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  Remove Before Flight: Memoir of a Space Shuttle Team Member (Scott Phillips) (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Remove Before Flight: Memoir of a Space Shuttle Team Member (Scott Phillips)
Shuttleman
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From: Huntsville, Al. USA
Registered: Mar 2007

posted 11-09-2010 07:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Shuttleman   Click Here to Email Shuttleman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The following excerpts are from my upcoming book, "Remove Before Flight: Memoir of a Space Shuttle Team Member." I would appreciate any feedback.
Remove Before Flight
Memoir of a Space Shuttle Team Member

As a space shuttle team member my mission was analogous to the Remove Before Flight ribbon. This ribbon may be up to 3' long and is used to flag support items temporarily attached to equipment not intended for flight. The red color makes it easier for engineers to see and insure that everything that should be removed is done so before the shuttle launches. I never flew on the space shuttle but I did have the privilege of working on this historical program beginning in 1978 through the last flight in 2011. Inspiration for the title of this book came from the fact that I was the last technician out of the first Shuttle External Tank (ET1) and acquired the ribbon from the tank before flight.

This is a personal memoir. I realized, early in my career, that being part of this historic groundbreaking program would not be ordinary - far from it. It has been interesting, challenging and, at times, dangerous but definitely not mundane! I began my journey slowly introducing my passion for woodworking. I designed and, to date, have built over 130 one-of-a-kind shuttle models. These art pieces are made out of a variety of different hardwoods. My hobby afforded myriad opportunities to interact with space shuttle team members, including many astronauts whom I would never have otherwise known. By doing so, I was able to experience the bigger picture and develop a unique vision of authenticity in promoting the space shuttle program as well as having astronauts sign my models. As I found myself in increasingly highly visible situations and, as a NASA contractor, I found myself in some very precarious positions as well. Needless to say, I did have a few 'near misses!'

I've written this book with honesty and passion. Hopefully, it will inform, inspire, encourage, motivate, and entertain. You may even find it thought provoking at times. I've also thrown in a few of my "woodisms" which are little philosophical lessons that I learned along the way. The purpose in writing this book is not to bore you with the meetings I attended, the phone calls I returned or the ways I got my hands dirty, but a deep desire to share with this generation and the generations to come what we accomplished with the Space Shuttle to support International Space Station, Hubble Telescope, and Chandra as well as other satellites and payloads.

Writing this book has been extremely therapeutic in releasing the 30+ years of both joy and sorrow that I have devoted to my life's work.

Sample Chapter: Mudman

In 1979, I was working as a mechanical technician performing critical pre-flight testing on the Space Shuttle's external tank structural test article (STA) on the liquid oxygen tank (LOX). Months earlier, our team had installed pressure-measuring devices known as strain gauges and our task now was to conduct stress analysis testing on the tank and to verify that the weld seams would hold the fuel during the shuttle's ascent. NASA decided to use Barium sulfate (driller's mud) and water treated with a special anti-corrosion additive to simulate the approximate weight of the liquid oxygen.

We successfully completed our testing and verified the integrity of the tank. Our next task was to drain the mud from the tank and clean the residue off the walls. Bendix Corporation had created a three-foot circular platform device called a 'man tube' that rotated 360° on a thin cable system that was designed to lower one person, in a standing position, down through the top of the LOX manhole with a high pressure water hose to spray the walls. The man tube was hooked to a wench cable device that would be manually lowered incrementally as the walls were cleaned. This task was extremely dangerous as it was in a confined space and required a tank entry certification.

The man tube had not been previously tested with an actual person. Since this was our first attempt at doing anything like this, and since I was the youngest team member, the thinnest, and looking back, perhaps the most naive, I was selected to be the 'guinea pig' to man rate the man tube. I convinced myself it was safe and we naturally assumed it would work as designed. We were performing the work on a night shift so on-site safety personnel were slim. I donned the white waterproof airtight suit and helmet that included a built-in breathing apparatus and rubber gloves. Feeling like an astronaut anticipating his first mission, I was excited to be performing my first solo job and, ironically as it turned out, almost my last. As I looked down into the tank it was very daunting knowing there was only one way in and one way out. I quickly purged my mind of any thoughts of claustrophobia or falling down into the cave-like bottom of the tank. They manually cranked me down the dark abyss, not unlike being in a casket, ten feet at a time as I dangled in the man tube by one thin cable. Flood lamps attached to the top directly above my head created tremendous heat and glare that invoked a sense of disorientation not knowing which way was up or down.

