Bonjour from International Space University!

Elizabeth's journal about her experience at International Space University in Strasbourg, France. Read on to find out what she did...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Sorry for not posting lately. I had a big project due yesterday and have a big test on Saturday, so you probably won't hear much from me until after that. I hope all is going well.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Robot Competition

The lectures for today were about institutional organization: space in Europe, space policy in different parts of the world, and astrobiology. We had workshops in the afternoon again, and I participated in the sustainability workshop. It was about the sustainability of environments and species, etc. After the workshop, there was a robotic competition that was open to the public. It was a lot of fun. I've posted pictures in the album if you want to check them out. Astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy was there to sign pictures, and the space suit that Bruce Willis wore in Armageddon was available for people to try on. I didn't get a chance to try it on today, but I got some pictures of other people in it.

The business and management department had dinner after the competition provided by the CEO of Excalibur Almaz. It was fun to get to hear more about their plans. I have to say that it has been extremely hot here! I think the high today was 93, and I'll remind you that we don't have air conditioning! It's also humid, so I feel right at home. I do miss the AC though.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Space Monkey

Today was busy with more lectures, but the highlight of the day was the ride to and from campus. James from Australia showed me a different way that runs along the canal. It's beautiful, you don't have to fight traffic, and you get a really good workout. It's about the same amount of time. Although it's probably a little bit longer in distance, but not having to deal with traffic and lights makes up for the time. The lectures today were satellite imaging payloads, remote sensing applications, and remote sensing data distribution and policies.

We had a workshop this afternoon, and I had the opportunity to participate in the Neurobiology workshop with Jeff Jones. We started with a teleconference with two of the astronauts from a Neurolab mission, Dr. J. Buckey and Dr. D. Williams. They talked a little about their findings and gave us the chance to ask some questions. Then we actually did some experiments for ourselves. I started by putting on goggles that turn everything upside down and attempting to navigate through a maze. At the end of the maze, I was asked to write "space monkey" on a flip chart. I actually did it pretty well, but I was relying on my memory to form the letters. If you were to write it as an upside down mirror image, it would look right to you with the goggles on, so the trick was to make it look right to everyone else. After that I had to find my way to a table with a small piece of paper where I was asked to write my name, which I actually ended up doing backwards, draw a stick man, and get from start to finish on a maze on paper. The next experiment was one where I was put in an office type chair and spun for 20 seconds with my eyes open. When they stopped me, they measured the movement of my eyes. Apparently I adapt to things rather well because the movement of my eyes was small and adjust to normal quickly. Then they had me try moving my head up and down while spinning, which was actually easier because you have a better sense of where you are. The final experiment was throwing a ball and hitting a target. Once I mastered that, which took me a while, I put on another pair of goggles that adjusted your vision by about 15 degrees. Then you master throwing the ball at the target again by adjusting to the new view. Once I had done that, they had me take the goggles off and try again. Of course, I was off by about 15 degrees and had to adapt once again. All of this was to give you an idea of what it's like to adapt to things in space and when you return.

The workshop was followed by a class meeting about our test, which takes place next Saturday! There is a lot of material to learn between now and then!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lectures and more lectures

My day started with a nice 30 minute bike ride to the campus by myself. I got up really early this morning to take care of some work before the lectures started. Today the lectures covered the topics of the life cycle of stars, global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), and policy and legal issues of GNSS. I spent the afternoon listening to BM department lectures on satellite business finances.

This evening I rode to Auchan, the local wal-mart type store, to pick up some food with Andy and James. Then we went out to eat at a local Italian pizzeria. When we got back to the dorm I did some more studying and got some laundry done! Tomorrow is going to be a busy day. I am responsible for putting together the first draft of our proposal for our response to the RFP (request for proposal) for the BM department project.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Extra time?

