Boy was last week a great time to be a space-enthusiast (and a Kennedy Space Center season pass holder)! I hope you’ve all heard of the MAVEN mission that is en route to Mars as of last Monday. It’s a NASA mission that will be studying the evolution of Mars’ climate and atmosphere – Mars Atmospheric Volatile EvolutioN. And because my research interests are the Martian atmosphere, I’m looking forward to seeing what it brings us. But more exciting were last weekend’s festivities down at the Cape. All weekend they had speakers and specialists giving cool presentations about the mission and other aspects of NASA science, and I was there Saturday and Sunday to see it.
Saturday morning I was up bright and early (legitimately early, I’m talking about 6 am) to head down to KSC with the Honors Student Association. I’m not member of HSA (though apparently I’m *technically* an “inactive” member just for being in the honors program), but they let me come just because I’m friends with the whole executive board and my season pass gets them free parking without costing them a dime on admission. So, y’know, it was a win-win. Of course the first thing we did was head over to the Atlantis exhibit, as none of them had seen it yet. It’s still just as breath-taking the second (and third) time around. After that we went over to listen to a NASA speaker, who was the director of astrobiology, give a presentation about MAVEN. It wasn’t super technical, but very cool all the same. The most entertaining part was the group of probably 5 or 6 year old kids who thought they knew the answers to all of her questions: “Why are we interested in studying Mars?” “Because it’s so hot? Because it’s the only planet without life?” Kids these days, am I right? (I assure you, my children will be completely educated about the universe and its workings before they are even toilet-trained.) They also kept asking about the astronauts on the MAVEN mission; I suppose “un-manned” just doesn’t make sense at that age. But I digress. After the talk I went over to speak with NASA’s director of astrobiology, because I never pass up the opportunity to schmooze a NASA employee. We chatted a bit and I expressed my interest in Martian science, and she gave me the name of somebody to contact asking about possible internships. No word back yet, but she’s probably pretty busy with the launch and stuff. We’ll see I suppose…..
Sunday afternoon I was right back down at the Cape to see their featured speaker, who was none other than…. Bill Nye the Science Guy! He gave a fantastic talk about why space exploration is important. Which was really cool to see in person, considering my American public schooling in science consisted pretty heavily of his show (I know you all can relate! Or at least those of you in the USA – my boyfriend, from India, didn’t even know who he was! :O) It was another great day at the Space Center, aside from my car almost running out of oil for some reason and having to stop at a Sunoco in the middle of nowhere to put three quarts in. And trust me, I can tell you the physics of how an engine works, but I certainly don’t know my way around one!
Monday was the big day – the launch! Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to go down to the Cape to watch, but I did go out to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse that is about half an hour from campus to try and see. We had a clear view of the coastline where it launched from, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to see it take off. It was okay though, because I had a live video feed on my iPhone that way cooler than watching a bright dot in the sky. And when the clouds moved out we were able to see the smoke trail it left behind. MAVEN has been on its way for about a week now, with only 9 months and 2 weeks left to go until it arrives!
Oh, I forgot to mention, as if spending the day at KSC and seeing Bill Nye on Sunday wasn’t cool enough, I got to spend some time on the university’s telescope to do some moon observations for my astronomy class. It was exactly the night of the full moon, and what a sight it is through a telescope! By the way, if anybody tells you that you can’t take pictures by holding your iPhone camera up to the eyepiece of the telescope, they are very, very wrong. I took what are probably the coolest photos ever taken with an iPhone camera, hands down. I’m very excited to get our new telescope next semester, which will be the largest in the state of Florida! Hear that, prospective students? If you’re interested in space, ERAU is definitely the place to be. See below for some up close photos of the moon’s surface, taken by an iPhone camera….
Well, the semester’s winding down faster than I expected. Last week I spent a lot of time working on homework and projects, hoping to have some time to relax over Thanksgiving. I’m getting on a plane Tuesday afternoon to head back up to Minneapolis for the break (unfortunately there’s no snow to greet me). Which fell at a terrible time this year, because we get back next Monday and that’s the last week of classes! I’ll probably be working most of the break, since I still have some final projects to finish up and exams to study for.
I almost forgot – this week was also the 15th birthday of the International Space Station. And Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It was definitely a big week for space! Also, I won a really awesome space book in a raffle at Cookies & Craic (a bimonthly get-together for the ERAU Physics department, where you get to eat free cookies and chat with faculty and students.) It is leather bound and has gold page edges and a cloth bookmark and beautiful color photos. I love it. Also, NASA has started posting summer internships, and there is a planetary science position posted for Ames Research Center that I really really want. So pray to whatever deity you worship and cross all your fingers for me to get that – thanks!
That’s all for now folks, tune in next week for my exciting recollection of Thanksgiving break and final project panic mode! Because I just wouldn’t be a proper college student without the latter.
And email me! I promise I don’t bite. SchroeL2@my.erau.edu