Monday, September 19, 2011

GRAIL NASA Tweetup Part VII-The Guest Speakers

After a morning of introductions and tours of NASA facilities it was time for S91-49083the guest speakers and scientific presentations. The guest speakers included Charles F. Bolden, Nichelle Nichols, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

First up was Mr. Bolden, a former astronaut and current Administrator of NASA. Mr. Bolden talked a little bit about NASA’s current mission and where he thought NASA should head in the future. He also answered questions from the crowd. Mr. Bolden is an eloquent speaker and quick on his feet answering some of the hard questions from the crowd. After hearing him speak, its easy to see why he’s an administrator of NASA. His main desire as administrator of NASA to lay the foundation of future exploration of space, including a trip to Mars. Hopefully he is able to convince Congress to fund future missions to space.

Next up was GPN-2004-00017Nichelle Nichols, you may know her from her role as Lieutenant  Uhura in Star Trek. She talked of her NASA experience as recruiter. Nichelle’s goal was to recruit minority and female personnel to apply to become astronauts. It seems in the 60’s NASA had a problem attracting applicants that were either minority and/or female. it seems the general consensus was that applying would be a waste of time since NASA would just ignore the applicants from this group. Nichelle went out to find the best and brightest and convince them to apply. She told the story how she was going to go on a negative campaign against the NASA administrator at the time if he didn’t take the applicants she recruited seriously. Luckily for everyone involved Nichelle was able to provide candidates that were able to fit the bill including Dr. Sally Ride, Colonel Guion Bluford, Dr. Judith Resnik, Dr. Ronald McNair and the previous speaker, Charles Bolden. In addition to speaking about her experience as NASA recruiter she emphasized that if you can imagine it, you can dream it, you can do it.

Last up was Neil deGrasse Neil_deGrasse_Tyson_-_NAC_Nov_2005Tyson to talk about, well I guess it was what ever he wanted to talk about. Boy did he talk about random stuff. His main theme was encouraging people to get into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) by inspiring them through NASA missions. Mainly advocating NASA funding of exploration to gain further understanding of our universe. Based on the crowd’s reaction and enthusiasm I think he could have talked about how he makes his favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich (if he likes those types of sandwiches) and they would have been riveted. I guess that’s part of being famous, that as long as the audience is behind you, you can say anything you want and they will follow along. This is more an observation of how famous people are treated in relation to others. Neil definitely got a more rousing applause from the crowd compared to the scientists and engineers who presented. But when you think about why were there and the information provided the scientists and engineers deserved more of the applause and adulation.

Neil talked about how violent the world may look like if we could see different bands of light, such as microwave or cellular signals. Imagine all of the stuff you could see if you could see all of the electrical signals emitting from our electronic equipment. Or have you thought how you would be perceived from other people in the world. If you were able to see someone 1/4 way across the world they would look like they were horizontal since there gravity vector would be 90 degree different from your own. Neil is a great speaker, and if you do have the opportunity to hear him speak I’d say you’d have to take it.

In fact all three of the guest speakers where great speakers and where able to convey their thoughts eloquently. This contrasted with the scientists and engineers who were definitely out of their element. The next blog post will cover the scientists and engineers.

If you want to watch the speakers from above, below are links to the videos (for as long as the links continue to work).

Charles Bolden:
Nichelle Nichols:
Entire Presentation:

All three photos in this blog post are from NASA’s website.

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