Saturday, August 11, 2012

Something You May Have Missed...

With the Olympics, the missing tax returns, and BrAngelina's pending nuptials, did anyone notice that NASA has made us proud once again? On Monday morning at around 1:30am ET (or MSD 49269 15:00:01 LMST Mars time), a room full of scientists and engineers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in California were screaming like rabid Elvis fans after they successfully landed their newest Mars Exploration Rover named Curiosity on the surface of Mars. Freakin' Mars!! Curiosity, a rolling laboratory the size of a Chevy Volt (and infinitely more reliable), joins its sisters Spirit and Opportunity on Mars since January 2004, in our ongoing exploration of our solar system and beyond. The mission of the now six-year-old Curiosity project, is to "determine the landing site's habitability including the role of water, the study of the climate and the geology of Mars. It is also useful preparation for a future manned mission to Mars." - NASA Wikipedia page.

Now, for those youngsters among us who find space exploration as commonplace as a 1000+ cable channels or Iphone apps, this may be just another ho-hum NASA project among many. But for those of us who were around before cable television and wireless phone service (I know, can you imagine? How did we survive?), it still can take our breath away. Well, at least, it can take my breath away. Imagine the math and engineering skills it takes to calculate the trajectory and future landing site of an object the size, well, of ANY size, and managing to land that object within ten feet of its calculated landing site nine months later. Shouldn't we be just be a bit more excited about this?

You know something like this -







Or at least this -


I am not a scientist and my math skills are good enough to balance a check book that's in the same room, so I cannot fathom the science of all of this, but I know enough that we should be celebrating what NASA continues to achieved. So, everybody please take a moment and repeat after me...

YEA NASA!!!! YEA JET PROPULSION LAB TEAM!!! U-S-A!!! U-S-A!!

It is good to know that our scientists are still working hard to find what is out there, and it is even better to know that President Obama did not take personal credit for any of it...so far.

Just in case you are interested in learning more, here is the link to the NASA Mars Exploration website.

17 comments:

LawHawkRFD said...

NASA was the near-perfect blend of government encouragement and private enterprise. It produced technology and wealth far beyond the bounds of its basic mission. Naturally, the Obama administration didn't understand, so we will now go to Mars on a Chinese space ship, assuming they'll lend us the money.

Andrew Mochulsky said...

The projected NASA budget for 2012 is currently about on par with the rest of the late 2000s when read in constant dollars. The budget for the years 2009 through 2011 were among the highest in that time period.

As far as NASA being a blend of government encouragement and private enterprise, that's omitting just what the blend is. During the Apollo years, when NASA was doing the most impressive space exploration and manned space flight arguably ever, their budgets were astronomical (pun absolutely intended), ranging from 2.5-4.5% of the overall federal budget some years--and those years were in the runup to and during the LBJ Great Society era, not exactly a spartan budgeting time.

NASA's strength is now arguably not in space exploration (the private sector caught up some years ago), but the other A in their name: aeronautics. Considering how dependent the world is on rapid air travel, substantial advances in the field of sub-orbital aeronautics could see a substantial return on investment. The applications are myriad: passenger airlines, commercial airlines, defense, better aerial coverage of golf events...

BevfromNYC said...

Thanks Andrew - And their budgets should be astronomical. The return in development in technology, medicine, and the like has been astronomical too. Generations of children can thank the space program for never needing to to tie their shoes again!

As I have indicated, I am in awe of scientists and engineers who can do this. They are given a problem to solve and they create a way to solve it. They may also create 1000 ways NOT to solve it, but in that process, they solve other problems. I guess that is why the government should be involved because creating problems is what they do best!

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew M: Which made it just the right blend. The space program was also an integral part of the defense budget during years when the Soviet Union spent a great deal of time sabre-rattling. Any country that could land a man on the moon and return him safely home was sending as well a message that Moscow is a much easier target. The blend varied with the need, but the extensive involvement of private enterprise was the huge side benefit.

K said...

Meanwhile, back on earth 2 days ago:

LINK

Boom at 1:57.

BevfromNYC said...

K - Yep, one of the 1000 ways NOT to do something I was talking about. Now they only have 999 more tries!

T-Rav said...

I didn't really get what all the excitement was about this. I mean, space is cool and everything, and I don't want to sound unappreciative, but we've landed craft on Mars before--I remember several occasions. And I don't remember them generating a whole lot of enthusiasm, just a "Well, good for them" kind of reaction. Is there something special about this mission that the others didn't have? I just don't really get it.

BevfromNYC said...

T-Rav - I was just as excited when we landed Spirit and Opportunity on Mars in 2004. I guess you had to be a child of the '60's to understand why this should be exciting. It's sad that you who have benefited so much, appreciate these incremental achievements so little. I mean, if it were not for the space program, you wouldn't have a computer, micro-surgery, and you'd still be tying your shoes in knots instead fastening them with velcro.

Each new achievement that brings us one step further out of our own orbit is one more "step for man" and one more "giant leap for mankind".

K said...

Here's one that works - under JPL management, apparently:
LINK

BevfromNYC said...

K- Thanks. See, it works sometimes!

BevfromNYC said...

And T-Rav, most of our space exploration has been done with international cooperation. It is one of the few areas in which we can work with our fellow Earthlings for the good of all mankind and not in the pursuit of our mutual destruction.

T-Rav said...

That hurts, Bev. I'm going to have to go cry myself to sleep now. :-(

BevfromNYC said...

T-Rav - Ah, youth. So fragile are these kids today. Just leave the kitties alone!

rlaWTX said...

I'm a bit older than T-Rav, and I gotta admit I felt the same way - well, less "ho-hum" and more "Oh, cool, moving on"...

but I figure we have to explore Mars if we are going to create those colonies that will either save humanity or open up a hidden horror and send a scourge to earth.

T-Rav said...

rla, I say, why not both? Say it's a scourge that ends up purifying humanity or something....

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I saw this and I was pretty excited. This really is quite an achievement even if we've done it before and I think it's great that we're out there exploring. :)

rlaWTX said...

T-Rav, good thinking - way to be "glass half full"!!!

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