The darkness finally eased as the floodlights from the top filtered through the manhole to light the tank. The outside tank monitor activated the high-pressure water hose and I began to blast the tank walls with water. The intense water pressure against the walls caused the tank to reverberate and increased the noise level dramatically. Without hearing protection, it accelerated my fatigue and complicated the communication process. As I completed my first 360° rotation, the water pressure bounced mud back into my helmet shield and covered me completely with mud. At about 40 feet down and 45 minutes into the process, in a completely confined environment, the air hose in my suit popped off. This horrifying revelation was confirmed when I heard the spring clip from my air hose hit the bottom of the tank with a clink. At that point, I was already overheated, fatigued from the noise and hose pressure, and my head was experiencing a sensation of spinning as if I were in a Twilight Zone. Once I lost the air pressure in my suit, my face shield clouded over, I lost my visual... and I desperately gasped for air. I instinctively grabbed my walkie-talkie, albeit completely covered in mud, and firmly radioed the tank monitor that I had lost my air supply and needed to return to the top immediately!

What ensued next was an agonizingly slow process. Since this was a manual system, I relied on someone at the top to hand crank the wench device that would bring me back up through the manhole. The cable inched through the driller's mud, not unlike molasses. During this time, I had very limited oxygen available. I instinctively knew I had to maintain shallow breathing until I reached the top. I also had to leave my helmet on and, thankfully, my certification training had taught me not to panic while in a confined environment. It took at least fifteen minutes for the manual wench device to raise me out through the manhole...that was the longest fifteen minutes I had ever experienced. I was able to maintain positive thoughts and stayed focused. I slowly reviewed all the details in my mind and figured out that the mud had created the problem by lubricating the spring clip on the air hose to my helmet causing the hose to pop off. When I finally emerged, I was covered from head to toe in driller's mud. I was lightheaded from the lack of oxygen, but elated to be breathing fresh air!

As previously mentioned, we were on the night shift. Our quality safety team member was present but chose not to write an incident report. We performed our own modifications to the suit and rewrote the procedures. We passed the information on to the next day's shift and they were successful in completing the work. Fast-forward thirty years. Knowing what I know today, I probably would not have agreed to be the 'guinea pig.' What we did was extremely risky and dangerous. This experience was my first close call during my career working on the Space Shuttle external tank...but not my last. It taught me an important lesson. It made me realize how dangerous our work was and reinforced the importance of always being vigilant in performing hazardous operations. By the way, I received an extra .50/hour night differential to perform that task!

A NASA photographer was on-site to document the man rating procedure. He took pictures of me going down inside the tank, but when I returned, completely covered in mud including lights and equipment, he had already gone. Although it is not customary for NASA to release pictures of this nature, they did provide a few photos to our quality safety people. I was inspired to document the incident for my own posterity and chose to highjack a couple of the pictures. No one ever knew I had the photos until now.

As far as the weight testing was concerned, it was successful. However, the mud corroded the tank after the residue dried. Many man-hours were spent using stainless steel brushes to remove the corrosion. Fortunately, this tank was used for testing purposes only and not intended as a flight article.

If you ever hear me referred to as "mudman," you now know the whole story.

cspg
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Posts: 4870
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 11-09-2010 07:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Chilean miners story comes to mind!

Keep us posted on your upcoming book.

history in miniature
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From: Slatington, PA U.S.A.
Registered: Mar 2009

posted 11-09-2010 10:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for history in miniature   Click Here to Email history in miniature     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scott, quite an excerpt into what looks to be an exciting insight concerning your careers work with this historic program. Can't wait to read the whole book.

nasamad
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From: Essex, UK
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posted 11-09-2010 10:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for nasamad   Click Here to Email nasamad     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An advance order here, looks like a great read to me!

garymilgrom
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From: Atlanta, GA, USA
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posted 11-09-2010 11:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great stuff Scott! Sign me up for a copy too.

contra
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From: Kiel, Germany
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posted 11-09-2010 11:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for contra   Click Here to Email contra     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Me too. Sounds like a great book.

