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2018 in review

February 1st, 2019

Good for some, bad for others but certainly a year to remember

By Mary Alys Cherry

The year 2018 will be remembered in various ways across the country. A good year for some. But for others, not so good.

Certainly not by the residents of eastern North and South Carolina, or those in Panama City and Mexico Beach, Fla., whose lifestyles were ripped apart by hurricanes; or California residents who lost their homes, cars and most everything they owned to fires. Or in nearby Santa Fe, where 10 lost their lives in a shooting at Santa Fe High.

For the Bay Area, 2018 was a year of change – especially at NASA, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, along with the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station and plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon this coming July.

Added some new faces, too. NASA Headquarters welcomed a new administrator, Jim Bridenstine, a new deputy administrator, Jim Morhard, and a new chief financial officer, Jeff DeWit, in 2018.

The year also brought several changes at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. JSC Director Ellen Ochoa retired in May and Deputy Director Mark Geyer became center director. Soon thereafter, Vanessa Wyche was named deputy director. Six new flight directors also were selected – Allison Bolinger, Adi Boulds, Jose Marcos Flores, Pooja Joshi Jesrani, Paul Konyah III and Rebecca J. Wingfield.

CREW INTRODUCED

A cheering crowd filled Teague Auditorium to nearly overflowing as JSC Director Geyer and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana joined the new NASA administrator, who flew down from Washington to introduce the “Commercial Crew” – the nine astronauts who will fly on American-made commercial spacecraft to the International Space Station and return to American soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle was retired.

The nine who will crew Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.

Then the administrator returned again in the fall with Vice President Pence and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, for a tour of the center.

SEVERAL HONORED

The year got off on a happy note with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner named recipient of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s Quasar Award, followed by retiring Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot being presented the National Space Trophy by the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation.

Among the many coming in for honors this past year were two Space Center Rotary past presidents — Scott Rainey, who was elected Rotary District 5890 governor for 2020-2021; and Suzie Howe, a former district governor, who was presented the Distinguished Service Award for raising $3.7 million for Rotary.

Lunar Rendezvous was back for its 53rd annual festival, selecting Gene Hollier as king and Sabrina Curran as queen while volunteers raised $126,000 for college scholarships and help for area non-profits at the festival events.

A few months later, the Clear Creek Education Foundation raised $75,000 at its annual gala, while honoring League City Mayor Pat Hallisey as Citizen of the Year, BAHEP President Bob Mitchell with the George Carlisle Distinguished Service Award and eight others.

And, the American Heart Association raised $220,000 at its annual Go Red for Women Luncheons while the Assistance League of the Bay Area was busy providing new school clothes for 2,725 needy students.

CCISD ‘EXEMPLARY’

The Clear Creek School District got an A or Exemplary rating from the Texas Education Agency for the school year and tightened up school security even more after the deadly shooting at nearby Santa Fe High.

Work on the rebuild of both Clear Lake High and Clear Creek High was finally completed as Clear Creek ISD made plans to add a new school in League City, Florence Campbell Elementary. Other projects include the $19 million addition of 18 classrooms at Stewart Elementary in Kemah and $16 million in improvements to Clear Lake City Elementary.

The University of Houston-Clear Lake added two new buildings as its enrollment continues to grow, while College of the Mainland passed a $40 million bond to construct new buildings and upgrade others on its Texas City campus.

San Jacinto College is also enlarging its three campuses as it enrolled a record 30,509 students this past school year.

MEDICAL CHANGES

We lost a hospital and gained a hospital.

Our beautiful Bay Area Regional Medical Center in Webster shut down with 900 employees laid off – but quicker than you could blink your eye, UTMB in Galveston stepped in and leased the building for 15 years. The “UTMB-Clear Lake Campus,” as it will be called, is expected to open in a month or two after a year’s absence from the medical scene.

And, it will not be the only hospital getting a name change. The facility, which we used to know as Houston Methodist St. John Hospital, is now called Houston Methodist Clear Lake.

Down in Texas City, Mainland Medical Center completed a $5 million expansion of its Emergency Department, adding 6,200 square feet of space and 13 new private patient rooms.

Damages to John Sealy Hospital in Galveston last January were estimated at $7.8 million – a huge amount when you consider that there was very little fire damage. The damages were from smoke which enveloped the entire multi-story building.

COASTAL SPINE

As thousands of area residents continued to recover from the waters of Hurricane Harvey, rebuilding their homes and lives, Gov. Greg Abbott came to visit, bringing $153 million for storm debris removal costs for League City, Friendswood, Dickinson and several other areas hard hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers has taken Dr. Bill Merrill’s Ike Dike idea and is currently working on eventually building a Coastal Spine to protect the Galveston Bay area and other parts of the coast. Hearings have been held in Seabrook and Galveston to get residents’ comments and ideas. When the final study is completed in a year or two, the plans will be sent to Congress for funding.

