Shuttle Atlantis Home! Prompts Me to Look to America’s Future … and I’m Troubled

 Posted by DrJeff on November 27th, 2009

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This is a Teachable Moment in the News and a Dr. Jeff Speaks Out.


This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE and at the Space Tweep Society Blog HERE.


I just watched space shuttle Atlantis land at Kennedy. I had lots and lots of mixed emotions. The shuttle is just a remarkable technological achievement, and watching it land can be a pretty emotional experience.

But the space shuttle was never supposed to be more than a space truck to low Earth orbit. I was left reflecting on my childhood when I watched Apollo astronauts walking on the Moon, and dreamed of what awaited us in the 21st century in terms of human spaceflight. It has definitely not come to pass. In fact, approaching 2010 we are now at a crossroads. Shuttle has just 5 more flights, and then the U.S. will need to rely on the Russians for years just to have astronaut access to the International Space Station. And that’s just keeping the status quo with humans continuing to travel no farther from the surface of Earth than a couple hundred miles. I drive farther than that visiting my mom just north of New York City from my home near Washington, DC. It’s called low Earth orbit, and we’ve been stuck here now for 37 YEARS. Is this the grand vision for human spaceflight we embraced 40 years ago when we saw Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the Moon?

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Me, the Pilgrims, and My Sister – Happy Thanksgiving 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on November 26th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Pleiades as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope
















Photo Caption: The Pleiades as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.


This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.


So here I am in NY, visiting my mom and my sister’s family. We’re sitting on the couch and my sister comes up with this bizarre Thanksgiving challenge. “Hey Jeffrey! (my family calls me Jeffrey … yuck), why don’t you come up with a personal Thanksgiving story involving the pilgrims. Sort of a 3 degrees of separation thing.” Ok, fine. Here goes—


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TMN QuickLinks: Shuttle Atlantis in Orbit, Make it a Teachable Moment

 Posted by DrJeff on November 19th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



Photo Caption: Atlantis blasts off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, 2:28 p.m. EST, November 16, 2009.


This is a Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Post. It connects a news story with this Blog’s existing powerful library of Posts and Resource Pages. The cited Posts and Pages provide a deep understanding of concepts in the earth and space sciences relevant to the news story. Teachers—the Posts and Pages are also designed for use as lessons, allowing you to easily bring current science into the classroom as a teachable moment. Each cited Post is outlined in the Teachers Lesson Planner, which includes the Post’s essential questions, concepts, objectives, and math skills.


This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.

A space shuttle has now lifted off from Kennedy Space Center 129 times. The flight of Atlantis that began on November 16 is also the 31st to the International Space Station. After she returns to Earth, a space shuttle will clear the tower only 5 more times before the fleet—Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis—is retired in 2010. Atlantis is scheduled to go up only once more.

We take the technical aspects of shuttle flights for granted, even the shuttle flights themselves. But it’s a remarkable technological achievement that deserves both our reflection and awe. So let me help. Here’s what happened November 16 close to 2:30 pm EST, when folks on the west coast of the U.S. were thinking about where to go for lunch. East coasters were looking forward to the end of the work day. But down at Kennedy Space Center, a now famous clock was ticking.

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