Soccer ball recovered from Shuttle Challenger wreckage reaches space three decades later

soccer-ball-recovered-from-shuttle-challenger-wreckage-reaches-space-three-decades-later

A soccer ball that survived the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986 is now aboard the International Space Station. (Source: Shane Kimbrough/ NASA)

A soccer ball that was to be carried to space by the ill-fated Space Shuttle Challenger has finally reached its destination, 31 years later. Prior to the January 28, 1986 launch, the ball was presented to NASA astronaut Ellison Onizuka by soccer players, including his daughter, from Clear Lake High School.

Onizuka was one of the seven astronauts killed when the shuttle exploded shortly after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The ball was recovered among the wreckage and returned to the school, where it has been on display for the past three decades, according to NASA.

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WATCH: My Vine rewind

As mobile video app Vine prepares for its planned phase-out in January, I’m reflecting on some of my favorite moments. Vine announced this Fall that the service would disable new uploads, but preserve existing videos indefinitely.

I was an early adopter of Vine, downloading the app when it launched in January 2013, however, my first six-second post came two months later. My 249 Vines over nearly four years racked up 269,000 loops (views) and hopefully a few laughs along the way. Some were serious, others were painfully cheesy. People, places, and funny faces provided inspiration for these short creations.

Click the video below to watch my Vines, starting with the most recent.

WATCH: My family’s Christmas ornament tradition

Each Christmas until I turned 21, my Godmother gave me a keepsake ornament. I’ve amassed quite the collection of Christmas figures, cartoon characters, and even a Magi lantern. Now, I’ve shared this same ornament tradition with both of my own Godsons. I hope one day they’ll appreciate it as much as I have. Click this video to check out all of these special memories on my tree!

Does your family have any cool Holiday traditions? Post them in the comments below!

WATCH: Riding atop a fire engine in Longview’s Christmas Parade

One of my favorite community events in all of East Texas is the annual Longview Christmas Parade. I’m always astonished by the number of people lining the streets, no matter the weather. Businesses and community groups really put on a show to get people in the Christmas spirit. Each year, the KLTV 7 crew is fortunate enough to ride with the city’s finest, perched atop a Longview fire engine.

Click the video below to check out all the fun!

Discovering history beyond the books

History isn’t as bland of a subject as it’s sometimes portrayed. Many people probably think of a stack of dusty books taking up space in a classroom or library, but I envision a vibrant picture of stories preserved by people, places, and culture.

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A chance to chat with the next generation of journalists

a-chance-to-chat-with-the-next-generation-of-journalistsLearning is a lifelong adventure for any committed journalist, a journey shaped by academic studies, real world application, and experiences shared by those working in the field. There’s always an opportunity to grow for those open to it. Looking back on my college years, I was fortunate to have been exposed to constant advice from professors and professionals, even if I didn’t recognize its true value at the time. I vividly remember listening to presentations by network news producers, corporate news directors, Presidential campaign media advisors, pollsters, news anchors, reporters, photographers, and journalism academics. Today, I apply their principles and pointers on a daily basis.

Being asked to speak to a class of journalism students at my alma mater, Northwestern State University, is somewhat of an intimidating experience. You hope to leave behind at least one valuable piece of advice or thought-provoking concept to consider. Typically that process is made easier by the professor proposing a topic or focus for my conversation. Continue reading

Hidden among the pines, The Blue Hole is preserved as a Texas treasure

The Blue Hole, a privately owned swimming hole in the Angelina National Forest, is located in a former quarry in rural Jasper County.

Nestled in the Angelina National Forest in Deep East Texas, 36 miles southeast of Lufkin, is one of the hidden jewels of Texas. The Blue Hole, as it’s known, is a brilliant blue-green-colored lake surrounded by the craggy white sandstone cliffs of a former rock quarry.

