I had the opportunity last Thursday to visit NASA’s Space Power Facility.
I won’t bore you with the stats. You can see them here. This blog is a personal reflection.
I was born in the 60’s and one of my earliest memories is the glow of the television on my dad’s face late one night. I snuck out of bed and dad was in the living room, nose near the tube and eyes aglow with anticipation. My curiosity was enflamed by my parents excitement, but a few sharp rebukes from my father sent me to bed, my curiosity unsatiated.
I think it was one of the Apollo missions, NASA’s lunar landings, maybe even the landing with Neil Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind.” Even if it wasn’t, that lit a spark that eventually drove me through college and brought me to a career in engineering and science fiction. It inspired stories like A Taste of Earth and Death Has No Shadow. OK, Star Trek, Star Wars, Space 1999 (yes, it’s dorky now, but wasn’t then), the space shuttle, and a thousand other things fueled that curiosity, but the spark was lit by NASA.
That passion for space exploration fizzled recently, when the shuttle’s reign came to an end. I can understand why it did, but it has left a vacuum in American space leadership that makes me feel like we’ve dropped the ball.
Walking into the facility Thursday reignited that spark. It was huge. When we got there and passed through the security checkpoint, our guide told us to follow him by car to the SPF building. It would be a three mile drive. Three miles? The rest of the visit was likewise filled with astronomical numbers … pun intended. The pictures here don’t convey the scope of the project. It was something to be felt, to be lived. A reverberation room with a 40-foot or higher wall lined with speaker “horns” — some larger than feet across — that could generate enough air pressure to crush your organs.
The flame is lit again.
Post Script: Yesterday, my wife and I took our older children to see the Avengers. In the first scene, the one with the blue cube (the Tesseract), was filmed in the SPF Test Chamber. Did you see the movie? Do you recognize it?