Rockets and DNA

I’ve recently been selected to do two science things: see a rocket launch, and get my DNA analyzed.

Orbital Antares Model National Geographic Genographic Project


Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket, commercial launch vehicle for the Cygnus unmanned ISS cargo capsule, is scheduled for a test launch on 15 April 2013. Leading up to launch, NASA has invited 25 social media users to a NASASocial event on April 15-17 at Wallops Flight Facility — and I made the cut.

At the time of this writing I am at an inn on Chincoteague Island, having just kicked off three days of tours and talks. It took a three hour drive from DC to here on a rental Fiat 500 but so far I’ve already seen some interesting bits of NASA Wallops: science balloons and sounding rockets. All this will hopefully culminate in a viewing of the the Antares rocket launch from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on April 17th (additional launch windows open till the 21st).


Some members of my family are working on a coffee-table book about the history of our clan in the Philippines, and as my contribution to the book and for general family knowledge, I’ve offered to have my DNA analyzed for The Genographic Project, a worldwide genetic study to analyze the geographic nature of human ancestry and migration.

On my end this involves purchasing a “Geno 2.0” kit from the National Geographic Store, then sending in a cheek swab with bits of my mitochondrial DNA. From there, genomic scientists can determine things like regional origins of genetic traits, the migratory paths taken by my prehistoric ancestors, and whether I have any Neanderthal or Denisovan ancestry.

Macro, Micro

And so I sit here in an inn on the Atlantic Coast, my photostream full of scientific balloons and sounding rockets. A few islands over, a new commercial rocket waits to ascend to orbit. In front of me, cotton swabs and vials wait for a bit of cellular material from my mouth containing genetic data about my ancient ancestors. It’s such a momentous convergence of science at scales both large and small that I feel myself being stretched, upwards, inwards, backwards in time and space. I’m trying to document every step as much as I can because I want people to know about it but the best I can do is snap a photo here and record a video there and throw a few words up on a page, hoping it’s enough to share all this science whirling around me.

Genographic Kit and Antares info kit