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Friday, 7 June 2019

Lafayette, Purdue University, and Good Friends

Greetings readers! Thanks for stopping by! Now that I've finished with some really busy projects at work, I can get back to keeping you updated here!

Today's post is about the beginning of a trip my fiancée and I took to the US and Canada, so let's read on!

First, yes, you read that correctly, I said fiancée! The end of May 2019 marked 3 years that I've been living here in France, and 5 years since Juliette and I started dating. I had been thinking about this proposal for some time, trying to find the right way to convey my thoughts and feelings. 

It is an interesting thing, really. On the one hand, proposal, engagement, wedding, a life together, none of this is really surprising for either of us. When we started dating, I was just finishing university. I didn't have a job in place, and knew I would have to go back to Canada. My future was uncertain, and it was not, frankly speaking, the best time to begin a relationship. However, thanks to a lot of honesty and communication, it became clear to us both that we were in this for the long run. When we made that decision, to stay together despite being an ocean apart, we knew it was forever. It wasn't easy, we spent a total of 2 years apart, with a few short summer and winter visits, before I finally started with NSR and moved back to France.

So, on the one hand, the proposal was a natural next step.

Yet, it was still very new, exciting, and a little scary! In the end, it all went beautifully, (feel free to ask me about it sometime) though it does feel strange (in a good way) to use the word fiancée.

Back to the North American adventure!

With everyone in my company attending the Satellite conference in early May, in Washington, DC, Juliette and I took the opportunity to get to the US a little early, and visit some friends.

One of Juliette's oldest friends, Alicia, is currently working toward her PhD at Purdue University! She is literally a rocket scientist, aerospace engineer I believe is the proper term, working with her team to create "green" rocket fuel! It was really great to not only see her again, spend some time with her and her boyfriend (who is also a rocket scientist/space engineer, who works at NASA!), but to learn more about her studies.

Putting on some protective gear, we followed Alicia through her lab. There were sealed rooms, and sealed chambers within, containing all kinds of equipment and chemicals. There were several stations where different gases could be measured and added in a controled manner, allowing for different mixtures of fuel to be created. Alicia told us that it was common to arrive at the lab at 6am, begin setting up the equipment, create the fuel mixture, prepare the test burn, ignite the fuel for a mere dozen seconds, then shut everything down and go to analyzing the results over the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I do not have pictures, but I hope you get the idea. With my work at NSR, I know just how important such work is, not only as it generally applies to cleaner, more environmentally-sustainable initatives, but because small satellites are becoming easier and cheaper to make, and the more options available, the better.

After touring Alicia's lab, she took us on a tour of Purdue University. While I had not really heard of the university before, little did I know that it is a very important part of the history of the American space industry. Before astronaut training facilities and several NASA centres were established, many if not most of the Americans wishing to be astronauts studied and trained at Purdue. Aerospace engineering is typically the gateway to being an astronaut, and Purdue's program is one of the best.

Among the many who have studied at Purdue and since been to space, none are more famous than Neil Armstrong.

The first person on the Moon, Armstrong began studying at Purdue in 1947. Along with his aeronautical engineering courses, he wrote and co-directed two musicals; one a Disney musical, and the other a modern retelling of college life with music from Gilbert and Sullivan. During our visit, the university was celebrating 150 years of innovation and leadership in the space industry, and it was really inspiring to see so much of its history on display.

We of course made a stop to the statue above, as all students do. Apparently, it is a time-honored tradition to take a picture with Neil upon graduating, with the line said to go completely around the building.

In modern, cynical days, there is often a feeling which threatens to cross over from sentimental to cliché. Taking a picture with Neil, I felt a little of both, but I disregarded the latter. Neil Armstrong represents many things, from the people who came before him, those who followed, and all the work that humanity has done for technological innovation and exploration. There is, of course, a very strong sense of American pride associated with Armstrong, but I do not feel in anyway less connected or inspired simply because I was born somewhere else. The study and pursuit of space exploration, to me, has a habit of crossing borders, and involving international cooperation, and so, standing there with Neil, I felt better about where I was, where I came from, and where I was going.

Anyway, that is a rather illogical way of recounting my time, but hopefully more interesting than the plain facts of it all. It was a lovely visit, and we were really glad to have been able to make the time. Alicia will be graduating with her PhD in August, a ceremony we unfortunately cannot attend, so it was really nice to congratulate her in person. And Chris, if you're reading this, we had a lovely time with you too, but your accomplishments speak for themselves; looking forward to seeing you again.

Part 1 of the adventure is now complete! Stay tuned next time when I share a lot of really cute pictures of cats!

Thank you all for reading, hope you enjoyed!

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