NASA. The name and acronym conjures up many things to many people. It might be the movie, Independence Day, it might be the space shuttle program, it might be astronauts on the Moon (oh, yes, people did walk on the Moon: Lunar Meteorite Compendium — NASA Johnson Space Center), it might be Tang for the older crowd. As the space shuttle stopped flying a few years ago, people often ask: What is NASA doing today? They don’t see NASA in the news as much sans the space shuttle and some people opine how sad it is that we aren’t doing anything in space anymore. But, wait, we are!
A quick opine of mine about media coverage of NASA and the space program: It’s rather poor. And shallow. And brief. Journalists aren’t the best at the science, math, and space thing and it often shows in how they cover space events. NASA also cannot promote itself and private/non-profit space-related organizations are left to compete against the high-pitched wails coming from all other aspects of society for media coverage and attention. That means if you want to find real information about NASA, you have to go looking for it. But wait, again! That information is quite easy to find. Fortunately.
Let’s now dispel the notion that NASA isn’t doing anything today. It’s budget is stable (and quite small as it’s <1% of the entire U.S. federal budget), it’s working on the Space Launch System and Orion to return U.S. astronauts to space on U.S., not Russian, rockets (remember that the U.S. is the major partner in the International Space Station that chugs along every single day and night in Earth orbit: International Space Station), and …. this is the big news-bite that you likely don’t know and has been the case at NASA since the 1990s … that the NASA Science Mission Directorate, that part of NASA responsible for science and science spaceflight missions … currently has 121 mission in design/study, development, or operation (see for yourself here: NASA Science Missions & Spacecraft)!! And ….. NASA spacecraft span the solar system from the Sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO: SDO Mission Page) to the New Horizons mission that has zoomed past Pluto and now onward to explore the Kuiper Belt (New Horizons Mission Page) to Voyager 1, which is now more than 20 billion kilometers from Earth and has essentially left the Solar System (Interstellar Voyager Mission Page).
Check out all the fascinating NASA science missions as each mission, large and small, is planned, organized, developed, built, and operated by incredibly dedicated groups of scientists, engineers, project managers, project scientists, people at NASA Headquarters, and university professors and researchers from around the country, all with the goal of learning about our home in the cosmos. Missions take years to go from paper to reality, but the NASA and U.S. research community has developed an excellent process to define and create these missions to learn the most about the cosmos at the best price possible. I really do think this is some of the best value U.S. taxpayers receive from their tax dollars: it’s all about science, it’s the peaceful pursuit of knowledge, the people are highly-skilled and highly-valued, the knowledge gained is open and available to the public, it promotes international cooperation and understanding, and it’s represents some of the most noble aspects of humanity.
So, NASA and the space science community are working every day to learn about our solar system, our planets, moons, asteroids, comets, interplanetary dust, and more, and you can expect that to continue. Maybe you might just have a passing interest in space, maybe you are an amateur astronomer who wants to do more as a citizen-scientist, or maybe you are a seasoned space scientist working in the field. We are all connected by the desire to be more than ourselves, to learn more about our existence, and to do it together. I, personally, think more money and people and organizations should be involved in all of this. It’s science, good jobs, cool work, and the type of activity that will be economically, socially, and intellectually good for America and the world.
In a way, Trouvaille is a part of the NASA adventure as Earth most definitely is in our solar system and is our very special home. Exploration is a never-ending task and I want to do all that I can to help people extend themselves in their travels on Earth, which holds such a wealth and abundance of natural beauty, while also doing my part to help explore the greater unknowns of life, existence, and reality by studying our solar system and larger Universe beyond…..
So, when you join Trouvaille, you don’t just get to travel somewhere and relax. You’ll experience. You’ll learn. You’ll grow. You’ll expand your horizons. It’s something we all need to do. And we must.