22 May 2009

Space and ocean exploration win!

Those of you who follow me on twitter will know I've been just a teeny tiny bit obsessed by the space shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope scheduled to land tomorrow in Florida after an uber-successful mission. This fixation is part of my steadily building addiction to interest in NASA's doings ever since Mike Barratt emailed me almost exactly two years ago to suggest a NASA-Beagle Project collaboration (now codified by an International Space Act Agreement).

I've been watching as much of the live and recorded mission video* as life and work allow, and have come across some fantastic moments, which I've been tweeting. But there's one video in particular that's worth a nice fleshy blog treatment simply because it is absolutely chock-full of win:

(Source: NASA TV as archived at Space-Multimedia)

My personal highlights are:

1:10 - 'Why should I care about Hubble?'

ABC's Charlie Gibson asks Commander Scott Altman how he would answer someone who asked him to give a brief answer to the question above. Altman's answer included this: "Hubble, as a scientific instrument, takes incredible scientific observations that are cutting-edge, rewriting the textbooks, but at the same time bringing galaxies that are billions of light-years away into our own homes and hearts for us to look at and marvel at the beauty of this universe."

4:22 - Ingenuity, teamwork and perseverance

In response to Gibson's question about the now infamous sticky bolt, Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike) says, "I remember coming back toward the airlock to fetch some tools because we couldn't get that bolt to go, and I was feelin' pretty sad about what was happening and concerned if we would be able to do the repair. And I remember looking up to the window ... of the shuttle and I saw my buddy Drew Feustel ... and he was just giving me thumbs-up and smiles and telling me - no one could hear but I could read his lips - "We're gonna be okay. We're gonna get it done."

7:30 - Questions from schoolchildren & twitterers

Megan McArthur and Drew Feustel answer schoolkids' questions about what it's like in space. You get the feeling that they're not ever going to forget the day they had a phone call with astronauts. Then the reporter asks a question that had been submitted via twitter. More questions from California science students at 18:24.

10:58 - Advice to rookie spacewalkers (and everyone)

A CBS reporter asks veteran Hubble spacewalker John Grunsfeld what was the most important advice he gave to the first-time spacewalkers. He said the most important advice is, "Don't hurry, manage frustration, and don't get crushed by the robotic arm." That's great advice for all of us ...well except maybe for the robotic arm, which isn't a particularly common workplace hazard for most of us.

16:52 - Oceanographer-turned-astronaut Megan McArthur on Earth's oceans

NBC News Washington notes that Megan has a doctorate in oceanography and asks her for her thoughts on the view from 350 miles up. She says, "It's a beautiful view up here ... it's breathtaking to look out at the world and see the oceans, and really so much of our planet is covered by oceans and it's a good reminder that we have so much at home on our own planet to explore and that exploration is ongoing. At my own university, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography - that's really where a flavor for exploration took hold and I'm really grateful to have the opportunity to be up here in a different mode of exploration, helping to carry on the exploration of our universe." Yep, a real pale blue dot moment.

21:05 - The economic benefits of the space program

Jimmy in Toronto asks why, during this economic turmoil, should the American taxpayer continue to fund the space program? John Grunsfeld replies with an impressive list of some of the direct economic benefits of the space program including energy technologies, national competitiveness in high technology, inspiration to kids to study math and science ("you'd be hard-pressed to find a K-12 classroom that doesn't have a Hubble image in it"), medical technologies, software, cancer detection. Then he finishes it off by pointing out that "for every dollar we put into NASA, we get many dollars back into our economy". Grunsfeld: 1, tea-bagger: 0.

Scott, John, Drew, Mass, Megan, Mike and Greg, you've done us proud, yet again. Have a safe journey home.

*Live video on NASA TV (schedule here), and for recorded content there's NASA's YouTube channel and also the excellent Space-Multimedia download site, both of which get most of the NASA TV content up within 24 hours. Some of the YouTube videos are abridged for length but usually the Space-Multimedia site serves up the full enchilada.

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