Saturday, August 18, 2007

SpaceFest day 2

Ok, today was back to SpaceFest for day 2 of 3 in this event. Today had a good line of speakers, though in my opinion not as good as yesterday. I didn't buy anything today because I spent all fo the money yesterday, but I didn't see anything new to get. I also took today to bother Phil some more. I even managed to get a picture of him with me:

Yeah, it looks like we don't really know how to pose. But it's my fault, I kinda cornered him and asked for a picture. Anyways, that's about all the non-lecture news I have.

So, the first talk was by Chris McKay on the "3 stories of life on Mars". It was a really good talk. It was basically about issues involving life and other features of Mars and exploration. Story #1 was about if life did develop on Mars, and its implications. If Mars had life, then that bumps up the statistics of life forming in the universe dramatically. Story #2 is human involvement in Mars. It would be inevitable that if we don't blow ourselves up. This is a mix of planetary protection and terraforming. He brings up the concept of growing a flower on Mars that follows planetary protection guidelines. He also brought up that the Moon would be a good place to practice because it's Planetary Protection level 1 (i.e. no one cares, it'll STAY sterile) while Mars has level 4 (we need to be really careful). And also how would Martian life compare to Earth life, and what questions could it answer. Story #3 is how would we terraform Mars while preserving its environment. On Earth, nature and life are considered the same thing, but on Mars, it isn't. If there is no hidden life, do we want to preserve some of Mars's sterile area, or should we allow terrestrial life to spread. This was actually a really fascinating lecture.

The next one was by John Young, a really prolific astronaut. He talked about how humans need to go into space and colonize. Kinda like Stephen Hawking, but it's much more convincing to hear it from a guy who was actually IN space several times. His talk was really quite detailed, and there's not much I can summarize in writing right now. It was just so interconnected and flowing that I feel I would do him a disservice to try and leave out parts of his presentation. It basically consisted of spaceflight when he flew, new developments which are occurring right now, and what other obstacles we need to face to make colonization more feasible.

The next one was by Martin Tomasko, but I missed some of the beginning because I was still stalking Phil. However, I did get the gist of most of his presentation, and it was about his work on the Cassini-Huygens mission. He also gave some overview of the problems which were encountered during this mission, and how they were worked around, and some of the science which was done by the Huygens probe. He had some neat footage which I'm pretty sure you could find somewhere on ESA's web site (I'm kinda tired now). So although I missed some, the presentation still made a lot of sense. Props to Martin!

The last talk of the day was by the all-so-famous David Levy. David Levy has tens of books out about astronomy, and if you haven't read anything by him, you're missing something. This talk was entitled "A Nightwatchman's Journey: My life and hard times as a comet hunter during the first generation of the space program". It was mainly about what brought him to astronomy, and his experience as a comet hunter. However, he also showed that astronomy was a very inviting subject, and most anyone could get hooked to it. For him, it was seeing a meteor when at a camp. Now, I never had a switch like that. For me, I just though, "this is sooooo cool". I can't remember any singular event. Then again, I make a pretty bad amateur astronomer. Anyway, this was mostly a talk about the romance of astronomy. There was also some talk about the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (which was co-named after HIM, of course). If you don't know, comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was a really popularized comet around 1993-94 that was broken apart by and impacted into Jupiter. I know people in my astronomy club who saw that, so it was a widely publicized event. He decided to become a comet hunter as a younger boy, and kept to that dream. Now isn't that a story?

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