Not much to say today. I spent the entire day in lectures and studying. We learned about space biology, launch regulations & export/import controls, and bone & muscle in space. Then we saw a space art video, which didn't really seem like art, but I guess art is in the eye of the creator in this case. The afternoon was spent with our team project groups. I led the meeting today, and overall it went really well. The teaching assistants were expecting a meeting of chaos because that's what typically happens during one of the first few meetings on these projects, but I was able to keep things under control and moving pretty well. We have a very eager team with lots of great ideas. I think the challenge will be focusing on certain areas of interest and not getting distracted since we have such a small amount of time to get this paper done. The second part of the afternoon was supposed to be going to an enterprise incubator, but somehow there was a communication problem, so the trip was canceled after we got there. Everyone was okay with it though because it gave us some time to get things done.

In the evening we had a panel about "The 100 Billion Euro Satellite Industry: Trends?". The presenters did a great job, but did not really capture my attention or interest. After the panel I met with a group of folks to study. Our test is at the end of next week, and there is a lot of material to review!

Monday, July 17, 2006

City Life

We're back to the grindstone. We had lectures on space medicine, space mission informatics, and the brain in space today. I met with my business and management (BM) team over lunch before we were supposed to have our BM department activity this afternoon. We were supposed to visit an incubator of enterprises today, but the company was not ready, which meant we had free time to work on our projects. Our group worked for a couple of hours before splitting off to do some individual work.

It worked out really well that we had the free time today because I was able to get a bicycle. The tram that we usually take to campus is under construction as of today, so our options are to ride the bus or a bike. I've been planning to get a bike all along, but this was a great incentive. I rode the bus this morning. It takes a good bit longer, and it's hotter. I was able to get back to the city center around 4:00, which also meant that the shops were still open. Today was the first day I've had the opportunity to just wander around the city center while people are around and everything was open. I took advantage of it. I was able to do a little bit of shopping and a lot of walking around before coming back to the dorm to get some more work done.

We had a BM Department dinner tonight at the Creperie across the street from the dorms. I sat across from Jorge and Jesus from Spain and had a great time getting to know them better. There are a lot of differences in our cultures, but there are also a lot of similarities. It's fun to learn about them.

After the dinner I met with one of the members of my Nanotechnology team to finish a presentation for tomorrow. There were supposed to be 4 of us meeting, but one of the greatest joys of working in a team is that you can almost never get everyone together at the same time. The biggest problem about this is that the other two did research on a completely different topic, so we cannot complete the presentation without them. Hopefully they have their information together and we'll be able to combine it in the morning. Have I ever mentioned that I really dislike last minute work and disorganization? I think those things are the highest contributors to stress in my life. I'm sure it will all work out in the end, but it would be nice not to have to worry about it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Back to Strasbourg

After the late night last night, we were a little slower getting started today. We spend some time just walking around the area near our hotel, had lunch at the same sushi place (Rachel and Ashley really like sushi), and headed to Sacre Coeur. It was a gorgeous day! Rachel is actually staying one more night, so we helped her find her youth hostel before we went to sit in the park behind the church. Unfortunately we didn't have much time to spend there, but we enjoyed the little time we did have. We stopped for more ice cream on the way back to our hotel to pick up our bags and catch our train back to Strasbourg.

I made a new friend on the train ride back. His name is Jean-Michel Hueber from Colmar, France, which is one of the places that Ross and I may go when he comes to visit. Monsieur Hueber is a photographer with 4 boys ranging in age from 13 to 30. I enjoyed talking to him and learning about his family and culture during the trip. I had my books out to study on the train, so he asked a lot of questions about the program and space in general. I was impressed with both his knowledge of space and his English. He is going to send me some of his pictures and told me to let him know if Ross and I end up in Colmar during my break. He was the first French person to strike up a conversation with me outside of the program. Most of the local people I have encountered tend to keep to themselves and avoid the tourists. It was so nice to meet someone different.

Now I'm back in Strasbourg and like any student, dreading going back to class in the morning. It was such a wonderful weekend that it's hard to imagine sitting in lectures all day tomorrow. I'm not complaining though. I know what an amazing opportunity this is. I just want to enjoy all aspects of it while I'm here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Birthday in Paris!

