Those of us who are “children” of the airline industry are very familiar with this phrase (the title of today’s column) which indicates a passenger’s willingness to take a chance at traveling even without a confirmed reservation. If upon check-in at the airport, there is an unsold seat on the plane, or a confirmed passenger cancels at the last minute, then the “chance” passenger can travel.
Passengers who belong to this category are usually airline employees going on vacation, holding a Trip Pass on their own airline, or a Courtesy Pass issued to them by another airline commonly referred to as an “Interline Ticket.”
However, during a recent visit to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, “space available” took on a completely different meaning in my mind.
As my friends and I wandered through the vast expanse of the facility and were exposed to the various space exploration missions of the USA and those of the other countries, I began to realize that the immeasurable outer space can actually be a boundless playground for countries that are technically equipped to use it as such.
Space is available, and all scientifically advanced countries in the world know that and are continuously developing ways to offer the first vehicle to transport passengers to the moon, or to any other planet. So for today’s column, “space available” refers to that “great beyond” out there.
NASA is an independent agency of the US government which handles the country’s space program and focuses on aeronautics and aerospace research. It has successfully handled the Apollo moon landing missions, the Skylab Space Station, and the Space Shuttle. It continues to support the International Space Station and is currently working on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System.
It has three major facilities that are open to the public—the Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, Florida, where all space vehicles are launched; the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where Mission Control for all manned space missions is managed; and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the Skylab and the Saturn 6 rocket were developed.
During my tour of the Johnson Space Center, I saw the replica of the International Space Station and witnessed a demonstration on how the astronauts survive in it. I learned that it travels at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour, or 5 miles per second. Its speed allows it to witness sunrise and sunset every 90 minutes. It was very interesting to see what transpires inside the station.
When astronauts sleep, they go inside a man-sized pouch which is attached to the wall or ceiling, and “lock” themselves inside that pouch with their foreheads “taped” by a wide band attached to the wall or ceiling to prevent it from bobbing in and out. Their food comes in small packets and, although they have many choices of viand to eat, each can be eaten only after water is added. To be assured of a continuous supply of water, liquid waste is also recycled.
The astronauts in the Space Station are required to do full body exercises two hours a day to offset the decrease in muscle and bone density brought about by weightlessness. The absence of gravity causes the spine to grow two inches and the heart to shrink, although this is not a cause for alarm as it will grow back to its original size once the astronaut returns to earth.
The Apollo 18 space manned missions have been shelved due to budget constraints. But NASA is now working on the Orion Program, in cooperation with the European Space Agency, which plans to send four astronauts to as far as Mars. I learned that travel to that planet will take 3.5 years. Whew! That’s a loooooong trip! Any volunteers?
There were many other interesting stops in our day tour of the Johnson Space Center which further convinced me that man’s curiosity will always nudge him to explore what mystery lies beyond our planet. Since there is so much SPACE AVAILABLE for these explorations, we can look forward to discovering many more new things about what is out there that God still hasn’t shown us.
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YOUR weekend CHUCKLE
Condoms do not guarantee safe sex. A friend of mine was wearing one when he was shot dead by the woman’s husband!