Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Now I can talk about it...

I had to keep quiet about the NASA and Internet Archive relationship until it was publicly announced. It was finally announced here. I hoped there would be a bigger fanfare, but maybe it's early.

So NASA HQ in Washington DC looks just like any other government building surrounding the Mall. Very nondescript except for the NASA logo (the classic one, not the "worm logo"). I don't know what I was expecting - maybe some Jetson-esque structure or something along the lines of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. Something that would tell the world - "this place is important! It is where we plan to get our species off this clod of dirt and onto another..." However the actual style of this building could just as easily claim - "this is where you get your teeth cleaned and renew your car insurance".

Nonetheless, entering the building is very exciting. Getting a security badge and going through the metal detectors all make the visit seem so important (although going through a metal detector nowadays is so commonplace). Immediately, however, it is clear that HQ is truly just a big office building on the inside too. No flashy sci-fi, high tech stuff - only the occasional NASA space poster or informational flier about the Heimlich maneuvers. I remember going to Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, MD a couple of years ago and was struck by how much it looked like a community college campus - totally unremarkable. In my mind, NASA is a real no-frills type of organization - no need for the flash of sexy and futuristic, the standard issue office building will do...

While riding the elevator to the conference room, I saw a piece of bright pink chewed gum stuck on a rail near the back. I had to say something. "This is why I like NASA. All this high-tech stuff and here's some gum stuck on the elevator." Our good-natured NASA liaison quipped "That gum's probably been in space!" For some reason, I really liked seeing the gum. Here is an organization who is primarily known for their forward-thinking, extraterrestrial endeavors and yet their headquarters has all sorts of signs of how humans really are. Sure we can put a man on the moon, but can we keep chewing gum out of the nooks and crannies of our lives...? (Although, the recent discovery of 5000 year old chewed gum in Finland reminds me that chewing gum predates most aspects of Western civilization, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised of its pervasiveness).

So the building wasn't amazing, the people were your run of the mill folks, and yet, I'm still in awe of the achievements of this organization. This is why, in spite of all hurdles ahead, I'm so excited about this project.

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