Fourier Analysis is a mathematical tool which can do a number of things: separate out signals from noise; help identify patterns or trends in data; filter out all unwanted data and focus on a single signal; use approximations to make generalizations; make approximations of real world signals (think electronic music); combine harmonics to get a stronger signal. That's what I'll be trying to do here!! Won't you join me with your comments?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Important Space News!

Late yesterday afternoon, NASA launched another space shuttle, STS-118. Now I know a lot of news has been about Barbara Morgan (the elementary teacher who was a back-up for Christa McAuliffe) who is finally getting an opportunity to go up in space after a delay of 20+ years. She will do some in-space teaching, but not a lot which is a real shame. Especially in light of the recent news about American test scores: US eighth graders in 2003 ranked 14th in math (just beating out Lithuania's kids) and ninth in the world in science, making it difficult for us to continue considering ourselves world leaders in this field.

Still, Ms. Morgan is performing a vital role in operating the robotic arm which will be used in helping assemble new components being added to the International Space Station. If you happen to catch any of her reports from space, be sure and give a thought/say a prayer for those former colleagues of hers who lost their lives on the last Challenger mission.

This shuttle mission starts the ramp up of an ambitious schedule of launches where the primary mission is to complete the assembly of the space station. The second mission after this one (scheduled for launch in December) will (finally) see the implementation of the European and Japanese lab modules which will enable the station to do a large number of space experiments which have been on hold for many years. The ISS assembly is supposed to be completed by 2010.

This will then mark the retirement of the space shuttle. I think of this as the bad news. It means that the US will only be able to get its astronauts to and from space by "hitching a ride" on a Russian Soyuz rocket. This will be the case for at least five years until the first flight of the new Orion crew exploration vehicle in 2015. We can only hope that this loss of US space flight capability will be only 5 years.

The good news is that the number of women participating in the space program in various functions is now so high that it is almost taken for granted. It's considered no big deal! I think that's awesome, but I also think it is a bit of an accomplishment, so I just want to point out some things to cheer about:

In October, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will take off on a Russian Soyuz rocket to become the first female commander of the international space station. It's planned that 2 weeks after that, Pam Melroy will command the next shuttle assembly mission. These days, according to NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, when you look at any of the shuttle flight crews and their support teams, there's a "plethora" of women engineers, pilots, operators and technicians including working members of the flight team and in many cases senior members of the team. Griffin also has a woman deputy, a woman associate administrator for aeronautics and a woman deputy associate administrator for science. Women are working at all levels of NASA these days and it is hardly ever commented on. Isn't that just how it should be?!


anno said...

Isn't that just how it should be?!

Indeed. And it's about time.

Sad news there, though, about the level of math scores in the U.S. And about the retirement of the shuttle program. I think it reflects a kind of aimlessness and confusion that's not entirely healthy...

Diesel said...

You know, when you hear about how bad out kids rank in test scores, you have to remember that we take in way more immigrants than most countries. If you eliminated the non-English speakers from those studies, I bet we'd be near the top.

BTW, don't read my post about the space program. Or, if you do, realize that I'm not making fun of the space program so much as making fun of stupid reasons for having a space program. :)

soccer mom in denial said...

"We take more immigrants"? Hello - heard of riots in France last summer? Or immigrant protests in London of Feb. 2006 (which I was there for)?

But that isn't the point of your lovely post. I tried to show the kids the lift off on line but couldn't track it down. Grrrr...

My roommate in college was one of McAuliffe's sutdents. You can see her on the footage of kids not knowing what was happening that the news played over and over again. For "our" demographic, that was a defining event.

Thanks for keeping me informed on the space program. I look forward to more explanations!

Robin said...

Actually, during the 1990's Israel absorbed so many Russian immigrants that it would be equivalent to the US absorbing all of France.

We here in Israel will be watching this shuttle mission with awe, and a tinge of sadness as we too mourn our lost astronaut, Ilan Ramon, and all of those who died with him on the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Fourier Analyst said...

Dear Anno, SMID and Robin,
Thanks for your comments. I am hoping that this mission will offer more coverage than they have done for past missions.

Dear Diesel,
Sadly you are suffering from the typical American mindset of misinformation. Rather than get into a political rant (I leave that for your blog), I simply refer you to some facts: start here;

Jen said...

The women in science thing is JUST how it should be. And our education system is a mess... ugh! My first year teaching in my own classroom (I'd been a drama teacher prior to that) we'd done massive study of the space shuttle and the lift-off and watched McAuliffe and her colleagues go up in flames. It was truly horrifying. Fortunately, my 2nd/3rd/4th grade split kids didn't quite get it... I still remember the devastating feeling though.