(Before you invest three minutes of your life reading this article, you should know that it has nothing to do with Elton John, his movie biopic or his music. This article is about appreciating America’s space program. What?? Yep. Read on.)
I should start with a public apology to anyone who was a member of a high school computer or science club between the years of 1984 and 1987.
Dear Nerds: I’m sorry, and thank you.
Nowadays, NASA and the space program are all but defunct as our country’s focus shifts from making discoveries in space to utilizing and adapting what we’ve discovered to a global advantage. It’s been a rather lackluster ending for the space program, which only a few short years ago catapulted into the stratosphere, letting Russia know the U.S. had a dog in the fight….and she’s a bitch.
I was born in 1969, the year that man first walked on the moon. For the next 40 years, that’s about as far as my interest in America’s space program went. In school, I gradually gained an understanding and respect for the Apollo 11 mission and Neil Armstrong’s “ …giant leap for mankind.”
The feat of putting a man on the moon becomes even more impressive when you consider that the United States and NASA had only entered the space race ten years prior. In 1957 Russia threw down the gauntlet of space exploration by successfully launching Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. That woke the U.S. Congress to a potential threat to national security and technological leadership. The space race was running full throttle and the Ruskies were in the lead.
If the United States wanted to remain a superpower, it needed some superpower, pronto. And we got it. Two years into the ‘Sputnik Crisis’, the U.S. introduced the National Aeronautics and Space Agency. NASA was to be a new agency with a distinctly civilian orientation, created to encourage peaceful applications in space science.
I didn’t always know what I wanted to ‘be’ while growing up but I did know it had nothing to do with rocket science. High school made it very clear that rocket science was for nerds, those nasally-voiced loners with questionable hygiene and a complete absence of any athletic instinct or ability. In other words, anyone involved with the computer science club.
I was a junior before I knew my high school even had a computer science club. I had my own challenges to deal with and didn’t give an X-wing fighting fck about Star Wars, robots, nebulas, aliens, or words like megabyte and RAM.
Turns out the smelly bastards were onto something. Those geeks in the computer and science clubs of the 1980s were in on the ground floor. Even they never could have predicted the technological sonic boom that was heading down the pike. Those geeks were yesterday’s minds of tomorrow and contributed greatly to the achievements of NASA and the U.S. space program. I owe those nerds an apology; chances are you do too. Especially these days when there’s a pretty good chance that you or your friends are now working for them and their friends.
On a rather cold and rainy day, during a family visit to New York, we opted to check out the NASA Space Museum currently installed on the battleship Intrepid which is permanently docked a few blocks from my apartment. Personally I would rather have stayed behind at the W Hotel and enjoyed room service on my mom’s tab while binge watching The Golden Girls, but I went. And I’m really glad I did.
Long story short, the space program is responsible for more than just rocket science. Prior to this exhibit, I never realized, or even considered, how much NASA and its development of space technology enriches our lives on a daily basis. Many of the luxuries we bougey queens take for granted are thanks to those geeks and their computer science.
I can see you, bitch, crossing your legs, rolling your eyes, with your pursed lips and thinking: “Like what?”
Starting with the most obvious, you can thank NASA and their satellites for giving you the ability to stream Britney from Vegas, check the weather for proper footwear, and use GPS maps on your phone so you don’t get lost on the way to your Scruff hookup.
But wait, there’s more. Here a few other day-to-day necessities we take for granted. Imagine having to live without some of these NASA-derived products.
Computer Mouse. Back in the 60’s computers were being used on a regular basis for space travel. In an effort to make the experience more interactive, NASA invented the computer mouse.
Your Nike kicks. Using the same technology that was responsible for molding rubber into astronaut helmets, NASA scientists figured the same principle could be applied to shoes and the creation of sneaker shock absorbers. You’re welcome.
Filtered water. Hardly anyone drinks from the tap anymore. Humans need to stay hydrated. That filtered water we all pay too much for here on earth is made possible thanks to the electrolytic silver ionizer invented in the 1960’s to provide clean, clear drinking water to those on that lengthy commute to the moon and back.
Memory foam. The foam was invented out of the NASA’s desire to create a seat cushion that would be able to contour to a passenger’s body and then restore itself to its original shape. The result is the same material used in our memory foam mattresses that allow us to get our much-needed beauty rest. How many peas would you princesses be pulling out of your ass if it weren’t for the comfort of your memory foam mattress? After all, we’ve all woken up with a toad or two in our bed. But toads AND peas? Unacceptable. In addition, the foam material needed to be comfortable enough to survive the G forces of takeoff and landing. Meaning, this stuff is dense, stable and can handle the pressure. So, the next time your man is pounding his way home, tell him to dig deep. The mattress can take it. Can you?
Still not getting those feels of gratitude for science geeks? Consider this, because astronauts needed teeny tiny cameras to complete the interplanetary craft required by their missions, NASA scientists developed the technology that provides cameras in your cell phones. Now, every time you take a selfie, give a nod to the nerds.
Geeky, science-type people don’t have a reputation for being the tidiest, and they know it. Take a look at the apartment or desk of any scientist and chances are, it’s a study in organized chaos. So when the need arose to create a tool to cleanly and efficiently collect samples from the moon, NASA got someone else to do it. Black and Decker was given the task and the Dust Buster was born. Even if NASA didn’t technically design this invaluable household appliance, they had the sense and resources to have it done, so…Win, Win!
While NASA is responsible for the life-saving technology behind CAT scans and safe land-mine removal, the innovation I am perhaps most grateful for are my wireless headphones. New York is a walking city. We walk everywhere. All-day. Every day. To make sure I’m walking to the beat of my own drum, I’m never without my music and headphones. In navigating the hustle and bustle of the subway stations, Penn Station and the overcrowded sidewalks, wired headphones just don’t work here. They constantly get caught on bags, jackets, and umbrellas and get yanked from your ears way too often for a person to tolerate. Wireless headphones are God’s gift to NYC commuters.
Airline pilots were already using wireless headphones as far back as the 1960’s. But when NASA wanted a piece of the action, they needed to develop hardware that would hold up to the rigorous and sturdy requirements of working in space. The company Plantronics stepped up and in 11 days came up with the wireless headphone models used on all the Apollo missions–as well as football coaches and everyday citizens like you and me. Thank you, Rocketmen!
When all is said and done, the truth of the matter is, I’m still not all that interested in space travel or aliens or finding the end of a galactic black hole. I’ve seen enough holes. But I do have a new appreciation for the men and women of NASA and those involved in what’s left of America’s space program.
Visiting the space museum with Mom and the family was a nice reminder not to brush off the subjects or people that we aren’t immediately drawn to. I think it’s better to approach the unfamiliar with an open mind. A willingness to learn and the capacity to understand make way for new possibilities. And a possibility is a hint from God. NASA has proven that we have the ability to go where no man has gone before. Now it’s up to us to decide where do we want to go?