Happy birthday to me! I have to start by saying THANK YOU to everyone for the calls, emails, comments, and cards. I have the best friends and family in the world!

My day started with a phone call from Ross and a card from my life group at church, which was the perfect way to start the day. We took our time getting up and getting ready since we are normally so rushed in Strasbourg. We found our way to a boulangarie where we had a wonderful breakfast of pastries. Then we made our way to the Tour Eiffel where we planned to go up and see the city during the day, but the lines were extremely long. I've been up twice before, so I wasn't disappointed to avoid standing in line for hours. From there we went back to the Champs Elysees to do some shopping! We went in some stores that I'll never even be able to dream of shopping in, but it was fun. We also did some shopping in the area around our hotel, which was a little more reasonable. I wish I'd had a few more days just to shop. There are so many great stores! With 4 people trying to shop together I actually didn't end up with much. We were all looking for different things, so it took most of the day just to find the specific stores they were looking for. Regardless of how much I bought, it was fun.

The girls treated me to dinner at a small sushi restaurant that was delicious before we headed back to the Tour Eiffel to meet up with the folks from Fat Tire bike tours. We went for a 4 hour bike tour of Paris, which was a blast. We rode past Notre Dame, stopped for the best ice cream in the world, then went by Hotel de Ville and Sainte Chappelle to the Louvre, through the Jardin des Tuleries, and onto a boat tour of the Seine. Our tour guides were both from Texas. Tyler was from Houston and Taylor was from Tyler. We had fun getting to know them a little better on the boat. They found out it was my birthday thanks to Ashley and had the entire group sing happy birthday to me when we got off the boat. Then we rode past the Tour Eiffel one last time while the lights were sparkling and ended our tour. Tyler and Taylor gave me a Fat Tire bike tour t-shirt when we got back to the shop and recommended a place for us to go celebrate afterwards. The girls minus Chanece, who was tired, ended up staying out dancing and talking until after 3 in the morning.

Needless to say it was a great birthday. It was so great to hear from all of the people I love. The only thing that could have made it better would have been to actually share it with you all! Thanks again!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bastille Day

Happy Bastille Day to France, and Happy Birthday to my Papaw!

I had lectures about the solar system, planets and small bodies, satellite communications applications and services, and space transportation systems.

I went with Shanece and Ashley straight to the train station after our lectures where we had a 4 hour trip to Paris! We got there around 5 and met Ashley's friend from college, Rachel. Our hotel is literally 2 blocks behind the Louvre. I couldn't ask for a better location. We went to dinner at one of Ashely's favorite restaurants, which was excellent. I don't remember the name of it though. L Then we walked from the Louvre all the way down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. On the way we rode a ferris wheel in the Jardin des Tuleries where we got a great view of the city and watched the Tour Eiffel sparkle. This was Shanece's first time in Paris, so she was in awe of everything we saw. The rest of us have been several times, but it always fun to be in Paris! After the long walk, we were all pretty tired, so we took the metro back to our hotel and decided to call it a night.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tarte Flambe

Today was a non-stop whirlwind. We started with lectures as usual. Today's topics were financial issues and techniques, space architecture, and life support and environmental control. I was supposed to meet with one of my groups during lunch, but half of them didn't make it. Instead I got to talk to astronaut Jeff Hoffman about his current research on EVA suits at MIT among other things. Then we had an entertaining workshop on cross cultural negotiations. Mr. Peeters had students from different countries role play the stereotypical attitudes in negotiations from their countries. It was great. The second workshop I went to today was concurrent engineering. It was interesting to see how integral each aspect of a satellite is and how a small change can impact the entire mission. After the workshops we had a class meeting to review some of the things that will be going on over the rest of the program. Then we had "Tarte Flambee Evening". ISU brought in several grilles and had local people make tarte flambee for everyone. People played soccer and ultimate frisbee out in the grass. It was a lot of fun for the short time that we had. After the fun, I had to do more research for my projects and take care of a few things. I was also convinced during the evening to go to Paris for the weekend! I bought my train ticket and will be staying with another girl from the program. It should be fun!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Nothing exciting to report today unless you count doing laundry as exciting. It was for me because we have so little free time. I was happy to finally get it done! J The lectures continue to get more technical. Today we learned about the sun and heliosphere, space propulsion, and the space environment. We spent the afternoon with our departments. In business and management we had two more lectures; "strategic planning" and "sales and selling". Then we were given a role of either a buyer or a seller for a satellite or launch company, respectively. We paired up and had to negotiate an agreement and price. My partner, Eric, and I came to a win/win solution and were very pleased with our agreement even after comparing the information we were each given.

