Monday, February 02, 2009

protect our home planet

Are you familiar with NASA's mission portfolio?

I was not, until I stumbled upon it while doing a little Snow Day web surfing this afternoon. Their list of missions is absolutely, delightfully lunatic (no pun intended).

With all the news in the last year about the Mars Rover, you are probably aware that NASA is exploring the possibility of sending people to the Red Planet (and in style, too. See photo).

But did you know that the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer Mission "observes the fast-moving, high-energy worlds of black holes, neutron stars, X-ray pulsars and bursts of X-rays that light up the sky and then disappear forever"?

Or, that the Chandra X-Ray Observatory "probes the mysteries of space with unprecedented x-ray images that help to unravel the structure and evolution of the universe"?

Or what about the Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer (CHIPS) project, which "uses an extreme ultraviolet spectrograph to study the 'Local Bubble' surrounding our Solar System"?

Local Bubble? Is your head spinning yet?

I've had so much fun troving the nutty descriptions on the missions list, that I've fashioned my favorite phrases into the poem below entitled "protect our home planet". These are lifted directly from the scientists' descriptions, people. Enjoy.

beyond the termination shock at the very edge of our solar system
the x-ray universe
supermassive black hole systems, pulsars and the origin of cosmic rays
constant vigil for the atmospheric "triggers"
unlocking the secrets of Saturn

relativity gyroscope
asteroid sample return mission
gamma-ray bursts
flyby studies of Pluto
fine-scale magnetic fields and the associated plasma structures on the Sun
a journey through our solar system and beyond

the basic physics of particle acceleration and explosive energy release
total solar radiation
interstellar gas clouds
stardust returns samples

where the Sun's influence ends and the dark recesses of interstellar space begin
the most powerful explosions in the universe
protect our home planet

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