Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What’s Happening at NASA?

Written : June 5, 2013

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The International Space Station
The International Space Station

Some of us feel a sense of disappointment over the retirement of the space shuttle – without a replacement. Minus the coverage of frequent launches on TV, you might think that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also retired the space program. It didn’t. The sad news is that our astronauts must launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, a nation in Asia. To give a vague idea of where Kazakhstan is, look northeast of Iran, due north of Afghanistan, east of Ukraine, and northwest of China to find it. Since it is now independent of Russia, it leases its space facility to the former Soviet Union. The good news is that scientific research continues with international cooperation inside the Space Station.

In case you missed it, catch the meat of a recent episode featuring astronaut Colonel Kevin Ford on the NASA channel’s program, Gallery, here:

While channel hopping, I thought I’d only watch for a minute, but watched for the entire hour, instead. Col. Ford highlighted his trip to the Space Station as a member of a six-person crew with exciting narration and spectacular photos and videos. Ford described how astronauts travel to the station in groups of three. They join the three already there. When the more experienced crew departs, another three-person team replaces them, making the junior group the senior group, and so on. Ford described several experiments done aboard, including how a droplet of liquid burns in “zero g.” He also explained how a person feels in weightlessness and how it feels to return to the gravity of the earth. There’s even a robonaut, a space robot (android?) in human form up there to help out!

 Flame droplet burning.
Flame droplet burning.

I’ve been critical in the past of President Obama’s lack of vision for human space exploration. However, I’m glad he didn’t cancel the program entirely. The Mars rover, Curiosity, is still going strong, and taking on a new mission on the red planet, a 5-mile drive to Mount Sharp. NASA’s website is more colorful and better than ever. They cover not only the space station, but the universe, aeronautics, technology, commercial space exploration, and the solar system. There are 6 missions to the space station currently planned, from Sep. 2013 – Dec. 2014. An asteroid retrieval mission is in the future, a new Mars lander called Insight is being readied for its mission, scheduled in the 2016-2018 time period.

The International Space Station’s relative size.

The space agency now involves itself in global warming as it tries to prove the earth is heating up, and perhaps it is. NASA scientists hint at the dangers of melting glacier ice, and its scientists predict a rise in sea levels by one foot over the next century. At least they are not freaking out about it. Maybe this is because no one has seen or shown any visible evidence of flooding caused by oceanic swelling to date. The president may be hoping the scientists on board the space station discover the replacement for gasoline on his watch. I do, too, but I don’t believe you can force such a discovery. In the meantime, NASA astronauts advance science, and therefore move mankind ahead in technology. They always do, and I salute them for the risks they take.

 An astronaut during a 21st Century spacewalk.
An astronaut during a 21st Century spacewalk.


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Keywords: Conservative blog, Mark A. Cohen, From the Left to the Right, NASA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Space Station, Space Shuttle, SpaceX, Astronaut

Keywords: "Conservatism", "Conservative blog", "Mark A. Cohen", "From The Left to the Right", “President Obama”, “NASA”, “National Aeronautics and Space Administration”, “Space Station”, “Space Shuttle”, “SpaceX”, “Astronaut”

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