After the lectures and workshop I met with my business and management project team to work out some of the details and assignments for our project, which is to respond to a request for proposal. To briefly summarize the request, there is a company with a new launch vehicle that has room for a satellite payload which will go into a sun-synchronous orbit (for those of you who understand what that means). It must be a weather satellite with commercial applications. Today we came up with an idea of what type of service the satellite would provide to industry and assigned sections of the proposal to each individual. There are 4 people in the group. Eric from Canada, Alexander from the Netherlands, Jizhong from China, and myself. Jizhong is working on his English, but it is a challenge to talk about something so technical without a translator. We are all doing our best to make sure that we talk slow enough and that he understands and has an opportunity to contribute.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Astronaut Panel

Today we learned more about space telecommunications and satellite communication systems, as well as satellite telecommunication regulations. Our afternoon was spent working on our team projects, which for me is micro- and nano-technology. We broke into sub-teams to divide up the research that needs to be done, and we defined a mission statement. Ed and Dustin, our TAs, ended up leading the first meeting based on the agenda Theres and I put together, but they asked me to organize and lead the next meeting, which will take place next Tuesday.

We had an Astronaut panel about the new wave of exploration this evening. There were 6 astronauts representing 6 different countries. Chiaki Mukai from Japan was the first Japanese woman in space and the first Japanese astronaut to fly twice. Yang Liwei from China was the first Chinese Taikonaut in space. Oleg Atkov from Russia has spent 237 days in space. Jeff Hoffman from the US was the first astronaut to have over 1000 hours in shuttle flight, and he performed the first Hubble repair mission. He has been on 5 shuttle flights. Bob Thirsk from Canada has flown on the shuttle once and is on the list to be assigned to an International Space Station expedition in the next few years, and Andre Kuipers represented ESA. This event was open to the public, and there were quite a few people there. The astronauts did a great job of answering questions and inspiring people to continue to explore.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Rocket Launch

Today's lectures were about satellite applications, remote sensors, and the heart in space. In the afternoon we met with our departments. The business and management department had two guest lecturers, Philippe Clerc who is head of the legal office for Arianespace and Stefano Fiorilli who is head of the procurement division for space infrastructure at the European Space Agency (ESA). At the end of the lecture we were given the details for our department project. We have been asked to respond to a Request for Proposal (RFP). I'm in a team of 4 people. One of them is Chinese and doesn't speak English well, so it is going to be a challenge, but that's what its all about.

The design department put on a model rocket launch for the public after our lectures were over. They had an Arriane V, a Soyuz, a Canadian rocket, the Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV), and the Spaceship One. The CLV and Spaceship One did the best by far. It was fun to see. There were 3 astronauts that joined us. One from the US, one from Canada, and one from China. Mr. Yang Liwei was the first Chinese astronaut to orbit the Earth. I managed to get a picture with him before he got annoyed by everyone asking for pictures. The astronauts were the launch managers for the rockets from their countries, which means they did the countdown to launch. After all of the rockets were launched we had a question & answer session with Mr. Liwei.

