Interview with Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger

Post written by Kristin Rush, Marketing & Communications Manager.

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery had the honor of hosting former NASA astronaut, Dorothy “Dottie” Metcalf-Lindenburger, at this year’s Celebration of Gratitude on Monday, April 23rd. Celebration of Gratitude is the museum’s annual event honoring donors, partners, and volunteers. Dottie, a graduate of Fort Collins High School, was selected by NASA to be a Mission Specialist on the STS-131 Discovery in April of 2010. When she flew to the International Space Station, she took a Fort Collins High School Lambkin with her, which is on display at FCMoD, along with her suit and helmet. The exhibit display is located in the Woodward Special Exhibition Gallery, with the Smithsonian developed exhibit, Earth from Space, currently on display until June 3rd.

 

Dottie, the keynote speaker at Celebration of Gratitude, sat down with staff for an interview. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 

  1. How did growing up in Colorado shape your ambitions and goals?

I grew up in Loveland and graduated from Fort Collins High School, and I think what I like to credit Colorado having is big skies and great rocks. My parents took me to visit our local museums, and I also had a really great education. The experience of being outdoors often, and being able to see the stars at night was so special. Now raising my daughter in Seattle, I realize that it’s actually rare for people to see the night sky so regularly. It’s a pretty big deal to have that all the time in Colorado. So I really credit all of those things with helping to shape my perspective.

 

  1. What were your biggest fears and biggest dreams when entering the Astronaut Corps?

It’s a bit intimidating to be joining the people who are considered to have “the right stuff.” Even though lots of people have “the right stuff” for all different reasons. Just living up to the expectations of being an astronaut, and then fulfilling those expectations of what people see and expect is a lot. It’s a dream and a fear at the same time.

Also, you want to make sure you keep your crew mates safe. You’re aware of the risks. I wasn’t afraid when I signed up. I had been aware of the risk of space flight with other missions. It’s helping others that care about you understand those risks and how we try to mitigate them.

 

  1. What are the qualities in yourself that you believe made you successful as an Astronaut Candidate?

I worked hard in school, in math and sciences – actually in all my classes I did well! Also, being an athlete was very important. A lot of being an astronaut is being physically fit – like the training that’s in the water in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, where you work over 5-6 hours in the water moving big bulky suits. You need to be able to fly in your T-38. You need to be healthy. Therefore, being an athlete was important. It also just so happens that they were hiring teachers in 2004, and I was a very motivated teacher. A number of these factors helped me rise to the top.

 

  1. What role would you like to see museums like FCMoD play in helping prepare young people for a career in STEAM related fields?

I see museums as a collective that allow you to experience things that you could not individually do by yourself. Museums allow you to time-travel into the past, but also fast forward way beyond into the future. They allow you to keep coming back, revisiting, and rediscovering. Every time you visit there is something new. From taking small children and hitting the highlights, to visiting with students for a particular subject, such as growing up in Colorado or a specific unit in science, to doing research. A unique thing about museums too is special traveling exhibits! The special exhibit FCMoD has right now is great!

 

“Museums allow you to time-travel into the past, but also fast forward way beyond into the future.”

 

  1. What were the biggest differences in your training and the actuality of being in space?

Well, the good thing is that you don’t have nearly the problems that they put you through in the simulator. We would go into a simulator just about once a week as we were leading up to our flight. They break main engines, fuel cells, computers, the communication systems, with the point of helping you understand how these systems work and helping you recognize that you can work well under pressure, and back each other up. So when you get to space it’s a lot easier! But when you get to space you have “space brain” because there’s all this new stuff that’s very stimulating, so you start paying attention to other things. It’s good they overstimulated you with potential failures, so you’ve been trained to focus on the important things.

