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A view from outer space

Space veteran describes beauty, oddity, challenges of launching, flying and zero-gravity conditions

Posted: May 19, 2009 10:29 p.m.
Updated: May 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Three-time astronaut Loren Shriver gives a motivational speech at Wesco Aircraft Hardware as part of a NASA-sponsored tour to promote safety Tuesday.

In front of an enthralled audience of aeronautical hardware makers, former astronaut Loren Shriver pointed to the image of a thin sliver of blue rimming the dark side of planet Earth.

"That's our atmosphere," Shriver told employees Tuesday at the Valencia-based Wesco Aircraft Hardware. "When you get a chance to go around the Earth in 90 minutes ... it gives you an idea of how fragile the Earth and its environment is."

The decorated Air Force veteran's visit to Wesco Aircraft Hardware was part of a NASA motivational tour among aeronautical suppliers to encourage safety and vigilance.

Shriver, a veteran of three space flights who is now NASA's deputy director of launch and payload processing, described the beauty, oddities and challenges presented by launching, flying and zero-gravity conditions.

The launch, he said, can be exciting, though he compared the sensation of the extreme forces to having a heavy person sitting on his chest.

"It really opens your eyes," he said, "and they stay right open for about eight and a half minutes."

When maneuvering without gravity, one's legs become nearly useless, he said.

"The only thing you need (them for) is something to anchor yourself (to a part of the spacecraft)," he said. "It's not really difficult, because you're floating."

His pep talk was a treat for workers at Wesco, which has manufactured some parts for NASA. In the sterile, often faceless business of aircraft part manufacturing and distribution, it isn't often that employees get a chance to come face-to-face with the wonder of their work.

"We do business with virtually anybody who flies anything," said Hal Weinstein, vice president of sales and marketing.
Few actually visit, though.

"To be able to put a face to it," Weinstein said, "is pretty cool."


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