A few of us decided to skip the cafeteria dinner tonight and went out for Indian food. Believe it or not, I think this was the first time I've ever had it. It was pretty good. Although, I expected it to be spicier.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

World Cup title goes to Italy

Today has been great! I slept until 11:00 this morning, which means I got 9 hours of sleep. Considering that I haven't gotten more than 4 hours any night this week, it felt really good. I missed brunch, but I didn't care at that point. After getting ready I hung out with people in the courtyard of our dorm for a couple of hours. Then we had lunch at a local restaurant. It was nice not to have cafeteria food for a change. Then a big group of us went to Bagersee, which is a park with a lake that has a sand beach around part of it. We swam, threw the frisbee, laid out, and had ice cream. It was very relaxing and a nice change of pace.

We watched the World Cup game from the dorm. Italy won, which is who most people were wanting to win. I think it's funny since we're in France. I don't follow soccer though, so they may have their reasons.

Tomorrow we're back into the full swing of things. I'm hoping to get more sleep this week, but I guess we'll see.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

US Culture Night

Today's lectures were about the origin and fate of the universe, astrodynamics, and space robotics. We also had a workshop on using STK (Satellite Tracking Kit) software. The last workshop I had of the day was about telescopes. I actually only got about 3.5 hours of sleep last night, so I took a short nap during the day, which was a huge help because the US culture night was tonight, which required a lot of energy. It went REALLY well. We had a lot of fun. We told everyone that they were on a bus tour of the United States. We started by singing the song "Fifty Nifty" to introduce the 50 states. We also had a slide show going that flashed the name of each state with a representative picture. Then we broke everything up into 4 regions. For the NE, we talked about the Mayflower, the original 13 colonies, ivy colleges, and Broadway. Melissa, Shanece, and I did a short dance to "One" from A Chorus Line. Then the "bus" moved on to the midwest region. Here we talked about the state parks and some other interesting facts, but they were incorporated in an interesting way. Marlo was Oprah Winfrey, and she was broadcasting live from Chicago. There was also a short commercial break where Ashley and Melissa were out hiking in one of the parks and stopped for a Budweiser, which they graciously shared with everyone on the "bus". We were asked to provide representative drinks, so this is what the group choose. It was also one of the only things you could find here. Then we moved on to the west. Here we just talked about all of the different areas. When we talked about Seattle, we all opened our umbrellas. For Alaska we shivered. In Hawaii we put our sunglasses on. In Los Angeles we got frustrated about the traffic, and for Hollywood we gawked at the stars. The final stop was the south where we greeted them with a great big Howdy y'all! We talked about the different types of music that got their start in the south, the different foods, and some of the more well known representations like cowboys and rodeos. Then we gave them a sample of how we like to get down to country music. We did a line dance to Boot Scootin' Boogie. After a few turns, we got people from the "bus" to join us. It was a lot of fun.

There were 4 other countries that presented as well. The group from Japan taught us one of their traditional dances and provided Sake. The group from Spain told us a little about the untrue stereotypes and then had us sing La Bamba with them, which was great. They also provided Sangria for everyone. The other two countries Venezuela and Mauritius were each represented by one person, so they both did a power point presentation and a video. We got to be the grand finale for the presentations.

After the presentations, we gathered in the courtyard to share the drinks, and we passed out NASA stickers, patches, pencils, etc. Several people asked me to autograph their NASA stickers. They really do treat me like someone famous here. Even with all of the negative comments that are said about NASA, I think every person here would work there if given the chance. A lot of people also wanted to learn the line dance, so we taught it to a few people. Several people commented that they could tell I was from the south because I did the line dance so well...not sure that's the reason, but I took it as a complement. I have to admit that I enjoyed all of the attention.

