Monday, January 28, 2008

Vote for Space!

We're all pretty cognizant of the presidential candidates' views on many of the issues: Iraq, the economy, immigration, health care, etc. Indeed, if you don't know their positions, each candidate's website covers these. But there's a problem with this... no one talks about space science or exploration.

The complete neglect given to space exploration is a bit odd for a country founded on principles of expansion and discovery. Yes, there are some important short-term issues at hand, but getting off this fragile rock and learning about our universal surroundings should be something for which we continually strive. Whereas I personally hope human exploration gets a boost — it is, after all, the impetus for this blog — both NASA and private space companies deserve our respect and funding for all kinds of research, with or without the human element.

You can help. As part of the January 30/31 presidential debates, has offered the internet community a chance to submit and vote for questions to be asked during the debates. Until recently, space-related questions had dominated the "most popular" section. Now, however, dull and already-answered questions have pushed the space-related questions out of the top positions. While the issues of immigration, Iraq, and the economy still hold value, it's time to hear something new out of the candidates' mouths. In short, I ask all of my readers to do the following:

  1. Visit the Politico website.
  2. Click "Vote for Questions Now" and select one of the parties' debates.
  3. Click the "Most Popular" tab.
  4. For every space-related question, be it about NASA or private spaceflight, click "vote for this question."
  5. Repeat from step 2, but choose the other party's debate.

Thank you for taking the time to do this, and please forward this blog posting to all of your friends who you think would care to hear something new and exciting in the debates. If anything else, by voting for space-related questions, you can help put the candidate's on their toes: how much time do you really think they've invested in answering space questions? You can either send your friends the URL in your navigation bar or just click the envelope-with-the-arrow below. Thank you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Moving On

You might say that I've "quit." I think I've moved on.

For a number of reasons, I've decided to withdraw from my Engineering Mechanics Master's program. I realize that this action may seem like giving up. In some ways, I suppose it is. But I made the decision with good intentions in mind.

All my reasons intertwine in many ways, so it's hard to say that any one particular aspect has more importance than another.

I'll start with my performance: it was not good. Due to the "unflattering" grades I received in a few classes, another semester got added to my expected graduation date. Having spent the majority of my life in the top academic tier, I found this experience to be personally devastating. I know that I'm better than the grades recorded; that's not to say I deserved higher marks, however. I should have done better, and that leads into my second reason for leaving the university: time.

Working 40 hours a week while simultaneously attaining a post-graduate degree seems to be one of those things I simply can't manage. I don't even think I could have done the same thing in my undergraduate years. In this sense, I have become aware of the sheer amount of will that some others have to complete such a feat. Give me an 80 hour week or a 20 credit semester, but not half of each.

Finally, I have doubts as to whether the information I learned was truly worth its price. The classes offered to me at a Master's level simply did not have the practical value that I expected. Sure, there were a number of things I learned throughout the process, but the combined financial and mental toll didn't balance things out.

I'd like to sign off with a heartfelt expression of appreciation to all of you who have provided support throughout this grad school process. You know who you are: thank you.

Coming soon: the beginnings of the application.