Sunday, December 17, 2006

my love hate with NASA


I've long been critical of NASA. I was home from school the day the Challenger exploded. I think I was sick. Anyway they interrupted "The Price is Right" with the launch and then of course they never went back to the game show because of the accident. I was in the third grade and not great at science so, yeah, the game show was a big deal to me then. And sitting on the couch the only thing I processed was that a school teacher died. That was a pretty big deal for a third grader. Consequently, NASA and I haven't ever really bonded.

Enter my sister Janet, for those of you that don't know, that's NASA Janet. She's pretty smart and thinks alot. Comes up with science toys out of her own head. I think I would have been a science girl had she been my science teacher. Also, as the name might imply, she likes NASA, works with them even. Her title is Shuttle Commander and the kicker is that she live and works in IL. Not a lot of space shuttles around here. I'm naturally skeptical of NASA so when she talks about her work, I listen but with a very furrowed brow ( in the back of my mind thinking "this is what gets teacher's killed, forget the guns in schools").

The other day I heard this report from NASA about their plan for the future. On the screen comes this 50ish looking man and he launches into talking about the "vision of the space shuttle in 2025 or some such far off year. Ideas about returning to the moon and what about Mars and opportunities for international cooperation. Big Ideas. And while I'm listening to this I realize for maybe the first time that these are people of vision. More than just I wonder if the egg stands on its end; these people are thinking around the clock about "what happens if we add some insulation, do we get to Mars then?". That is some clever, daring stuff to think about. A lot more than my little scrapbooking and reading children's fiction. You got to respect people with that kind of vision. Because that 50ish NASA administrator is going to be along time gone (he didn't look the picture of health and he has a government pension coming) when some of the dates he's talking about arrive. The things he said weren't abstract, he had a passion for space.

So a shout out to those kids at NASA, keep up the good work.

A few little links I found while looking for the quote and article:
Why the Moon?

The press kit for the most recent mission and some of their experiments. Did you know these people we shoot into space are further more gutsy to let the folks at NASA run experiments on them while they're up there. Stuff about how the time in space effects sleep/wake patterns. How different viruses effect them and their immune systems. How microgravity effects worms.
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