After the reception, we all went to a club where a live band was playing. There were about 10 people in the club when we arrived with about 70 people. The band loved it! I don't know that they've ever had that big of a crowd. I had fun dancing some more. One of the Chinese representatives and I did a little bit of swing dancing. Afterwards, someone told me that he was a 4 star general and that I had just done more for the US and Chinese relationships than any political conversation could ever do. I don't think he was really a 4 star general, but you never know. China often sends high ranking delegates to ISU. I had a great time, and even after all of that, I'm actually going to bed earlier than I have any night this week. We have tomorrow off, so I'm planning to sleep in!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Long night, so few words :)

The lectures were interesting this morning. We had economic rationales for space activities, principles of international space law, and business structures and planning. In the afternoon I had another team skills workshop where I was elected along with a girl named Theres to lead the first team project meeting next week. It's going to be some additional work, but I think I will enjoy it. The US students spent the entire night working on our culture presentation, which will take place tomorrow. It's slowly coming together, so we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Experiencing Strasbourg

Today was another good day. The lectures in the morning were really good again. Today we talked about management of space projects, the international dimensions of space exploration (mostly about the policies in place for ISS), and space mission design. In the space mission design class John Connolly used the lunar lander that he is working on for NASA as an example. It is so cool to know that we're learning the processes that are being used today to design the next vehicles.

Our afternoon session was a departmental activity. It was my first session with the business and management department, and I am SO glad they let me switch. Alex Tai, the VP of Operations at Virgin Galactic, gave a presentation on what's going on at Virgin Galactic and with Spaceship Two. Then Bob Richards revealed a plan for an International Lunar Observatory, which I don't think we're really allowed to talk about. I can say that he has a great idea. It still needs to be funded, and I'm sure there are a lot of political hurdles to overcome, but it will be awesome if he can pull it off. After their presentations we were given a couple of hours to ask questions of them as well as Chris Sallaberger from MDA and Chris Stott who I mentioned yesterday. I think that was the best part. They didn't always agree, but they all had great insights and seemed to be very open about sharing their successes and their failures. It was an inspiring discussion. I think it made all of us want to do something we are passionate about whether that is space or something completely different.

After the department activity the US students got together to practice for our culture night. One night each week a few countries share information about their culture to help the other students better understand us. We've been told that US students in the past have just given boring power point presentations, but not us! Our current plan is to do something for each region of the country. For the south, we're going to do a country line dance and possibly serve Tex-Mex food. Of course, we'll include some factual information as well, but we're hoping this will be fun.

I finally made it to Auchan today, which is the French version of Wal-Mart. Everything here closes around 8 PM, and since we are usually at ISU until 9, I haven't been able to go. I have been in desperate need of a few things, so it made me a very happy girl to go. The other wonderful thing about tonight was that a few of us skipped out on the cafeteria meal at ISU and went out to eat in Strasbourg. We had tarte flambe, which is a specialty in the Alsace region. It 's sort of like a thin crust pizza with out the pizza sauce. It was delicious! That was followed by a chocolate and banana crepe. Again, delicious! I really wish we had more free time like we have had tonight. I enjoyed being out among the people of Strasbourg indulging in the food and the culture. Right now I'm sitting in my room with the windows open (no AC) listening to some of my fellow classmates playing the guitar and singing downstairs. It's pretty nice. Now I need to go study!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Entrepreneurship and The World Cup Semi-finals

Today we had lectures on the electromagnetic spectrum, space systems analysis and design, and an introduction to space life sciences. They were all very interesting. However, the electromagnetic spectrum lecture made my brain hurt. That's not a subject I've studied or used since university. In the afternoon we had three workshops that we attended. One was about team building, which is something I always enjoy; one was an introduction to the library tools available to us, and the other workshop was called Futures. I'm still not sure I really understand the futures workshop. It was an interesting concept. The professor teaching the workshop pointed out that we spend a lot of time studying history, so why not study the possibilities for our futures. The idea was that it's not like a psychic predicting the future. It's more of a creative thought process to determine the possibilities for the future, which means there is more than one. That is why the workshop is called futures and not future. The topic is the professor's specialty, and he works at the University of Hawaii. Can you imagine? Hanging out in Hawaii thinking of what the future could hold. Personally, I enjoy the present. Only God knows what the future holds.

