There are places in the world where cool things happen, and the newspaper TELLS you about it.
For example, in Houston, TX, the International Space Station passes overhead on a fairly regular basis. It actually does that in lots of places, what with it's 16 x daily orbit of the planet Earth. But in Houston, they let you know when it will be going by. If you're interested in when it will be available to watch in YOUR US City, look here. (They also have a page for other countries, but as of right now, I'm pretty sure my readers are mostly in the U.S.)
Last Saturday night, I was in Houston. And the Space Station passed overhead at 8:26 pm. And because we knew about it, we were able to go outside, and spend five minutes looking upward -- watching it pass overhead.
We followed up by going to NASA the next day, to learn a bit more about the space station, and about the Opportunity's mission on Mars (yep, they've already discovered that Mars had water -- and the other things necessary for life -- at one time in its past).
Despite having seen guys in space suits in pictures and on TV and in movies ... over and over again. Despite having watched that scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey; despite having watched documentary videos... I was unprepared for the coolness of, and the awe inspired by, seeing an actual space-suit up close and in person.
Okay, that one isn't so much up close -- it was floating overhead, here's another view:
The ones that inspired the most awe, for me anyway, were the ones in glass displays -- where the glass made picture taking enough work that I chose to LOOK instead of take pictures.
There is so much to learn at the NASA's Johnson Space Center, it's worth far more time than we had to spend. It's full of awe-inspiring, heart warming, cool, and creepy but amazing stuff.
We learned about life on the Space Station, which includes the use of pretty amazing technology to recycle all the fluids that get used there. And yes, that does mean that you're drinking and cooking with recycled urine. But, if you stop to think about it, urine is mostly water, with some waste products (most of which are actually things you want in your body as long as there's not too much -- things like sodium, chloride and potassium). The only thing you really don't want back is the ureic acid.
I also became aware of just how many space missions we've had. There is a wall at the Space Center, with pictures of the crew from every mission. Three of those pictures have a black banner on the matte. Three. Those three mark missions where members of the crew lost their lives either during the mission or during the training period leading up to it.
Three. That's pretty amazing.
Of course, it's also amazing that folks have gone up into space to that Space Station, and come back again, in this thing:
(That's my handsome cousin Mark, and his lovely sister Gail).