Lately I’m in love with space. Outer space, that is. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last six months of my life watching every single episode of Star Trek: The Original Series (which celebrated it’s 46th anniversary a couple weeks ago, in case you didn’t notice the awesome Google logo on September 8th). But it’s easy to feel starry-eyed over the Final Frontier when there’s so much cool space stuff in the news.
Over the last few days, I’ve been following the progress of the space shuttle Endeavour as it travels from Florida to it’s new retirement home at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. How do you move a 122 foot-long spaceship with a wing span of 78 feet across the country, you may ask? Well, you fly it piggy-back on top of a Boeing 747, of course! But the really tricky part of the transportation doesn’t get underway until Endeavour makes it to the ground in Los Angeles. That’s when the massive shuttle will be loaded onto a 160-wheel carrier and driven to the Science Center. This thing is way too big to take on the freeway– it would never fit under all the underpasses. Instead it will slowly rumble through the city streets of L.A. en route to it’s final destination. In preparation for this tedious, 12-mile journey, the Science Center folks are removing trees, raising telephone wires, and clearing sidewalks to make room for the behemoth. All this for a vehicle that has recently blasted through space. If all goes as planned, Endeavour will be on display for all to see starting October 30th.
Now that NASA has retired its shuttle program, the space scientists are up to new tricks, like achieving warp speed. In non-Trekkie terms, warp speed means going really, really fast. Fast enough for interstellar travel. Up until recently, scientists thought this was impossible. But now they’re tinkering with a mathematic loophole that could be used to bend space and time and send spaceships blasting out of our solar system, where no man (or woman!) has gone before. This week scientists upgraded this scenario from impossible to “plausible, and worth further investigation.” Pretty exciting news for anyone who’s ever dreamed about cruising the cosmos.
Meanwhile, scientists watching the sky through the Hubble telescope this week spotted the oldest & most distant galaxy ever detected. It is 13.2 billion years old– almost as old as the universe itself, and expert stargazers say it could provide some insight into the earliest years of cosmic formation. Trying to imagine 13.2 billion years is a pretty brain-bending exercise. Luckily you can warm up by checking out some of the cool space stuff at the library.