Tag Archives: space exploration

Forget Kim Kardashian, Alice Bowman is a Name that Should be Famous

When I was a kid, I never learned very few names of women who contributed mightily to our nation and the world. Now, as an adult I am learning for the first time the names of women who were major factors in the world of science and technology and literature, art, engineering, architecture, medicine, research and every other field area. Unfortunately, our own children also learned little of the contributions of women to our world. Hopefully that will change for our grandchildren.

So, while many of us can probably rattle off the names of the astronauts and ever some of the men in mission control for the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle missions, we probably think that there aren’t any women in these field areas (unless they’re fetching coffee or designing cute flight suits).

Well, here’s a name to know: Alice Bowman. If your kids and grandkids aren’t learning her name in school, you need to speak to someone in your school district. And if you don’t know her name, let me share with you. Alice Bowman is the first woman Mission Operations Manager and she led the mission that has glimpsed the edge of our solar system. And she’s not done yet.

Rather than write about her, I thought I’d post this interview with her. Hopefully you’ll read it yourself and to your kids and to your grandkids. And hopefully one day, they’ll be so many women in science and technology that they will be known for their achievements and not for their gender.



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falling off the edge of the solar system

life’s short.  you hear everyone say it almost all the time yet we waste incalculable amounts of time and energy on contentious human interaction. this week you could say life is short, this world is fleeting, the universe is vast with a new sense of certainty.

witness voyager I and II.

thirty five years ago voyager I was launched and after spending those years traveling at a rate of about 520 million kilometers (about 320 miles) per year, it will soon reach the edge of our solar system.  yep, the edge of our solar system.  extraordinary.  under which part of your day-to-day do you file that?

remember what you were doing 35 years ago?  i bet it wasn’t contemplating the vastness of the universe.  i bet it wasn’t figuring out how to get a spacecraft past four planets and out into deep space.

since it takes 16 hours for communication from voyager to reach earth, it might already be in deep space and we wouldn’t know yet.  think 16 hours is long to wait, consider the scientists who’ve stuck with this project since 1977.  talk about long game.  the mission was designed to last only 5 years, but voyager I and II kept going and beaming back data, so nasa kept funding the project.  guaranteed there were plenty of moments over those 35 years where they wondered if their funding would be pulled and the answer to whether voyager could get to end of the solar system and beyond would ever be answered.

the importance of voyager has been proven many times over.

“had the voyager mission ended after the jupiter and saturn flybys alone, it still would have provided the material to rewrite astronomy textbooks. but having doubled their already ambitious itineraries, the voyagers returned to earth information over the years that has revolutionized the science of planetary astronomy, helping to resolve key questions while raising intriguing new ones about the origin and evolution of the planets in our solar system.”  courtesy of the voyager website http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov

voyager is still moving ahead, still reaching for another frontier that will add valuable information to the body knowledge.

it’s almost unfathomable.  scientists considered that voyager might encounter other life out there so they put a metal record on board with sounds and pictures from earth and a pictorial set of directions on how to play the record.  imagine even making the decision as to how to send information about earth, then what to include in that communication.  how exactly do you communicate all that is life on this earth so that someone with no basis at all can understand?  the list is fascinating.

in the middle of an argument or a tense situation you can move your mind to a bigger thought and physically lower your heart rate and blood pressure.  contemplate the universe.  especially as the election draws near.

or at the very least, enjoy looking a real photos of the planets in our solar system.    http://www.space.com/11944-nasa-photos-voyager-spacecraft-grand-tour.html

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