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March 20, 2008

 

Today's conference call with Dr. Edward Hoffman, APPEL Director and Publisher, Don Cohen, Managing Editor of ASK Magazine, and Jessica Fox, got things rolling. I'll go down to Washington, D.C. the third week of April, have a guided tour of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and will meet with some NASA folks and plot out future trips. Ed asked how often I'd like to visit sites and I said every three weeks and to add to those visits interviews with retired astronauts and with people who are no longer a part of NASA. It was clear that NASA is vast. Ed said that NASA people are very special people and there's a spiritual sense about those who work for NASA. We talked of finding the old timers, people who know the stories about NASA and also visiting with young people who've just come on board.

 

My plan is to gather as much information as I can and try to narrow the story down in six months at the most. Perhaps it can be narrowed down more quickly.

 

I'd like to interview J.C. High Eagle, Edgar Mitchell and Ellen Ochoa, who was the first Hispanic woman to travel into space, and also Mae Jemison, the first African American woman into space. There's something powerful about a Native American working for NASA for many years and also about these two women who in some sense are the future.

 

Ed Hoffman said that he might be able to arrange a meeting in Boulder, Colorado, with the gurus of NASA, people who have lots of stories. Our idea is to have fifteen people in a room and get them talking as I listen. Ed also said that there are students at the University of Colorado who are working on projects for NASA, and perhaps I could talk to them. The Washington, DC visit will be the official launch of my project.

 

Will this be a true story? Like all of my stories I want the freedom to alter in order to tell a deeper truth. I'll have to make that clear. I don't intend to do a documentary. I want to do a dramatic story and I have no idea what shape it will take. Don Cohen suggested going into Mission Control in Houston and just sitting in the chairs.

 

I called Syd Lieberman this evening to thank him for paving the way. A few years ago Syd did a story for Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Mars Rover landing on Mars. Syd was saying there was one failure because some numbers were relayed incorrectly and said that David Letterman made fun of the program. Syd told me how painful that was because the NASA people are really committed to their work. Syd felt that people were very forthcoming at NASA and that when they were too scientific he just said, "I can't grasp that" and they would find another way of saying it. Syd said that the NASA people were very encouraging and how pleased they were when he said he was there to create a story about their work. The two of us agreed that narrowing the story down, finding a focus, was going to be difficult, perhaps the most difficult part.