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Friday, March 12, 2004

Ovo Caput

That was our team name, in pidgin Latin, for the rover drop we did yesterday at Kennedy Space Center's salute to Homeschoolers. We had to build a landing vehicle that would protect our astronaut (an egg) from a two-story fall. Supplies provided included six balloons, string, masking tape, straws, popsicle sticks and a paper napkin. Teams had 25 minutes to design their vehicle. We saw many models using fully inflated balloons, hard frames, and parachutes, but we opted for simplicity: The egg was wrapped in the crumpled napkin for extra padding, enclosed inside the regulation "bioshield" (Ziplock bag), and then encased in the six, partially inflated balloons. We squashed it together and secured the package with masking tape and string.


Well, the results, as read by a KSC employee, were aptly described by the mispronunciation of our team name, "Team Ovo Kaput," accent on the second syllable.

We had a material failure when one of our balloons developed a leak, causing a hairline fracture in our little astronaut. But we were congratulated on our design.


What a great day we had! Dad was able to join us, and we spent the whole day with our homeschool/penpal family. Their girls are so sweet and mine were so happy to visit with them. The parents all had a good time too. It's such a relief to find like-minded people. Oh, and their egg made it...GO L. LUNARS!

G was much more impressed with this group of homeschoolers than those he saw at the Florida Parent Educators Association convention last year. He said these families seemed "more normal." FPEA attracts all types of families, but they are closely linked to the HSLDA, and reflect a predominantly Christian membership. The difference, I believe, is in the science. These were people willing to believe the world wasn't created in six days.


If you ever have the opportunity to visit Central Florida, please, do us all a favor, forget Disney World (The Cr-happiest Place on Earth) and visit Kennedy Space Center. We watched an animation of the launch and delivery of the Mars rovers. The engineering is just mind-boggling.

Standing in the Apollo/Saturn V Center, watching a re-enactment of the first launch, the room empty except for the original instrument panels blinking away, while voice-overs of the control room chatter and big screen videos play actual footage of both the employees inside the room and the rocket itself, I got a tear in my eye. It was that good. And I'm not even PMSing.


Driving home through Orlando, S had asked if we could take a detour through Celebration, the weirdly sterile Disney subdivision, or town, as they prefer. It is an eerie place, all about facades. It is what Paul Fussell would call "BAD."

As we drove through, we discussed income levels of the residents of Celebration. Why would someone spend so much money to live there? S wanted to know if they were rich people. We talked about the fact that real rich people, or more specifically, upper middle and upper class people, don't draw attention to themselves (as explained in another Paul Fussell riot, CLASS: A Guide Through The American Status System .) The Celebration residents are all about show.


Something about driving through and seeing the horrible mess of Orlando solidified in my mind what I don't want for my children:

Any type of career in a service industry. I don't want them to be a cog in some corporate machine; a worker bee.

What they do is up to them, but I hope they end up in a career where they must use their minds, and if they do work for someone else, let it be in an industry making a positive contribution to society, not just a contribution to someone's bottom line. Like the brilliant people at NASA.


We'll be watching for the Atlas 3A Rocket tonight at 12:40 EST.

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