Sunday, August 26, 2012

A road trip to Mars, and then on to Titan (no long losing streaks, please)

I made a visit to the Virginia Air and Space Museum in Hampton, on the tip of the Peninsula, Friday.  I was intrigued by the possibility that the “interplanetary” exhibits might be more detailed than those at the National Air and Space Museum with the Smithsonian in Washington.

The main attraction, on the second level, was probably the simulated trip to Mars, which then opens up onto a “walkthrough” of the Mars surface. 

Would social media be available to settlers on the Moon, or Mars, in the future?  It would take light only a bit more than a second to reach the Moon, so response to tweets and Facebook posts and “likes” wouldn’t be so challenging.   For Mars, light would take perhaps a half hour, depending on the orbital position.  One major challenge would be that advertisers would not be able to sell much to settlers.

There was a station, where you could weigh yourself on all the other planets, and there were photographic dioramas, rather small, of the surfaces (as imagined by artists) or Mercury, Venus, Mars, Europa, and Titan.  I don’t recall seeing the Titan surface being shown at the museum in DC.  But why not have a diorama based on the Cassini probe photos from 2005? The same ought to be dome for Io, Europa, and Triton.

There was a panel that explained how the gas giant planets are constructed, but what would be interesting would be an animated video showing what the hydrogen would “look like” as it changes gradually from gas to liquid and then to metal under tremendous pressure.

There were artist’s renditions of possible extrasolar planets, but nothing about a planet that is tidally locked.  However. There is a diorama showing the space museum in a “termination zone” that could be interpreted as an environment on a tidally locked planet.

In one of my screenplays, “69 Minutes to Titan” (based on the length of time light might take to reach Titan, the largest and most “alive” moon of Saturn), angels are recruiting people to go live on their base on Titan and become angels themselves. 

There is a computer game where you design a “solar system” and then watch the planets collide or fly out because what you design isn’t stable.

If you go, you park at the Crown Plaza hotel (free only if you stay at the hotel). 

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