We’re Over the Moon for These Space Day Pubs

May 2, 2019

Life Cycle of Stars – NASA image.

This year International Space Day will be celebrated around the world on May 3. Space Day, founded in 1997 and expanded to International Space Day in 2001, is dedicated to sharing the excitement of space exploration. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the holiday “is a time to learn more about our universe and to excite others about space, too.” And what better way to learn about our universe than through official Federal publications?!

Since President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act on July 29, 1958, to create NASA, the agency has worked to achieve a wide array of spectacular accomplishments for mankind, including sending a man to the moon, successfully landing a man-made object on Mars, and creating the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, just to name a few. The agency has allowed humans to see their planet from a perspective they never had before. NASA’s First 50 Years covers these accomplishments. But it also remembers tragedies such as the Apollo fire and the Columbia and Challenger accidents.

Did you know that the International Space Station is a large, multi-functioning spacecraft that orbits the earth? Since November 2, 2000, astronauts have lived in this spacecraft, which is about the size of a house with five bedrooms and boasts a gymnasium and a big bay window. Learn more about the space object, which serves as one of the world’s most inspirational examples of international teamwork, in NASA’s Reference Guide to the International Space Station. This book discusses the creation of the International Space Station (ISS) and the vision for the station, which includes being a hub for scientific research, technological development, exploration, commerce, and education.

The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most well-known names in space. And for a good reason! This spacecraft looks at the sky from beyond Earth’s atmosphere. It has the capability of seeing and snapping shots of stars, planets, nebulae, and galaxies with complete detail. The telescope provided conclusive evidence that hubs of most galaxies do indeed have substantial black holes with millions or even billions of stars. The Hubble is fast. No we mean, really really fast. In fact, it circles the entire Earth every 96 minutes. Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble has traveled about 2.83 billion miles. Hubble: An Overview of the Space Telescope provides an overview of the historic space telescope with sections on its history, design, operations, and cultural impact. Explore images of the telescope’s fascinating findings – like its image of the heart of the Lagoon Nebula 4,000 light-years away from Earth, its shot of four of Saturn’s moons passing in front of the planet, and its views of the galaxy M84.

What’s possibly more fascinating than the space missions of NASA? The stories of the brilliant minds behind them. William H. Pickering: America’s Deep Space Pioneer provides a biography of Dr. William H. Pickering, who pioneered the exploration of space at NASA. Shortly after NASA was established, Dr. Pickering was put in charge of NASA’s Ranger program, which aimed to capture live, close-up video images of the surface of the Moon. After getting off to a rough start, the mission proved successful, and America had its first close-ups of the Moon. Pickering’s team succeeded in conducting further lunar missions that paved the way for the Apollo mission that famously landed Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin on the Moon. Learn more about Pickering’s contribution to space exploration in this book.

Want to experience Space Day with your little ones? Order Junior Ranger Night Explorer, an activity booklet from the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior. The booklet will guide you through smart stargazing, including what items to bring with you so you can see all the planets and star clusters up close and personal. With Junior Ranger Night Explorer, your little rising stars will learn how to find the North Star, track phases of the Moon, learn about galaxies, and use all their senses to explore the night environment at a national park.

Even the U.S. Army uses knowledge of space for its missions. Space Warriors: The Army Space Support Team from the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and Center of Military History, outlines the organizational and conceptual evolution of the Army Space Support Team (ARSST). These support teams provide warfighters the ability to leverage space capabilities. This helps soldiers enhance their intelligence and operation planning capabilities.

The facts and photos in these publications truly make us feel over the Moon, no pun intended. There is so much to know and learn about our beautiful, vast universe. We wish you all a happy Space Day!

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About the author: Blogger contributor Cat Goergen is the PR Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations office.

Space Exploration and the Mind

September 13, 2011

Many years ago I read “Ideas Die Hard,” a memorable story (at least to me) by Isaac Asimov. In the story, a crew of astronauts is on a flight to the moon under very tense circumstances. They go too far and see the dark side of the moon. SPOILER AHEAD: When they view the dark side, it’s a gigantic wood-and-paper stage set, the sight of which causes the crew to have a collective mental breakdown. At the end of the story, it’s revealed that the flight was a simulation and the simulator went just a bit further than intended. I think the story has stayed with me because it addresses the psychological dimensions of space exploration – an aspect I haven’t really seen addressed in news accounts or books.

NASA has filled this gap quite nicely with Psychology of Space Exploration, an engrossing new collection of articles on this theme. After an initial focus on the psychological effects of space travel, for many years the American space program paid only minimal attention to them, perhaps because the military background of the astronauts militated against what they perceived as the possibly career-retarding discussions of such matters. Interestingly, theSoviet Union paid much more attention to the psychological health of its cosmonauts during the same period. These days, however, NASA is more cognizant of the importance of mood, morale, the psychological effects of weightlessness, and other mind-body issues.

As a history buff, I was intrigued to read about the comparison of voyages in space to the epic journeys of Arctic explorers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even now, wintering over in Antarctica is a kind of model of the prolonged stays in close quarters that characterize the International Space Station.

In a section on the interplay of astronauts from different countries working together, I was amused to learn that Soviet cosmonauts were not totally enthralled the space cuisine enjoyed by a French counterpart: “one of them later expressed his relief at going back to black bread and borscht after a menu of canned French delicacies, including compote of pigeon with dates and dried raisins, duck with artichokes, boeuf bourguignon, and more.”

Another fascinating essay described a space flight simulation experience in which people who knew that they were not really in space still got great enjoyment from their “trip.” It sounded so interesting that I was ready to sign up myself. Also, the special effects sound much better than those in Isaac Asimov’s story!

I really enjoyed reading Psychology of Space Exploration – I had no idea of the range of psychological issues that can crop up in space travel and the ways in which NASA has tackled them. Space buffs and students of the human mind will find much to ponder in this book. You can read it here, get your own copy, or find it in a library.

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