What’s next

Posted on February 22nd, 2010 by george.
Categories: future, history, society, space, synthesis, technology.

Endeavour landed yesterday on its penultimate mission. I tweeted about it, noting that there are only four space shuttle missions left on the manifest. My friend Patrick just asked me what’s next for NASA after the Shuttle retires. My reply on Facebook turned into an essay, so I thought I’d share it here.

What comes after the Shuttle? All the things about NASA that don’t make the headlines will continue. Some even get more funding. The Shuttle has been the poster child for 30 years, but in the meantime, NASA has been instrumental in furthering our understanding of climate dynamics, earth observation, deep space astronomy and cosmology. Robotic planetary and solar exploration, cutting edge research in biology, materials, aeronautics, energy generation, propulsion, you name it, have all continued. Shuttle launches are sexy. But when they end, perhaps a little more light will be shed on everything else NASA does. Cassini, the robotic probe that has taught us more about Saturn and its moons than we ever knew before, just got a seven year life extension. And human space exploration isn’t dead; the Falcon 9 rocket just went vertical last week, with a test capsule that SpaceX claims can be human rated. Static test firings of the Falcon 9 could come as early as this week. Private subspace (read: Virgin Galactic) should come online this year. The Russians are cranking out Soyuz launches like Henry Ford did Model Ts. Europe, Japan, China, & India all have launch systems. The Shuttle will stop flying, but humans won’t. Maybe if we’re lucky they’ll resurrect the HL-20. Or the X-33. And don’t forget: the Air Force has a spaceplane now.

Humans have had a continuous presence in space since the year 2000, thanks to the International Space Station. Think about it. For the last decade, a single second hasn’t passed that someone wasn’t zooming over your head at 17,500 mph. It may sound pie-in-the-sky, but that’s the reason I answered a question about NASA’s future with international and private examples: as we go forward, this will be a cooperative effort. It’s one planet. One home. That is an inescapable fact. We are one species. Why not pool our efforts? There’s no need to reinvent the rocket just because you live in a particular spot on this planet behind some imaginary line. There’s no need for every country to send an individual probe to the moon or Mars just because we hoard information about our solar system as if we own it because we were the first to discover it. A fact is a fact; congratulations on learning it first. Now SHARE.

Newsflash: you can’t see borders from space. In my book, that means they don’t exist. They are mere constructs, accidents of history, that everyone seems to agree upon. They are fiction. Made up. There is true reality, and then there is that of which we are convinced. Exploration is inevitable. So is growth. I hope the void left by Discovery and the other shuttles makes room for the spaceships…and discoveries…of tomorrow.

12 comments.

Walking on the moon

Posted on August 18th, 2009 by george.
Categories: film, future, history, photography, space, technology, youtube.

via WIRED

Ever watch those old videos and wonder why the Apollo astronauts developed a loping gait when walking on the moon?  Turns out the spacesuit, being inflated like a balloon, helped support its own 220-pound weight.  The internal pressure also made it difficult to bend the joints of the suit.  When the knee did bend, however, it would spring back, providing an extra pep in each step.  This combined with the low lunar gravity meant that the transition speed (the point where humans break into a run from walking) for a suited Apollo astronaut was much lower on the moon.  Hence the moonwalkers skipped, bounced and loped across the lunar surface at speeds where we earth-bound humans would simply stride.  With any luck this discovery will be brought to bear on the design of Martian spacesuits.

BONUS:  I just realized the music video for the Police’s Walking on the Moon was shot on location here at the Kennedy Space Center, back when the unused Saturn V rocket was on display outside the VAB, rusting away until it was restored and placed in a dedicated museum down the road.

2 comments.

Alnilam

Posted on November 7th, 2008 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, history, life, poetry, space.

No light from any star on high
Can ever reach your earthbound eye
Unless it travels ‘cross the sky
Through time for you to see it

For time is just a form of space
As poets past have long embraced
So every photon starts a race
The moment its star frees it

The race is won when through the air
It strikes your eye while standing there
Its maker’s beauty brought to bear
The journey done at last

The sky of now you’ll never see
From here unto eternity
For stars in your reality
Are from the distant past

Indeed the closest star to us
Past twenty trillion miles must
Ring out its light in hope and trust
In four years it will shimmer

Watch it sparkle watch it dance
Think of how it took the chance
That in the future you might glance
Above and see it glimmer

So when you take in constellations
Think of ancient men and nations
Of firmament’s eternal patience
In shedding all its light

And know you’re watching history
That stars aren’t where they seem to be
And some have even gone to sleep
In that unending night

2 comments.

Space/travel

Posted on October 28th, 2008 by george.
Categories: epiphany, health, history, mathematics, space, travel.

