Field of Science


Space Your Face!

I know it's Friday but I'm not writing another BP quiz today. It is just too depressing. You know the story anyway: dying pelicans; BP buying search terms from Google; "an amount equivalent to the Exxon-Valdez disaster could be flowing into the Gulf of Mexico every 8 to 10 days."

It's a good day for something silly. I'm pretty distracted, anyway, by all the screaming and honking outside my office. It looks like some sort of nuclear ticker-tape device was detonated out there. Was there a big Chicago sports victory or something?

So here's the silliest thing I've seen this week. I don't know if NASA has a new PR person or what, but at a site called "Space Your Face" they're encouraging you to upload your head onto an animated, dancing astronaut. Above, you can see the astronaut my sister created, which has our family dog's head on it.

After you upload your face, the site asks where you'd like to "get down" and offers three extraterrestrial landscapes. Then some music plays and you dance around. I totally recommend trying this--at least, if for no other reason, so someone can confirm that I saw Hobbes do the Soulja Boy right after an Irish jig.

A related, and only slightly less frivolous, outreach effort by NASA is called "Your Face in Space." Since the shuttles are being retired, NASA is offering you a chance to virtually travel on one of the last two shuttle trips ever. When you upload your head shot here, it does not go on a dancing astronaut, but it does go into space with Discovery or Endeavour. So far, more than 115,700 people have participated.

I was planning on ending with a reflection on the retirement of the shuttle fleet, or the end of the moon program, and what it means to kids today who might not be able to dream of going into space the way everyone between my parents' generation and my own did. How many kids fantasize about putting on a spacesuit and being locked in a warehouse for 18 months?

But my internet has slowed to a crawl thanks to (presumably) my office-mates streaming video of the parade instead of looking out the window. And my cell phone abruptly died after expending its battery searching for jammed-up service. So it feels kind of like the apocalypse here. Maybe I should watch the dancing astronaut again. Get down, Hobbes!

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