Yesterday, my husband and I visited the Orlando Science Center. We'd heard they had a NASA person coming in to give a talk on Curiosity, their latest probe on Mars. Since we both had expected there to be at least one space station, a moon base and a Martian colony by now, we are always eager to hear if we're getting any closer to that.
The talk started with a few questions from the audience as the rest of the audience filed into the auditorium. One guy asked if it was true NASA had recently launched from some old base in Maryland, and young Samantha, the rocket scientist who had been with NASA for 2 years, said, yes that was true. Then the guy asked if Maryland was a better location for launches than Florida. No, she returned, Florida was the better location for an equatorial orbit like the ones they want. Then why launch from Maryland at all? Sam, flustered, turned to her older cohort, Rich, who promptly answered, "Because some Congressman told us to."
He went on to explain that this unnamed Congressman thought it would be a good idea for NASA to make some launches from his district, and because he thought that, they had to rebuild launch pads, construct a clean room and several other buildings, and finally, make a launch. Billions of dollars used for that effort that some people feel could have been used in better ways. My first thought was that it was no wonder NASA was 'behind', if they had to stop and fulfill every Congressman's egotistical whim.
They touched on the International Space station, roughly the size of a football field, counting all the solar panels, but the living space for the crew of 6 is about the size of the interior cabin of a 747. The ISS is expected to be decommissioned by 2020, did you know that? Well, the US expects to do that, but the Russians think it should be left there. The Russians tend to keep using what they have until it can't be kept in one piece any more.
There was a lot of information in that one-hour talk. Next week, I'll try to remember enough to talk about the Kepler telescope and the Curiosity robot on Mars.