You Can’t Go Home (or Work) Again

I was out of town at the beginning of the week and with so much happening, I was ready to write up a blog update last night. But that was before I learned that earlier in the week Google Maps added coverage of the Boston area in their Street View capability. So instead I spent several hours browsing around, seeing my house, the Sky & Telescope offices, and a fellow editor getting lunch. Recognize him?

NASA Meatball
Yeah, that will look nice on my computer's desktop.
Anyway, part of my trip involved visiting NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. It wasn't an official S&T visit, just a personal one. I used to work at Goddard when I attended the University of Maryland. Former S&T editor Bob Naeye now works there, and since I hadn't been back in 20 years and my girlfriend hadn't seen much of the place, I asked Bob to get us inside.

Bob took us around his office and introduced us to many researchers that he works with. I saw many of the buildings I used go to as I trudged from Building 16 at the back corner of the campus, to the computation facility in Building 1 to get my magnetic tape, and then to Building 21 to use a plotter (which was down the hall from the control center for the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite).

Among the tour highlights was the clean room where the next instruments destined for the Hubble Space Telescope are now. We didn't go in the clean room — there's a big picture window looking into the hangar-like room.

Across the street from that building is good ol' Building 16. There's a different group of researchers there now. The offices themselves had been divided up differently, so where I was didn't really exist anymore. But, I was glad to see that the giant air conditioner wasn't there either.

Our last stop was a relatively new building that has many Earth and planetary researchers. Turns out that some of the people that I worked for/with back in Building 16 are here now. We stopped in to see Paul Lowman, who used to be down the hall from me. (Another guy once down the hall was James Garvin, who's now NASA's Chief Scientist. You've probably seen him on many TV shows about planetary exploration.)

I've had dealings with Lowman since moving to Boston. He wrote an article for S&T 15 years ago about what it would be like to be an astronomer on the Moon (September 1992 issue, page 259). It's the only piece of fiction I can think of in S&T. More recently, he wrote about radio astronomy from the Moon (June 1997 issue, page 10).

Lowman is in his 70s but as active as ever. He remains gung-ho about exploring the Moon again with robotic missions. He pointed out that he has a monthly column on the NASA's website called Destination: Moon. Should be interesting!