Out Of Curiosity?
I had a glorious weekend, thank you.
I got to watch some of the Olympics Saturday night, and I must say, it was refreshing to me to watch some plain old vanilla track and field events.
From Oscar Pistorius to Usain Bolt to Allyson Felix, I found myself enjoying the simplicity of seeing people running around the track.
Not that I haven’t enjoyed the beach volleyball and the swimming and everything else…I certainly do…but watching those runners break out of those gates and sprint for ten seconds or two minutes…well, I just found it very refreshing.
I did some of my own sporting over the weekend, playing golf at a couple of courses in north Texas where the temperatures in the afternoon were hovering around 102 or 103. Yes, it required lots of Gatorade.
Then, I went to bed late Sunday night, too tired to stay up for the Mars Curiosity landing but praying for its safe landing.
Terrified of what might become the further paring of the space program if Curiosity took a nose dive into the red planet.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen. ”Mars Science Laboratory” endured the now infamous “seven minutes of terror” (Google it) and landed just fine. Here’s what JPL Tweeted on MSL’s behalf:
I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!! #MSL
Ah HA, a NASA with a Tweeter who’s the voice of MSL who has a sense of humor! (Follow MSL on Facebook here, a wonderful page about the program so far).
I’m an unabashed and unapologetic supporter of NASA and the American space program. One of my earliest memories was sitting on my dad’s knee when I was barely three years old, watching Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, so NASA made an impression on me very early on.
But also, just think about the amazing technology transfer the U.S. space program has brought back down to earth all these years: GPS, remote sensing for water and minerals and crop exploration, weather satellites, light-weight materials, geographic information systems…the list goes on and on.
And at a time when so many politicians and leaders seem to be thinking so small, I think it is through programs like Curiosity that we can dare to think and dream big.
Also let there be no question, IBM technology has played an instrumental role at times throughout the history of U.S. space exploration.
Just last year, while celebrating our Centennial, we saw videos like the following, which highlighted IBM’s role in Project Mercury, which led to Alan Shephard’s becoming the first American in space.
Shephard later became the fifth person to walk on the Moon, and the only astronaut of the Mercury Seven to make that walk. During his mission to the moon he hit two golf balls on the lunar surface — the longest drives ever!
NASA used IBM 7090 computing systems, and, later, 7094s to control the Mercury and Gemini space flights, and the IBM 7094 was used during the Apollo missions including Apollo 11, the moon landing.
Goddard Space Flight center also operated 3 7094s. During the early Apollo Program, a 7094 was kept operational to run flight planning software that had not yet been ported to mission control’s newer System/360.
So while curiosity may have killed the cat…it’s also what’s driving our latest mission to Mars…literally, and figuratively.
And no matter how little or vast our new knowledge becomes of the red planet, we will have proved once again that looking up and into the heavens helps us expand not only our knowledge base about Mars, but also our sense of ourselves and humankind.