Category Archives: Space

Pondering the Eclipse

solar_eclipse_nasa

Today’s eclipse – courtesy NASA

In ancient times, an eclipse was a terrifying event. It was often interpreted as God, god, or gods anger. It was a message for people to repent and change their ways.

Naturally, we’re far too sophisticated to let a predictable passing of the moon between the sun and earth concern us. We understand science and math, physics and astrophysics.

But, then again, if you look at the state of the world today, maybe it would be good to repent and change our ways.

Start Tracking the Next Generation*

spock

Leonard Nimoy as Spock (Thanks, and we miss you already)

My in-laws now live near us, so we can include them in celebrations, or just drop by to visit. Of course my wife is with them to help navigate doctors, health insurance, and the other great mysteries of life.

Our son is headed into his final year in high school; our daughter headed to her freshman year.

In the meantime, my older son and his wife, who are up in New England (it’s true- “You can’t get there from here.”) have added a second granddaughter to our favorite grandson and our first granddaughter.

Life keeps us busy. One of us is attending to parent, child, pet, neighbor or whatever, while the other is equally busy (or busier) elsewhere. It’s bad enough that we pass one another like “two ships passing in the night.” When either of us passes ourselves as we scurry from one duty to another, that’ll grab your attention.

Today I realized that I’ve been parenting for forty years. That should count for something (free perpetual VIP access for all the great bands of my youth, [Eagles. Jimmy Buffet, the Who, Jethro Tull, etc.], as well as all first class cruises, AND an ambassadorship to France, Germany, England, Japan, or Poland, at the minimum).

Alas, that’s not how it works. Instead, as time goes on, we focus even more on others rather than on ourselves.

But then Jesus, Himself, said, “The student is not greater than the master,” and He came to serve, not be served.

I’ll keep trying to follow His example, and in another forty years, maybe I’ll have figured out how to do parenting correctly.

Or, maybe not.

*with apologies to Gene Rodenberry

20 July 1969

Plaque on Apollo 11 Lunar Lander

Plaque on Apollo 11 Lunar Lander

I had just graduated from high school. Viet Nam dominated the news, especially for young men approaching their 18th birthday.

But in the midst of it all, we answered the challenge of President John F. Kennedy to make it to the moon and back within the decade of the 1960s.

Wow!

The lunar module detached from the command module and descended to the moon’s surface. Neil Armstrong prepared to land on the moon using an approach chart just like pilots would use here on earth. However, since no one had been to the moon before, the detailed chart was based on photographs and estimates. As he got closer, he realized that the intended landing site was not safe. Unlike on earth, he could not merely go around and make a second attempt – there was not enough fuel. Well trained, disciplined and determined, he coaxed every bit of lift out of the spacecraft and brought the Eagle to a safe landing.

When I saw that even I, a soon to be befuddled college freshman, knew – I KNEW – anything was possible.

Forty-five years later, I still know it’s true.

Do you?

 

Science FICTION vs. SCIENCE Fiction

The_Martian_2014

My older son dislikes the reboot of Star Trek because of some of the liberties they take with the laws of physics. I on the other hand am happy to allow artistic license in order to have a good story.

Of course, I grew up on the notoriously under-budgeted original Star Trek, while he grew up on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. The original couldn’t afford the sets and models for a different planet each week, so they created the now ubiquitous transporter. Considering that this was in the days before the first real world moon landing, that was a leap of faith (or a tweak of physics) in its own right.

On the other hand, there are some great stories that take great care in ensuring that the science is reasonably well adhered to. I just finished The Martian by Andy Weir.

There have been marooned stories from before Robinson Crusoe to the recent movie Gravity. The trick is to tell it in a way that’s reasonably plausible. Mark Watney is part of a team of astronauts on Mars that is devastated by a dust storm. His team mates see him impaled on a metal rod and blown away, but can’t recover his body because their launch vehicle is rapidly succumbing to the same storm. Recover one dead astronaut and they’ll add the whole team to the killed in action list.

Of course, Mark didn’t die, but to survive he has to figure out certain things.

How do I get water on Mars?

How do I find some way to grow some kind of food in something?

Like a detective novel, it’s the “how does he figure this one out” factor that makes this book fun, and there are many things to be figured out.

Looking Back at Looking Forward

spockSONY DSC

When I think back to growing up in the 1960’s, many of the things we see today are really not that much of a surprise.

Thanks to Star Trek, ubiquitous computers, communicators (smartphones), and tricorders (tablets) were actually fairly predictable.

James Bond and Mission Impossible taught us to expect someone to listen in on phone calls – after all, Barney from the Impossible Mission Force always knew which wire to connect (or in the case of a bomb, which one to cut.)

It might have been a little bit of a stretch, but of all the “British Invasion” rock and roll groups, the Rolling Stones would be the ones to still be around.

On the other hand, I never would have expected that one day there would be theme songs and jingles for lawyers’ television commercials.

Star Trek Spoiler

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but for the Trekkers out there.

Remember V’ger in the first Star Trek movie?

amsat

Here’s a Cubesat – a cube shaped amateur satellite.

We’re sending lots of them up there.

Here’s a Borg spacecraft.

borg

You don’t suppose there’s any connection, do you?

Am I Back?

I’ve been having trouble writing lately because all I seem to read about is scandal, celebrity, celebrity-scandal, murder, rape, pillage and politics. Ugh!

We Geeks like to find the silver lining in any and every cloud, and it’s been pretty hard lately.

But, then I saw it.

Orbital Sciences successfully launched their Antares rocket carrying supplies for the International Space Station (ISS) from Wallops Island, VA. With the space shuttles retired, NASA had been relying on the Russians for transport and supply of the ISS. Now they’ve got two additional partners, Orbital Sciences and SpaceX.

Wow! It’s kind of like “Two Men and a Truck” at seventeen miles a second. Nothing glitzy. Nothing fancy. Just reliable delivery service like UPS or FedEx with a couple of million horsepower.

Now I have to write about the CubeSats and student experiments that the Antares carried. Then I need to write about a Geek philosopher I’ve recently read.

Stay tuned.