Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Something To Write Home About


So, I was driving around New Jersey. Yes, people do that. And something utterly delightful happened.

My epic spacey road trip took me through 9 states in 22 days, seeking the Carl Sagan trail, the Space Shuttle, and three awesome scale solar systems. The entire trek was very well-planned in advance, and encompassed many scheduled stops at science museums and friends' homes in various cities. Sometimes, however, the most fun events are those that occur spontaneously!

Buzz Aldrin's Boyhood Home

Anyway, back to Jersey. Did you know there are eleven astronauts from New Jersey? Schirra, Buzz, Schweickart, Sullivan, Zamka, the Kelly twins -- every major NASA program through each era is represented by New Jersey, as all of these men and women have served in Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Space Shuttles, and the ISS.

Astonishingly, there is only one small plaque for a single astronaut in all of Jersey. But, not so astonishingly, it belongs to a moonwalker.

Click to embiggen and read the writing!

If you are ever in Montclair, definitely swing quietly and respectfully by 25 Princeton Place -- a truly lovely, leafy neighborhood just beside Anderson Park.

The home is no longer inhabited by the Aldrin family, but it is definitely inhabited. The current owners are tolerant of passers-by, but my friend Barbara and I made our visit swift, and hopefully unobtrusive, nonetheless.  Thanks to her camera for this great photo of the commemorative plaque!  And also thanks to the two men exercising who stopped to take our picture.

Now, here's where the fun begins. Just after this, Barbara and I went to the nearby "Main Moon Cafe" (seriously) for lunch, then parted ways so I could head to New York. But, I checked my Twitter feed, and saw a note from another New Jersey astronaut who seemed displeased I had left him off my touristy to-do list that day:

Garrett Reisman Twitter
The Unexpected Tweetstorm

Garrett Reisman is, of course, a Space Shuttle veteran (Endeavour STS-123, Discovery STS-124, Atlantis STS-132), a survivor of a 95-day stay in orbit, a NEEMO aquanaut, and holds the distinction of MOST EPIC INTERVIEW ever seen on The Colbert Report, when he provided a live feed to Stephen Colbert from the International Space Station.

Reisman is now the Crew Development Program Manager at SpaceX, and I had the pleasure of breathing the air molecules beside his at Cape Canaveral-slash-Kennedy in summer 2011, where he explained the historic Dragon Capsule #3 to the media. (I called my Nana that night and told her I had a new favorite astronaut because he was my size, har har.)

Garrett Reisman's Boyhood Home

Ah, the whimsical ups and downs of the American road trip! Parsippany, New Jersey is also just as beautiful as can be -- particularly when the autuman foliage is in full electrical color.

You just can't plan this stuff -- it's awesome and funny and worthwhile because it just jumps into your path and dares you to take the adventure!  So, again, if you're ever in NJ, swing quickly by 222 Lancaster Drive (please be polite when representing the almighty Spacetweeps, as it is also still inhabited) to see the Reisman residence.