 

  1. Does your all-astronaut rock-band, “Max Q” still perform and what were/are your songs about?

We tried to get back together! Chris is in Canada, Ricky and Drew are on the space station now, Tracy’s in Houston, and Steve is in California. We’re all pretty far flung. That’s what was hard about the retirement of the shuttle. We tried to pass on the band to the next classes of astronauts, but those classes were small – they had musicians within them – but they were already overtasked with so many other things in their life that adding in music was challenging.

Our songs were just cover songs. [Laughs] We had one original song, but it’s a little bit like a song that already existed, with some different lyrics. We covered some Train with “Drops of Jupiter.” They weren’t all space themed though!

 

  1. What’s the hardest thing to describe about space?

Just the everyday things you do that you take for granted are a little bit harder. Putting your contacts in, combing your hair, brushing your teeth – it takes additional time to do everything. I am sure people who live on the space station for extended periods of time are able to adapt, but being on the station for 15 days, it’s like being on a camping trip – you just take those extra steps to do normal, daily things. It’s hard to describe to people something like you can’t shower in space. That blows kids’ minds, they are like “that’s gross!” I mean, we keep clean. You can show what happens to water when it’s floating around. We have water – you just can’t shower!

 

  1. Now that you’ve had the view of Earth from space, what do you think about when you look up at the night sky?

I think it’s still so beautiful. I’ve always thought it was so beautiful. I had a telescope (gifted from Santa!) in sixth grade. I taught astronomy, and even now I build a telescope with my students, so I’ve always liked looking at the night sky. Now I take my daughter to check these things out. I took her to see the eclipse in 2017, and at first she was like “why are we driving 8 hours to the other side of Oregon” but then when she saw the actual totality of the eclipse, she understood why I wanted her to see it and experience it.

 

  1. What was the most impactful take-away from your time at the International Space Station?

As an Earth scientist, as someone who saw the atmosphere, I realized I have a voice. People listen to me now that I’ve been in space. So what I try to always tell people is: Earth is our spaceship for 7 billion-plus people and it needs to be taken care of.

 

“Earth is our spaceship for 7 billion-plus people and it needs to be taken care of.”

 

  1. FCMoD displays an exhibits case with the Fort Collins High Lambkin you took into space. How does it feel to have your story preserved in a museum? 

It was really cool to see the display! It’s amazing! As a kid, when I’d come to the old Fort Collins Museum, you see things from the past and you wonder about the people, the objects, everything. I hope my story in FCMoD helps inspire kids to be whatever they want to be when they grow up. In my case, I wanted to be an astronaut!

 

  1. What do you wish people would ask you about space?

Hmmm, people ask a lot of really great questions about it, but that’s a good question… I try to be pretty transparent about my experience. One thing I’ve been telling kids about is that astronauts also get disappointed, and that it’s ok to be disappointed. There were some things I really wanted to do in space, like I wanted be a space walker. I was the backup – which is awesome in and of itself – but I wasn’t able to actually do it. I also wanted to run on the treadmill, but there was only one and it had some issues. If I used it and anything happened to it, the exercise of the ISS crew members would be impacted. I think it’s important to know you don’t always get everything you want. You learn this as you grow up.  This is a lesson I try to teach my daughter. And it doesn’t have to be a bad thing! I got to go to space and loved it, but there might be some disappoints that you hold to – and that’s ok! It’s ok to be a little disappointed – that’s life.

 

  1. What type of research do you think will be done in the future of space travel, NASA, and the like?

There are so many breakthroughs with the human body. We saw just this summer that genes may change as people are in space. We know that interocular pressure has changed. So understanding “why is this happening?” – why is there a fluid shift in the head? Is that bad? What are the long-term implications of that? So there’s a lot of medical studies coming out that I think will be interesting research and data to explore. Of course, research takes time, so that is important to remember.

 

  1. Here at FCMoD, we host Space Explorers and Space Adventurers Summer Camps. What advice do you have for the future little astronauts, scientists, explorers, and dreamers of the world?

