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The Terrible Towel’s wonderful space odysseys

Plus, saying goodbye to summer — or not.

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Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

September 15, 2023
Inside this edition: Yinzer in outer space, summer feels, haunted mansion, movie connection, road trip, and mystery billboards.
🏆 SMART STUFF: Did you stay on top of Pennsylvania news this week? Prove it with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: NFL lawsuit, court contests, Cavalcante captured, and surprise birds.
A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

The nation’s first commercial radio broadcast was aired from Pittsburgh's KDKA station in November of 1920. True or false?

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)

Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One playlist worth playing: Summer is waning and pumpkin everything approaches. If you’re not ready to move on, The Inquirer (paywall) had Philly DJs compile a summer soundtrack for what ails you. Listen here.

» One place worth watching: Or maybe you are ready to move on from summer and proceed to Halloween. If so, PennLive (paywall) reports the most haunted house in the nation can be found in Philadelphia. 

» One story worth reading: I didn't sit through Oppenheimer, but I did read this TribLIVE piece that breaks down Pittsburgh’s connections to the scientist (specifically his wife, Kitty) and the atomic age.

» One trip worth taking: If you’re wondering what you’d see in Amish Country without a car, check out photos from Billy Penn's carless, 48-hour journey from Philadelphia to the cradle of the Plain community.

» One story worth sharing: Those “vandalized” John Morgan billboards displayed from Pittsburgh to Philly to Tampa Bay? Pittsburgh's City Paper explains it's all an unorthodox marketing scheme

The top stories published by Spotlight PA this week.
» Judicial retention questions on the November ballot, explained
» Your guide to the candidates in Pa.'s Supreme Court election
» Your guide to the candidates for Commonwealth, Superior Courts
» Pennsylvania removes email database of public employees
» Pa.'s outdoor recreation industry gets direct line to government

📅 Upcoming events: 

» Spotlight PA headlines first-ever Philly Story Fest
» Spotlight PA hosts “Path to Equity” summit in Harrisburg
Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, first 500 gifts DOUBLED.
NASA astronaut Warren "Woody" Hoburg helped out of the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft onboard the SpaceX recovery ship MEGAN after he, NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen, UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev landed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, Monday, Sept. 4, 2023.
Astronaut Warren "Woody" Hoburg after the splashdown of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 capsule on Monday, Sept. 4, 2023. (Via NASA HQ Photo / Flickr)

The Terrible Towel made its way into outer space again.

More than a decade after astronaut Mike Fincke took the Steelers battle flag past the clouds ahead of Super Bowl XLIII, which the team went on to win, another Pittsburgh-area native, Warren “Woody” Hoburg, took it back this year, meaning the towel — a Myron Cope brainchild — has now been to space more times than John Glenn. (New Castle astronaut Drew Morgan had the towel on his space odyssey in 2019.)

Hoburg and the towel are back gravity-side, having splashed down off the coast of Florida earlier this month with the rest of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission.

He talked about the interstellar experience and his choice of carry-on in a news conference attended by PA Local earlier this week. 

Hoburg said when he heard that they could bring a few small items with them on the journey from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station, the decision was a no-brainer.

As the merch vendors used to yell throughout the stadium: "If you ain't got a towel, you ain't got nothing.”

So the North Hills native and lifelong Steelers fan took the token with him during his first space mission, which set off on March 2.

Remarkable towel photos followed, including this one from Aug. 31

“If you’re wondering whether this yinzer brought a Terrible Towel to space, the answer is yes,” read the caption. 

Hoburg dutifully documented his journey on X, formerly known as Twitter, also posting a one-of-a-kind view of Pittsburgh from 250 miles up.

“Seeing my hometown from orbit was amazing. It's amazing how quickly the scenery goes by underneath us,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “I could see the three rivers just standing out clear as day so many times as we passed over, so that was really really fun.”

Hoburg said he adjusted to his new surroundings (and laws of physics) quickly. He's having to acclimate to the old ones now.

“It's amazing watching the body adapt. And you very quickly get used to that being your new normal,” he said. “It has been really interesting realizing how used to being weightless I was. And how strange basic things like walking and trying to jog feel now.”

He continued:

“Before I flew, obviously, we do so much training, and we get ready and get well prepared, but there is still an aspect of uncertainty. It's just impossible to know what it's really going to feel like.”

Hoburg joins 22 other astronauts with Pennsylvania roots, a lineage he said he is honored to continue, calling it a “dream come true.”

Tanisha Thomas, newsletter writer / reporter

Our favorite quote about Pennsylvania — or from a Pennsylvanian — this week.

"One time, a guy got out of his car in traffic on Bustleton Avenue just to take a selfie with Gritty."

Pedro Cancel, of North Philly, on his Gritty-themed Jeep's adoring fans

Our favorite reader-submitted photo of the week.
The Mansion at the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Delaware County, via Don N. Have a photo you want to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
a large mansion surrounded by green landscape and pink flower beds
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

It's true. Pittsburgh’s role in the birth of commercial broadcasting is why the city has been tapped to host a new National Broadcasting Museum, though the timeline is still developing, Pittsburgh Magazine reports.

Its planned location? A vacant Mellon Bank building in East Pittsburgh, a neighboring borough. The site sits just a few hundred yards from where first radio broadcast hit the airwaves more than a century ago.

Thanks for reading PA Local. We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? 

Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, first 500 gifts DOUBLED.
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