Tuesday, March 23, 2010

International Sidewalk Astronomy Night

On Saturday March 20 there were telescope all over the Tri-state. This was part of a world-wide effort to bring telescopes to public places. "Have telescope, will travel," is the motto of the Sidewalk Astronomer. Telescopes were set up in unlikely places - Newport on the Levee, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, outside of a Blockbuster video store. I was right downtown on Fountain Square and even with the enormous light pollution, I was able to give a clear view of the Moon to passers-by. It's a lot of fun to see people just walking by with no idea what that thing is next to you (the telescope). And when you ask, "Wanna see the Moon?" you get some mixed reactions. After people overcome their apprehension and get a look, everyone is moved!

So if you see something that looks like a cannon on a sidewalk near you, but people are looking through it, stop over and say hi to your neighborhood astronomer.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Future Exploration Poll

The future of manned space missions is at a crossroads. NASA may be focusing on unmanned missions while the private sector may be taking a more active role with manned missions.

Critics believe that NASA is a waste. "We should be spending money on Earthly problems instead." As federal projects go, NASA funding is one of the small potatoes. The budget for NASA is less than 1% of the U.S. annual federal spending. Studies have shown that this funding acts more like an investment with a high return of interest in the form of jobs, new technologies, and spin-off products. For a list of many industries that owe credit to NASA, see: www.thespaceplacee.com/nasa/spinoffs.html

Space missions can inspire whole generations. The Apollo missions to the Moon gave us defining moments of the 20th century. Will reaching Mars have the same impact in the 21st century?

Some say we should return to the Moon first to practice a trip to Mars. Others say, if Mars is the goal why not go directly to Mars without a detour. And a third camp says, "Follow the water," and Europa, a moon of Jupiter, has a liquid ocean under its icy surface.

If you were in charge, what would you do and why?
1) Return to the Moon
2) On to Mars
3) Drill through the ice of Europa
4) None of the above

Share your comments on what the future of exploration should focus.