Always be curious. Curiosity took me a lot of different places. It’s allowed me to climb mountains, go to space, and also just enjoy every day – some little piece of the day will always be new or different. I just saw an odd bird on my way here – that was fun! Curiosity will keep you going and excited about each new day. In their lifetime, their jobs are not even created yet! By being curious, they get to create their own futures! Be curious: explore & discover.

 

“Always be curious.”

 

Thank you to Dottie for her time and inspiration!

FCMoD relies on your generosity to do everything we do. Please consider supporting discovery for all today. 

 

Continue Reading

Pictures at an Exhibition

Visiting a new exhibit at a museum can be a moment of perfection. Freshly painted walls, meticulously hung pieces, descriptive text, and targeted lighting all combine to create an experience that takes the viewer to a new place and offers a fresh perspective on the world.

But believe us when we say that getting there is quite a journey!

Here are a few pictures of the assembly process going on right now at FCMoD for the upcoming exhibit Earth from Space, opening November 18.

Exhibit panels freshly printed and laid out to dry.

This exhibit – part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) – features spectacular satellite imagery collected over the past 30 years which allows us to observe oceans, mountains, land surfaces, and human activity with a unique perspective. Rare views of events such as dust storms, forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes are accompanied by text that explains how satellite imagery is gathered and utilized. Included in the exhibit is a digital video globe that displays global processes such as ocean temperature and weather patterns.

Museum staff install a vinyl image in one of the exhibit’s window alcoves.

Come see Earth from Space, at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, opening November 18.

Museum staff prep an exhibit component for installation.
Continue Reading

First Spirituous Drink in 20th Century Fort Collins

Did you know that it wasn’t legal to sell hard liquor in Fort Collins for two-thirds of the 20th century? The town now known for its brewing industry was dry of spirituous drink until 1969 (legally, that is).

Drawing inspiration from eastern anti-saloon leagues and temperance societies, many of the leading citizens in Fort Collins began to target saloons and liquor as primary causes of the budding town’s problems. Citizens eventually achieved complete prohibition of alcohol in Fort Collins in 1896, creating an ordinance that would surprisingly stay in the books for 73 years, long outlasting national prohibition.

Fort Collins remained a ‘dry town’ until the then highly-amended liquor ordinance was repealed in 1969 by popular outcry. Up to that time, prohibition in Fort Collins had survived the rise and fall of national prohibition, though beer joints peddling malt beverages with only 3.2% liquor content were permitted to a limited extent in Fort Collins by 1935.

And just about the same time, liquor vendors began to pop up just outside the city limits. In 1961, Lloyd Ladd became the first post-prohibition proprietor to be granted a county license to serve alcohol by the drink. His restaurant, Ladd’s Covered Wagon had been letting patrons bring in their own booze, and Ladd would sell them a setup of ice and soda.

   

In 1969, hard liquor became legal in Fort Collins when Red Ferrell, Larimer County’s liquor inspector, allowed the opening of Campus West Liquors. According to the Coloradoan, “The first legal drink of spirituous liquor sold in Ft. Collins since 1896 was served about 5:00 p.m. August 8.”  (8-10-1969).

The first liquor license went to Les Ware of The Top Restaurant, located in the Rocky Mountain Bank Building.

Here are two images captured at that occasion:

  

Continue Reading

Remembering the 1997 Spring Creek Flood

July 28, 2017 marks 20 years since Fort Collins experienced the one of the biggest natural disasters in its history.

A slow moving storm cell on July 27-28, 1997 stalled over Fort Collins and dumped 14.5 inches of rain in 31 hours creating flash flooding that wreaked havoc on parts of Fort Collins. One of the hardest hit places was the Spring Creek area west of College Avenue. Debris clogged a railroad underpass which caused water to back up into a Johnson Mobile Home Park where 5 people were killed.

