Posted in Uncategorized

Breaking bones

It’s been a while friends and I am not in a great place to write down all of what happened I thought I would share a bit of what’s been going on in my life this week. This Mother’s Day I called my mom from the ER because I had broken my wrist, definitely not my finest daughter moment. Pictures are at the end if you wanna skip the words and get right to the gore. I went to Shoshone Medical Center and they x-rayed me and put me in a splint; I had some of the best nurses and the best x-ray tech person (other than Casey) that I could ask for. Maria, Jesse and Katie are an amazing weekend crew and SMC is super lucky to have you. Not only that but I was splinted by Santa himself (thanks Dr B) who fed my ego by telling me how not-a-wuss I am. Monday I went to Dr Connor Quinn who got me into surgery the next day at Kootenai Outpatient where I was taken care of by Jessie and Crystal who were also super amazing! So here I am, a week after the accident, off my pain pills, able to use both hands and healing well as a newly bionic badass… with throttle control issues.

That’s how all of this happened, I panic throttled my dirt bike, looked exactly where I did not want to go and had some pretty predictable consequences. I’d like to say that I was in a really difficult section of terrain but it’s just not true, we were at the end of our ride and just about to turn around and head for home. there was barely any slope whatsoever and it was just the perfect storm of being tired and doing all the things I know not to do. In my head it went a little something like this:

Man I’m so tired I have to remember not to pull on the handle bars because that’s where the throttle is. Shit I’m doing that, well crap better pull the clutch then it won’t matter. Crap, clutch is left not right that’s the throttle again, stop it hands!!! Okay well at least we are on this flat wide trail, just stay from those grumpy-looking bumps and we will just ride this out… away from the bumps… STOP LOOKING AT THEM OR YOU’LL HEAD RIGHT FOR THEM!!! CMON!!! Welp, it’s all gone sideways or more accurately upside down, shall we brace for impact? Sure, and while we are at it let’s try to kick the bike away. Good luck… we are totally gonna need it.

So I ended up flat on my back, with Randi taking off my helmet and Casey killing the bike and making sure I wasn’t bleeding out of my earholes. Casey and Chris went to look for the fastest way back to the road, we were just in the hills behind my house, Randi stayed with me. I remember looking from her to my arm I had cradled against me and saying

“man I hope I’m not freaking out but I’m pretty sure I broke my wrist”

She looked right at me and said “looks fine to me, swollen for sure but you’re pretty shaken up right now so try not to panic”.

Calmed me right down. Chris and Randi rode home to get their truck while Casey and I walked out, my arm strapped to my body with Randi and I’s shirts. It was about a half mile down some hills to the road and Casey patiently led me as I huffed and puffed and tried not to pee my pants when my footing slipped.

We got home where Julie and Bob (Casey’s folks) and Larry and Jacoba (Casey’s uncle and aunt) were waiting for us. They propped me up on a chair and asked how I was. I said “I think I’m okay, Randi says it doesn’t look broken so that’s good.”

Randi starts laughing next to me and says, “I just said that so you wouldn’t panic, it looks super broken, I can’t believe you believed me!”

“I was definitely grasping for any kind of hope, thanks for giving me what I needed.” We had a good laugh before Casey bundled me off to the hospital.

There you go, all caught up on my week; all said and done I had three fractures on the bones on my right arm, one T shaped plate and 10 screws un-humpty-dumpty-ed my right wrist, my left wrist got a pretty good sprain and is bruised most of the way to the elbow but getting better every day. I’m heading back to work tomorrow but I’m back to typing like my dad (index fingers only) and sleeping most of the day so don’t expect any quick response if you leave a comment or text or email.

As promised, here are pictures!

Posted in Uncategorized

Stress in the Dome

Hello Vandal Alumni!

Mars Vandals
Vandal Sophie Milam and Commander Dr. Martha Lenio on sMars!  Photo credit: Neil Scheibelhut

The majority of you have been directed here form the Vandal Alumni Magazine and the article that I had written describing, briefly, my dome experience.  I sent out a draft of my article to my brother for feedback and he graciously accepted and sent back a document more red than black, turns out grammar is NOT my strong suit.  However, I worked through them until the only comment I couldn’t fix was the one asking for more detail when I talked about the decay of our social system and how it lead to a period of unhealthy social interaction.  There is just no way to do this in 600 words.  Trust me I tried… several times.

Luckily, the Alumni magazine has directed you, the few brave gossip mongers, to this page so I can have all the words I want to properly explain what I meant.

