Saturday, September 03, 2011

Where's the Space?

In case anyone is wondering about the lack of space-related blogging in recent months, I will briefly explain the concept of "serial obsession."  Throughout my life I have had a few major non-career interest areas, and apart from the ever-present themes of books and music listening, I tend to pursue one or two of these interests obsessively for some period of time, ranging from weeks to years, then move on (or back) to something else. The major categories are music creation/performance, languages, flying, and space. The latter two are somewhat linked, at least historically (my interests in space and in flying emerged around the same time, around 1962 when I was 9 years old).

From 2005 to 2008, space pretty much held sway, starting from my discovery of the free Orbiter space flight simulator in early 2005. That led to blogging about Orbiter, writing Go Play In Space, becoming a JPL Solar System Ambassador, educational outreach, and getting involved with an astronomy club (mainly for outreach related to space). Music was the theme for 2009-2010, culminating with the "release" of my second CD (Message from Tomorrow) in June 2010. The rest of 2010 and early 2011 were mostly eaten by my job (company was acquired in October 2010). This summer I have gotten back into flying, as reported in excruciating detail on my flying blog.

So where is space? It is lying fallow at the moment, waiting for its turn to come again on the Great Circle of Obsessions. I'm sure it will come. The budgie's not dead, it's just resting. Just like the US space program (I hope!).

But I do continue to at least peek at the space blogs and at the emails I get from NASA, and yesterday something really cool arrived. JPL announced Eyes on the Solar System, an interactive, 3D, real-data-driven, web-based "browser" for all the contents of the Solar System. It's different from Orbiter in that it is web based and (JPL) data-driven, rather than spacecraft oriented. There are indeed many spacecraft in "Eyes on the Solar System," and you can tag along with any of them, as shown in the picture above (Galileo fly-by of Io in 1995). But you can't launch your own spacecraft - or put another way, you don't HAVE to launch your own spacecraft to explore any place, object, or time in the solar system. It's VERY cool and I plan to explore it and write more about it as soon as I can. Maybe that will be the trigger for the next big space phase. Who knows? As this blog's tag line says, "Space flight, simulators, astronomy, books, flying, music, science, education: whatever the obsession of the moment might happen to be."

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