Friday, May 23, 2008

New, blue ... yikes, NASA preps for "terror"

OK. NASA and terror, you're wondering. What's up? Are we in the path of some asteroid? Is the sun ready to go supernova? Myra, what's happening? Well, you can breathe again. Earth is not in peril from space, at least not that astronomers know about. However, rocket scientists, mission specialists and in fact, everyone at NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be holding their collective breath this Sunday when it's time for the Mars Phoenix Lander to set down on what scientists call "Mars' arctic tundra." On Thursday, NASA issued a release stating the "spacecraft (launched last Aug. 4) is closing in on the seven scariest minutes of the mission." Those seven minutes are the time it will take the Phoenix lander, traveling at 12,750 mph, to enter the Martian atmosphere, deploy a strong parachute and use its retrorockets to achieve a safe landing on its three legs after its 422 million mile voyage. The earliest mission controllers will know whether or not the landing is successful is 6:53 p.m. CDST -- remember on Sunday -- a NASA e-mail states. If all goes well -- not a guarantee since far too many Mars missions have failed -- the interplanetary probe will begin digging in the permafrost in the ongoing quest for fossils, any remnants of extra-terrestrial microbial organisms -- as in mini Martians. Of course, many more experimental adventures are on the Phoenix docket. You can join the collective breath-holding starting at 2 p.m. Sunday (CDST) on the NASA channel and online at Ongoing Phoenix landing programming also will get into the mission details and plans. At 5:30 p.m., NASA begins live coverage of the landing itself, yes, in real time. Should be quite a terrific show. Well, at least hopefully it'll be great and not disastrous. NASA scientists, in one of their stellar moments, scheduled the landing to take place after the Indy 500. Now how's that for planning? Meanwhile, there's tons of stuff on Phoenix and more at the NASA website. Back to the headline now for "new, blue." Most people who know me also know I am totally deaf in my left ear and have been since childhood ... from what, no one really knows. But all the nerves in that ear are dead. In fact, when I was a kid, I thought everyone had a good ear and a bad ear, just like most of us are right-handed or lefties. So I thought one ear was simply there to balance our looks since we'd all appear strange with just one ear. OK. That said, as I have gotten older and lost some hearing in my right ear, there have been serious problems with my auditory ability, and after trying two different models of hearing aids, both presenting numerous problems and discomfort, I had given up. A few months ago my family started telling me I really needed to rethink the situation and see if any hearing instrument would work for me. That encouragement, plus the fact that many people were getting irritated with my asking to have things repeated (see below, hearing addendum), sent me on a quest. Long story short. This week I picked up my new, blue hearing aid, an Oticon Delta, with the mike behind the ear in a dainty triangle piece (hence Delta) and a teeny, soft plastic tube that sends sound to the ear. I had my choice of many colors for the little triangle and chose blue, even though the entire gizmo is all but invisible. The instrument is so light and comfortable, I don't feel it unless I'm thinking about it. I can use the phone, cell and landline, and go about my day without paying attention to the little lifesaver. I'm hearing sounds I never knew were there. When the audiologist first handed me the instrument, I put it in and told him there was an annoying buzzing. Turns out that was the sound of his fluorescent lighting. When he stuck me in the soundproof testing room, I couldn't hear the buzz. A day later, I told Murray I heard a strange sound outside. "Oh those are birds chirping," he said. "You just never heard them before." And so on. My children sound great on the phone. TV never sounded better. Murray said my voice is different and he notices a huge difference in communicating with me, though he has always been incredibly patient. There is more, but right now I want to segue into the addendum. TIPS FOR TALKING TO THE HEARING DISABLED. A hearing loss is an INVISIBLE disability. If someone you are with has trouble hearing, please be patient and respectful of her/his challenge. Remember, you wouldn't tell someone with a crutch or in a wheelchair or carrying a white cane to hurry up. You would, no doubt, be very patient. Please think about that the next time you get frustrated when someone doesn't hear you. Second, laughing, making fun of a person who has hearing issues can be very hurtful. Loss of hearing is not funny to the person who is struggling to hear. Never yell at a deaf person. It is humiliating. If the person is not aware you are speaking to her, tap her on the shoulder. And when speaking, make sure the other person can see your mouth. You don't need to exaggerate mouthing words but speak slowly and clearly while facing the hearing disabled. With all that, I hope you have a great weekend. I will have a great time actually hearing. I would love to hear from you via comments or e-mail. AND GO PHOENIX, BABY!!

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photo by sarah gross

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About Me

Tinley Park, Illinois
As a longtime newspaperwoman who left the business to freelance, I want to keep in touch with the world. This is my place to reach out with words.