Showing posts with label space. Show all posts
Showing posts with label space. Show all posts

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moonlanding - 40th Anniversary

Firstly, its mind-boggling to me that the moon-landing has become a pet conspiracy of people who cannot fathom achievement. Your belief that "we didn't have the technology in the 1960's" does not, in fact, make it so. NASA sent brave men into space, just as they do today. We might as well have said the same about any explorer who ever stepped out of your personal view.

Secondly, far be it from me to wish for another Cold War, but I cannot imagine an America today in which our citizenry has the will or which would be willing to fund the effort it took to get us to the moon. Not when we firmly believe that every tax dollar spent is wasted if its not spent on us, somehow.

That said, I am of a belief that we'd be better off leaving Earth's orbit for altruistic, and/ or scientific purposes, and not for corporate or commercial purposes. Though I suspect the minute that someone figures out how to exploit the rings of Saturn to build a sharper television, that will be what gets us past the moon and out into the rest of the Solar System. Maybe Bradbury's Martian Chronicles (aka: "The Silver Locusts") had too much of an effect upon me as a youth, and maybe I've had The Prime Directive beat into my head entirely too much over the years, but until our imagination reaches beyond exploitation, I'm not sure we're ready as a species to break free from El Sol's pull and join whatever else is out there, moving between stars.

That said, its the spirit of competition which saw Apollo 8 ring around the Moon, and Apollo 11 touchdown on cosmic dust. I'd like to see that exploratory spirit, free of commercial enterprise, guiding us outward, so that when we can look back at our blue marble, we appreciate what we've got here all the more.

Today, The League salutes not just Collins, Aldrin and Armstrong, but the entire flight crew of Apollo 11, and the armies of nameless engineers, scientists, ground crew, and everyone who made Apollo 11 possible. We've had a unique opportunity as a generation born after Apollo 11, to grow up believing, utterly and completely, that with imagination, determination, intellect and will, humanity has no limitations. And I dream of seeing that again in my lifetime.

And, dammit, if its isn't a little sad Cronkite died so very close to the anniversary of the day he guided us through.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Saw Astronauts

So, yesterday League-Pal Julia P. alerted me that her sister, who is a student worker at UT, had landed passes to an amazing event on campus. And, apparently, Rachel's friends are a bunch of dorks with no sense off history or the American Spirit, because they passed up a chance to see three living legends.

This evening I joined Julia, Rachel, Shoemaker and a few hundred other folks to see a panel/ reunion of the Apollo 8 Mission members of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders.

If you don't know who those guys are, well, you should probably watch more TV or whatever the hell I did to know who they were (I do read, occasionally, but let's be real).

LBJ's daughter, Lynda Johnson Robb, opened, and was hilarious. Must be nice to be a Robb and LBJ's daughter, but, anyway, it was terribly sweet.

Moderated by Jim Hartz, the panel more or less took Apollo 8 from start to finish, and gave Anders, Borman and Lovell an opportunity to share some great stories from the mission. And, of course, to describe what it must have been to have been to be the first people to see Earth from beyond orbit, one of the defining moments in human history.

The first Earthrise photo, as snapped by the Apollo 8 mission

It was interesting to hear the context in which these gentlemen described how they thought of the space race, just as much or more a true front in the Cold War and a way to defeat our ideological enemies, as much as building a monument to innovation and achievement.

Some of the Apollo ground crew was in attendance, including Chris Kraft, one of the mastermind of NASA Mission control. The astronauts were more than generous in giving credit where credit is due, and reminded the audience of the extraordinary work that went into putting the missions together.

Its a tough night to describe. We've all got a little hero-worship of these guys, and if you don't, you should. These are the ones, both astronaut and engineer, who achieved the unthinkable and created a new way of looking at the world and the place of our little blue marble against the cosmos. And while they speak knowingly of the weight of the mission, its unpracticed and honest when all of them described the how's and why's of being a part of the Apollo missions in straightforward terms.

I don't know if mankind's destiny is beyond this little backwater planet on the edge of an unremarkable galaxy, but I like to think of how America and even Russia put forth their greatest efforts by their best and brightest to achieve the unachievable. That a war could be fought by sending rockets to space rather than at one another, and that in doing so, return to our planet wiser, with greater knowledge and with new dreams for mankind.

Lynda Johnson Robb mentioned that her father sent copies of the Earth Rise photo to every single leader of a nation, not as a sign of Earth's might or technical superiority, but as a sign of our world as it is. A bright dot against the dark, and that's what we have in common.

Years ago someone sent this to me for The League of Melbotis Christmas Spectacular, and its largely why I know about the Apollo 8 Mission.

On Christmas Eve, 1968 the astronauts of Apollo 8 were in orbit around the moon, unsure if they would return safely to Earth, roughly 238,857 miles from Earth. Family. Safety.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Secret Identity Revealed

Anyone who spends more than 2 or 3 days at my house will see I watch an alarming amount of Austin's 24-hour news channel, News8Austin. Its all local news, weather, sports, events, etc... And its run the way I think a news channel should be run. It's mostly commentary free, unless they have "commentator" below someone's name, and the anchors and reporters don't freely editorialize.

But its also a small, shoe-string-budget operation where reporters build their portfolio or settle into News8's somewhat odd culture of "Pet of the Week" installments and showing up every time someone puts more than three folding chairs outside and rents a microphone.

This weekend they were taping the Austin Marathon (which may or may not have featured JAL), when photographer Eddie Garcia caught something entering the atmosphere and seemingly burning up. You can watch the video here.

Some speculated that it was part of the satellites which recently collided in orbit. NASA has dismissed all that. They say it was maybe a meteor.

Well, Leaguers. That was me. Its a little difficult to explain what I was doing in the ionosphere in the first place, but let us just say that wrongs needed righting, and I could not let the schemes of my nemesis, Dr. Nefario (aka: RHPT) come to fruition. Indeed, the fate of the world was at stake.

So, yeah, that's me and Lucy heading back to planetside. I didn't know I lit up like that on re-entry. Neat!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Astronaut Traverses Continent on Bike

Cousin Jim (he of the Rocket Racing League) has written to inform me of his pal, Astronaut John B. Herrington, who is about to begin a 4000 mile bike ride to promote kid's interest in math and science.

Herrington is also a member of Jim's RRL squad.

Even as I write that sentence, it makes me feel like such an underachieving loser.

Okay, on with the post.

Starting wednesday, Herrington will be riding from Cape Flattery, Washington to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Again, he's doing this on a bike. In the summer. 4000 miles.

So what are you doing with your summer?

This is why astronauts are astronauts and I am not.

Anyway, The League will be following Herrington on his trek via the interwebs. And you can, too, at his site: Rocketrek. if you have a chance, link over to the site from your own blog and help our Astronaut Herrington in his mission.

His mission for SCIENCE!