Harris County overwhelmingly passed a massive $2.5 billion flood mitigation bond to help prevent future flooding, while Exploration Green, which had already helped save many Clear Lake City homes from flooding during Hurricane Harvey, had its grand opening April 28 and continued its work.

Both Norman Frede Chevrolet and One Stop Tents and Events celebrated their 50th anniversaries this past year, while South Shore Harbour Resort & Conference Center celebrated its 30th anniversary and The Clothes Horse in League City celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Costco, the world’s second largest company behind Walmart, came to town, opening a large store in Webster.

SAD NEWS

Sadly, we lost some outstanding citizens. President George H.W. Bush, 94, and his wife, Barbara, 92, who have made Houston their home for many years, died this year, as did Bob McNair, who brought the Texans to town; and four astronauts, including 2 of the 12 men who walked on the moon. Among those “slipping the surly bonds of Earth” were moonwalkers John Young, 87, and Alan Bean, 86; Bruce McCandless II, 80, who died in late December of 2017, still famous for his floating in space photo; and Don Peterson, 84, who made the first spacewalk from the Space Shuttle.

For some, 2018 will be a year they will hope to forget.

Former Republican Congressman Steve Stockman of Clear Lake was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after being convicted on 23 counts of illegally diverting $1.25 million in campaign donations for his own personal use in a series of illegal acts that prosecutors called “a white-collar crime spree.”

Also, Galveston County Constable Jerry Fisher of League City recently found himself on the wrong end of DWI arrest.

And, amid all the ups and downs of the world and many Bay Area changes, the Webster Presbyterian Church, where two famous astronauts – Buzz Aldrin and Sen. John Glenn — once worshipped, celebrated its 125th anniversary Dec. 2.

Retired CEO of Orbital ATK named Space Trophy recipient

February 1st, 2019

David W. Thompson will receive the 2019 National Space Trophy.

The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation has selected David W. Thompson, retired president and CEO of Orbital ATK, to receive the 2019 National Space Trophy. The banquet honoring him will be held Friday, April 26, at the Houston Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston.

“The RNASA Foundation is extremely excited about recognizing Mr. Thompson as the guest of honor at the 2019 RNASA Space Award Gala,” Foundation President Rodolfo Gonzalez said, going on to invited the public and the aerospace community to attend the black-tie event.

Thompson was nominated for the award by Northrop Grumman Corp. Space Systems Group President Frank Culbertson. In recommending Thompson, Culbertson cited his “four decades of outstanding leadership and pioneering innovations in the development and operation of launch vehicles and satellite systems, which have transformed scientific, exploratory, commercial and defense applications of space.”

Thompson said, “It is with great enthusiasm, and even greater humility, that I accept the 2019 National Space Trophy! My heart-felt thanks to the RNASA Board of Advisors for selecting me for this highly-regarded honor.” Thompson began his four-decade long career in space technology as a young engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in 1978, following summer internships during college and graduate school at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Johnson Space Center and Langley Research Center.

His career as a space entrepreneur and business leader accelerated in the early 1980s when he and two Harvard Business School classmates founded Orbital Sciences Corp., a startup that focused on the development of space systems for commercial, military and scientific customers. Over the subsequent 35 years, Thompson led his company from its infancy to Fortune 500 status, reaching more than $5 billion in annual revenue and employing nearly 15,000 people in 2018.

As one of the world’s first commercial space enterprises, Orbital pioneered the investment of private capital for space systems development and manufacturing in the 1980s and 1990s. During this time, the company created a family of six new launch vehicles, including the Pegasus rocket and several missile defense vehicles, as well as an array of lower-cost satellites for both low-Earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous (GEO) applications. Thompson’s vision was that diverse customers – from traditional government agencies to new privately-owned satellite operators – would use these products, and that commercial-style business practices would reduce their costs and delivery times. The success of this strategy is reflected in the more than 1,000 rockets and satellites delivered by the company to over 50 customers since the 1980s.

Under Thompson’s leadership, Orbital expanded beyond its original business of research and manufacturing into providing space-based services in the 1990s and 2000s. More recently, the company partnered with NASA to develop the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft commercial cargo system for the International Space Station, which has conducted 12 supply missions to ISS over the past six years. And later this year the company plans to inaugurate the world’s first in-space robotic servicing and repair of GEO communications satellites, launching an exciting new form of commercial space logistics operations.

