Oct 2, 2008
50 Years of NASA
Posted in: Life & Culture
Yesterday morning, something odd appeared on MIT's campus...
It was a hack! For those of you just tuning in, a "hack" at MIT is clever, elegant, and anonymous prank, designed to amuse and catch the attention of the MIT community (and sometimes the world), while also providing interesting physical and logistical challenges for their perpetrators. As you'd expect, hacking is one of MIT's most celebrated traditions, and the actual hacks that result are admired by pretty much everyone on campus.
This particular hack was done to honor the 50th anniversary of NASA, which was founded in 1958 and began operations on October 1 of that year. Naturally, no one really knows for sure who executed the hack, but I figure some people in MIT's legendary Course 16 program (Aero/Astro Department) would be a good guess.
I first heard about the hack from a few friends talking about in the morning, and I managed to catch a glimpse of it on my way to a 7.03 (genetics) exam in the morning. After the exam, I headed over to the hack, which had been put on the "Dot" in front of the Green Building. The Dot is one of the few grassy areas on MIT's rather urban campus, so it's a prized location for playing ultimate, having picnics, and - naturally - hacks.
The hack looks okay from the ground...
...but not incredibly impressive. Fortunately, the Green Building provided an excellent location for trying to shoot a better photo, so I took the elevator to the 18th floor...and promptly realized there were no public lounges from which I could try to to take a photo, only private offices. Fortunately, a few of the doors were open, so I picked one near the middle, poked my head in, and asked the (slightly confused) occupant, "I'm really sorry to bother you, but can I please borrow your window for a moment to take a photo?"
Happily, the grad student said yes. (See, even grad students can be nice sometimes.) I climbed up to their window, looked down, and saw this:
The Green Building was too close to the Dot for me to see the entire thing! It ended up being an okay photo of Walker Memorial, where I had just taken my genetics exam (on the left), and the Big Sail sculpture, but not quite what I was looking for. So before leaving, I snapped a quick photo of the Boston skyline, which happened to look rather foreboding at the time...
...thanked the confused but polite grad student and then headed down to find a better vantage point. Deciding that multiples of three were a good rule to follow, I tried the 15th floor first, but the view was basically the same. I ran down the 12th floor next, where I seemed to be getting closer...
..but not quite what I wanted. I did, however, see something pretty amusing while wandering around the floor, which apparently happened to be dedicated to geological research. I noticed that many of the scientists in the Building had a habit of putting interesting things on their doors - comic strip cutouts, photos, and the like - to make things more welcoming. But I have to say that this was the most amusing by far.
Finally, on the 10th floor - although not a multiple of three! -I found a view that proved much more suitable for my purposes, and I finally snapped the photo I had come for.
All in all, it was definitely a great way to spend 20 minutes between classes. I think it's safe to say MIT is one of the few places on earth that would choose to celebrate NASA's birthday with a hack. Just another reason I love this school.