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Orion

If you want to see hope for the future in action, here it is...my son is running around the living room this morning saying, "I'm riding in Orion!"

That's NASA's new deep space exploration craft that will eventually (maybe) help land humans on Mars. And if you're worried about my daughter, don't. She is more interested in having a cartoon dog teach her math at the moment. She doesn't share my son's love for space adventure and only reluctantly offers a "me too" when we ask if she wants to go. 

Mostly, our morning has consisted of tuning into the NASA website, YouTube, and Twitter to get regular updates about the 4 hour journey from launch to recovery. (We tried to watch yesterday but the launch was scrubbed due to a malfunction.) And, thanks to the magic of the internet, we also have access to video footage of them building the Delta IV heavy rocket over the last few months at Kennedy Space Center. When NASA was slow to upload video of the recovery efforts once Orion had splashed down, we were able to tune to an Air Force news segment on the planning and practice for such an effort. Complete with a boat that can sink itself into the water to allow the spacecraft to be hauled inside by Navy salvage divers. 

My son anticipated the splashdown video all morning, but it was only posted at lunch while he was in school. So we eagerly told him the news that we found it while he was in class. To his disappointment, however, it was tiny, grainy, hard to see footage from Orion as it deployed its massive 300 lb, and 116 foot diameter parachutes. You, literally, got an Orion-eye view of the spacecraft dunking into the Pacific and balloons popping up to keep it afloat a la the Apollo program. 

Are you kidding me? You're not impressed with this?! Nope. The kid wanted HD. But you know what he also said without thinking and without so much as a hint of fear? "I wanna go to Mars." I gave him the list of possible choices being discussed currently: the moon? An asteroid? Nope. Mars. 

It wasn't that long ago that we wondered what the next generation would do. Who are they going to be if they can't be astronauts? Trust me though, the space dream is alive and well among the 4 year old set. They can watch, wide-eyed, as we see in vivid detail images beamed from across space.

Now, don't get me wrong, I was a Space Shuttle kid. I've been to the Cape and seen the Assembly building, got the old school trucker hat with NASA logo, and dreamed of eating freeze-dried space food. Obviously, I am not an astronaut.

That's not the point. And my son and daughter are probably not going to Mars. But when it comes to getting our kids excited about STEM education, anything that gets them going is good. It became a day spent together...me teaching him history, etc.. We also watched the moon landing with Apollo 11. Science education isn't just sitting in a classroom learning pi. If we want to have a future and see our kids continue building on the contemporary technology we love, we've got to keep them excited with the real world possibilities.

I hope we do go to Mars. And I'd be delighted to see one of my children go. 


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