Rover Talk in Huntsville

Huntsville is a really cool place to live, as I have said many times. I am reminded why I like it when cool talks are being given like the one I heard last week at the Huntsville/Madison County Public Library. I have been a member of the Huntsville chapter of the National Space Society since 1994. HAL5 has been doing some great outreach in our community to raise the visibility of space exploration and things relating to it. For the club’s October meeting, the guest speaker was Planetary Scientist Dr. Barbara Cohen speaking on Mars rovers. This is obviously a very hot topic right now due to the latest successful landing of Curiosity.

She covered the highlights of successful rover programs to include Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and then Curiosity. Let’s face it: The idea that there is a full-size car/rover at this very moment driving around on Mars looking for evidence of life in a very cool region of the planet is just amazing. The general public is eating it up. Dr. Cohen talked about Curiosity and the huge crater near three-mile-tall Mount Sharp which rises from the center of Gale Crater. This region is rich with interesting geography/topography. They already see major evidence of past water being a land mass mover. Curiosity has some cool tools with which to explore rocks and soil, too. Dr. Cohen mentioned the 30 mj laser used to cook rocks and look at them optically and the related spectrum to decide its makeup that could include carbon which is critical for life!

I really enjoyed this talk and the IHOP experience after it. These talks are held monthly and they are a great way to interface with the science community and just have some fun. Space Exploration is also very cool! I am looking forward to what Curiosity might dig up and discover. Let’s stay tuned and keep looking up!

Space in Vegas

I was in Las Vegas recently visiting an amazing Space visionary, Robert Bigelow, when Curiousty landed on Mars. I was actually walking down the strip trying to find a place where my iPhone could capture enough bandwidth to stream down the landing of that spectacular and scary event.

As I walked the strip, I saw a huge series of large screens that proudly displayed the live event! How cool was that! NASA in 10 foot-tall letters stretched across the sky in Vegas. It was so cool to stand there with all the vacationers from all over the world and watch history unfolding. I would have not put my money on that mission. Sky cranes, hovering rocket platforms, and hundreds of events happening perfectly. As it would turn out, NASA and JPL definitely still have the right stuff and it really felt good to be an American while in Vegas! Definitely not a typical money-spending Vegas trip, but it was an out-of-this-world experience that inspires so many of us to continue our quest to explore space, or maybe win a Google Lunar X PRIZE!