Trust is the most important thing in a mission to Mars.  To trust that, for the good of the mission, your crew mates will understand your highs and lows, make allowances for your weaknesses and use you for your strengths is difficult.  What is more difficult is to still be able to form personal connections understanding that your friendship will always be second to mission success parameters.  Crew III enjoyed a period of social bliss that lasted 3/4 of the mission and I never would have thought that things would have changed as much as they did.

The end of the mission added a new stress to the crew: real life.  Big things like getting a job and finding a place to live were jumbled with smaller seeming things like who was going to be there when you got out, how much you wanted a beer and where you now considered home to be.  This intrusion of real life made it hard for every crew member to keep their promise to put the mission first.  Personal relationships got pushed from second to third because they now had to complete with apartment hunting and job applications for crew mates time.  Once that trust was strained things went down hill quickly.  Cliques formed and restrictions on group interactions were put in place to ensure equality.  It strained the friendships we had and many of those were only able to be recovered after a few months outside of the dome.

HI-SEAS Crew V will begin their journey to sMars and back, I hope that all the readers here will go over and give them a shout out of support and encouragement.


Posted in Uncategorized

Celaya Mexico

Greetings readers, I’m switching out my two stepping boots and flannels for heels and blazers as I veture to good ol Mexico.  Thanks to the Idaho Space Grant Consortium I am currently in Celaya Mexico, recovering from a very full schedule of talks.  Take a look at some pictures from it while I take a minute to compose my thoughts.

First I talked to the Universidad de Celaya’s students about my time in the dome and what I learned.  Next I spoke to the university’s engineering students about my thesis project focusing on tensegrity robotics.  Lastly, I entertained a group of 65 middle school students from UniAmerica Middle school with a project about Mars rovers and impact attenuation.  Basically I gave them lights and had them protect paper robot pods with balloons and try to throw them at a specific place with their eyes closed and their partner aiming them.  It was very fun and the kids seemed to have a great time.  That was Friday, needless to say I droppedal from sheer exhaustion afterwards at 5 in the afternoon because Saturday I woke up and had one final talk to the residents of Celaya at the Science Center.  The students were fantastic, full of questions and everyone wanted a picture. 🙂

Casey and I arrived in Guadalajara at 6pm after an absolutely crazy batch of layovers, that right LAX you suck.  We hopped into wat I can genuinely call the best bus I’ve ever seen, and took a 4 hour ride to Celaya which is a “small city” of 600,000 people, roughly 1/3 the population of Idaho, the STATE I live in.  When we told our host, Ana, about our small town of 200 people (that’s right, I constantly live as part of the 1%) she could not believe it.  She was such a wonderful person to have showing us around the city, taking us out to some amazing restaurants and genreally taking better care of us than we normally take care of ourselves.

Among our whirlwind speaking tour Ana and her sister took Casey and I to San Miguel de Allende which is a super awesome town.  It’s a super cool town, very traditional, cool old cobblestone streets and a great main square with a beautiful church in it.  As beautiful as is was to look at it was even better to smell, Mexican Sushi was really fantastic and the Mole Poblano which could not be any better if I’d dreamed it up myself.

Posted in Uncategorized

Busy busy busy

Hello readers,

this is just going to be a quick update but I wanted to share some of the things that are going on in my life in the next month that are really exciting.  In just a few days I will head down to Mexico for the first time in my adult life.  When I lived in San Antonio I remember going past the border a few times but it is pretty hazy so this time I m really just thrilled to go.  Most of that reason is because I’ll be meeting up with 3 of the domies while I’m down there and three of us are going to be presenting papers that we all had accepted into the IAC, International Astronautical Congress.  Foxy, aka Martha, is going to be talking about her research on indoor gardening in Mars simulation missions; Stitch, aka Zak, will be talking about how he got his Mars stitches or, technically, the uses of 3D printing in space; and yours truly?  Well I’ll be talking about Real Science on Fake Mars, my very favorite subject so YAY!  Fancy is the only one who got it right and she will be down there enjoying herself, lucky lady!  Ohh and Casey will be there, finally getting to meet some of the domies its going to be a really incredible time and I am so excited to meet a bunch of new people doing great things.  Check out the people in my presentation group:iaf-schedule

Before the IAC though, I’ll be spending some time with the Universidad de Celaya in Celaya Mexico doing some outreach for their university and middle school kids, 4 presentations in 2 days, Aye yay yae!  Again, pictures to follow but it should be an absolute blast!