Flood waters also damaged numerous buildings on the campus of CSU including the basement and first floor of the library. In the aftermath of the disaster the City of Fort Collins implemented extensive flood mitigation planning that has shaped the landscape of Fort Collins. This work resulted in Fort Collins avoiding the extensive damage that ravaged much of northern Colorado during the 2013 floods.

Spring Creek Flood Resources

  • The Follow the Flood Event and Remembrance Ceremony is taking place on July 28th at Creekside Park beginning at 6:30 pm. Flood Education Day is July 29 at Spring Park. Learn more about both events here.
  • You can also learn more about the flood at the Fort Collins History Connection.
Continue Reading

Volunteer Spotlight: Autumn S.

Name: Autumn

Position at FCMoD: Gallery Hosting with an emphasis on the Music Zone

When you started volunteering here: September 2016

Hobbies/Interests: I love to play electric bass!

Hometown: I was born and raised right here in Fort Collins!

Current/previous occupation: I am currently a high school student. I’m going into 10th grade at Poudre High School.

Favorite book: My favorite book is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Favorite vacation memory: My favorite vacation was going to my Aunt’s wedding in Italy last summer! Southern Italy, in particular, was awesome.

One thing you want people to know about you: Fun fact: I just won a radio contest for the Best Youth Bass Player though the School of Rock! I get to play bass with the School of Rock house band at the Rock & Roll Car Show in August.

Favorite thing about volunteering at FCMoD: I love the Music Garage, and the Music Zone, in general. I love having the time to learn new things myself too- for example, I just learned to play Super Mario on the Xylophone!

Continue Reading

The NEW Fort Collins History Connection is LIVE!

We’re pleased to announce that the newly-redesigned Fort Collins History Connection website is now LIVE and ready for you to explore! This website is collaboration between the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and the Poudre River Public Library, representing thousands of hours of effort by staff and volunteers to make local history accessible and fun for everyone! It’s the Archive that’s open 24 hours a day.

Some cool new features of the site include:

  • Responsive design that looks sharp on your desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone

 

  • Easy download of scanned images (up to 1000×1000 pixels)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start exploring the new site here. We hope you discovery something new *and* old!

Continue Reading

Fort Collins and The War to End All Wars

 

In the spring of 1917, the United States entered the war raging in Europe. Here’s a description from the National World War I Museum and Memorial:

“The day after an overwhelming majority in the Senate votes for war, President Wilson signs the declaration. The United States quickly puts the entire country on the road to war.  Going from a standing army of 133,000 men with almost no heavy artillery pieces, millions of men were inducted into the armed forces over the next two years and given basic combat training.”

One hundred years later, the changes wrought on the world as a result of World War I – the Great War – are still being studied, discussed, and debated. You’ve probably seen a presentation or two yourself. But you might not know the part Fort Collins played.   

Battery A – originally a National Guard unit formed at Colorado Agricultural College, later part of a regiment of the US Army – included Fort Collins men, and would train in Camps Baldwin (Denver), Greene (North Carolina), Mills (New York), and Merritt (New Jersey) before landing in Europe. The Archive houses a scrapbook that captures one soldier’s experience of the war, Mr. John Hurdle.

The first date that appears in Hurdle’s scrapbook is from July, 100 years ago. The scrapbook is filled with photographs and handwritten notes that track Battery A’s route through the fields of war, and includes many images of Fort Collins citizens. A few pages are featured below.

During the remainder of this year, and through the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice, we will share with you details of the war as experienced by the citizens of Fort Collins (including those at home and those who never made it home). You can expect excerpts of letters, pictures from the Front, first-hand accounts of the Second Battle of the Marne, and much more.

*Stay tuned for more research on WWI and the Hurdle scrapbook from Jenny Hannifin and Doug Ernest.

 

Continue Reading

Volunteer Spotlight: Amy Parker

Name: Amy Parker

 

Position at FCMoD: Animal Encounters, School Group Host, & Public Programs

 

When you started volunteering here: October 2016

 

Hobbies/Interests: I enjoy road bicycling, hiking in the mountains, photography (nature & landscape), gardening, and birding

 

Hometown: I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for 30+ years

 

Current/previous occupation: I was a Pre-K teacher for 25 years, working primarily with kids 4-5 years old. I retired 3 years ago.

