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Word From Afar

Some of the topics we looked into while you were reading last month’s issue

Astronaut Peggy Whitson returns to Earth after setting an American record for most time in orbit. She’s been at the International Space Station since November. Travelers who stay closer to home used to communicate via postcards. Collectors of postcards will showcase their treasures next month in Austin.

What in the World?

Peggy Whitson runs circles around every other American astronaut who has flown in space. Whitson, a biochemist who earned her doctorate at Rice University in Houston, surpassed the record for most accumulated time in orbit in late April. She is due to return to Earth in September, when she’ll have logged 666 days off the planet after three missions to the International Space Station.

The world record—879 days—is held by Russian Gennady Padalka.

Whitson is the world’s most experienced spacewoman and female spacewalker and, at 57, the oldest woman in space.

Did You Know?

The ISS orbits Earth at about 17,500 mph. It travels at an altitude of around 250 miles, circling Earth about every 90 minutes. Track it at

Worth Repeating

“It’s a fixer-upper of a planet, but we could make it work.” —Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, speaking in May 2013 about the possibility of humans eventually settling on Mars. SpaceX has a rocket-development facility in McGregor and offices in Houston, and is building a launch site at Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville.

Speaking of the Wild Blue Yonder

The U.S. Air Force turns 70 on September 18.

Though the U.S. Army Signal Corps started an Aeronautical Division in 1907 and received its first airplane in 1909—from the Wright brothers—the Air Force didn’t become a separate branch of the military until 1947.

Wish You Were Here

When was the last time you sent or received a postcard?

“This month,” says Yvette Foster. “I often use old postcards to make birthday and special cards.”

In addition to being resourceful, Foster also is a collector and a member of the Capital of Texas Postcard Club, which hosts the Capital of Texas Antique Postcards & Vintage Paper Show on October 6–7 in Austin.

“They are like little works of art, and I enjoy reading the messages and seeing the often elegant writing on the back,” she says. “I have hundreds of Santa and Christmas postcards.”

Postcards came into existence in the mid-1800s and after the turn of the century grew into a popular way folks stayed in touch. Postcards depicted works of art, scenes and even photos of natural disasters.

“Postcards would be considered the texting of the current day,” says Foster, a member of Pedernales Electric Cooperative. “When there wasn’t time to write a full letter, a postcard often just said: I’ve arrived. Or I’ll be home Saturday. Or I’m thinking of you.”

& Now You Know

The English alphabet had a 27th letter until around 1900. Though it no longer is an honored member of the alphabet, it gets celebrated every September 8 on National Ampersand Day.

The ampersand started as a ligature of the letters “E” and “T” from the Latin word et, which means “and.” The word “ampersand” was added to dictionaries in 1837. It’s a slurred form of “and per se and.” Per se means “by itself,” and schoolchildren would end their recitations of the ABCs by saying, “X, Y, Z and per se and.”

Food for Thought

National Tailgating Day is September 2, the first full Saturday of college football season. Check out Tailgating Favorites to kick off your season with winning recipes.

Man, Verses, Words

There once was a writer who worked in a cube.
He had so many words, he was one busy dude.
He typed them all down five years in a row;
Three hundred blurbs is what he can show. 

Tom Widlowski recently celebrated his fifth anniversary as associate editor of Texas Co-op Power. In that time, he’s written an estimated 300 tidbits (but not this one), totaling about 15,000 words for this section of the magazine. How does that make him feel? “Somewhat dizzy—but proud,” he says. “On to the next 300.”