In 2014, Orbital and its long-standing industry partner, Alliant Techsystems, merged to form Orbital ATK, a larger, more diversified space and defense systems company with a broader product line, including rocket propulsion for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift vehicle as well as motors for tactical and strategic missiles. Finally, last year Northrop Grumman purchased Orbital ATK for over $9 billion, forming Northrop’s Innovation Systems business sector. The merger with Northrop is expected to generate faster growth and new products, as well as creating greater opportunities for thousands of the company’s space engineers and scientists.

Thompson earned his B.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Aeronautics from Caltech, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

He is an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society and the Royal Aeronautical Society, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the International Academy of Astronautics.

He was AIAA’s president for the 2009-2010 year, and today serves as a member of the Boards of Trustees of Caltech, the Aerospace Corp., the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Hertz Foundation, and the Princeton University Astronomy Council. He was recently appointed to the National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group and has been honored with numerous awards including the National Medal of Technology by President George H.W. Bush, as well as Virginia’s Industrialist of the Year and High-Technology Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. Magazine.

Visit www.rnasa.org/tables.html to reserve a table for the RNASA Banquet and find information about sponsorships and tickets. To reserve a room at the Houston Hyatt Regency, visit www.rnasa.org/houston.html or call 713-654-1234 and request the RNASA group rate.

Clear Lake Chatter: A happy farewell for NASA chief

June 1st, 2018

JSC Director Ellen Ochoa presents the National Space Trophy to now retired Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot during the RNASA Gala. RNASA photo

NATIONAL SPACE Trophy winner Robert Lightfoot ended his long NASA career on a perfect note with some 800 admirers giving him a grand sendoff at the RNASA Space Gala. Besides retiring from the space agency, Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa presented him with a beautiful trophy for his mantel.

“The many leadership roles that Robert Lightfoot has held and excelled at over his entire aerospace career made him the ideal person to lead NASA during the last 15 months,” she said as she handed him the prestigious trophy.

The former acting NASA administrator looked upon it as “the pinnacle of recognition in our business. This is the biggest award you could bestow on me, but really it is for the entire team and what we do. And, what we do every day makes a difference.”

After the welcome by RNASA Foundation Chairman Rodolfo Gonzalez, other highlights included the presentation by NASA’s Cindy Steele of the Space Communicator Award by video to actor William Shatner of Star Trek fame, a video congratulatory message to Lightfoot from NASA astronauts Scott Tingle, Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold on the Space Station, a Space City Films year-in-review film featuring CNN’s John Zarrella and the presentation by astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson of the Stellar Awards to 29 individuals and 8 teams,

RNASA Chairman Rodolfo Gonzalez and his wife, Anangela, wear big smiles as they look over the massive crowd at the 2018 space gala.

Looking around the Hyatt Regency Ballroom, you might have spotted former NASA Administrators Michael Griffin and and Gen. Charles Bolden; Glenn Research Center Director Dr. Janet Kavandi, acting NASA Associate Administrator Stephen Jurcyk, retired Johnson Space Center Director Mike Coats, and three other former Space Trophy winners — Eileen Collins, Glynn Lunney and Tommy Holloway taking their seats.

The guest list read like a Who’s Who in the space industry and included JSC Deputy Director Mark Geyer, Associate Director Dr. George Nield, Space Station Program Manager Kirk Shireman, External Relations Director Deborah Conder, Safety Director Terry Wilcutt, Flight Operations Director Brian K. Kelly, Deputy CFO Sidney Schmidt and NASA Orion Program Manager Mark Kirasich – many with their spouses.

Other space luminaries included a number of astronauts such as Chief Astronaut Patrick Forrester and Mark Polansky, along with former astronauts — Texas A&M at Galveston COO Michael Fossum and Orbital ATK Systems Group President Frank Culbertson and Gen. Tom Stafford.

Boeing’s Houston Site Leader and ISS Program Manager Mark Mulqueen was in the crowd, as were Barrios Technologies Chairman Sandy Johnson and President Robert McAfoos, Jacobs Vice President Lon Miller, Blue Orgin President Rob Meyerson, KBR Wyle Senior VP Dr. Vernon McDonald and VP Genie Bopp, MEI Technologies CEO David Cates and Alpha Space Test President Mark Gittleman.

Plus, Bastion biggies Mike and Jorge Hernandez and COO Jay Ramakrishnan, UTC Aerospace Leader Allen Flynt, SAIC Vice President Charlie Stegemoeller, Lockheed Martin Orion Deputy Director Larry Price, MRI President and VP Debbie and Tim Kropp, Axiom Space President Mike Suffredini, ERC Partner Darryl Smith and Sierra Nevada Corp. Vice President Mark Sirangelo.

