The Women Of Nasa


NASA.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA.

We’ll be featuring them in our July 28 issue, when Dawn Geddes has written us a feature about the women who have played a key role in the organisation.

The film “Hidden Figures”, based on the book, did a lot to bring some of the characters to the public’s attention, but the truth is that there were an awful lot of women working at NASA that broke new ground.

Why is it important to get their names out and about? I’ve read that sometimes you need to see people like you doing something to believe that you can do it, too. So, it’s great for the next potential generation of scientists, engineers and astronauts to be told their story, and it redresses the balance of the history books a bit.

We all know the names Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but hopefully Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride will be as familiar names for future generations.

Flight Of Imagination

NASA’s work grabs your imagination like nothing else. It’s space, after all – the final frontier! What must it be like to see the earth from that distance – to see how unique it is?

It used to give me the heebie jeebies seeing videos of folk working outside the shuttle with the doors open. I know they were strapped in, but I’d heard that if something went awry and you ended up spinning off in the wrong direction you would just keep going for ever! I’ll bet there are a million fail-safe procedures in place to stop that happening – I’ve never heard of it happening – but still…

We went to Cape Canaveral once and although nothing was being launched, there was a shuttle making it’s long and slow journey from the hangar to the launchpad. It was on basically a big flat tank – the crawler – that carries them along at 1mph doing 1/125th of a mile per gallon.

In the shop you could buy dried ice-cream, which was apparently what the astronauts took with them. It was at that point that astronauting went off the “possible job” list for me once and for all – the ice-cream was not up to scratch. And I’m not fussy about my ice-cream!

Our house also had an atlas with a picture just like this one below, of plans to build a doughnut-shaped habitation in space. This below is a 1975 idea from NASA called the Stanford Torus – 140,000 people could live on this!

NASA.

Mills Observatory

Here in Dundee we’ve got an observatory in one of our parks. If the coming opening of the V&A is making you think of paying the city a visit, do have a look at their website and see what’s going on there, they do some fabulous talks.

I went to one, and afterwards everyone was hustled out on the veranda at the top. I didn’t know why, but it turned out the International Space Station was due to orbit, and it was a rare clear autumn night in the city. We saw the bright light of it pass over surprisingly quickly, and again I found myself imagining what they were seeing of us.

Could they see the line between day and night? Or the aurora? Wow.

Anyway, do make sure you catch our July 28 issue when we talk about NASA. It’s a good read!

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Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.

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