Explain it like I’m 7.5: Does the space have an “outside”? Does it even have a “surface”?

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A while ago, my 7.5 year old son asked a seemingly simple question that had no easy answers at all. Instead of struggling with the question alone, I decided to tap into the collective intelligence of the whole world. Internet, after all, is supposed to be used for more than sharing cat videos, right? Right?

So, I asked:

One of the Internet denizens suggested that I ask the same question on Reddit’s ELI5 channel, that is, “Explain it Like I’m 5” channel. Being a casual Redditor for the last 14 years, I said “why not?” More

Mars? Again? Why?

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I was driving my 6-year-old to school a few days ago, and we had the following conversation:

– Hey, I’ve just learned that NASA is sending yet another spacecraft to Mars. And we can put your name on it! How cool is that?
– Mars?
– Yes.
– Why is it always Mars? Aren’t they bored already? Mars, Mars, Mars… but there are so many other planets, dad!
– Well, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because close to us, and not that hot. And logistics, you know. So many things to discover.
– Always Mars. Why? I don’t understand!

Apparently he was a bit disappointed that it’s not another planet to which we’ll be sending his name. Sorry kid, but for now, we’ll have to make do with Mars. So here we go:

For the curious reader, this is about the the Insight Mars Lander mission of NASA, and “Another Chance to Put Your Name on Mars“. If you want to send your name, or your child’s, you can visit https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/insight.  There are already more than 1 million names registered! According to Frequently Asked Questions, you can see the photograph of the microchip on which your name will be etched at the following web addresses: https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/insight/learn/.

According to NASA: More

What to do with your kids on a weekend? Visit the European Astronaut Centre on German Aerospace Day


There is an excellent opportunity for parents living in Belgium (or anywhere that is not far from Cologne, Germany) that presents itself every two years: German Aerospace Day. The latest event took place last year, and unfortunately our son was just a few months old then. Thus I decided to take a field trip and get familiar with the environment, so that maybe next time (or four years later) I can take him to this wonderfully exciting event in which a child can ask questions directly to the astronauts or walk inside the 1:1 scaled of International Space Station‘s Columbus module. And then maybe go through the initial procedures of applying for being an astronaut. On the more adventurous side, he can join the other children and build rockets, and then test them in real-time 😉 (Well, I’m sure some parents will have at least as much as their children, if not more.)

German Aerospace Day

German Aerospace Day


Of space and children


Arman smiling

Arman smiling

Days are passing by at an unprecedented speed thanks to our son Arman. My time perception changed quite a bit during the last 20 days. Arman witnessed a historical moment yesterday, when he was about 19 days old. Around 10:30, I downloaded the live groundtrack file from NASA’s Space Shuttle mission pages. Then, I and my wife started to watch the final space shuttle mission (STS-135) via Google Earth. As Arman was resting on the couch in our living room, and the space shuttle was decelerating in an amazing manner, approaching the Earth, flying over the Pacific Ocean, I tried to answer some technical questions of my wife. Then she became curious and wanted to watch the real thing via NASA TV.

Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle

I know that Arman will not remember any of this but I’ll try to help him construct some then-long-gone memories, events that he witnessed unconsciously, namely the end of the glory days of space shuttle era when he was just a newcomer to the Earth. It was also a very nice coincidence that we also watched BBC’s wonderful documentary about the space shuttle era: The Space Shuttle: A Horizon Guide. I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch this very informative and exciting documentary again with Arman when he grows up but it’ll definitely help me to detail the story I’m going to tell.

Some people and publications started to ask whether the space age is over (see The Economist’s ‘Is this the end of the space age?‘) but I think that as long as new babies are born and some of them inherit the wonderful, noble and admirable curiosity of the great minds who initiated the space age, we are going to be surprised by the developments and discoveries that will eventually take place in the context of space-related research. And when that time comes I’ll turn to my son, smile to him and say “hey, didn’t I say so, check out the archives! ;-)”

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