You should try JC Penny’s – they have cute and affordable coats there.”
“Maybe. The problem is that I live out of town and so have to buy online.”
“That’s no problem – I’ve spent a significant portion of my paycheck with JC Penny’s online.” I told her and we both laughed.

The lady that sat next to me on the flight out of Austin took one look at my shoes and then spoke to me.
Cute shoes!”
“Thank you! I have kind of a thing for cute Mary Janes!” I replied with a smile.
“That’s OK, I have kind of a thing for shoes period!” she replied with a grin and we both laughed.
Yeah, about those shoes? They have four inch stiletto heels, look awesome, and are as adorable as they come, but they are not comfortable. I’ve worn them before and don’t recall them feeling terribly uncomfortable, but these things were killing me today, and I still had another eight hours of traveling to do in them. When people ask me for advice on how to travel, I always make it a point to advise them to be sure that the shoes that they are going to wear are tolerable and comfortable. I sure wish I had followed my own advice, because by the time I got to my hotel, my toes were hurting so bad I was having trouble walking without a limp.

The following morning I made my way to the Marshall Space Flight Center on the Redstone Arsenal to work with one of the NASA contractors there. Soon after checking in at the gate, I found myself in a huge aircraft hanger full of massive cylinders laying on their sides and supported by steel frames. These cylinders were actual modules that had been intended to be launched into orbit and used as a part of the International Space Station. They were being used here for testing, R & D, and the like. They are using our FTIR (Infrared Mass Spectrometer) to monitor the effectiveness of their air filtering system under assorted loads and conditions.


When I was escorted into the area, I was quite frankly filled with awe and envy. After all, how very neat it must be to work here and be intimately involved with mankind’s efforts to leave our planet and make our way into space. I was thinking these weighty and inspiring thoughts as my escort brought me into a lab where the man who owned our instrument was working. They immediately brought my mind crashing back down to Earth though when they started speaking to each other.
“You know, I’m sorry but I just didn’t have to pee bad enough to fill the jug up this morning. Maybe we should have ‘Jill’ top it off for us? With her being pregnant, that might give us some interesting results!” my escort quipped to the man in the lab who was to be my contact for this service call. It was then that I noticed that he was wearing gloves and carrying a box full of quart containers of yellow liquid – presumably urine. He sat the box down and then raised his gloved hands in the air.
“Hello and thanks for coming! I would shake your hand, but . . . “ he grinned as he wiggled his gloved fingers to show that shaking hands might not be in my best interests at the moment.
“Oh no, no, no - that’s quite all right!” I laughed.
“Either they have dramatically increased the sample size needed for drug testing since I last had to do it, or you guys are doing something else with all of that?” I pointed to the box of large containers full of urine.
“We all volunteered to provide samples and are testing the Space Stations Filtration and Recycling system with it.” He said with a grin.
“Now that’s efficient use of our tax dollars!” I replied with a laugh. “So now I know - rocket science isn’t always glamorous . . . “





  1. Hi Kimberly, I noticed that you travelled 'en femme' and was wondering did you have any problems with I.D. as I think you still need it even though you are only flying within the USA and therefore don't need a passport. Also, did you go to work dressed too?

    I envy you your looks and nerve for doing this! I have only been out once in public on a one day trip to North Wales (I live in the central part of England) and it was a great experience and I don't know why I haven't found the confidence to do it again. I'm 61 now but feel great and don't think I look as old as my age suggests, you can judge the truth of that on my page in Flickr. Anyway, I'm also a great fan of the USA having been there 11 times so far and have driven over 44,000 miles over all the 'Lower 48' States, most of them more than once. We even got married in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in 2007! I'm also a great fan of anything to do with aviation & space exploration so have been to Cape Canaveral 4 times and Oshkosh twice and have now seen all the world's significant aircraft including all those at the Smithsonian.

    Keep up the great work and keep posting those wonderful photographs of yourself, Fiona StClaire x

  2. Anonymous,

    I have had no trouble as far as ID's go. There are a few simple rules:
    1 - Do not try to lie or mislead the TSA or the Airline as to your name or gender. Be HONEST with them.
    2 - Show the airline and TSA your real and legal ID. Don't worry about the fact that your ID is clearly for a guy - they have never given me a problem. They just look very hard at you and your ID and then send you on your merry way!

  3. Great advise and a great blog.
    Kimberly, you are a hero(ine) to many of us and hopefully one day in the future I will be able to 'travel pretty' or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

  4. Hey Kimberly,

    Kind of a dumb question, but every dress you post looks amazing on you, how do you know when you shop what's going to look good?

    I find that things end up going through the wash once and never look the same. I'm following all the instructions, but it never looks like the pictures you post!

  5. Cali,

    There is still a little hit or miss to it for me. There have been plenty of things that I bought thinking they would look great on me, but then got home and found that they looked terrible. Fortunately, that is getting rarer and rarer as I have learned what colors, fabrics, and style look better on me. I have also grown tired of spending my money to buy things that end up not fitting, and so have begun trying most things on before buying them.

  6. I would so love to travel to Marshall as well, it is so wonderful that you did and got to see everything going on. Beautiful pictures...the SR-71 is a beautiful airplane. Thank you for sharing your journeys and adventures with us!! Awesome photos!!