2010 Limitless Awards

Hello all, sorry for the recent lack of posts, but it was finals time. That’s right, step one on my path to becoming an astronaut is over, I have completed one semester of graduate school. Still alive, so that’s a good sign. Still waiting to hear back on grades though <fingers crossed>.

I was trying to come up with an interesting way to wrap up the year on the blog and I thought, why not do what everyone else seems to do and make a “Top whatever of 2010” list. Then I thought, that might be a bit much, because presumably if I’m doing this blog right, then all of those things would be topics I already posted about. So then I decided to take a look at “heros” of astronomy. And I thought, well there are a lot of scientists who do a lot of astronomy, so it’d probably take a lot of time and searching to come up with only a handful of scientists who have made a real impact in the past year; so I decided to avoid scientists. I looked for non-science people who achieved great space-related goals or made a significant contribution to space exploration, space science, and/or space enthusiasm as a whole.

So here are the winners of this year’s “Limitless Awards”:

– This year’s first “Limitless Award” goes to Milky J and the writers at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Not that I’m an avid watcher of the show, but there were several segments on the show this year that focused on the greatness of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Introducing the character of Milky J, a large Yankees-clad black man (usually the only person of color in the show’s audience), in early August as an enthusiastic audience member with an intense love for the HST, Late Night really brought Hubble’s accomplishments and extremely successful tenure as the world’s leading space observatory. The first Milky J segment introduced the character’s signature “Hubble Gotchu” line followed by a pretty great ballad dedicated to the space telescope and it’s 20th anniversary. The second installment included a short shout out to molecular models and then a rap video shot on the streets of NYC. (*Note: It’s a shame that NBC no longer has ANY videos of these amazing segments left on the internet. I’ll continue to search for them.) The third and final installment (which can be seen here– and only here I think) was the pièce de résistance and included Milky J making a trip down to NASA’s Goddard Space Center to try to save Hubble from replacement by the James Webb Space Telescope. The video (made with the help of NASA) included some great pop culture references and Milky J emerging in a homemade Yankees spacesuit (which this blogger is quite jealous of). Not only did the character of Milky J bring a lot of attention to the Late Show, but the viral nature of the videos and their immense popularity on the internet really helped NASA at a time when they could really use good PR.

– The second award goes to a set of television personalities who never cease to educate, entertain, nor impress me. They are Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the hosts of the Discovery Channel‘s hugely popular MythBusters. Now, if you’ve never seen the show, you’re really missing out. The concept is simple: Adam and Jamie (former movie special effects professionals) and their team of “MythBusters” basically find any and all “myths” (where they continually come up with new ones is beyond me) or common misassumptions/beliefs and do their best to scientifically prove or disprove them. It’s a pretty great show that usually involves some great explosions. But it’s not just the team’s penchant for destruction that makes the show great, it’s really their dedication to the Scientific Method and the rigor which they put into every “debunking”. If the millions of viewers get nothing else from this show than an appreciation for how scientific investigation is really done (even if it’s just a subliminal understanding), then MythBusters makes an amazing contribution to America. But beyond they’re general great scientific rigor, Jamie and Adam get their “Limitless Award” for a specific myth that they set about debunking last summer*: the faking of the Apollo lunar landings. There are thousands of websites devoted to this one particular myth that man has never actually gone to the Moon and that the U.S. government faked the television broadcast and images to make it seem like we had won the Space Race. Now hopefully anyone reading this blog wouldn’t think twice about such ridiculous ideas, but the good folks at MythBusters did and pretty convincingly “debunked” the theory that the lunar landings were faked. Check out this CNN interview where Adam and Jamie describe the debunking. The interview also shows footage and their reaction to Buzz Aldrin decking a lunar landing conspiracy theorist in the face; a feat for which I think Buzz gets at least an honorable mention for the “Limitless Award”.

– This year’s third “Limitless Award” goes to a father and son pair who have already appeared in the blog earlier this year (see NASA, eat your heart out…). Back in October, Luke and Max Geissbuhler of Brooklyn, NY used a weather balloon to send a “spacecraft” carrying an iPhone into space. The journey lasted just over an hour and reached an altitude of 19 miles. Definitely not a bad weekend activity. They’ve also launched what might be the coolest/scariest thing ever: the Brooklyn Space Program. Just let that sink in for awhile.

– This year’s final “Limitless Award” goes to the founder of PayPal. Wait, what? How does coming up with a way to safely give your credit card information online qualify one for a space-related award? Well, it doesn’t. It’s what PayPal’s founder, Elon Musk, is doing with his new fortune that makes him worthy of the “Limitless Award”. Elon is the head of the Space Exploration Technology Corporation (or SpaceX) which is leading the pack of companies sprinting into space. As previously posted (see “Look boss, de plane, de plane…!”), a few weeks ago SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, launched on one of its Falcon rockets, completed the first ever orbital re-entry achieved by a private company. The company is looking to become America’s primary space carrier as NASA phases out the shuttle program. As this great Time magazine article points out though, the fledging industry as a whole has a long way to go before manned flights are achieved. There’s a big step in safety and preparation between designing cargo vehicles and vehicles safe of manned transport. In any case though, Musk is doing something great. Yes, he’s probably in this industry to make money (nothing wrong with that), but at least he’s throwing his millions behind an endeavor that will ultimately help the nation (not just his bank account). Where’s Bill Gates’ “Windows to the Universe” spaceship? Or Mark Zuckerberg’s SpaceBook? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) There are lots of rich people in America, but it seems like only Musk is putting his money behind an endeavor that’s really worthwhile and important; if industry doesn’t come up with transport for NASA soon, we’re going to be stuck thumbing our way into space for the foreseeable future. Now, you savvy space enthusiasts, might say, wait a minute! What about Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic? Yes, Branson’s vision to get space tourism up and running is visionary and awesome, but Musk’s SpaceX is actually helping the advancement of space program in the long run and saving the U.S. from what could be a very undesirable position, not just trying to make money off rich people who want to buy a really, really expensive ride.

So there they are folks, this year’s “Limitless Award” winners: Milky J and the writers from the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, hosts of the Discovery Channel‘s hit show MythBusters; Luke and Max Geissbuhler, adventurers and founders of the Brooklyn Space Program; and Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and SpaceX.

Who will be on this list next year? Who knows. Hopefully you’ll stick around next year to find out.

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If you have any suggestions about other possible nominees, please feel free to comment.

*I am ignoring the fact that this happened in 2009 because this blog hadn’t been created yet when it occurred; if it had been, they would have gotten the 2009 Award, but hindsight is 20/20 so I’m just going to go ahead and lump them in here in 2010 on account of their continued work. I hope that you will all give me this one small concession.

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One Response to 2010 Limitless Awards

  1. Rose says:

    i cant believe i stumbled onto your post..thanks so much!!! i am going to have to sign up 2 ur RSS feed so i can keep updated with your post…thanks again.

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