Still holding out for first geologist on Mars!
December 3, 2012
I have been fascinated by space since a child. My grandfather, although not even a high school graduate, was keenly interested in the early manned space program and some of my earliest, and fondest, memories of him are of the two of us watching Gemini mission launches on TV. I clearly remember the Apollo launches and TV coverage, and most vividly remember running back and forth from the TV in my grandparents house to the front porch, updating my clearly disinterested aunts and uncles during the Apollo 11 moon landing. I could not fathom how they could not want to know about such a momentous event. Another vivid memory is of asking my parents to wake me, even though it was a school night, to let me know if the Apollo 13 astronauts made it around the moon to return back to earth during the rescue. My parents were not very interested themselves, but they were always encouraging of my interests (I was always allowed to stay up as late as I wanted, even on school nights, to watch launches...interminable holds and all!). I read every space, rocket, and astronomy book that our small Catholic elementary school library had at least 20 times. The local public library had a subscription to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, and my weekly trips there to pour over it were the early version of my visits here to follow missions and results. Through junior high and high school, "astronaut" was still my preferred career choice, although that eventually changed into "scientist-astronaut" as my experiences with physics, chemistry and math accumulated. A family vacation trip to Nevada, Utah, and Colorado when I was 14 sparked my realization that geology was where my interests really lie, and my goal then was to be the first geologist on Mars (okay...maybe it still is). The PBS coverage of the Voyager encounters with Uranus and Neptune (Neptune By Night) gave me a first taste of the joy of seeing images return in real time. My higher education and work experiences guided me to my current interests in sedimentary geology (and it pays the bills while my Mars craft is being built...) With the coming of internet and the WWW, starting with the first nasa.gov sites, and eventually NASA TV and the breakthrough Mars Pathfinder sites, my feeling of connection to space flight and exploration has only increased. Being a part of a communities like The Planetary Society and UMSF adds immeasurably to my satisfaction, and I really enjoy the collective efforts and shared experiences to be found there.
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.