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 11-09-2010 03:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, this is some cool stuff. The external tanks are almost unknowns and lost in the glamour of the shuttle or the danger notion of the SRBs. This is going to be a good book!

James Brown
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From: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
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posted 11-09-2010 03:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for James Brown   Click Here to Email James Brown     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Had lunch with Scott a while back. Had lots of great stories. A book only makes sense. Can't wait to read the finished product.

AstroAutos
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posted 11-09-2010 05:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for AstroAutos   Click Here to Email AstroAutos     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sign me up for a copy, Scott! I'm sure you have lots of fascinating stories to tell...

Joel Katzowitz
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From: Marietta GA USA
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posted 11-09-2010 07:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joel Katzowitz   Click Here to Email Joel Katzowitz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've also been fortunate to have met Scott in person while scarfing down some BBQ and listening to his stories. Sign me up for a couple of copies of the book.

Gilbert
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From: Carrollton, GA USA
Registered: Jan 2003

posted 11-09-2010 07:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gilbert   Click Here to Email Gilbert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scott did a "lunch and learn" for Gary Milgrom, Joel Katzowitz, Jimmy Brown, and me, earlier this year in Huntsville. As he described his adventures with great enthusiasm, while we all munched on hushpuppies, we realized that a space shuttle program memoir was in the making. Scott, put me down for a copy. I can't wait to read it.

Shuttleman
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From: Huntsville, Al. USA
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posted 11-13-2010 10:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Shuttleman   Click Here to Email Shuttleman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I want to thank everyone for their positive response on my book!!! I feel overwelmed with support!! I will do another excerpt soon and it will be published after the program ends.

Fezman92
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From: New Jersey, USA
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posted 11-13-2010 04:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looks like a great book! Where can I get one?

Shuttleman
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Posts: 116
From: Huntsville, Al. USA
Registered: Mar 2007

posted 02-08-2011 10:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Shuttleman   Click Here to Email Shuttleman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thinking of an idea on my book cover. I have two that will work, but maybe I can have the cS community help me vote on the right one? Click on the covers to enlarge.

 

garymilgrom
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From: Atlanta, GA, USA
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posted 02-08-2011 11:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The design on the left is more Shuttle oriented. The design on the right is more patriotism oriented. As the book is about the Shuttle, and the Shuttle itself is a patriotic object to many, I would use the design on the left.

Also I would change "A Memoir of a ..." to "Memoirs of a ..."

Gilbert
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From: Carrollton, GA USA
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posted 02-08-2011 11:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gilbert   Click Here to Email Gilbert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While I totally agree with Gary's comments, I prefer the design on the right, featuring the US flag.

fredtrav
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From: Birmingham AL USA
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posted 02-08-2011 11:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with Gary. I like the one on the left along with the title change he suggested.

Peter S
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From: Toronto, Ontario , Canada
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posted 02-08-2011 01:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Peter S   Click Here to Email Peter S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'd go with the one on the left... BUT... lose the blue border, and go with the launch photo for the full cover. The blue distracts, and the full cover size of the launch would have more impact. It would pop off the shelf much more dramatically. Also, I agree with "memoirs", rather than "A Memoir..."

(Regardless, I'll buy it...)

cspg
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posted 02-08-2011 02:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with Peter S.

Larger picture of the shuttle (I like that it's a picture of STS-1 or 2) is a must. The one on the right looks a drawing...

history in miniature
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posted 02-08-2011 04:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for history in miniature   Click Here to Email history in miniature     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have to agree with everyone here.

ea757grrl
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From: South Carolina
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posted 02-08-2011 05:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Definitely go with the one with the photo.

Henry Heatherbank
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From: Adelaide, South Australia
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posted 02-09-2011 02:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On the left for me. And lose the blue border. Makes it look like a technical manual.

Cover on the right makes it look like a book aimed at children.

