Alison Wilgus writes about space and space exploration over at Tor.com, but she’s also got some serious chops when it comes to visual storytelling. This past summer she got the chance to visit NASA and watch one of its launches. Specifically, she was a guest of the program and got witness a launch for the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, through which all those astronaut tweets and blog posts that made Chris Hadfield a social media star were routed. The TDRSS also funnels data from the Hubble and other satellites, video from the ISS, and so on — as Wilgus puts it, “Basically anything in Earth’s orbit that’s transmitting information is tied to the TDRSS.”
Wilgus’ comic provides tons of info about the history and purpose of the TDRSS, and that’s just her getting started. She takes us on a guided tour through the event, presenting information that might otherwise be a bit dry by giving the NASA speakers more visually interesting things to do, such as bearing on their shoulders the literal weight of all those acronyms NASA loves so much, or brokering a merger between a dude with a satellite for a head and a lady with a rocket for a head. (Is that supposed to be reverse phallic? I just don’t know.)
After the presentation about the TDRSS, she got to take a gander at the Atlas rocket on the launchpad, and she learns the many steps that have to be checked off before it’s time for the actual launch.
Her visit also included a sobering presentation on climate change — the TDRS system also gathers data on weather and planetary conditions.
Things are guaranteed to spark nerd glee when she starts giving us the rundown of some of the NASA vehicles, rovers, probes, excavators, and whatnot. I want to collect the whole set for myself.
All in all, I find myself wishing NASA would just let Wilgus move in with them so she can continue exploring our space program in a cute, easily digestible visual way. If you’ve been enticed by these few pages we’ve shared, you should definitely click over and read the full comic when you’ve got some time set aside. It is rather long, as webcomics go, but it’s worth sticking with it, because this stuff will be thoroughly addictive for you space junkies out there.