Who Will You Meet at the Next Cocktail Reception? Maybe a Rocket Scientist.
Tonight was one of those nights I’m reminded I have a pretty groovy job. Because of my relationship with the Florida Outdoor Writers Association (FOWA; disclosure: I’m currently on the Board), I know someone who belongs to a sports car club which happened to be hosting its annual meeting in Punta Gorda, Fla., this weekend.
She invited to meet some of the club members before heading out to dinner. Little did I know I would meet Bob Sieck who spent 35 years with NASA in roles including that of Gemini Spacecraft Systems Engineer, Apollo Spacecraft Test Team Project Engineer, Space Shuttle Launch Director and Director of Shuttle Processing.
As launch director Sieck oversaw 52 space shuttle launches, and here he was tonight, in my town attending a conference for race car drivers. I soon learned he’s an accomplished driver. I was told a story about testing space shuttle tiles and the impact of foam by using a race car racing at about 140 mph.
Although retired from NASA about 10 years ago, Sieck’s enthusiasm for the space agency was evident during our brief conversation. He said he’s still actively involved through participation on NASA advisory boards and educational programs.
“Use this computer,” he said while pointing to his head and explaining what he recently told Brevard County (Florid) six graders visiting the Kennedy Space Center. While advocating science, technology, engineering and math, he said he wanted to inspire, challenge and remind them anything is possible when they put their mind to it.
2011 has definitely been my NASA year and reconnection with my core passions. This serendipitous meeting has affirmed that.
Read this 2008 oral history transcript with Sieck to learn more about him and his time with NASA.