In the evening we had our first panel discussion, which was on the topic of Entrepreneurship. The panel was made up of three people: Bob Richards, Optech and co-founder of ISU; Chris Stott; Excalibur Almaz and many other things including the Isle of Man; and Captain Alex Tai, VP of Operations at Virgin Galactic. If you aren't aware, Virgin Galactic was part of Spaceship One, which won the X Prize. Both Excalibur Almaz and Isle of Man are a really interesting projects that are taking place. If you have time, read more about them. Optech is actually a competitor of Ross' company Neptec, so I was interested in hearing what he had to say. Unfortunately, Bob didn't end up talking much about Optech. He filled in for Peter Diamandis who couldn't make it because he is receiving a big award this week for his contribution to the space industry. Bob talked about the X Prize and the X Prize Cup, which will take place in October. I got the opportunity to ask the panel about the challenges they have faced and any advice they have for people looking to do something similar. I think they all got a kick out of giving us advice. Most of the questions that were asked were very specific questions about their companies or projects or current space topics rather than about being an entrepreneur.

There was a reception after the panel, and I got to take a picture with Alex. It was pouring down rain as everything was ending, but the World Cup Semi-Finals were starting, and France was playing. We ended up going to the hotel across the street with Alex and some of the ISU faculty, John Connolly and Jeff Jones, to watch the game. France won the game, so our ride back into Strasbourg was an interesting one. The car horns were honking, people were riding on tops of the cars and yelling all night. It will be interesting to see what happens if they win the whole thing this weekend!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Selection of Department and Project

We started our lectures yesterday. They gave us an overview of the academic and research portions of the course in the morning, and that afternoon and evening we participated in the opening ceremony for the SSP. Several prominent members of the Strasbourg area welcomed us, as well as two of the co-founders of ISU, Peter Diamandis and Bob Richards. There was a very nice reception following the ceremony, which all took place at the Parc de l'Orangarie. The park is absolutely gorgeous, and the people of the area take advantage of it. There were pick-up soccer games being played, lovers and friends having picnics and sitting on benches, and people playing with their dogs. I can't wait to go back and enjoy it more on one of my days off.

Today we were in full swing. I'll explain a little bit of the structure of the program so my comments about today will make more sense. The session is broken into two halves. The first half is the academic portion of the session where we will listen to lectures and have a cumulative essay test at the end of the first four weeks. There are also nine different departments during this part of the session. Before arriving we each ranked our top three choices for the departments. We will spend a large portion of the first half focused on the topics for the department in which we are placed. We also have a project to do for the department before the end of the first half. The second half is the research/project portion of the session. There are three different projects to choose from, and again, we ranked these before we arrived.

The lectures started first thing in the morning with a presentation on Space & Society. I was actually somewhat offended by the speaker, which is not an easy thing to do. He had a lot more opinions than facts, and most were very negative about American's views of exploration and NASA, which was surprising since he's from the US. After this lecture we found out which departments and projects we were assigned to...guess which department I was in. That's right...Space & Society, which was my second choice based on the description. However, the description was nothing like this presentation. What I gathered from the description was that Space & Society would be more about how society perceives space activities and space, as well as what we can do to improve the public's perception and how to better communicate the advantages. I swallowed my pride and decided that this must be God's plan. The next lecture was also from the same department. It was about the History of the Space Age, and the presentation was much better. Both presentations seemed to have a strong focus on art in space, which is something both of the presenters seemed to have a passion about. Again, not what I expected for the department. The final lecture for the day was about Policy Rational for Space Activities, which was a fine presentation from the Policy & Law department. On a good note, I did get the project that I wanted, which was A Big Revolution on a Tiny Scale, Micro- and Nanotechnology. It should be both challenging and fun.

