Voyager Says “Goodbye, Hello”



The year 1977 was a big year for me. I was seven years old. Two things happened that year that captured my imagination. First, Star Wars hit the big screen. My dad took me to see it in June of that summer, shortly after it opened. The movie had not yet become a blockbuster. The summer was early. By the end of August, the future of cinema would be changed forever.

The other great event of ’77 was the the launching of the Voyager space probes. The Voyager probes (there were two of them) were designed to explore our solar system and whatever lay beyond. NASA figured out a way to use the alignment of the planets to basically fling these two satellites past the planets and out into the unknown, sort of like twirling a ball around your head on a string and then letting go. Using the most sophisticated technology at the time (including a fancy eight-track tape player), the probes have spent the last 35 years reporting data and sending back grainy pictures of planets Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and some of the related moons. Not bad for our first attempt at planetary photography. Given the advances in technology over the past four decades, we’d probably do better with a few iPhones strapped to the probe , but we did the best we could with what we had. Continue reading

The End of Something

This week The Endeavor was riding down California streets at two miles per hour, inching its way to its final destination.  My friends were posting pictures of it on Facebook, many of them employees of NASA who knew a lot about the shuttle program because they had actually worked on it.

But I didn’t need to see those pictures, as my son Christopher had already talked me into seeing the shuttle in person a few weeks ago. We were tired from the two hours of traffic we had to fight just to get a parking place at Ellington Field.  It was a school night, but as Christopher kept reminding me, afraid that I would change my mind as we crawled to our destination, “We can’t miss history.”  Even a child could see the finality of it. Continue reading