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Bristol Area Lions learn about Space Shuttle program 11/21/2009

Posted by DS in meetings, speakers.
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Lion John Janell welcomes Edward J. Polewarczyk to the Willing Workers Hall.

On Nov. 2, the Bristol Area Lions welcomed as their speaker Edward J. Polewarczyk, recently retired Director of Orbiter Production and Operations for the United Space Alliance in Houston.

A native of Clinton, Mass., he was awarded a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and received an M.B.A. from American International College.

After following him around the country in his career, Polewarcyk’s wife chose where they would retire, and so they moved to Wiscasset in 2008.  She is the daughter of a Cundy’s Harbor lobsterman, and the Polewarczyks have found the Midcoast to be a welcome change from Houston.

Since moving here, he has become involved in the Maine Space Grant Consortium, which is funded by NASA’s grant college and fellowship program.  The program encourages students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The evening’s presentation could only touch on some of the broad programs pursued by NASA. The Bristol Lions learned, for example, the Space Shuttle can only be inched the three miles to its launch site at the rate of ½ mile per hour. A reliable weather forecast is critical since high winds are a problem and it takes six hours to move the Space Shuttle back under cover.

The Lions also watched a shuttle launch, which takes seven seconds to clear the launch platform under the command of Flight Control at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Houston Control then takes over and the booster rockets disengage from the shuttle, burning up on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.  Once in orbit, payload doors open to expose radiators, which will cast of excess heat, and the exhausted astronauts go to sleep  to prepare for a full slate of activities over the following days.

The Bristol Lions marveled at photos of the earth taken from the windows of the Space Shuttle. Polewarczyk showed the astronauts in a state of weightless and explained some inherent problems. Since there is no horizon and no reliable frame of reference, nausea is a common problem.  All living areas have to be vacuumed meticulously and regularly to remove floating particles from the air.  Lithium hydroxide cylinders collect carbon dioxide from the air and have to be changed on a regular basis as well.

Polewarczyk will return for the next meeting on Mon. Nov. 16 at 6 p.m.  That evenings program will cover activities taking place at Mission Control in Houston, reentry, landing and review some of the benefits received from the Space Program.

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Bristol Area Lions taken behind the scenes at Johnson Space Center

On Nov.16 the Bristol Areas Lions welcomed back their previous speaker, Edward J. Polewarczyk, recently retired Director of Orbiter Production and Operations for United Space Alliance. Ironically, it was also the day of the 129th Space Shuttle launch carrying 30,000 pounds of equipment for the Space Station.

At their previous meeting the Lions heard a description of a typical space shuttle flight from vehicle preparation through launch and flight including the astronaut’s experiences and activities throughout the mission.

Through Polewarczyk’s PowerPoint presentation the Lions were taken behind the scenes at Houston Control and into Flight Control. The flight director relays messages to CAPCOM who has the sole responsibility of communicating with the astronauts.

The action shifted to Mission Control or the MER (Mission Evaluation Room) where there are 150 engineers, with four to five responsible for each of the various functions. They report to the Bridge consisting of 12 directors responsible for major operations of the shuttle. Polewarczyk was the director responsible for orbiter operations.

The motto posted on the bridge was “In God we trust, all others bring data.” Polewarczyk explained the time line prior to the launch and, with excitement in his voice, the actual launch, continuing by describing monitoring throughout the mission, entry and landing. In addition, several problems were explained that were encountered on various flights and how they were successfully resolved by MER.

He completed his remarks by reviewing some of the benefits from the space program and concluded with a shot of the earth taken from space and quoted from the hymn: “How Great Thou Art.”

The next meeting is on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Willing Workers Hall. The speaker will be master falconer, Larry Barnes who will be accompanied by his peregrine falcon.

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