Monday, January 05, 2004

Nasa Scientists


When I first sat down to write this article, I was planning to write a rather negative commentary of Ralph Nader's recent interview on CNN.  After reviewing the first few Corpus callosum articles, though, I decided to turn to a positive topic.  I have had little extra free time on my hands lately.  A couple of days ago I began reading a novel, Deception Point, by Dan  Brown.  So far, I've gone through one hundred and eighteen pages.  Therefore, you don't have to worry about me giving away the ending.  Part of the plot of the book involves a conflict between two politicians.  One is an advocate of NASA; the other believes that NASA is a waste of money. 

Of course, anyone following the news is aware of two recent positive developments for NASA.  The most dramatic is the successful landing of the second Mars rover, Spirit.  The other positive development is the successful capturing of some dust particles from the comet  Wild 2. 

Nasa Scientists  Mars surface
Mars panorama

Regarding the first achievement :
"This is a big night for NASA," said Administrator Sean O'Keefe [leftmost in photo]. "We're back." O'Keefe opened a bottle of champagne and toasted the team at a press conference Saturday night.

Earlier, controllers had swung from anticipation to celebration, back to anxiety and then to jubilation as they watched data come in during the spacecraft's trying plunge through the Martian atmosphere.

  Comet Wild 2  Stardust team

Regarding the second achievement:
"Things couldn't have worked better in a fairy tale," said Tom Duxbury [second from left in photo], Stardust project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

At this point, it is too early to tell what these two scientific achievements will tell us about the universe.  However, both are guaranteed to expand our knowledge considerably.  I am hopeful that the media coverage of these events, overseas, will help to soften the image of the United States.  We are not just a bunch of warmongering capitalists.   The scientific information will be worth the cost of these two missions.  If there is diplomatic benefit, that's a bonus.