I recently rejoined the Planetary Society, after a long, long time away. It’s not that I cooled on the idea of exploring other worlds – anyone who has friended me on Facebook or followed me on Twitter knows that I spent 2015 crowing about New Horizons swinging past Pluto, possibly even more than I mentioned my kids.
One of the reasons I joined again was to get the Society’s amazing quarterly newsletter, primarily so I could immediately hand the physical copies of it to my oldest son, because he loves stars, planets, moons, and the spacecraft that visit them as much as I do. Doesn’t this mean I’m not getting the newsletter? Nope – members can download a digital copy anytime they like. They can even download back issues.
In the course of trawling through those back issues, I ran across an order form that fired long-dormant synapses and took me back to my own space-soaked childhood.
Oh, those slide sets. I ordered them all. All. of. them.
Produced by Holiday Films, the slide sets could be purchased with or without an accompanying cassette tape (which would include tones to trigger some automatic slide projectors to change slides).
Other people had 35mm slides of their family vacations. Me too, assuming you were talking about vacations that happened in my head as I was clinging tenaciously to Voyager 1’s magnetometer boom as it zipped past Jupiter in 1979, or as I was sitting on top of Viking 1, watching it take the first pictures from the surface of Mars. And…yes, you guessed it, I once took a vacation all the way to Uranus.
In the days before the internet, this was how members of the public got their hands on NASA imagery – it was either ordering slide sets like these, or waiting the two-or-three months of lead time that it took for an article to be published about a recent mission in Astronomy or National Geographic.
Similar ads also appeared in Astronomy Magazine, along with ads hawking NASA mission patches, and I fell into that hobby too. (I’m still there.) Armed with a second-hand slide projector, and a smaller slide viewer that had the handy side-effect of bearing more than a passing resemblance to Mr. Spock’s hooded science station viewer from Star Trek, I was off on my vacation through the solar system on a regular basis.
These days, of course, you can hop online and look at raw photos almost as soon as they’re transmitted back to Earth. In my adolescence, staring at slides from NASA missions was a seriously geeky pastime; these days, there are meetups and tweetups and that seriously geeky pastime is considered by more than a few people to be cool. (One NASA mission, Juno, will arrive at Jupiter in July 2016, and NASA is allowing the public to nominate targets at which to point the on-board “Junocam“.)
But once upon a time, when you were a geeky kid in Arkansas, you just had to place a few mail orders to slide across the solar system.
Below are some links to help you and yours begin your vacation through the solar system…without any mail order wait time.
Curiosity (Mars) raw image server: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/
Opportunity (Mars) raw image server: http://mars.nasa.gov/mer/gallery/images.html
Mars Express (Mars) raw image server: http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Missions/Mars_Express/%28class%29/image?mission=Mars+Express&keyword=+–%253E+Keyword&idf=+–%253E+ID&Ic=on&subm3=GO
Dawn (Asteroid Belt) raw image server: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/
Rosetta (Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko) raw image server): http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Missions/Rosetta/%28class%29/image?mission=Rosetta&type=I
Cassini (Saturn) raw image server: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/raw/
New Horizons (Pluto and beyond) raw image server: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/soc/Pluto-Encounter/
Planetary Society: http://www.planetary.org