…and then the future makes us look up.

…and then the future makes us look up.

An interesting weekend transfixed by The Weather Channel, calling friends and family to see if all is well, and watching, watching, watching via some of the most incredible technology available as a primordial force of Nature crawled at a nightmare-slow pace across sea and land. The hurricane was a second act to a similar one that struck Texas just a handful of days earlier. It morphed and changed as quickly as errant memory but always it ruled not just air and airwaves but thoughts and feelings. Was this the herald of a new era or merely a casual denizen of a time that had already arrived while so many of us were asleep?

In the future, both near and far, our children’s children will not recall the Debate That Never Was. Their’s will be an altered world but one they will call home and one they will find is quite worth fighting for. I don’t know what those battles will be but they will extend beyond grappling with new infrastructure, troubled growing seasons, and shifting priorities. There will be families to care for and jobs to be done. The names of those who dragged their heels and tempted fate…who made it a sport to scoff at the men and women of our time who warned of this…who made money in wagers against our children’s futures…those names will be lost like dust before the wind.

There was a launch from a far-off place called Kazakhstan today. Three guys named Mark and Joe and Alexander voyaged off the planet. Their nationalities don’t matter. Yet physics and energy and vision and courage were combined in the form of a human-made wonder called a rocket. This flight will be a minor footnote in the annals of history, surely. But when you see these launches you feel the future tickling your spine. We can do great things when we all work together. In the end our children’s children will help the world turn into something better.

Worlds without end.


The Workaday Spacewalk

The Workaday Spacewalk

As I write two astronauts are performing a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station. I like to call the ISS “Izzy.” This was a nickname for the station used throughout the novel Seveneves by author Neal Stephenson.  I try to catch the daily updates from Izzy. I find it all very interesting. Currently serving aboard are 6 explorers: 3 Russian cosmonauts named Andrey Borisenko, Sergey Ryzihkov, and Oleg Novitskiy, a French astronaut named Thomas Pesquet, and 2 American astronauts. Currently the spacewalk features the 2 Americans: Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson. Just before lunchtime (EST) Peggy Whitson broke the record for most accumulated spacewalk time for a female astronaut. That’s amazing and I wonder if such records will always be kept.

I’m watching a livestream courtesy of NASA TV. Its nice to full screen it and see all the happenings via the astronauts’ helmet cams. While I hammer out LabVIEW code I pick up voices and glance at images. Their EVA work seems at times strenuous, detail-oriented, and intense. But what is striking me today is how workaday it all seems. I’ve read that astronauts make it all look “easy” because of their long hours of training. I’m sure as in most things practice makes perfect. Yet from my vicarious view over the shoulder of each astronaut today’s deployment of protective covers seems like a routine task being undertaken by two focused yet almost casual professionals. And that sense of normalcy is pretty cool. It’s nice to watch an event where rationality, eagerness, and common-sense rule.

Not that today’s spacewalk was not without incident. One of the covers that was to be deployed went adrift. On the Izzy Cam it became a receding dot against the dark, starless sky. There was brief talk about going to retrieve it but that was ruled out. The tracking team noted it was in a position ahead of the station and poses no “re-contact hazard.” I think that means the lost cover will not become a thing that goes bump in the night.

The team on the ground worked with existing hardware to put together a Plan B. They need to cover up a section of the station’s docking adapter. They opted to use the bag that the covers come in. Shane and Peggy were pretty quick to adapt what materials they had to get the job done. Listening in, the casual viewer might not have known that anything had gone awry. No worries, I heard Shane say. Pretty cool.

The spacewalk continues and my workaday salad is now depleted. Back to the lab with me as Peggy, Shane, and company circle the Earth. Keep up the good work, you guys!