Monday, March 29, 2010

Paul Goes to Space and Back, Kind Of

I have no doubt that my husband thinks that every week is "The Week of Paul," but this one actually is. This week we learn what he's been up to. Today we visit space, Wednesday we drink beer and Friday it's off to a Turkish bath.

Enjoy, and then don't forget to visit his blog, Presidents by the Book!

I had the opportunity to take advantage of living in New York a few weeks ago and attended the annual Isaac Asimov memorial debate at the Hayden Planetarium.

This is an annual debate put on by the American Museum of Natural History's space department and covers themes on space that change from year to year.

This year the theme was "Moon, Mars and Beyond: Where next for the manned space program?" The panelists had varied backgrounds and included the retired head of the U.S. Air Force Space division, writers from academia and the head of the Mars Society, Robert Zubrin.

It was moderated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the well known astrophysicist that comes on the Colbert Report to promote the study of space and is a common speaker on the History Channel's "The Universe."

Neil deGrasse Tyson

The major points of debate that Tyson put forth were:

1) Should humans attempt to colonize Mars?
2) If we colonize Mars, should we first attempt to do the same on the moon?
3) What forms of technology should we use to to both travel to and colonize Mars?
4) Who should lead the way in space exploration? NASA, private corporations or a more international coalition?
5) What is the best way to structure the funding and leadership of NASA to meet the goals of space exploration?

The debate veered in several interesting directions, such as the difference in the way NASA is run between now and the 1960's when we made it to the moon in a few short years through the Cold War-era Apollo project.

It also included a celebrity appearance by phone of Buzz Aldrin who it seems has become sort of senile since his retirement. Neil deGrasse Tyson told the national hero five times that they were running out of time and he just kept talking about his theories on the best ways to go to Mars like he didn't even hear him. I guess I can forgive that though- he'll be remembered like Magellan or Marco Polo hundreds of years from now.

Some of the most entertaining moments came at the very end at the question and answer session with some people who were clearly disturbed taking the microphone. Their questions ranged from accusations of complicity by the NASA members in government conspiracies to not so much questions, but statements on 'cover ups' that the U.S. government has perpetuated against its people.

One interesting fact I learned there- the United States will retire its shuttle program this year and will outsource getting American astronauts into space to Russia. Not sure how I feel about that- the Cold War may be over, but I think that we should still control our own destiny on when, where and how we get people into space.

Overall, it was three hours well spent. (I can feel Diane's eyes rolling as I'm writing this.)

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...