Time for another giant leap into space

NASA Space Shuttle Enterprise arrives at John F.

NASA Space Shuttle Enterprise arrives at John F. Kennedy Airport. (April 27, 2012) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Let's go somewhere fun.

How does Mars sound? Or Pluto? I don't care, anywhere that's far, different and feels like somewhere once we get there. For a good long while now, NASA has been having trouble getting the trip-planning formula quite right.

It's been almost 43 years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon. And where has NASA been flying lately? Oh, right. I almost forgot. Until recently, it used to take commuter runs to the International Space Station, where the astronauts would do few experiments, perform some maintenance chores, wave goodbye and head home quietly. Not too many giant leaps for mankind. No rocky souvenirs at all.

Clearly, there's still a huge public appetite for space travel. You saw the throngs on Friday, staring skyward as the space shuttle Enterprise buzzed low across New York City on one of the greatest piggyback rides of all time. The future museum attraction even looped above Roosevelt Field mall, a flying hat tip to the former airfield where Charles Lindbergh took off for Paris in 1927.

The Enterprise was just a practice craft. It never achieved a day of orbit. And yet, associated as it is with a once-glorious space program, it still hinted at all the highflying possibilities Up There.

Surely, we can do better than experiments in low orbit.

Venus, anyone?

SPACE PACE

1. 10, 9, 8, et cetera

2. One small step, then another small step

3. Armstrong, Aldrin and some other guy

4. Up, up and maybe it went that way

5. It's a bird, it's a plane -- it's a 747 carrying a retired space shuttle to a tourist aircraft carrier on the west side of Manhattan

ASKED AND UNANSWERED:Have any Mineola residents been called at home by "the water department," threatening a nonpayment shutoff? Don't pay! It's a scam, says Mayor Scott Strauss . . . Worst acronym ever? Can you beat TVASNAC, the Town/Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee repping residents around (just three letters) JFK? . . . Real dentists have enough trouble getting patients to make their appointments. How did alleged fake dentist Manuel Carranza do it at his New Cassel home? . . . If Nassau County installed an ozone monitor, would the air test any cleaner than Suffolk's "smoggiest in New York State"? The American Lung Association can't say . . . With forecasters predicting a below-average Atlantic-hurricane season, what extra-wimpy names do this year's storms deserve? Hurricane Aww-don't-worry-about-it? Hurricane Be-calm-it's-going-somewhere-else? Hurricane Category Zero?

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