As the firstborn kid, I’m the “responsible” one. Dependable. Boringly normal. Not a risk taker. And yet, as a child I was mesmerized by NASA’s space program. I like my own backyard and I hate math, so it was a no-brainer that I wasn’t astronaut material. But I was a great cheerleader, crossing all my fingers and holding my breath during each launch. Never did counting backwards from 10 seem like such a nerve wracking miracle as when a rocket was on the launch pad.
My only “geek” moment came about several years ago when NASA issued a commemorative medal for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moonwalk. I always thought it was interesting that I was 11 that year. I don’t think I ever looked at the moon the same after that. The medal contained, “actual flown spacecraft metal” from one of the missions. I’m sure it wasn’t from Apollo 11 and it was probably a bolt that was shaved down and sprinkled into the mix. But the point was, it had been in space…to the moon!
That medal sits on my computer desk, just above my head. It’s like a silent reminder of all the good, wonderful and amazing things that humans are capable of. It’s a physical representation of a childhood filled with wonder and awe. And I thought it would be my only geek space moment.
Until last week.
Granted, seeing William Shatner, my childhood Capt. Kirk, speaking in a promo with a NASA logo intrigued me enough to stop and turn up the sound. (Okay, I admit it: there is too much noise sometimes on the internet so I keep the sound off unless something peaks my interest). I reached for the sound button.
NASA is sending the Parker Solar Probe into space to study the sun. According to their info, the probe, “will swoop to within 4 million miles of the sun's surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it.” The probe, which launches between July 31- Aug. 19th, will provide data on solar activity, aiding in the ability to forecast major space-weather events impacting Earth. A recent survey by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that without advanced warning, a huge solar event could cause $2 TRILLION dollars in damage to the U.S. alone and the eastern seaboard of the U.S. could be without power for a year!
But it wasn’t the gloom and doom aspect of this mission that caught my attention. It was the words “historic”, ”extraordinary” and “you can be a part of it!”
In one of the coolest free offers ever presented, by merely signing up, my name has been added to a microchip that will be placed on the probe. From the safety of my home, I will take winged flight toward the sun and not become Icarus. Better yet, I’ll be part of a space exploration…and no math was involved.
To get your ticket visit go.nasa.gov/HotTicket. There’s more info on the mission at http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu