Chair Force Engineer

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Star in the Night Sky Made by Men

Last night, I stepped onto the sidewalk around 8:50 PM committed to a brisk run. My old bones definitely needed a bit of excercise.

My neighbors had other ideas.

A throng of people from several households had massed in the street. Jaws dropped to the ground and fingers pointed into the sky.

"It's the space station!" one of them shouted. That was enough to get me to stop in my tracks and crane my neck into the partly-clouded dusk sky.

Sure enough, a bright light streaked at pretty high speed, from the northwest to the southeast. As one neighbor shouted out how the space station was passing behind a cloud (an odd statement to me, given how high the space station is above the clouds,) I resisted the urge to shout out the station's altitude and orbital inclination to make myself seem pedantic.

It's a remarkable feat of engineering that humans can build such a large craft in outer space, of the right size and reflectivity to be seen from earth. As the space shuttle program comes to an end over the next two weeks, the space station stands as testament to the shuttle's full potential for assembly in space. When I began my jog away from the mob, I was reassured that ordinary Americans still payed attention to space exploration in the news, and it could excite them enough to check it out on a lazy Tuesday night. There is much hope for America's future in space.