I caught Randy Pausch on Oprah yesterday (and yes, a dying CMU professor IS the one of the few things that will make me endure watching Oprah). His last lecture focused on the importance of childhood dreams and he mentioned the landing of men on the moon as a pretty fundamental motivator. Heck, it inspires me still and I wasn’t even alive. So I especially love it when NASA gets kids involved in the space program (I’ll return to this after a brief rant). Too much today, launches of the shuttle, the existence of the International Space Station, and probes sent to other planets are just routinely ignored or sidelined by the mainstream press. Discovery launched today carrying the Harmony module to the ISS and it got about 3 seconds on the Today show. The result? People think the space program is totally useless. It doesn’t help when Nobel laureates like Stephen Weinberg call the space station an “orbital turkey” that “has produced nothing of scientific value.” That brings to three the number of Giant Turds with Nobel Prizes (joining James Watson the Racist and Al Gore the Murky-Green Fraud). For a nice rebuttal of the Weinberg gibberish, there is this article from adAstra that mirrors the point by Randy Pausch a bit.
Anyhow, returning from my rant. NASA has announced a contest for school kids to name a place for the Cassini probe to point. Cassini is currently in the Saturn system. It recently left Iapetus, which I indicated looks like the Death Star. Currently it is focusing on Saturn’s moon Titan and will be doing some close flybys of it over the next few months. For students to participate the contest, they need to write a 500-800 word essay on why Cassini should look at one of four possible targets on November 30, 2007. So if you know a kid in grades 5-12, let them know.
- Mimas (a moon) coming out from behind Saturn
- Saturn’s rings and a lot of moons
- Prometheus (another moon) and the F-ring (Prometheus seems to actually steal matter from the ring)
- Tethys (yet another moon) and its Odysseus impact basin