Now and Then at NASA.

I come from an older generation, the little kids who watched the Gemini and Apollo flights and Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz and watched in wonder as the United States stepped out into space. Exciting times. It made you proud not just to be just an American, but a human being.

One constant was the tight lipped, white shirted, always with a tie,  hornrimmed and pipe-in-jaw crowd working in the control rooms at NASA back then.  All men.  All white.  Very Macho. This was my NASA in those days:

Flight Crew for Apollo 11. You just KNEW these guys were stubbing out Camel unfiltereds and belting down a bourbon after the Eagle landed.

When these guys had a success, they would politely clap, maybe there was a subdued “Whoop!” in the back of the room, then the cheering guy would blush and clamp his pipe tighter in his teeth and shaddup.  You know, like a man….

Like many a Space/Technology nerd, I was up late last night watching the Curiousity land on Mars, as the Epic “Seven Minutes of Terror turned out to be, well, nothing much we couldn’t overcome. As I watched, simply put, a lot of people talking into microphones, just like the old days, I was struck by the differences here. There are a lot of women in the room. The hair is longer, and there’s even a guy with a mohawk and a star shaved into his head. Instead of bourbon and cigarettes, there’s peanuts and mineral water. It’s every bit as professional as the old days, but the celebration was.. simply giggly.  Lots of yee-haws, jumping up and down, hugs all around, very Burning Man.  Pretty funny how times have changed, isn’t it?  Somehow, I know Gene Kranz would have been proud.

Click on the image above for IMAGE SHACK(tm) slideshow of the CURIOUSITY FLIGHT CREW.

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