 

Favorite book: My favorite kid’s book is Owen by Kevin Henkes, and my favorite adult book is The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko, which is about the Grand Canyon.

 

Favorite vacation memory: We took a trip to the Canadian Rockies with my family, and we got to hike Sentinel Pass and see Moraine Lake. Everyone enjoyed it so much!

 

One thing you want people to know about you: I love dogs, and I say hello to just about every dog and dog owner I see while I’m hiking!

 

Favorite thing about volunteering at FCMoD: I like that the volunteer program is well-organized and that we are well-supported by staff.

Continue Reading

Fun with Fruit

As I was processing a collection of agricultural yearbooks (1902-1998), I didn’t expect much in the way of beauty.

But amidst the descriptions of foot-and-mouth disease, insect infestation, and state-by-state parameters for “a bushel,” I found these delightful color plates.

Enjoy the fruits of my labor – all from The Yearbook of Agriculture: 1902 (published by the US Department of Agriculture).

Continue Reading

Tomorrow’s Robot Pop Stars, and Today’s Elementary Students

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, over 65% of today’s elementary school students will have jobs that do not yet exist. Wow! These same young students will also be the first humans to set foot on Mars, based on NASA’s mission schedule. It is exciting to dream about the major technological and societal changes coming in our lifetimes.

And if today’s students will have jobs that do not yet exist, what about the jobs that currently exist? What about the jobs that you, or I, hold right now?

Scholars at the University of Oxford recently surveyed 352 of the world’s leading researchers in artificial intelligence (AI), to learn when AI employees would become better—and less expensive—than human employees in many job fields.

In the next 10 years, according to these researchers, AI employees will surpass human employees in:

 

* translating languages (by 2024)

* writing high school essays (by 2026)

* driving trucks (by 2027)

* generating a Top 40 pop song (by 2027)

 

It will take less than 5 years for AIs to outperform humans in Angry Birds (by 2018) or the World Series of Poker (by 2019), for that matter.

That said, human employees will remain better than AI employees in many job fields for the coming decades. Still, in the next 40 years, AIs will surpass humans in:

* working in retail (by 2031)

* writing a New York Times bestselling book (2049)

* working as a surgeon (by 2053)
These researchers believe AIs will outperform humans in all job fields within 45 years! But, as the MIT Technology Review notes, predictions of 40+ years are not always accurate. Cost-effective energy fusion is predicted to occur in the next 40 years—but it was also predicted to occur in the next 40 years when first explored… over 50 years ago.

Most people have a working life of 40 years. This working life-span is increasing to 45 or 50 years, though, as adults continue working beyond retirement. So, if you are an adult today, it is unlikely that your job as a truck driver, retail salesperson, or even surgeon will be fully supplanted by AI employees before your retirement. But what of today’s young students?

Here at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, we are asking these questions. We discover, often in conversation with students, many new and insightful answers. In our educational programs, youth build 21st century skills, to help them succeed in our changing world. Rather than focus on single disciplines, youth develop cross-disciplinary skills like critical thinking, creativity, and initiative through hands-on exhibits and experiences. As a result, museum visitors are better able to handle the incredible technological and societal advances on our horizon.

 

But we still wonder—could AI employees ever run a museum? Guess we’ll find out!

 

 

Explore More:

“Experts Predict When AI Will Exceed Human Performance.” MIT Technology Review (5/31/17).

“When Will AI Exceed Human Performance?” Cornell University Library (5/30/17).

“How AI Is Transforming the Workplace.” The Wall Street Journal (3/10/17).

“A Robot May Be Training to Do Your Job. Don’t Panic.” The New York Times (9/10/16).

“Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills.” Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Continue Reading