We live in increasingly amazing times.
Earlier today NASA hosted a Hangout on Google+. Through that social media channel a group of schools and kids were able to ask live questions to two astronauts on the ground. Even more exciting is they were able to link in the middle of the Hangout to three astronauts on the International Space Station. And more exciting yet was that the entire world could participate by asking questions via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
It only lasted an hour. I didn’t join live because it happened between 2 and 3am Sydney time, but I’ve just finished watching the replay on YouTube. You can too:
The fact that people can go to space and live there for months at a time is amazing. The fact that that place lets us do research there that’s not possible anywhere on Earth is incredible. But the fact that those people, in those places, can use modern communications technology to have a live, interactive session with all of us is world-changing. How many kids might be inspired by taking part in this sort of thing? It’s thrilling.
Related to the post I made earlier about NASA’s Google+ Hangout with astronauts: one of those who participated live was veteran space-goer Chris Hadfield.
Chris Hadfield, Space Oddity.
A Guardian article describes how Chris has become a social media superstar over the last few weeks with the help of his sons.
In a deliberate campaign to take Earth by storm, Hadfield harnessed the power of social media to inspire the sort of interest in space exploration that NASA and other agencies have been trying to attract for more than a decade. In the process, he is on the way to becoming a breakthrough star in his own right, the first internationally recognisable astronaut since the grainy black and white television images made Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the original Apollo astronauts into superstars.
The International Space Station becomes a little more international this year. After the last two shuttle missions – the final one takes place in June – it won’t be NASA taking people and stuff back and forth anymore.
I have a personal connection to the ISS. I was the lead engineer for the environmental testing of the robot arm joints. I think it’s been underrated. Could it have been done better, cheaper? Sure. Has it produced sexy results like the Hubble? No. But I believe it’s produced a lot of low-level, useful, unglamorous information about how to build and live in space. And many, many experiments have been conducted aboard it. It’s been a stepping stone, and one that may not be so expensive at all in the long run.
I think this commenter has got it right.