Worldcons recently seem ill-fated to me; this is the second year in a row that I can’t make it. This time, I even flew to the States, only to find out I wasn’t able to actually reach Kansas City for a series of reasons. Oh, darn.
I’m going to spend the week I’ve planned to be at MidAmeriCon II in Los Angeles instead, so I’m determined to make the most of it – starting with a visit to the California Science Center (yes, the one where’s the Space Shuttle Endeavour, among other things. Sure it’s worth my time).
- Models of the various satellites sent to space in the Entrance hall (including Cassini, just to mention one). Nice to see all of them together.
- A fairly good permanent exhibition area that spans over two floors, featuring the Earth’s different ecosystems, Worlds of Life (how people, plants, animals and the tiniest living cells all perform the same life processes to survive) and, of course, the Air and Space Section, where the star is, of course, the Endeavour.
- I have learnt a few things here about the Space Shuttle itself, especially in terms of components (the famous orthogrid for the liquid hydrogen propulsion system, for example, and the wings structure – a pure engineering merveille – both of them in display). It seems less impressive now, but we need to remember that when the space shuttle launched off for the first time in 1981, it was the first ever reusable spacecraft, without which many of the space programmes still ongoing today would not have been possible. “Over the thirty-year course of the space shuttle program, the shuttles and their crews assembled parts of the International Space Station, deployed and serviced the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory, repaired and re-launched satellites, sent probes to Venus and Jupiter, and more.”
- Remarkable statistics of the Shuttle Programme: five different orbiters flew into space as part of the program—Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour—for a total of 135 missions. All in all, 355 people carried on board, over 500 million miles flown, and 1,323 days in orbit. Space shuttles docked with Russia’s Mir space station 9 times, and with the International Space Station more than 35 times. Cost estimates: US $ 209 billion. At this purpose, one thing that I have liked is that the hall is covered with panels portraying all these missions over the year: difficult not to be impressed. (And yes, sadly, two space tragedies: Challenger and Columbia were lost). For a full set of statistics, see this.
- I took the time to visit one of the temporary exhibitions, namely, Super Cells, The Power of Stem Cells, which I do recommend to people resident / visiting LA in this period. From the programme: “Stem cells are the basic unit of all known living organisms. Vital to life, stem cells enable the body to grow, renew tissue, and heal wounds. Every second, our bone marrow stem cells produce two million new red blood cells. Without stem cells, humans could not survive. SUPER CELLS allows guests to observe stem cell research within a replica lab, and grow virtual eye stem cells used to treat patients. Discover the extraordinary abilities of stem cells living within us all.“
All in all, I’m quite satisfied with the day – tomorrow I’ll probably head to the Griffith Observatory (near Hollywood) for yet more science.