February 23, 2012

Space Exploration

Shelby Holliday looks at our achievements in space.

Shelby: Climbing on board NASA’s Weightless Wonder, I prepared myself for the flight of a lifetime.

Flying parabolas up and down, the plane gives its lucky passengers a chance to experience zero gravity, a little taste of what astronauts experience in space.

Alongside me were teams of educators and scientists who were on board to accomplish a mission.

“You all know what it’s like to do science experiments on the ground, but what happens when you take gravity out of the equation? Well, here on NASA’s Weightless Wonder, we’re about to find out!”

Shelby: Observing CO2 reactions testing oobleck solution, and cracking eggs.

Wow! Check this out!

All experiments that could help astronauts explore space.

This team’s goal isn’t just to crack an egg in zero gravity. Their goal is to eventually find ways to cook it.

Back on the ground, I caught up with the teams to learn more.

So, why would you want to even crack and cook an egg in space in the first place?

“Well, the astronauts are pretty limited to what they eat up there. Everything’s in a bag and they suck it right out. And, you know, there’s no texture, there’s no temperature, there’s nothing. So, we’re trying to give them some sort of alternative food up there.”

Shelby: It is not rocket science, but NASA hopes small experiments like these could help lead to big discoveries.

“Three, two, one.”

Shelby: Since NASAS was launched back in 1958, the U.S. has racked up some serious accomplishments in space, from sending John Glenn around the earth in 1962 to landing the first man on the moon in 1969.

“One small step for man…”

Shelby: NASA also introduced the shuttle program in 1981, which sent hundreds of astronauts into orbit, launched the hubble telescope in 1990, and helped build the International Space Station at the turn of the century.

And then, of course, let’s not forget Mars. Since NASA sent the Mariner 9 to Mars in 1971, scientists have been searching for signs of life on the red planet.

For more than half a century, NASA’s accomplishments have helped us back here on earth, leading to the invention of velcro, shoe insoles, water filters, and even invisible braces.

But all those accomplishments come at a cost, and many say it is too high. That is why last summer, the Obama administration announced deep budget cuts for the nation’s space program, forcing NASA to let go thousands of employees and end its historic 30-year shuttle program.

“We can’t just keep on doing the same old things that we’ve been doing, and think that somehow, it’s going to get us to where we’re going to go.”

Shelby: Without shuttles, NASA will now pay private companies to take astronauts to and from the ISS on capsules that will basically act like taxi cabs in space.

Space X, one of those private companies, says it will be able to send an astronaut to the ISS for about $20 million. That is 1/3 of what NASA is paying now.

“The reason is that we’re employing, you know, current technology. We also have a very simple design which is both robust, which makes it very safe. And at the same time, it makes it more cost-effective.”

Shelby: But the private companies won’t be ready to transport humans until at least 2014. So, in the meantime, American astronauts are hitching rides to the ISS with space race rival Russia. It is a controversial move, and many say America’s dominance in space is weakening. But back at NASA, employees say that is not the case.

“We’ve retired the space shuttle and a lot of people think that’s kind of a sad thing or possibly even negative. But I don’t think that way at all. We are developing new space vehicles, both commercially and within the government. We are looking at different ways of sending people in to space that don’t, maybe, meet the old school NASA regime. We’re looking at new technologies and there’s just so much more to explore.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>