First opened in the late 1800s, rock was removed from the quarry and transported by the Rockland, Jasper & Northeastern Railway Company for use in the Sabine Pass and Galveston jetties extensions, according to an article published by The History Center in Diboll.

Once known as Kyle’s Quarry, the 12 acres were flooded in the 1920s and has been a popular spring-fed swimming hole for decades, the article stated. A 1918 University of Texas publication noted the distinct coloring of the water is from the sandstone, containing quartz and chert, as well as layers of clay.

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An unfamiliar place: Making sense of the current political landscape

Our political panel in Austin included Ted Jarrett, Josh Phoebus, and Major General Tom Carter.

Time and again the current presidential campaign has defied tradition, shedding any familiarity to previous election cycles. After a brutal primary season for candidates, the two presidential nominees and their running mates are ramping up the rhetoric.

The next 100 days are sure to mired in mudslinging, with more tweets, nicknames, and distractions from the real issues facing the nation.

Not all political discourse is petty. This weekend, I had the great opportunity to moderate a round table discussion in Austin, Texas. Three panelists with extensive backgrounds in politics and government provided a fascinating look at what is steering the national conversation into uncharted territory, including what one panelist called our “Kim Kardashian culture” that invents drama for entertainment.

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WATCH: Millions of bats take flight over downtown Austin

Crowds of people gather every Summer evening around dusk to watch as many as 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the world’s largest urban bat colony, the Congress Street Bridge over Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, Texas. Click the video below to watch.

Behind the Scenes: My annual tie tribute

Each year, I dust off this necktie as a tribute to my grandfather, who I give credit for encouraging me to pursue a career in journalism.

I’ve really grown to love this tradition. Every year, I pull this necktie out of the closet and wear it on or around my grandfather’s birthday. He retired it from his collection and “passed it down” to me when I was in high school, a few years before he died.

Sunday would have been “Paw Paw’s” 91st birthday. He deserves a great deal of credit for sparking my interest in journalism. We would watch the news together when I was a kid and he would save newspapers so I could read them at his house each weekend.

“Paw Paw” even encouraged me to try out for KPLC 7 News Teen Reporter program almost 20 years ago and gave me feedback when I wrote for the Lake Charles American Press teen page.

He was an extremely intelligent man, a loving grandfather who never knew a stranger, and could cook like nobody’s business.

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How to capture spectacular shots on your next flight

The romanticism of flying isn’t lost on commercial flights unless you willingly let it become routine. I fly several times a year and still find each opportunity to take to the skies an exciting adventure. Sure, I find myself reading, listening to music, working, and sleeping at times, but I’m intentional about dedicating a few critical moments on each leg of my trip to simply enjoying the view.

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‘Virus hunter’ astronaut shares details of science mission to Space Station

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins trains for spacewalks at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. (Source: NASA)

In July, a self-proclaimed ‘virus hunter’ astronaut will launch aboard a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station, embarking on a four month, science-intensive assignment to the orbiting laboratory.

NASA’s Kate Rubins is counting down the days until the scheduled July 6 launch of Expedition 48/49, which will be the first spaceflight for the molecular biologist. Before her selection to the space agency’s astronaut corps in 2009, the 37-year-old helped developed the first ran a biomedical research lab that studied viral diseases like Ebola, Marburg, and Lassa Fever. Rubins even traveled Central and West Africa to conduct research and supervise study sites, her biography stated. Once aboard the orbiting outpost, she is planning to conduct several biological and human research investigations.

Rubins will spend four months in low Earth orbit along with crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The trio will join NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka, who are already on orbit.
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Cross 10 bucket list destinations off your list in one trip to the Canadian Rockies

Cross 10 bucket list destinations off your list in one trip to the Canadian RockiesThrow a dart at any map of the Canadian Rockies and you’ll suddenly find dozens of worthy additions to a bucket list of the world’s most breathtaking destinations.

Summertime and winter visits provide totally different experiences. Below, you’ll find some of the must-see points of interest in western Alberta.

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