Wednesday, March 30, 2011

. . . Only the Planets Are Big

This NASA photo is in the public domain. The large white-rayed crater is Debussy. Note to the west another crater, with much smaller black rays.
Space is small; only the planets are big.
Robert Kleinman, fictional spacefarer in Arthur C. Clarke’s “Imperial Earth”
I think Robert Kleinman would agree that Mercury is looking pretty big.

This is, of course, the first photo taken of Mercury from NASA’s Messenger probe, which entered orbit of the planet on March 17.

Why is this exciting? Well, I’ve been caught up with NASA’s exploration of our solar system since the days of Pioneer 11 when I was a kid. I used to draw elaborate charts of the paths of Pioneer and the Voyager spacecrafts, indicating how old I would be when the probes reached the outer planets.

I was a geek, yessir.

Still am. I’m still convinced I’ll be able to walk on the moon as a space tourist before I die. How that will happen, I don’t know. But I maintain faith it will, even if I have to get an old space suit, a lawn chair, some scuba gear and an awful lot of helium-filled weather balloons.

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