Having a Blast in 2020: Part 1

Having a Blast in 2020 – Part I

One of the (few) positive things about 2020 has been space exploration. Over the past months, my kids’ interest in space has, shall we say, sky-rocketed.  Admittedly, they already had a head-start, as over their first few years of life they’ve amassed a personal library of space books, experienced the Air and Space Center and Air Power Park of Hampton, and even viewed in person a rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Island facility near Chincoteague. (Also, thanks to a pristine glossy 1980 NASA souvenir book obtained from a garage sale, they’re able to rattle off obscure facts about the Apollo missions.) But 2020 has indeed been a special year for space exploration. It seems like a new launch has been taking place every couple weeks, some of it ground-breaking and all of it fun to watch. This culminated in the last two months with the first US crewed space mission in almost a decade.

Dragon Demo-2 launches this past May

Now, in the waning days of summer, there’s still time for kids to jump on the space bandwagon. First of all, start watching cool videos about space achievements, both vintage and modern. A few of my kids’ favorites: the Apollo/Saturn V, the Space Race, and the moon landings: in addition to great YouTube clips, there are cool documentaries free on most streaming video services. Also, the Mars rovers: there are real life remote controlled vehicles crawling around on Mars right now. You can find great documentaries and animations of the Mars missions online. Finally, the modern feats of SpaceX. There are tons of amazing footage of SpaceX launches and landings (both failures and successes) online. My boys have watched every SpaceX recent launch, to the point that droneships and landing burns have become part of their everyday vocabulary. (As an engineer, I share their fascination, and a tiny piece of me wishes I had my career to do over.) 

Apollo 11 – the mission which took the first men to the moon – launches in July 1969

Next, plan to view some upcoming launches: as many as there have already been, there are lots more scheduled in the coming weeks. There’s a real excitement in seeing America lead the way in cutting edge science again! NASA and SpaceX provide live coverage of their launches, with amazing video footage. You can always watch the launches after the fact, but there is something special about watching live. You can find launch schedules here (keep checking as launch schedules change rapidly!). Some exciting ones in August will be the SpaceX Starlink launches, other Falcon 9 launches, and United Launch Alliance Delta-4. September holds many more potential SpaceX and ULA launches, including the next launch carrying live astronauts, Dragon Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station. (Yes, the launch last month, Demo-2, was just a test mission!)

Finally, get hands-on. This is enough of a topic to devote another whole post to. In an upcoming post, I’ll document how my kids (and me too) made the journey from YouTube space nerds to real hands-on rocket junkies over the last couple months, with the help of a friend. Hint: you may end up at Green Hill Park gathering singed rocket components…     

My kids’ cool vintage Kennedy Space Center souvenir book, complete with ‘70s fashion trends

Tim Carr

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