The vacuum of space would kill any human that is exposed to it for more than a few seconds. Couldn't you just hold your breath? Spacesuits are incredibly advanced pieces of technology. They include every tool and instrument that an astronaut would need to walk on the air-less surface of the moon. They're molded to each astronaut's body size, they store oxygen just like a scuba tank, they even have bathrooms.
Although the Moon Men live on South Street, they have been testing an all-new method for travelling through space and time. Our telescope weighs about 30 pounds. This weekend, the Moon Men attempted their first space walk. Landing site, Washington Square.
We put on our spacesuits, buckles, blazers, and all. The first steps were awkward as the bag swayed side to side, towering above my head. Where's a good spot to bring a telescope? Since Philadelphia's on the Northern hemisphere, the moon is always in the southern sky. Bright lights make the view look blurry and dim. We need spots where there are large fields to see lower on the horizon. We want to explore new worlds.
But first we needed to make sure that we had our batteries charged. We stopped into Cohen and Co. for just the thing. Did you know that just 57% of batteries are rechargeable? Living on South Street is a little like landing on another planet. No surprise that as we walked about during the day, we were turning heads. It wasn't easy to fit a two-foot long telescope into a backpack. After making our way on foot, the telescope had been safely transported to a remote location. We deployed it skillfully: unfolding the tripod, lining up the scope, adjusting the primary mirror. Every aspect of the mission was successful. The motor gears gently churned as we raised it to the sky. All of this, to see....
Our atmosphere is usually transparent, but you can't always rely on that. Astronomers are patient, humble people. They may stay outside an entire night, even in the cold, numb gloved fingers and foggy breathed, just in case the sky will clear up for an hour to reveal the universe. So I pace around waiting for a moon that may not come. A few people stop to ask what I'm looking at.
Eventually I point the telescope at George Washington's head, and stare him right in the eye. Why's he upside down? It's because of the way the mirrors are arranged inside the telescope. Our Newtonian reflector is powerful enough to make George look like this, from across the other side of the park!
A man approaches me who knows the history of the entire park. He asks, "Did you know that David Rittenhouse discovered the atmosphere of Venus?" His telescope is kept across the street at the American Philosophical Society. The Moon Men identified their next mission, a visit to see the telescope.
Science is not always about bringing home a prize. Sometimes it is just about showing up. Returning to their homes, the Moon Men walk by a small kid she stops and looks. she asks her dad "is that a real space man?"
Her father smiles and says, short, loud, and sweet, "Nope!"