Hey kids!  Been a while, eh?  I hope you’ve been enjoying the photos from our trip to Bolivia and Peru; I’ve been using my nightly internet allowance to edit and post those shots.  Lorenia put it best this afternoon when she said, “I consider flickr the same as blogging.  You’re simply leaning on images more than words.”  I hope that explains my absence of late.

Huge changes are afoot.  I get married in a matter of weeks (YAY!); my fitness, diet and sleep goals (yes, I have sleep goals) are getting closer to reality; new opportunities are arising at work; and I just got word that one of the references on my astronaut application has been contacted.  You could say things are going well.

There is so much I’ve wanted to blog about.  I have several ideas every day, and it pains me not to have the time to write about them all at length.  Now that I’m on the Zone diet, I spend a little more time each day planning and preparing meals.  Add work, crossfit, and flickr to that, and I do well to get a movie in here and there.  Right now I have over a hundred blog entries started, just waiting to be fleshed out.  At the very least I know I’ll have plenty to do if I ever lose my job or go to the hospital.

What’s broken my silence tonight, first and foremost, is a little something about NASA I’d like to share with the general public.  As you may be aware, most of the infrastructure at the Kennedy Space Center was put in place in the early sixties.  The VAB has recently been re-clad after a series of hurricanes over the past few years, and many other upgrades are underway in advance of the new vehicle.  One of those projects is the removal of the large blast-shield louvers on the front of the Launch Control Center.

LCC Louver Removal

Given the decades that these iconic shields have been in place and the millions of visitors to the Kennedy Space Center every year, there are probably billions of photos of these louvers in existence.  Now, with the fancy new windows going in, they are being dismantled and removed.  Out of curiosity, I called up the project manager today to see if they were being donated to a museum.  He was very excited to tell me about the project, emphasizing the care with which the crane operator removed them and gently placed them on a flatbed truck to be sent to KSC excess.  His mood changed, however, when he recollected that once at the salvage site, the workers stabbed the louvers with a forklift and tossed them into the woods.

My plea to you is this:  if you know anyone who would like to include a large part of U.S. space history in a museum, memorial or large-scale art installation, please contact me, and I’ll get you in touch with the right people.  There are three more firing rooms whose louvers have not yet been removed.  Now is your chance to do something to support the space program.

Ok, next topic!  I was on the crossfit website today looking up WODs when I ran across this little gem of an article.  The TSA is one of my favorite whipping boys, and I consider this piece to be the final word on the futility of their existence.  I hope the next Administration has the good sense to abolish the organization and apply their seven-billion-dollar budget somewhere it might actually do some good.  I mean, seven billion dollars?  Where did that even come from?  That’s more than half NASA’s budget!  Do you realize what we could do with those funds?  At the very least, if you’re worried about terrorists, apply them to intelligence where they might actually do some good.  I’ve always found the hassle of the TSA’s security theater galling.  I’m convinced it’s a) a jobs program and b) a crutch for the airline industry who otherwise wouldn’t make as much money on non-refundable tickets.

I’ll leave you with a few words about an epiphany I had today.  After a near-death crossfit workout at the gym, I walked out into the brisk evening breeze and witnessed the glory of the fading sunset.  The cold blanket of air hovering over the continent had pushed all the clouds out of the Florida sky, so we were gifted with a rare, clear-sky dusk.  I marvelled at the strip of orange resting on the horizon, and how the gradient passed through green before fading into the midnight blue overhead.  Two bright planets pierced the veil of the heavens before the stars spilled out, and in thinking about the tilt of Earth’s axis and its role in the seasons it dawned on me:  someday soon we’ll model all the molecules in the atmosphere, and the secrets of how the giant globs of warm, wet, cold and dry air dance around the globe will be revealed.  With a clarity that only intense exertion can create, I further realized that all of mathematics is but a simplification.  It is true, it is correct, the science that rests upon it can be empirically verified, but it is an approximation.  If our beloved equations fully described reality, we world create worlds when we wrote them down.  Instead, they allow us glimpses into creation; they are useful tools for understanding our place in this universe and how to manipulate this wonderful reality to our ends.

Not bad for a weightlifting session.  Exercise is for nerds.

4 comments.

Nine slices, five seeds

Posted on September 11th, 2008 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, future, history, life, love, music, synthesis.