RNASA Foundation and Rotarians in the mix included RNASA Vice President Bill Taylor, John Branch, Bob Wren, Delia Stephens, Geoff Atwater, Frank Perez, Rich Jackson, Randy Straach, Mark Hollis, Duane Ross, Steve Oglesbee, Gary Johnson and their spouses.

Museum Guild members Louise Russell, Jan Larson, Belinda Scheurich and Ava Galt, from left, who put in many hours working on the annual Silver Tea, wear big smiles as the crowd begins arriving at the museum in Clear Lake Park.

Silver Tea honors Brandie Corrao
BAY AREA MUSEUM was nearly overflowing Sunday, May 6 as the Museum Guild hosted the 33rd annual Silver Tea, which was founded in 1985 so local families could come together to experience a favorite British custom.

Many cooked their favorite sweets and savories to share with the crowd, which included the Lunar Rendezvous princesses and lieutenants and their mothers, along with Museum Guild members and their families.

Silver Tea Chairman Terri Monette was at the door to introduce the arriving crowd to this year’s honoree, Brandie Corrao, who was selected for her dedication to the museum. Nearby, you might have spotted Peggy Clause and Sandi Allbritton were busy complimenting Marjy Fulton on the beautiful tea cups she has made annually for the guild to sell at the tea.

In no time, the museum began to fill with Matthew and Angie Weinman and Joy and Charles Smitherman in the arriving crowd, along with Emmeline Dodd and Gene Hollier, Annette Dwyer and her husband, Pat Monks, Mary Williams, Diana Dornak, Adrienne Sun, Mary Ann Baxter and Laura Sukkar.

Some of the others out enjoying the afternoon included Museum Guild Co-Presidents Ava Galt and Carole Murphy, Jill Smitherman, Jill Williams Lammers, Barb Spencer, Cindy Kuenneke, Louise Russell, Gayle Nelson, Marcy Fryday, Sally Jordan and Jan Larson.

Houston Symphony League Bay Area officers for 2018 will include, from left, Historian Pat Biddle, President Nina McGlashan, Parliamentarian Lisa Clobanu and Corresponding Secretary Jean Raffetto. They were installed May 9 at their Bay Oaks Country Club luncheon. Recording Secretary Gayle Nelson and Nomination Chairman Mary Voigt are absent from the picture.

Symphony League elects new officers
NINA McGLASHAN is the new president of the Houston Symphony League Bay Area, which enjoys bringing beautiful music to the community and focuses on music education for elementary students in the Clear Creek School District.

She’ll have six vice presidents lending a hand during the coming year — Carole Murphy, finance; Jim Moore, education; Patience Myers, development; Martha McWilliams, programs; Ann Morgan, membership; and President-elect Vicki Buxton.

Other officers will be Recording Secretary Gayle Nelson, Corresponding Secretary Jean Raffetto, Historian Pat Biddle, Nomination Chairman Mary Voigt and Parliamentarian Lisa Clobanu. They were installed May 9 at their Bay Oaks Country Club luncheon.

DAR Chapter picks officers for 2018-20
THE SAM HOUSTON Chapter of the Houston National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution also introduced new officers when members met on May 5 at Bay Oaks Country Club in Clear Lake.

New officers for 2018-2020 are Regent Beth Sears, 1st Vice Regent Sarah Adams, 2nd Vice Regent Rita Ash, Chaplain Susie Ganch, Recording Secretary Becky Miles, Corresponding Secretary Ann Caywood, Treasurer Kati Hill, Registrar Lara Phillips, Historian Julie McRee and Librarian Fran Bodden.

Texas State Regent-Elect Susan Greene Tillman discussed the theme, “Are You Letting Your Light Shine?” Her speech focused on the many ways all DAR members can become involved in DAR, no matter their interests, talents and strengths. DAR is an organization that provides countless community service in projects helping veterans, libraries and schools.

God Speed, Gene Cernan

February 1st, 2017

Legendary astronaut Eugene Cernan died Jan. 16, going to take his place “on God’s front porch,” as he so eloquently described his visit to the moon, and wait for someone else to take his place as “the last man on the moon.”  Here are a few of the many tributes made to him:

President George H.W. Bush – “By his courage, Gene Cernan secured a place in American history that, like the footprints he left on the moon, will never fade. He was a true hero who inspired us and made his fellow Americans proud. But more than that, Gene was a true friend, and Barbara and I join in extending our sincere condolences to Jan and Gene’s beautiful family.”

