Captain Kirk, You Don’t Hold a Tribble to Captain Lovell!

| Shelley Stern Grach

Have you possibly noticed that this is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek? Have you changed your Facebook page, signed your emails “Live Long and Prosper” and sacrificed a perfectly glorious Fall weekend to binge watch episodes from the series (Let’s see if I got it right: Pilot, Original, Animated, TNG, DS9, Voyager)?

adlerlogoWell, Chicago, why don’t you look in your own backyard on our lakefront and visit our local treasure where people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds “boldly go where no one has gone before”—the Adler Planetarium.

Adler Planetarium Stellar 2015

The Adler recently hosted the 2016 Celestial Ball, “Across the Universe”, and what a spectacular program it was! In addition to the glamorous Saturday evening Black Tie event, Adler CEO Michelle Larson wisely introduced the 600+ well heels guests to a more important crowd—our local students, who were running science experiments at our dinner tables. In addition to the pop of champagne, guests learned about Molecules on Ice and what happens to everyday objects when subjected to -321 degrees F (they pop). Guests used their beverages to test wavelengths of invisible light, similar to the Adler Space Visualization Lab. We met teens who took Coding classes and are creating new video games that highlight space exploration. And probably the most popular was the “Icky Sticky” program, where guests answered questions and experimented with teen interns and volunteers about the sticky strength of slime. Fabulous!



But I have to say, the highlight of the evening was getting a chance to meet and chat with Captain James Lovell. A true hero of space, a man who truly went where no one has gone before, Captain Lovell is a tireless supporter of the Adler and an inspiration to youth and adults alike. For those of you who weren’t around during the Apollo 13 mission, here are a few facts about Captain Lovell (via NASA):

jamesalovellNASA EXPERIENCE: Captain Lovell was selected as an Astronaut by NASA in September 1962. He has since served as backup pilot for the Gemini 4 flight and backup Commander for the Gemini 9 flight, as well as backup Commander to Neil Armstrong for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission.

On December 4, 1965, he and Frank Borman were launched into space on the history-making Gemini 7 mission. The flight lasted 330 hours and 35 minutes and included the first rendezvous of two manned maneuverable spacecraft.

The Gemini 12 mission, commanded by Lovell with Pilot Edwin Aldrin, began on November 11, 1966. This 4-day, 59-revolution flight brought the Gemini program to a successful close. Lovell served as Command Module Pilot and Navigator on the epic six-day journey of Apollo 8 – man’s maiden voyage to the moon – December 21-27, 1968. Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to be lifted into near-earth orbit by a 7-1/2 million pound thrust Saturn V launch vehicle; and Lovell and fellow crewmen, Frank Borman and William A. Anders, became the first humans to leave the Earth’s gravitational influence.

He completed his fourth mission as Spacecraft Commander of the Apollo 13 flight, April 11-17, 1970, and became the first man to journey twice to the moon. Apollo 13 was programmed for ten days. However, the original flight plan was modified en route to the moon due to a failure of the Service Module cryogenic oxygen system. Lovell and fellow crewmen, John L. Swigert and Fred W. Haise, working closely with Houston ground controllers, converted their lunar module “Aquarius” into an effective lifeboat. Their emergency activation and operation of lunar module systems conserved both electrical power and water in sufficient supply to assure their safety and survival while in space and for the return to earth.

Captain Lovell held the record for time in space with a total of 715 hours and 5 minutes until surpassed by the Skylab flights.

Shelley Stern Grach and Captain James Lovell
Shelley Stern Grach and Captain James Lovell

Captain Lovell has strong midwestern roots and has devoted much of his later life to helping organizations that improve the lives of others. It’s through his tireless support of the Adler Planetarium and the marvelous, creative staff of the Adler, that STEM truly comes alive for our Chicagoland students and their families. They integrate science and math into fun games and experiments. They take the broad view of STEM, including coding and game design and align it with the magic of space and our universe. Through STEM programs at the Adler Planetarium, we learn about genuine heroes, and we learn that Science appeals to all our children and young adults in Chicagoland. Check out the Adler Planetarium and their amazing programs for students, families and guests of all ages. SPACE IS FREAKING AWESOME!

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Shelley Stern Grach

They say that great work stems from a combination of passion and commitment, something that Shelley certainly possesses when it comes to her life and career. She currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Business Development Center, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Thrive Chicago, Year Up and LISC Chicago. At Microsoft Chicago, she’s the Director of Civic Engagement, working at the intersection of computing and community, promoting STEM programs and using Microsoft technology to spur growth in the community. So no matter if it's work, play, or giving back, Shelley always makes sure her drive and professionalism help her complete her life's goals.