Over the past few days I have been listening to Radiohead’s “Hail to the Thief” on the commute to and from work.  It strikes me that when I first played this album on the stereo, kicking back in my 70’s-era chartreuse La-Z-Boy (oh, how I miss that chair), looking out my bay window on the streetlights of Laurel Avenue, atop the ridge of Fort Sanders in arguably one of the most coveted properties for students at the University of Tennessee, surrounded by meticulously-tended gardens and rosebushes too often robbed of their blooms by passersby, that I didn’t like it.  It’s strange to have adored “Kid A” and “Amnesiac,” coming so hot on the heels of yet such a departure from Radiohead’s timeless masterwork “OK Computer,” only to have “Thief” stick in my craw.  At the time, I couldn’t place why it didn’t resonate; I’ve since heard that it was “thrown together” on a short schedule, and suffered from what some say is a lack of polish compared to previous efforts.  I now realize, after having “In Rainbows” wear ruts into my soul, pressing its melodies into the fiber of my being, rivaling the majesty of what to this point was my favorite album, that “Hail to the Thief” suffered only from lack of context.  It was simply ahead of its time; too raw, even though it was finished and complete, like a bridge suspended across a chasm whose far side has only now seen the tectonic plates of time grind past each other, lofting the perfect cliff into place under what seemed a terminus hanging in dead air.  The bridge to nowhere now emerges as a grand paean to the future as told by authors of the past, a gathering together of the sine wave of repeating history, a needle and thread through the wrinkled fabric of this collective consciousness, drawing tight the crevices to be filled with the golden light of meaning.

 

  

It dawns on me now that my love for this group of musicians was tied to the future more than I could imagine, their prescience wholly overshadowing my own, a hand reaching down and transcending the dimension of time, their glowing ladders of song rising out of the misty and dark swirls of this material world to the ethereal flights of the spirit.  I see too, now, that I have not yet fully appreciated my time in the city of my education, the lessons I learned in and outside the classroom, the mistakes I made and the choices I got right that have led me to this day, this moment, these words spilling forth over the banks of my stream, tumbling down white over the rocks of fortune.  Even for all its gray skies and cold nights, its mists and trials, its mazes and morasses, worn desks and defaced walls, I see that I loved that city, my time there, the people I shared it with, the sunshine they reflected that pierced the hazy air.  The rainbow arcs high and bright over the sapling of my existence now; for all their deep and abiding knowledge of past predicting future, I cannot recall a band that’s been through the hourglass that has enjoyed such lofty greatness for so long, or excelled so magnificently so late in their glorious career.

 

P.S. I’m getting married.

 

10 comments.

khamsin

Posted on February 28th, 2008 by george.
Categories: epiphany, friends, future, history, life, poetry, prayer.

a gift from within the stone fortress
sent on feathered wings
graced with golden dust

a release
in the form
of an embrace

an ambassador
with a gossamer key
to the shackles of my own design

a prayer for peace
sent back with the dove
to the point round which all angels

fly

3 comments.

MMVII

Posted on December 31st, 2007 by george.
Categories: future, history, life, poetry.

three quarters of an hour away
but further than the edge of space
farewell to someone else’s future
to a time they never saw

I don’t see your horizon
your line in the sand

a tickmark on a never-ending reel
an arbitrary screed on a player piano
rolled up by some long-dead pope

behold the empire of my resolve
stronger than a seven-nation army

I see seven hills
I see seven days
each one a new year

oh seven
oh seven
oh oh seven

2 comments.

Happy birthday, blogosphere!

Posted on December 17th, 2007 by george.
Categories: fun, future, history, technology.

I can’t believe you’re ten years old. My how you’ve changed things!

In other news, the future of the electric car is starting to look very promising!

What, you want more good news? Okay!

How about I up the ante with some great writing?

Something for your adrenal glands.

Something to get your mouth watering for the winter. (Watch the videos)

What about real, breathtaking HD video of orbiting our Moon? (Thanks Kevin!)

Speaking of breathtaking.

For the curious, an expert explication of the forces behind the headlines.

There. That should tide you over while I’m at SED.

3 comments.

Poem for a friend

Posted on December 6th, 2007 by george.
Categories: epiphany, friends, history, life, poetry.

twenty miles away
the glowing orb
our lifestar
squashed into an overripe orange
and dipped behind a string of clouds
a mile away
a solitary bird took flight
and winged its way between the rays
that flew so straight and true
from the blazing inferno of its Source
to the overflowing cup of my eye
circled
then crossed the path again
with I the only one to see it
in a flash
I saw the sun of the Egyptians
and the Greeks
I saw with the eyes of every warrior
hunter
farmer
and philosopher that has been or will be
and the dawn of realization
left me with a seed of contentment
this is it
and this is worth it
in the balance of all the good and evil humanity has wrought
I am content
for it has brought us to this moment
were civilization to find its end
in this dark night
it would be enough
now as the light fades
and night crawls up with its dark blanket
even as the image is burned into my mind
I breathe deeply
and give thanks
for humanity

3 comments.

Serendipity

Posted on September 17th, 2007 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, food, friends, fun, future, history, life, love, music, prayer, synthesis, travel.

