There are few things that stir the emotions and awe as much as a space flight. The magnificent water landing of the SpaceX capsule, with two astronauts returning safely from the international space station, on Sunday afternoon, stirred memories of nearly six decades of lift-offs and landings, from Alan Shepard and John Glenn in sub-orbit, to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon, and space shuttle flights too numerous to mention. As the SpaceX capsule plummeted back into earth’s gravity, and those four big, beautiful parachutes deployed to assist the return with scarcely a splash, I was reminded of the faith we place in good science, in the belief that good science matters, and that good science works. It works when scientists can operate without interference from politicians with different agendas. It works when necessary funding is made available, without strings attached. It works when scientists can spend the time needed to develop the necessary systems, sometimes through trial and error (testing, testing, testing!), and sometimes just plain lucky (like the glassy smooth Gulf of Mexico landing site as a hurricane was building not far away). Hats off to the legions of scientists and engineers at Elon Musk’s SpaceX, who now can breathe a little easier before heading off to the next exciting space adventure.
Highlights like a successful space flight are bright spots in an otherwise dismal summer of 2020. No major league sports, no theater entertainment, no vacations for many, none of the usual summertime leisure activities that mark the interim break from school and work. Through it all, two nemeses continue to stalk the nation: Covid-19 and the current President of the United States. The time frame to end the former is unknown at this point, but wearing masks and social distancing are having positive effects here in Northern Virginia. The time frame for the latter is very clear — Election Day 2020 is 89 days away, and early voting, or absentee voting will begin in September.
The last day to register to vote in Virginia is Friday, October 13, and you do not have to register by political party. You no longer have to cite a reason why you wish to vote absentee, but you will need to provide a government issued ID to obtain a ballot, whether by mail or in person. Northern Virginia voters put President Obama over the top in 2008 and 2012, and Hillary Clinton carried Virginia in the 2016 election. In fact, the Fairfax County margin of 197,423 votes was almost the same as her overall statewide margin, proving once again that voter turnout in one jurisdiction can have significant national implications. This year’s results in Virginia, no doubt, will be watched closely on Election Night, so let’s make the turnout huge!
Getting back to good science…although research to understand the coronavirus and how to create a reliable vaccine still is underway, it is a fact that wearing face coverings (including over the nose, please), practicing good hand hygiene, and social distancing all work to reduce the spread of the virus. It’s good science, it’s good policy, and it’s good for everyone. Stay safe, and healthy.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.