After the lectures we met for a department activity. There were only 5 students in the Space & Society department, and 4 of us did not want to be there. I really felt bad for the faculty, but the information that they presented that morning provided little to no benefit to us or our careers. We sat through the activity and participated in the discussions...all the while I was trying to keep an open mind. However, when it was over, I knew without a doubt that I could not continue for the rest of the academic portion in that department. I was able to obtain a department change request form and submit it to my first choice, which was the Business and Management department. The co-chair for that department, Christopher Stott, is actually a professor of space law at the University of Houston, and his wife is an astronaut at JSC. I didn't find out until after our final workshop for the day, which was on team work, that he approved the request. I was so relieved. Our first assignment is due tomorrow, so already have a little catching up to do, but I don't mind at all!

After all of that I stayed at the campus so I could watch the shuttle launch since we don't have TVs or internet in our dorms. It was beautiful, and very patriotic to see the shuttle take off with the red glare streaming behind it this 4th of July. God speed Discovery and bring her home safely.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


Today has been a pretty long day. We started with introductions of the staff and a welcome message to each of the 27 countries in attendance. I was pleased to find out that there are 12 people from the US attending. There are actually 4 or 5 of us that are from Houston or are currently working in Houston. After the staff introductions we spent the entire day in orientations about the building, cultural sensitivity, computers, etc. Then after dinner they had each of the students introduce themselves, tell where they were from, what they did, what there interests are, and something unique about themselves. With 100+ people, that took a while. It was interesting to see the differences in the attitudes of the people from different cultures. Some cultures were very humble and grateful to be here, while other cultures seemed to believe they had earned their place here...I'm not saying which was which. :) There were some great stories. There is a young woman, Chabnum, that claims the US as her home, but she is originally from Iran. She told us about the struggles she had to overcome to get where she is today. It was incredible!

On the way home tonight I was visiting with one of the other US students, Marlow, and found out that she is also a Christian. She has even found a place to worship and attend Bible studies where they speak both French and English. I think we're going to check out the Bible study on Tuesday. Yet another way God is providing for me here!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Great Day for France

Today has been quite the day for France. The Tour de France started, and the France soccer team beat Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals tonight. I started my day by doing a little grocery shopping so that I'd have some snacks and things in my room. Then I went to lunch with the ISU group where I met James, who is from Australia. After lunch, James joined me as I went to meet my coworker Colin's brother and his girlfriend. Dave and Shaina were great. We walked around the path for the Tour de France time trials. We were there for most of the prologue (I believe that's what they call the time trials). Two Americans got 2nd and 3rd place! We went to the area where they awarded the jerseys, but it was packed with people, so we really couldn't see much. Oh...I also found out from Dave and Shaina that Colin and Rachel are engaged! I responded by shouting hooray and saying it's about time. Then Shaina showed me the pictures from the night Colin proposed, and I cried. I'm so excited for them!

After a long day of excitement at the Tour de France, we all went back to our rooms to relax for a short while before meeting Dave, Shaina, and Colin's Aunt Lynn, and her friend Magda for dinner. We went to a Lebanese restaurant called Au Petit Mezze. We had mezze, which is similar in the way it is served to tapas. If you've never had either, I'll explain. They brought out around 8-10 plates of different cold foods, and everyone took a little of each. Then they did the same thing for the second course, except the second course was hot food. It was a great way to try a little of everything, and for my first experience with Lebanese food, I thought it was very good. Of course, it was a traditional French meal in that we sat down around 7:30 and didn't leave until almost 11.

After dinner Lynn and Magda showed us some other great places to eat and shop. They both lived in Strasbourg at some point during their lives. Our short tour ended at a local restaurant that was showing the France vs. Brazil World Cup soccer game. We saw the last few minutes where France managed to hold their lead, and they won 1 to 0. Everyone went crazy at that point. Although, I have to admit that it was a very tame crowd compared to what I expected and what I've seen back home. Maybe if they make it all the way and win the whole thing, they'll really go crazy. I guess we'll see! At some point during the evening I did find out that the shuttle launch was scrubbed today and will be tried again tomorrow. I think they're going to try to get it set up for us to watch here at our dorm, which would be awesome! Hopefully there won't be any problems or weather delays tomorrow!

<< ISU Home