Looks at you. . .
a blip out in space.
from: A Trip into Space
written by Lori Haskins Houran
illustrated by Francisca Marquez
Albert Whitman & Co., 2014
On my first day of Kindergarten, my mom had arranged with a neighbor to walk me to school. The boy in charge of me was quite a bit older, and not that willing. He did what his mom told him to do, but not that time. He left before I got to his house. I was on my own.
Mom had to stay home with my baby brother. My sister went to a different school. So. I think I cried all the way there. But maybe only most of the way. I’m not sure how I found my way to school and I don’t remember what happened on Day 2. Really, the building was very close to our house with only one turn to negotiate. I’m sure a traffic guard was in the picture, too. I know my parents would never knowingly let anything bad happen to me.
My sense of direction is still lacking. My dad used to kid around (probably) and tell me I’d get lost backing down the driveway. When we lived in the same town, I’d call him up and take him to lunch in exchange for a ride-along with directions.
But, when I moved to a new city and couldn’t depend on Dad as my direction-giving co-pilot, I paid more attention to landmarks and street signs. Now I depend (too much) on my GPS.
I was just a little older than my oldest grandson is now when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin found their way to the moon, took those giant moonsteps, and returned to Earth 50 years ago this week (July 20). And just like everyone else who was alive then, I remember where I was.
I remember thinking that my little nephew (who turned 50 last month) would never know a time when people were not on the moon. I wondered if people would still find the moon mysterious. I wondered if I would.
Yesterday, July 15, Jim Bridenstine, the new head of NASA, (he took over in April 2018 after leaving the House of Representatives) said in an interview that his generation does not have a memory like that. And he wants one.
So NASA is planning a Mars walk. Not soon. The estimate is 2034 or so. But we have to go back to the moon first. The way Mr. Bridenstine explained it, the moon will serve as a training ground for the Mars astronauts. But, the last time the US went to the moon was 1972, and the equipment is outdated. New equipment is being invented right now.
Other countries have traveled to the moon. Some had people on board, but so far, only Americans have actually walked there.
We have an International Space Station. And on January 3, 2019, China’s Chang’e 4 spacecraft made the first landing on the far side of the Moon. Countries seem to be working together better now, both to share knowledge and to avoid another space race. Because, really, what’s the point of learning something if you can’t (or won’t) share? That’s a refreshing concept.
But, so far, no other country has plans to put people on Mars. The Curiosity has been exploring the surface since it landed in 2012. Now NASA plans to continue exploring Mars with the launch of a new craft that will dig deep into the planet.
The new Mars lander has a 5 foot 9 inch long arm with shoulder and elbow joints. The grapple at the end of the arm can grasp items with its 5 mechanical fingers. Here’s a labelled picture of the landing craft. https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/spacecraft/instruments/summary/ It will be used to explore the interior of Mars, collect rocks, and send pictures back to Earth.
The launch is planned for July, 2020, when Earth and Mars will be aligned favorably to save time and fuel. Because the planets are constantly on the move, and neither orbit is exactly circular, precise directions are crucial.
And kids in grades K-12 can enter NASA’s naming contest for the new lander. If you are a teacher, or know one, here’s the information: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7436
In the meantime, when I’m finished exploring the NASA website, I’ll spend some time exploring my own neighborhood. Blueberries are in season. I have the directions to a nearby blueberry farm programed into my GPS.
-—stay curious! (and plan ahead)