Weightless – Part 4


(Continued from Part 3)

The next evening, arriving home after scout troop meeting, Gregory heard some noise out in the garage. He entered to find his dad expectedly working on his project.

“I thought science projects were for kids,” Gregory said. “I don’t suppose this plywood thing is going into space, is it?”

Mr. Jackson was on his knees reaching down into a wooden box, tightening a bolt with a socket wrench. He was still in his dress dress slacks and shoes. “There. That should do it.” Turning his head he responded, “So, how did it go today with Jenn?”

“You had to bring that up, didn’t you. I’d rather talk about scouting.”

Like usual, when Mr. Jackson insisted on a response,  he just waited. In this case he just sat there, on the ground, looking straight at Gregory.

“Okay, I told her she was right and I was wrong.” Gregory paused and then spoke with tension. “Then she went on and on about the similarities of atoms and space.”

“Atoms?” Mr. Jackson raised both eyebrows as he turned the plywood assembly over.

“Yah. Something about the orbit of electrons around the nucleus of protons and neutrons.” Gregory sat on a shop chair and continued. “I mean, I know that opposite charges attract, but I never compared the orbit of a spacecraft to electron orbitals.”

“Maybe that’s why you two like each other; opposites attract! You kids are pretty smart,” Mr. Jackson smiled. “It sounds like your friend is pretty good at chemistry or biology.”

“Where in biology together.”

“I’m proud of both of you. It’s an interesting comparison. Electrons and satellites move pretty fast, but it takes a lot longer for a satellite to orbit Earth, than for an electron to orbit the nucleus.”

“So what is this thing,” Gregory said, pointing at the various parts on the garage floor and work bench. “And what does it have to do with your work in space.”

“Well, in a few years, a new spacecraft is going up. It will be a mission to intercept a comet, grab rocks from the surface of the comet, and return them to Earth.”

Gregory tossed his scout handbook on to the workbench and slid back into his chair.

“I’m waiting for my specific assignment but I’m hoping it will have something to do with weighing the rocks while on the spacecraft. I’m building this prototype to improve my chances of getting…”

“Why do we need to know how much the rocks weigh? Can’t NASA weigh them when they get them back to Earth?”

(To be continued)

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