Fere, Farah and Sarah

If there’s one thing I’m learning about writing it’s that when inspiration strikes, you must strike back, while the iron is hot. Some of you are probably wondering after the whereabouts of that potentially controversial essay I planned to write on Thursday, the day Lazi got into a car accident that left her and her friend upside down, hanging from their seatbelts. Don’t worry, she’s ok. But you see how easy it is to get distracted? Now it’s three a.m. after a life-changing weekend and my head is full of five pages that I can’t afford to sacrifice sleep to commit to words. God forgive me, but I feel I must resort to the dreaded bullet list. Behold: as many highlights from the weekend as I can remember. Rest assured there are hundreds more my poor brain is already forgetting as the cup overfloweth.

• Working extra hours in advance to leave work early Friday for Savannah to attend Louis and Shezel’s wedding
• Picking up Sarofsky and Justin in JAX
• Seeing happiness in the eyes of the four parents of the bride and groom
• Meeting Louis’s and his father Michael’s brothers
• Meeting Cara and Rob from Orlando and learning about life at Guantanamo and the difference between an interior decorator and an interior designer
• Bonding with Justin
• Bachelor party laser tag
• Gourmet brekkie at the posh hotel downtown, included with the room
• Getting half price on said posh hotel
• Meeting Brittany, the vibrant soul with light in her eyes, a lilt in her voice, spring in her step, and heart in her service, a senior in interior design and our cashier at the sandwich shop
• Hearing the words “Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” sung by a local artist at an outdoor cafe the moment we rounded the corner to the sandwich shop
• Making it to the wedding in advance to help set up
• Enjoying the honor of reading 1 Corinthians chapter 13 during the ceremony from the microphone between the bride and groom, their silhouettes framing the faces of an audience brimming with love and support for the couple
• Reuniting with members of my local Brevard County family on the lawn
• Meeting Brenda and Nancy, kindred spirits, by the hors d’oeuvres as the sun went down on a beautiful day
• Sharing tough but enlightening conversations with Ladan and Ramzi and family
• Witnessing the impossibly beautiful blending of the cultures of two different families manifest itself on the dance floor
• Busting several moves on said dance floor before the rug-cutting was cut short
• Listening to Darrell dedicate his poem to his little brother
• Eating wedding cake in honor of Mom (it’s her favorite dessert)
• Throwing Persian “rice” at Louis and Shezel on their way to the limo
• Finishing off the last of the wedding cake
• The Saturday night misadventures of $20 covers at bowling alleys, full car sing-alongs, and visiting the beach at Tybee Island for the first time at 2am, spending hours splashing in the ocean, looking at the stars and talking about the universe
• Waking up late Sunday to bid farewell to so many wonderful new friends (including the third interior designer!) like Navid, Adeeb (my new cousin), Shawn, Mona, Nissa, Cheryl, Sarah, Jalil and Sina
• Eating leftover wedding cake before lunch
• Enjoying lunch on the sidewalk in downtown Savannah with Sarofsky, Farah, Fere and Justin
• Justin’s eagle eye spotting Brittany walking straight toward us from across the street
• Marvelling at the serendipity of meeting a complete stranger twice in two days in a major city, embracing the second time and realizing you are old friends
• Hitting the road like Juan Valdez in order to make it to St. Augustine by 7pm for the once-a-year 1905 Day at my favorite restaurant in Florida: The Columbia
• Arriving at 6:35
• Being informed that no more reservations are being taken
• Sweet-talking the hostess and getting a table for 8:45
• Stepping outside to inform the group that we need to wait two hours and can enjoy the city, the second wonderful historic Southern town to introduce Justin to in the span of two days
• Being caught by the manager just before we set out and being taken to a table right away
• Enjoying the best gourmet Spanish food this side of Spain and paying 1905 prices (Cokes were ten cents, soups fifty cents, salad a dollar, entrees $2.05)
• Paying the tab without blinking and tipping the waiter double the bill
• Enjoying the ride home with my sisters Farah and Fere accompanied by good music
• Thinking the night was over only to be introduced to five religious refugees from Iran, family of local Baha’is who arrived in the United States 10 days ago
• Welcoming them to our community, learning about their lives and their journey, sharing stories and gaining amazing insights about prayer and destiny
• Being blessed with tangible evidence of the undeniable unity of all humans in the form of five brilliant souls
• Mentioning the five sisters and noticing the five-pointed star on Mehrvash’s necklace
• Listening to Siroos translate from Persian to English, and noticing that Kazim used the word “rouhani” several times in Persian
• From what I can tell, rouhani means “spiritual”
• Rouhani is Shezel’s maiden name, bestowed upon her family in the early history of the Baha’i Faith
• Kazim had never heard of the Rouhanis until tonight
• Thanking God for the limitless divine outpourings accrued over what must be recorded as three of the most intense days of my life, three days which are a direct result of the spiritual journeys taken last weekend in Texas
• Witnessing firsthand the soul-stirring, foundation-shaking, happiness-inducing, resolve-solidifying, purpose-endowing power of the Tablet of Ahmad, the Fire Tablet, and the Tablet of Visitation of Abdu’l-Baha

9 comments.