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Space and Beyond

October 27, 2010

It is hard to believe we have been in space more than 50 years, and 41 years since Neil Armstrong took that memorable "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." –  and became the first human to set foot on another body in our solar system. How many people remember the heady excitement and thrill we all felt, as friends and families from all over the world gathered round their TVs to watch the momentous event?.

Sometimes, I feel sorry for people who grew up later, and to whom space exploration is just another commonplace, everyday occurrence. People do not realize that so many items they use regularly can be linked, directly or indirectly, to the NASA programs.

Sadly, we are now entering a rather disappointing time, as we watch the end of an era with the closing down of the shuttle flights. The Hubble telescope, another "first", is due to be dismantled soon and plunged to a watery grave in the Pacific Ocean.

Not all is lost, however. We still have some exciting programs, like the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, who will be joined soon by a new one, Curiosity. The Huygens probe dropped from the Cassini spacecraft to the surface of Saturn's moon, Titan, is still yielding lots of new data and surprises. Talking about surprises, scientists were thrilled to discover, just recently, that their 2009 probe's data analysis shows much more water on the moon than they had even hoped for—a billion gallons or more to sustain astronauts longer and make a lunar base camp's possibility a whole new ball game. Voyagers 1 & 2 have both now reached the opposite fringes of our solar system and beyond, and still the data from them can be surprising. The James Webb Telescope is due to launch in 2011-2013 with a deployable mirror and infrared sensors to give an even wider scale view of our Universe than the Hubble.

McGraw Hill Access Science in our research databases carries fascinating information on this subject. MCPL also has a fine collection of books, including biographies of various astronauts. My personal favorite picture books are Postcards from Mars and Hubble: A Journey Through Time and Space. We also have a substantial listing of videos, including some from Buzz Aldrin (the second man to walk on the moon), who has also penned several books.

Mary B.
Claycomo Branch

 

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