Monday, September 14, 2009



Website! Fun to play with! Translation: Geek Time-Suck!

Constellation: Earth, Moon, Mars is a fantastic Shockwave Flash gizmo which explains the link between Constellation missions to low Earth orbit, the moon and ultimately Mars. Even that little "destination" applet side-swiped my attention for longer than was probably necessary.

The centerpiece of the site is a beautifully produced video with amazing (real and conceptual) footage of the International Space Station, Orion Capsule, Altair Lander, and even future Lunar outpost hardware. The narrators outline how and why exploration will proceed in phases, and the “vision” for how each of the milestones can be reached.

Most interesting for me are the floating astronauts; that never gets old. I enjoyed the discussions of the medical personnel about the effects of micro-gravity on the body, and it's interesting to me how much more often we hear mention of Human Research elements now, plus the need to develop countermeasures :)

NASA Constellation
Constellation: Earth, Moon, Mars
Duration: 13 totally worth-it minutes

In one of the film clips, astronaut pilot/commander Pam Melroy encourages students to stay in school. So hey, does that make her a socialist? Sorry, couldn’t resist. And that’s about as far as I’ll ever get into a presidential controversy.

Anyway, she encourages children to embrace math and science, and join the journey of Constellation: launching new spacecraft to the ISS, conducting tests in orbit, and returning to the moon. How does this differ from Apollo's six landings? We'll revisit the moon not to “explore” but to STAY. To LIVE there. Moon habitats will be the dress rehearsal for further ventures into the solar system.

Planetary Exploration Chief Wendell Mendell explains eloquently why the moon is so important to study, and how the process of conducting the Constellation missions will have scientific, economic and sociological implications.

These projects tie together to extend an eventual human presence to Mars. Will the strategic mission plan become a reality? Well, probably not as it was originally developed, and the bean counters have yet to reveal how the work will unfold for the next decade, given the budgetary restraints. However, recessions don't last forever. Democratic or Republican administrations make 8 trips around the sun, tops. We need to get out of our own way here, and think long-term.

"It’s one of the tasks that NASA has for humanity: to extend our presence off this planet." ISS Medical Scientists Clarence Sams