Did you know that today is NASA’s 52nd birthday? On July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to direct US space policy.
This birthday seems rather ironic though, due to the fact that the orbiter vehicles (commonly known as the space shuttles) retire next year. Although they were not designed to fly forever, the hole left by their departure leaves many, including those who work with the orbiters, wondering what is next as far as the future of the United States in outer space.
So when you are looking to be inspired and wondering what exactly goes on up there above the Earth’s atmosphere, and there aren’t the regularly occurring rocket and space shuttle missions to stir you, remember that you can still be encouraged by reading about NASA and outer space in books.
Here are a few suggestions…
Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz
Lost in Space: The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age by Greg Klerkx
NASA/Art : 50 Years of Exploration by James Dean and Bertram Ulrich
Scientific American Inventions from Outer Space: Everyday Uses for NASA Technology by David Baker
And a video or two…
Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon
I’m guessing that your childhood dream of growing up to be an astronaut never came true–or maybe it did. What do I know? Even if you don’t get the opportunity to launch shuttles into outer space, explore the vastness of the universe or experience zero gravity, you can still have a chance at being a lunar scientists. How?! What?! Yes. A lunar scientist, it’s true.
Moon Zoo, a project designed by NASA, is an interactive tool with high-resolution images of the moon for moon enthusiasts and astronomy admirers alike to pore over and over and over. Your well-trained eye can help NASA see the moon in unparalleled detail by identifying unseen craters, interesting features, odd details and perhaps abandoned astronaut accoutrements! Read more!
Last Wednesday marked the twelfth full moon of 2009, but it isn’t the last full moon of the year. Another will occur on December 31st. While the definition of a blue moon has varied over time, the current meaning describes the phenomenon of two full moons occurring in one month. If you’re fond of using the expression “once in a blue moon,” you might want to be careful–literally, you’re saying “once every 2.71542689 years.”
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the full moon on the 2nd will be the traditional “Cold Moon,” while the one on the 31st will be called the “Blue Moon,” although you can participate in the Almanac’s contest to name it. During the New Year’s Eve full moon, there will also be a partial lunar eclipse, when the Earth will just barely cast its shadow on the lunar surface, although the event will be invisible to almost all of the US.
Our connection with the moon is varied and fascinating. For example, we all know the superstition that the full moon causes people to act crazily. The etymology of “lunatic” actually derives from the Latin word for moon, luna. Rich folklore from all over the world surrounds our nearest astral neighbor.
Our scientific relationship with the moon is no less exciting. From conspiracies about whether men really walked on the moon to close observations of the moon’s effect on tides, the scientifically-minded also keep an eye on the sky. In fact, December’s lunar lineup seems a fitting finale for a year in which two missions, by India and NASA, discovered water on the moon.
Happy sky gazing! Don’t forget to let out a little howl, too.