Sunday, January 20, 2008
News from planet 1
Last week's news that a NASA satellite passed within 126 miles of the planet Mercury hearkens back to the day when the government offered hope for the future along with its regular portion of ugly war news. Plans call for the MESSENGER probe to again fly by in October and next year before assuming an orbit around the closest planet to the sun in 2011, according to the Reuters international news service. The first data transmissions from the craft are expected to be received on earth beginning Tuesday. NASA says the mission is designed for gather information on the composition of Mercury's surface, its geologic history and its relationship with the solar wind. Notice, however, that nowhere in that list of accomplishments are any corporations looking for cheap manufacturing processes or any other countries trying to gain an advantage on others. This one, apparently, is for the sake of knowledge. There was a time, although it's hard to believe now, that the space program's reason for being was the gathering of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It used to be about learning more about the universe and the meaning of human life, assuming there is one. MESSENGER is an acronym for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging. It was launched in 2004. "We were closer to the surface of Mercury than the International Space Station is to the Earth," said Michael Paul, a mission engineer, according to Reuters.