I’m going to be away from the keys for the rest of the day. My son Matthew and I are making a quick trip to Los Angeles. It’s his birthday present. Matt turns 14 in September, but the time to make this trip is right now. He is intensely interested in space, and has been for some time. He is an autodidact who knows vastly  more than a 13 year old should about astronomy, rocketry, orbital mechanics, and the like. He was consumed with excitement about the Mars Curiosity Rover mission, and spent a long time watching NASA feeds from the rover. This is what the kid lives and breathes.

For his birthday his mother and I are giving him a trip to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena for a tour. And not just any trip. It turns out that Keith Comeaux, the rocket scientist who led the Rover mission, is an old friend from our LSU days. Keith has, with extreme generosity, agreed to give Matthew and his father a personal tour of JPL tomorrow morning. Matt will get to meet many of the scientists he’s been watching on video and idolizing for quite some time. And he will get to see what is to him the center of the universe. Imagine a pious Catholic making his first trip to the Vatican, and given a tour by the Pope’s secretary. That’s what we have here. I told Keith that this trip, for my son, is not just an “oh wow, this is neat!” trip for a teenage enthusiast. Matthew’s degree of passion is such that this pilgrimage — that’s what it is for him — could well be vocational, could be the moment at which he finds his calling to be a scientist. Or not. It’s going to be very, very special, no matter what. Me, I don’t care much about science, but I care a whole lot about this kid, and his mother and I are thrilled to be able to support his passion, and to reward the study he’s put into it over these last couple of years.

Matt has been levitating for days now. We’re about to be off to the airport. Please be patient about a slow wait to approve comments. I’ll blog more here once we arrive at our hotel later tonight, and then tomorrow, after the tour. We’re headed back early Saturday morning, so this will be a very short trip. We are so grateful to Dr. Comeaux and JPL for welcoming us. More later…