Congressman Pete Olson – “America is only as great as the people who embody the ideals we aspire to. Gene Cernan embodied honor, bravery and the pioneering spirit that have contributed to the very best of American exceptionalism. I was privileged and humbled to know him and call him a friend. Our nation has lost a true American hero. Godspeed Gene Cernan.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden – “America has lost a patriot and pioneer who helped shape our country’s bold ambitions to do things that humankind had never before achieved. Gene’s footprints remain on the moon, and his achievements are imprinted in our hearts and memories. As he said, ‘The sky is no longer the limit. The word impossible no longer belongs in our vocabulary. We have proved that we can do whatever we have the resolve to do..’”

Space Center Houston President and CEO William T. Harris — “Gene Cernan not only left his footprints on the moon, but in our hearts. He will forever be remembered as an inspiration to us all and a strong advocate for Space Center Houston’s educational mission. He helped launch the pathway for future explorers to discover unlimited opportunities.”

RNASA President Rodolfo Gonzalez — “He was an incredible advocate for space exploration and his enthusiasm and energy was truly inspiring. RNASA was honored to recognize him as the 2008 National Space Trophy winner. He will be incredibly missed, and we are grateful for his legacy.

Robert Cabana is named Space Trophy recipient

February 1st, 2015

Center Director Bob Cabana - PortraitCol. Robert D. Cabana, director of the Kennedy Space Center and former NASA astronaut has been selected by the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation as the 2015 recipient of the National Space Trophy.

The presentation will be made Friday evening, April 24 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Houston during the annual RNASA Space Awards Gala, to which the public and aerospace community is invited.

Rodolfo González, president of the RNASA Foundation said, “The Foundation is overwhelmed with the number of nominators that came forward with a submittal for Colonel Cabana. We are pleased the board of advisors’ selected him, and look forward to honoring him at the 2015 Gala.”

Cabana, who was deputy director of the Johnson Space Center before assuming the top post at KSC, was nominated by JSC Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, former JSC Director Michael L. Coats and Dr. Michael D. Griffin, former NASA administrator, and chairman and CEO of the Schafer Corp., “for his exceptional leadership and executive guidance in leading the evolution of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as the world’s premier multiuser spaceport in support of NASA’s exploration goals.”

Rick Hieb, vice president of Lockheed Martin Civil Programs, also nominated Cabana, “for outstanding leadership, commitment, vision and public service benefiting America’s security and our nation’s human space exploration program.”

Very caring

John Zarrella said, “I have known Bob for decades while I was covering the U.S. Space Program for CNN. During those years it became very evident, very quickly that no one cared more about the successes of the program. No one hurt more over the failures. And no one had greater hope about the future.” And Elliot Holokauahi Pulham, CEO of Space Foundation said “I can think of no one more deserving of the 2015 National Space Trophy than Bob Cabana.”

“I am extremely honored,” Cabana said, “to be receiving the National Space Trophy. The previous awardees are my heroes, and it means so much to me that the board considered me worthy to be among them.”

The retired Marine colonel is currently serving as the10th director of Kennedy Space Center, which is the primary U.S. launch site that has been used for every NASA human space flight since 1968. In this role, Colonel Cabana manages all NASA facilities and activities at Kennedy Space Center, leading a team of dedicated civil service and contractor personnel who operate and support numerous space programs and projects.

He has been instrumental in ensuring the successful transition from the Space Shuttle and establishing KSC as a true multiuser spaceport of the future.

Cabana has logged over 910 hours in space. He served as pilot on STS-41 (Oct. 6-10, 1990) and STS-53 (Dec. 2-9, 1992), and was mission commander on STS-65 (July 8-23, 1994) and STS-88 (Dec. 4-15, 1998), the first ISS assembly mission.

Cabana was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2008. He is the recipient of The Daughters of the American Revolution Award for the top Marine to complete naval flight training in 1976, is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, and has logged over 7,000 hours in 50 different kinds of aircraft.

Minnesota native

The Minneapolis, Minn., native is a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, an Associate Fellow in the AIAA, and he has received numerous awards and decorations, including the De La Vaulx medal by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale in 1994, the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award, and most recently was honored with the National Space Club 2013 Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award.

A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Cabana’s personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement, two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, two NASA Medals for Outstanding Leadership, two NASA Exceptional Service Medals, and four NASA Space Flight Medals.

Use www.rnasa.org/tables.html to reserve a table for the gala, and for information about sponsorships and tickets.  To reserve a hotel room, use www.rnasa.org/houston.html at the Houston Hyatt Regency. The telephone number is 713-654-1234, ask for Reservations, and request the RNASA group rate.  The RNASA website is www.rnasa.org