Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Nerd Test

I don't care what you think, I'm excited about the new mission to Pluto. Pluto is, of course, that oversized comet on the edge of the Solar System that ignorant people refer to as a planet. But the fact that it is not a planet is no reason to ignore it. In fact, that's what makes it even more interesting. Ooh! Saturn has rings! Aah! Jupiter is like so huge! YAWN. What the fuck is Pluto? What's going on out there in the Kuiper Belt? Is Charon a moon? Is Pluto/Charon a double asteroid system? Or is my telescope lens smudgy? Those are some interesting questions. And we'll have all those answers and thousands more in 10 years or so. Can you even contain your excitement?

And that's what I want to write about this morning. This spaceship gets to Pluto in 2015. You know how on the Discovery Channel, they always show mission control all clappy when something ends up working properly? You figure that they must have a team of experts for every mission. An expert on asteroids, an expert on driving the ship, about a million computer programmers. So, they launched this Pluto ship, and like the next interesting thing to happen is when it passes Jupiter in 2007. What do those scientists do during that time? I mean, they can't just sit in mission control and get paid to play chess, can they? Do they go off, start other research projects, and have a family reunion every few years or so, waiting for the big day in 2015? Are those experts in this particular spacecraft forbidden from getting another job for 10 years? That doesn't seem fair. What if the Bush administration calls? Er... Wait a minute... The Bush administration only hires cronies, not experts. But still... You get the point.

Any NASA engineers out there? Can you help me out?

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