The Internet: the final frontier for space watchers
August 29, 1996
Web posted at: 10:45 p.m. EDT
From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman
(CNN) -- Did news of the possible discovery of ancient
bacterial life from Mars rivet you to your TV screen for the
next two days? Do you stand in fields at night to gaze at
the starry wonder of the galaxy? Is it your dream to see the
space shuttle lift off -- in person?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you'll want
to know about some sites on the Web that will help you pursue
your space interests.
The NASA Homepage
If you're looking for gripping graphics and compelling page
layout, this is not the site for you. Although the artwork
isn't bad, the site's strength are pages and pages of
information. Unlike many other government agencies, which
have been slow to put public reports and data on their new
Web sites, NASA puts virtually everything
available to the public on its pages.
Particularly useful is a page of Frequently Asked Questions
about NASA. The questions range from "What is the U.S.
government doing to investigate UFOs?" to "How can I become
Two corollaries to the NASA Homepage are also worth
mentioning: sites for the NASA Shuttle Mission and NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
NASA Shuttle Mission Site
If space flight appeals to you, this site is better than the
main NASA site; you'll find what you want faster.
Information on past flights is available, beginning with the
first shuttle liftoff on April 12, 1981. Most mission
histories include biographies of their astronauts; payloads,
if any; and spacecraft specifications.
You can read about the status of future flights -- when
they'll take off and what their plans are. And if a
spacecraft is visible in the sky, you'll be told where to
find it. For example, much of the world will be able to see
the space station Mir without a telescope through the end of
August. To find out whether you can see it, check the Mir
Information about the planned International Space Station
is also available on this site. Keep in mind that anytime
the shuttle is about to launch, the site's traffic picks up
exponentially, and it can be hard to make the connection.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
If your dream is to conduct scientific experiments outside of
the gravitational pull of Earth, check out the JPL site. The
laboratory designs all space shuttle science projects, and a
technical site it is. If you revel in the details of
astrophysics, the site will give you the basics, then refer
you to universities that help put the projects together.
Florida Today Space Online
Florida Today is a newspaper published in Brevard County,
known as the "Space Coast," for the last 30 years. After
years of winning awards for coverage of the space industry,
the paper decided to try its hand at the World Wide Web.
The result is worth a look. If you're a launch watcher, this
is the site to see. It has information on shuttle and other
spacecraft launches, tourist tips and space news.
Especially useful is a question-and-answer section with
specifics on how to view a launch: how to apply for an
official pass onto the Space Center grounds, where to park if
you don't get a pass, even what radio stations to listen to
for launch updates. Another valuable feature is in the
works: tips on how to get the best photograph of a launch.
If you're planning on catching a launch soon, do yourself a
favor and do your homework -- if not here, then at NASA's
site. The trip will be better.
CNN's Space Exploration Gallery
Just as CNN has covered every space shuttle launch
extensively since the shuttle's first liftoff in 1981, CNN
Interactive now covers shuttle launches on its Web site.
Shuttle mission news is available from this page, beginning
with STS-73 in October 1995 and updated each time the shuttle
launches. Information on Project Galileo and the Hubble
Space Telescope is also available.
Catch up on the details of past missions, and watch for
updates to this site in two weeks. The Space Shuttle
Atlantis is scheduled for takeoff September 12, 1996 at
6:26 a.m. EDT (1026 GMT). Whether it takes off on time or
not, we'll be there!
SETI Institute home page
Perhaps your interests are more theoretical. Web sites
abound for alien-seekers: people trying to prove there is
life on other planets or that entities from other planets
have visited Earth.
The SETI Institute site is one of them. The Institute, whose
goal is to Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has a
clear, attractive layout -- and a sense of humor.
Their site's traffic apparently shot up after the release of
the blockbuster flick "Independence Day." SETI Web masters
have created a "Fact or Fiction" page for visitors who
learned about the institute through the movie.
As part of SETI's research, its scientists use computers to
listen for radio signals from outer space. The institute
also seeks to help teachers by providing instructional
materials that can be shared with students.
Area 51 Research Center
As its name implies, the primary concern of this Web site is
what is -- or isn't -- going on at Area 51, a classified
military base north of Las Vegas. The Air Force reportedly
tested a number of top secret military jets, including the
Stealth fighter, at this facility. Some UFO followers, or
self-proclaimed Ufologists, believe the military is studying
extraterrestrial spacecraft there.
You can enjoy this site even if you're skeptical of UFO
sightings. The authors don't state as fact information that
they can't back up and, in general, seem willing to label
claims as either credible or not. They expect proof, and
they expect fellow Ufologists to measure up to scientific
Which leads me to the value of this site. If you've ever
heard passing remarks about Area 51 or Groom Lake --
especially through entertainment media such as television's
"The X Files" or the movie "Independence Day" in which Area
51 was prominently featured -- and it piqued your curiosity,
this is the place to be.
Do me a favor, though. If you don't like the site and think
UFO study is malarkey, don't flame its Web master and tell
him I sent you.
Not sure? Click here to compare your configuration
with each site's browser requirements
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.