“I don’t have friends at NASA … bunch of nerds.” – Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock
NASA may have a ton of nerds, but they're doing some pretty amazing things. The International Space Station is the third brightest object in the sky, only less luminous than the sun and the moon. It is easy to see, but hard to spot.
Not now: NASA's Spot the Station will text or email you about two hours before the ISS will pass over your house.
All you have to do after receiving the alert is look up and catch a glance of the football field sized, 861,804 pound space station that looks like a plane moving through the sky.
Anyone one with an email address or SMS capabilities on their phone can sign up. The Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas determines sighting opportunities for 4,600 locations worldwide.
By November 10, 2010, the ISS had orbited the earth 57,361 times. That is a lot of opportunities for sightings.
NASA's Spot the Station program will only alert you of "good" sighting opportunities. The station is 200 miles above ground. NASA says that you could receive alerts "anywhere from once or twice a week to once or twice a month, depending on the space station's orbit." They add, "Don't worry if there are big gaps in between sightings!"
I went to Space Camp when I was 11 years old. It wasn't the amazing experience I hoped it would be: the Space Shot was admittedly awesome, the moon-gravity-simulator was so-so, the mission simulator was only alright, and the Space Camp jumpsuit made me feel like one of the nerds Jack Donaghy was talking about on 30 Rock. But the thing I remember most was one kid passing gas — I mean really letting one go—in the middle of a conference room with 200 other kids who were just yelled at to shut up, and us erupting in wild laughter.
My best Space Camp memory didn't involve anything involving the final frontier and didn't lead to a career at NASA. It didn't, however, deter my fascination with the galaxy. The universe is an amazing place, and while a glance at the International Space Station may not make me change my mind about Space Camp, it certainly is amazing that NASA can send me a text message telling me to look up at the stars to see the ISS passing by.