Areas of Unrest
17 April 2001 - Space Geek
QOTD: "Every gentleman should have been exposed to time dependent perturbation theory at least once." - John Waugh
Reading: Steven Connor, Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism
Listening to: Moxy Fruvous, Live Noise
I forgot to mention two stories in Sunday's entry, but it turns out that they fit in well with other things I wanted to write about today. So it's just as well.
The first piece I'd forgotten to mention was the 40th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's earth orbit. One of the major gathering spots in the city of Irkutsk is the Gagarin Embankment. It turns out that Yuri had no particular connection to Irkutsk, but they say he flew over it when he orbited the earth. I haven't looked at a map of the ground track of his flight to check that, but I certainly understand the desire to be part of such a big event. April 12, 1961 was a day that changed the relationship of mankind to the universe forever. It's worth remembering that.
The other story I'd forgotten to pass along is related. Well, sort of. Israel is a partner in the International Space Station and that means there will soon be the first Israeli astronaut. (Well, relatively soon. He's likely to fly next year.) Colonel Ilan Ramon has requested kosher food in space. NASA is accommodating him by ordering the same sort of meals that the military gets for soldiers who request kosher food. The manufacturer is a company called My Own Meals that sells packetized food designed for campers. The story made me smile and reminded me of the old Allen Sherman song, "Shine On, Harvey Blum," with its classic line "we hope you have a very lovely seder in your crater."
What reminded me of these stories and fit in so well was a movie I saw tonight. "The Dish" is about the Australian radio telescope that was used to support the Apollo-11 moon landing. It's an excellent movie, telling an interesting story (based on a true story) in a warm and witty style. The crises (both scientific and personal) were handled well. I've supported early on-orbit test experiments for satellites and I felt that the film portrayed the atmosphere in a support facility very realistically. If you have any interest in space at all, you will love this movie.
And, of course, I alway get all teary-eyed when I see that footage of the moon-landing. It was space exploration that got me interested in science when I was a kid. I remember writing off to NASA to get pictures and brochures, for example. July 20, 1969 was one of those moments when we showed what mankind was capable of in the best sense. It was nice being reminded that was not a uniquely American moment of pride.
It also reminded me that I'm privileged to do the sort of work I do. I may moan and bitch about too many meetings and all my business travel, but I do get to see real satellite data at the end. A few years back I thought about the Wall Street firms that were hiring people to develop mathematical models and how much more money I could make at one of those jobs. But I wouldn't have the same satisfaction as I do from, say, figuring out how to compensate for a star tracker anomaly.
I guess I'm still just a space geek at heart.
Copyright 2001 Miriam H. Nadel
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