Education: November 2008 Archives

Astronauts install water recycler, Houston Chronicle

"Shuttle Endeavour's astronauts on Wednesday furnished the international space station with a $250 million water recycler as they surged ahead of schedule to expand the orbital outpost. The recycler, designed to turn urine, wash water and other wastes into drinking water, may be activated later today for a trial run. But NASA won't let the astronauts drink from it until samples are tested for purity back on Earth."

Editor's note: This article is certainly just fine in terms of what it describes. What is curious, however, are the comments that regular people (mostly adults I presume) post. Its almost as if they were all from 5th graders - you know the sort of poo and pee jokes that Beavis and Butthead often made. This is not the Chronicle's fault at all. Its what many people instinctively think when they hear about drinking recycled urine.

I am not certain I want to fault NASA PAO in any way over this since there is little they can do to present this in a way that won't incite the giggle factor (although this easily Googled NASA press release from 2003: "Fun With Urine" Stirs Student's Imagination" probably doesn't exactly help things). That said, there is a chance for NASA to make things like this more relevant to the every day experiences of the general population - as the article does - by talking about domestic water treatment plants. There is also some relevancy, to be certain, to life support challenges faced by our troops in the middle east, researchers at the south pole, hurricane damaged areas in the southern U.S., new green technologies for recycling, etc.

And yes, I have not exactly been totally consistent with regard to my own advice either: my posting of this 2008 memo from JSC "NASA JSC Urine Collection Study Donor Request" spurred dozens of news stories on this same theme including the ever present 5th grade "yuck factor". Of course I knew that this would probably happen.

This is going to be NASA's greatest challenge over the next 4(8) years: to show its true relevancy to everyday life and to do so in a manner that shifts some of the media's and public's preoccupation with all the things that NASA does wrong to the vast majority of things that it does right - often in ways that no other organization - anywhere - has ever done. And in mounting such an effort, NASA needs to be proactive as well as reactive. No this is not "lobbying" or "marketing" - things that get Congress and OMB all upset. Rather, it is simply explaining to people what is being done with their tax dollars - and why.

Editor's note: These three kids seemed to be having quite a time as their father flew them in his private plane on a few weightless parabolics. The exposure to weightlessness was brief - but just long enough to have the desired effect. By the third parabolic the little boy was ready to try gymnastics (ouch).

Opera in Space

Editor's note: It is nice to see people at NASA thinking outside the box. Not everyone is a geek and there as many ways to engage public interest in space exploration as there are people to be engaged. I just hope they stay away from Klingon Opera.

From: White, Susan M. (JSC-AE)
Sent: Friday, November 14, 2008 10:17 AM
Subject: Opera and ISS in Education

Are you an opera fan?

If so, JSC Education could use your help. We're seeking an individual with ISS knowledge and a passion for the art to support our brainstorming session on Tuesday, Nov. 18. Our first brainstorming session will develop an opera theme around the ISS 10th anniversary of its human presence. We're collaborating with the Houston Grand Opera (HGO) to design a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) focused opera to take into the HISD school system creating a connection between the arts and sciences.

Editor's note: I have resigned as an advisor to SEDS - Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. I have deleted the text of my original posting from last night. Suffice it to say I have grown tired of SEDS members sending me mixed messages about things. I should have just quit quietly and left it at that. Sorry for the armwaving.



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This page is an archive of entries in the Education category from November 2008.

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