Mars madness gripped stargazers in Nashville as Tuesday night passed into Wednesday morning and the planet Mars passed closer to the Earth than it had in 60,000 years. Rick Chappell, director of Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory, estimated that between 800 and 1,000 people turned up for the chance to look at the red planet through the observatory’s 24-inch window onto the universe. Octogenarians, toddlers and those in between waited up to four hours in order to say they had been present at the cosmic event.
Mars viewing makes quiet observatory a star The Tennessean
As a NASA spacecraft starts probing beneath the surface of Mars for water this week, several Vanderbilt University chemical engineers are already working on ways to generate water, oxygen and other materials that would be essential to human life on the planet. What the researchers ultimately hope to achieve won’t happen any time soon. With the aid of NASA grant money, they could make it possible one day for people to explore
Surrounded by brilliant white, we grin goofily at each other as we sit stiff-backed on opposite sides of a stuffy airplane cargo bay. It could be a weird scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, where they might stash astronauts who’d gone berserk in space. Clean, white floor cushioned with inch-thick foam. Padded walls and ceiling swathed in white vinyl. Clumps of strange-looking apparatus bolted to the floor. But this is no movie scene. It’s NASA’s sleek KC-135, a modified Air Force gas tanker dubbed the “weightless wonder,” flying out from Houston over the Gulf of Mexico on a hot July morning at more than 400 mph.