Category: NASA

Reading helps me remember

Right now I’m reading “Too Far From Home” by Chris Jones. It’s the story of Expedition 6 to the International Space Station

It talks about Expedition 6’s experience in the light of the Columbia tragedy (STS-107).

But Jones touches on the entire history of the shuttle program. In chapter 7 titled “Earthshine” he talks about the first flight of Columbia. I remember it well, April 14, 1981. I was a junior at LaSalle Academy (Beware, heavy Flash usage!) in Providence, RI.

In the minutes leading up to the landing they piped in the chatter on the communication channel between NASA and the shuttle over the school PA system. In addition I happened to be in a classroom that had a television in it so we were able to watch the shuttle come in for a landing at Edwards Air Force base.

I did question the practicality of such a vehicle even then. But it’s key role in assembly of the ISS made it worthwhile.

There have been many advances made in materials research as well as repairs to platforms like the Hubble Telescope named after astronomer Edwin Hubble, the man who discovered the red shift and confirmed the theory of the expanding universe.

Hopefully I’ve given you all enough to chew on. It’s a very good book and a delightful read, particularly when you consider that Jones is a sports writer.

Now playing: Jamiroquai – Light Years [Live]
via FoxyTunes.

The Rovers still rove

Some good news from NASA regarding the Mars Rovers.

I still find it amazing that those rovers were only supposed to be on the surface of Mars for 90 sols (Martian Days). They’ve now been up for 1,271 sols, or 14.1 times longer than they were supposed to be active.

Those rovers are a testament to engineering at its very best. It is nice to see that it still exists somewhere in the U.S. and NASA still pulls it off.

What I can’t imagine is the excess data being sent by the rovers. They had their hands full with 90 sols of info, now they’ve got much more than that. While the Viking landers may have found life, the rovers Opportunity and Spirit may help us get a much more focused picture of what that life on Mars actually happens to be.

So kudos to NASA and Steve Squyres on the re-starting of the rovers. For a while there I thought all was lost but it isn’t.

Now playing: Jack Johnson – Better Together
via FoxyTunes

NASA had big plans back then

Time has been re-running articles from the 60’s and 70’s and this one caught my eye.

It caught my eye because I’m a big proponent of space exploration. Put it this way, if we don’t get off this planet and out of this solar system in the next 5 billion or so years, the human race will be erased when our sun goes into its red giant phase.

Now, here’s what really gets me. The U.S GDP for 2006 (GNP==GDP) was $12.49 Trillion dollars. Of that, $500,000,000,000 goes to military expenditures. Yes, five hundred billion dollars a year. That works out to about 4% of GDP. In 1970 NASA asked for .5% to 1% of the GDP. The GDP was $900 billion, so NASA wanted $4,500,000,000 to $9,000,000,000. If we were to give NASA that 1% today they’d have $124,900,000,000 – $124.9 Billion dollars.

Instead they’ll get a paltry $10 billion for FY2008. That extends out to $15 billion in 2011 or so. But still, that’s only 8% of what they should get according to what they asked for in the 70’s.

Personally I’d like to see about $250 billion lopped off the military budget and transfered into our space program, health care, and education. I think there’d be more than enough to go around and we’d be getting to Mars and beyond that much faster.

Instead we get to be witness to the debacle that Iraq has become. All in all, I’d say we’re not getting our dollars worth for what we put in for federal taxes.