Monday, May 22, 2006

The sun is a mass of incandescent gas...


I am surrounded by geeks, and it feels like home. NASA/JPL (Jet Propulsion Labs) Open House in Pasadena is a yearly trek for me. (Trek - get it? Star...it's a joke. Yes, it's funny. Shut up!)

After waiting 2 hours in line to look at the sun - yes, the SUN, woe is me - the irony is too much - I was relieved to find my vision is as terrible as usual, and I was only able to see 3 of the 7 sunspots, and not a single coronal flare. I did lie to the guy with the telescope, though and faked my way through a 'oh...I can see it!' response. It made him happy. Every girl has got to fake it sooner or later. I'm sure I wasn't his first.

Alas, they weren't letting people drive the Mars rover...which was the coolest part of my trip a few years ago. I know it wasn't the one they actually sent to Mars, but I can pretend. The Spirit rover was out this time had a guy speaking about it, while maneuvering it over rocks the size of it's wheelbase, and small children. He commented 'this is pedal to the metal - 2 inches per minute, making this (beat & dramatic voice) the fastest vehicle on Mars." I snort-laughed. Scientists crack me up.

I loved the mannequin in clean-room getup outside the spacecraft assembly building - it's a poor man's mickey mouse, but everyone still seemed to want a photo. Also the stick-your-head-in-an-astronaut-cutout is a perennial favorite. Unfortunately no photos allowed in Mission Control - there were people working, and as Cassini was actually doing a fly-by of a moon then, it seemed rude to distract them. I really don't want to be responsible for crashing a spacecraft into Titan. I'd like to see it happen, just not me being personally responsible.

As a revealing insight into my geekyness, I went to Space Camp in Huntsville, AL when I was 16. A bit too old. All the kids had to answer what grade they were in, and after numerous "8th grade" "high-school sophomore" answers, said "I'm majoring in Theoretical Physics...in college." But we got to wear jumpsuits with mission patches every day, and being the oldest, I got to do the EVA to repair the shuttle bay. I repaired it in time, then got to operate the Canada arm for the rest of the mission. That is possibly the highlight of my fictional astronaut life. Alas, as the poster at McDonalds says..."Not everyone gets to be an astronaut. Would you like fries with that?" I have my astronaut class photo somewhere...if I can find it, I'll post it for you all.

But this JPL meeting of the geeks is really the only time in my life where getting a Saturn tattoo is not only cool, it's in vogue. It's stylin. I washed it off today, but I got to be one of the cool-nerds for a while. Thank god, because honestly...a real saturn tattoo on my arm is just a bit too...geeky. I mean, Titan is the cool tat now, haven't you heard? Saturn is so last season.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

JPL is such a cool place. Wish I coulda gone. I would have gotten a Titan tatoo for sure....as long as it didn't hurt.

Neil said...

I'm so sorry I missed it this year. I went last year, and it was definitely cool to see a famous part of LA that isn't related to the usal entertainment scene -- but to real stars.

Egan said...

Did you hear the size of the ozone hole has diminished a bit since CFCs have been banned? Now if we can keep massive gas guzzling cars off the road, we'll make even more progress.

Tracy Lynn said...

Wow, I knew you were smart, I just didn't know you were Doogie Howser smart. No wonder I think you're fascinating.

And I always thought astronauts were cool, but I never wanted to be weightless. It creeped me out. Big fan of gravity, that's me.

Fitèna said...

Its when i read posts like these that I wish I lived elsewhere!?
Sounds like fun!
Fitèna