KSCartist
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From: Titusville, FL USA
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posted 02-09-2011 06:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KSCartist   Click Here to Email KSCartist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I like the left one without the blue background. But I'm more interested when you'll be at a book signing at KSC?

garymilgrom
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From: Atlanta, GA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 02-09-2011 07:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have tried to incorporate the suggestions above into a new version. I also thought it important to include one of the wooden models Scott is known for.

removebeforeflight_coverGM sml

garymilgrom
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Posts: 1811
From: Atlanta, GA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 02-09-2011 09:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Slow day at the office - here's how I see the spine and back cover.

removebeforeflight_full_coverGM sml

space1
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From: Danville, Ohio, USA
Registered: Dec 2002

posted 02-09-2011 03:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for space1   Click Here to Email space1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would suggest putting the wooden model photo on the back, in the section "About the Author." Otherwise, very cool. Better yet, use a different photo with Scott holding the model.

MCroft04
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From: Smithfield, Me, USA
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posted 02-09-2011 07:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree. I like the wooden model but it looks out of place on the front cover.

Joel Katzowitz
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From: Marietta GA USA
Registered: Dec 1999

posted 02-09-2011 08:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joel Katzowitz   Click Here to Email Joel Katzowitz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Move the model to the back. The cover should be powerful, clean and succinct.

It would be very cool if the "remove before flight" banner could be peeled off and used as a bookmark. I'll even help you glue them down!

fredtrav
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From: Birmingham AL USA
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posted 02-09-2011 08:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree move the model to the back. I think the idea of the bookmark is great. You could even have the same banner printed under the bookmark so it is still part of the cover.

Henry Heatherbank
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From: Adelaide, South Australia
Registered: Apr 2005

posted 02-10-2011 01:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In my opinion, the sub-title, "Memoirs..." should be at the top of the book, author at the bottom.

space1
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From: Danville, Ohio, USA
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posted 02-10-2011 09:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for space1   Click Here to Email space1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with Henry's suggestion (title at top).

jvertrees
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From: Crestwood, MO
Registered: Mar 2009

posted 04-03-2012 03:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jvertrees   Click Here to Email jvertrees     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just did a search of Amazon and B&N to see if the book is available yet.

Is there any news yet on publication dates?

The work on Scott's Shuttle model tribute is very impressive.

APG85
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posted 05-13-2012 05:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for APG85     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can't wait to read this book!

PeterO
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Posts: 253
From: Rochester, NH
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posted 05-13-2012 09:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for PeterO   Click Here to Email PeterO     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I enjoyed the excerpt and pictures, and will certainly buy a copy when it's published. However, you need to fix a repeated error. You use the word wench (a girl or young woman) when you mean winch (a hauling or lifting device).

Shuttleman
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Posts: 116
From: Huntsville, Al. USA
Registered: Mar 2007

posted 05-14-2012 04:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Shuttleman   Click Here to Email Shuttleman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My editor thanks the eagle eyes on this fantastic site.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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From: Toms River, NJ
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 05-15-2012 05:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by PeterO:
You use the word wench (a girl or young woman) when you mean winch (a hauling or lifting device).
Maybe the space program uses a serving wench?

Reminds me of the story about some newscaster who was going over the Apollo 11 excursion plans and asked, "Who's this Eva woman? It says here Aldrin's going out for Eva (meaning EVA)..."

DavidH
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Posts: 1213
From: Huntsville, AL, USA
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 01-22-2014 04:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidH   Click Here to Email DavidH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scott was kind enough to let me read the almost-finished draft of the book, and it's very enjoyable reading. It's a very personal story of the program, but from a really unique perspective. I just saw him getting a shuttle signed at Morris Auditorium at Marshall, and he told me he's making one more addition to it, but hopefully it should be wrapped up soon.

JBoe
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From: Churchton, MD, USA
Registered: Oct 2012

posted 01-22-2014 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JBoe   Click Here to Email JBoe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This looks like a great book! Are there any updates for where it will be sold and how much, I know it's a tad early for those details.

BMacKinnon
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Posts: 174
From: Waterford, MI. USA
Registered: Jul 2007

posted 01-23-2014 05:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BMacKinnon   Click Here to Email BMacKinnon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I look forward to reading Scott's book when it comes out. Now to figure out how to get ahold of one of his awesome hand made shuttle models!

fredtrav
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Posts: 1168
From: Birmingham AL USA
Registered: Aug 2010

posted 10-23-2014 06:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sent an e-mail to Scott on a whim yesterday to check on the progress of the book. It has been printed and copies are on the way to him. He has a website now.

Really looking forward to getting this one.


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