After Mexico I’ll have a solid week of rest where I’ll get to see my dog who is currently going to Casey’s folks house and relax before going to Boston for the Forbes 30 under 30 summit and being part of a panel of speakers on Women in the workplace.  That summit #30under30sumit is going to be UNREAL!  They have so many amazing speakers I am literally in awe that they actually want me there too, I guess they need some crazy space nerd to balance out the gorgeous people (Jessica Alba, OMGeeeeeee)


So basically, I got some stuff in the works so keep on checking in as I two-step around this continent!

DomeSoph out and about!

Posted in Uncategorized

How I Made “The Guardian” Cry

In the 12 hours after Dome Egress my dome-mates and I we assaulted by a barrage of media attention, easily more in that day than in the rest of my life combined.  The memories run together probably more than they should but the one interview I remember was the one done by the people of the The Guardian.  Their interview was so different than the others, the questions more introspective and deep, the shots they took more aggressive and raw, they were fantastic to talk to.

Oh yeah, and I made them cry…

I was in the middle of what I considered a pretty rambling answer to a fairly simple question and was zoning out just admiring all the colors around me and when I stopped and look back for the next question there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  I’m not talking snotty noses and big red eyes, just quiet tears and little sniffles.  I nearly busted out laughing when I saw them.

When I told my exdome-mates later we decided that my raw emotion and honesty must have moved them as deeply as my words (or something like that).
“What did you say?” someone asked
“Honestly?” I whispered, letting the silence draw them in, draw them closer to me, closer to the edge of their seat, closer to the genuine spirit of the returned adventurer that brought a camera crew to tears…
“I have no idea, something about birds and wind and colors and stuff”
Amid the laughs and echos we each told of our new adventure as interviewees, I let those memories go, not really caring if they made it to short or long term parking in the empty lot of my brain.

*sponge Bob narrator voice* 14 months Later

Lo and behold, Jocelyn posted the video they made and I remembered.  As I watched it those blurry, run-together memories of that day and the ones that followed, the last of my time with my dome-mates, came into overwhelmingly sharp focus.  This time I did bust out laughing at the end because as the video ended and faded to black I saw my reflection in my phone as I sat in my tiny office at work.

Not a dry eye in the house…


Stay tuned for more updates involving Tequila, Boston and all kinds of new adventures!

Keep on steppin’


Posted in Dome sweet dome, Outreach

Universidad de Celaya Article

Back in the dome I was asked by the Universidad de Celaya to write an article for their space/science magazine, here are some shots of the article that came out just about a year ago.  Since coming out of the dome I have done a couple different Skype presentations to classes at UdC and always with the help and encouragement of a wonderful woman, Mtra. Ana Cuervas Romo.

When I was writing this article in the dome and communicating with Ana via email she would always send “abrazos” (hugs) to me and the crew even though she didn’t really know us because she thought that with what we were going through we would probably need them.

Hopefully I’ll be able to see her and the UdC when I travel to Mexico in the fall to go to the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara but until then:







Posted in Now on the Outside, Outreach

Dinner with a Scientist

Once upon a time, I was asked to come up with an activity to do with students at Canyon Elementary School in Cataldo, ID; in return they would feed me, and other participating scientists, dinner.  Trading in my traditional St. Patty’s day garb of green tinted beer goggles for my metaphorical sMartian space helmet I agreed to find some way to bring a little bit of Mars to Cataldo, ID.

Turns out that deciding to do something is the easy part, I could not for the life of me think up a cool project that would have any tie-in to Mars.
“Why did it have to do with Mars?” asks those new to reading this blog
Well there new friend, ignore the resounding snickers of the more veteran readers and read back a few posts of ol’ aunty Two Step’s and you’ll find your answer.

Seriously though, of course it had to do with Mars.  I wanted to talk about my adventures on sMars and then be able to pass on some knowledge about rMars (real Mars).  I let my inner child guide me and came up with something that combined rovers, balloons (and the potential for balloon animals), the physics of trajectories, and PRIZES!

Basically, I made a little lander pod similar to the ones used by Spirit and Opportunity, put a bouncy ball prize in it, and let groups of students decorate it and then protect it by putting balloons on it (to simulate an airbag landing).  Then I had them throw their “rover lander” and try to hit a mark on the floor that they couldn’t necessarily see.

All in all it worked great and we all had a bunch of fun.  Here are the instructions and resources I used and I encourage you all to try it out and send me some pictures of your results!

Keep on dancin’,


Rover Drop Outreach Event 2