Two city-sized orbs dance through their galaxy. Their dense mass, each equivalent to a star, spins the partners as they get closer and closer together, grazing the outer limits of their other half's being. For 100 breathless seconds, their pas de deux of anticipation sends gravitational shivers through the universe.
Looks like we're going back to the moon. Last week, Vice President Mike Pence announced a new priority to put Americans on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. If we do manage to return to our natural satellite—no budget or specific timeline was released during the announcement—then it will likely be for a longer period of time than the short Apollo missions, and will almost certainly involve longer moonwalks. That means more time for something to go wrong, and more of a need for plans and equipment ready in case of emergency.
When it comes to space exploration, Don Gurnett has seen it all. He still vividly remembers seeing America's first attempt at a satellite launch, the Vanguard project, blew up on the launch pad from the comfort of his living room. When it comes time to talk of more modern cosmic endeavors, he will wax poetic about hydrocarbon rains falling into pools of methane on Titan. He's been there for everything, and he's not done yet.
It was 8:07 p.m. on a Friday night in Riverhead, Long Island, when the operators at an RCA Communications outpost picked up a signal that had never been heard before on Earth. A sharp, insistent beep sang out over short-wave radios, filling up our ears with the knowledge that humans had succeeded in sending something to the wispiest edge of our protective blanket of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.