I’m reading Neil deGrasse Tyson’s newest book, ‘Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier‘. Anyone familiar with the astrophysicist knows just how eloquently poignant he can be. In fact, the following excerpt was something I already knew, yet I was still floored when reading in just the way Tyson describes it:
“In 1962, there were two spacefaring nations. Fifty years later, in 2012, there would still be two spacefaring nations. But America wouldn’t be one of them.”
Of course, he’s pointing out that since the United States retired its Shuttle Program, only Russia and China have the ability to independently put humans in orbit.
The United States re-entry into its own independent manned spaceflight program can’t come soon enough.
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“If it’s cordless, fireproof, lightweight and strong, miniaturized, or automated, chances are good NASA has had a hand in the technology. We are talking trash compactors, bulletproof vests, high-speed wireless data transfer, implantable heart monitors, cordless power tools, artificial limbs, dustbusters, sports bras, solar panels, invisible braces, computerized insulin pumps, fire-fighters’ masks. Every now and then, earthbound applications head off in an unexpected direction: Digital lunar image analyzers allow Estée Lauder to quantify “subtleties otherwise undetectable” in the skin of women using their products, providing a basis for ludicrous wrinkle-erasing claims. Miniature electronic Apollo heat pumps spawned the Robotic Sow. “At feeding time a heat lamp simulating a sow’s body warmth is automatically turned on, and the machine emits rhythmic grunts like a mother pig summoning her piglets. As piglets scamper to their mechanical mother, a panel across the front opens to expose the row of nipples,” wrote an unnamed NASAfacts scribe, surely eliciting grunts from superiors in the NASA Public Affairs Office.”
Roach, Mary . Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (p. 334). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
Mary Roach offers this concise description of how the investment in NASA and the space sciences benefits everyone. And this is just a footnote in her brilliant book, “Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void”. Packing For Mars answers the questions about space travel that many of us wouldn’t even know where to begin looking for answers to, and even if we did we just may not have the nerve to ask some of these! Packing For Mars is highly recommended for anyone curious about what it took to get humans in space, what demands were placed on us once we got there, and what we can continue to expect in the future. This book offers history, documentary, and a generous helping of humor. You won’t be able to put it down.
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“The Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do.”
– Galileo GalileiContinue Reading »