Tag Archives: history

Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden passes at 88

Their numbers slowly shrink: Al Worden, who orbited the Moon as commander of the Apollo 15 command module, has passed away at the age of 88.

For three days in 1971, Worden circled the moon as Dave Scott and Jim Irwin worked on the lunar surface — including driving a rover for the first time. Being a command module pilot has been called the loneliest job in humanity. In the spacecraft alone, not able to talk to anyone when the capsule was on the back side of the moon. But Worden told NPR in a 2016 interview, “I was pretty comfortable with being by myself.”

After Scott and Irwin returned from the lunar surface and the crew was on its way back home, Worden conducted a spacewalk, the first ever in deep-space. He ventured outside the capsule to retrieve film from the scientific cameras.

The link is to an NPR obituary, so of course it makes a big deal about the effort by the astronauts to make some extra money by selling postage stamp covers that they bought with them post-flight.

Worden remembers it this way, “Jim and I were told that this was something that happened on every flight. No big deal. Well, it turned out to be a huge deal.” Even though previous crews had profited off lunar souvenirs, it became a public relations nightmare for NASA. The three astronauts never flew again. Worden said he regretted what happened: “I think the flight speaks for itself. I think the science that we did on the flight speaks for itself.”

I always thought it was quite offensive that the American government, the press, NASA, and the public took offense then about this. These guys were not paid that much, slightly above an ordinary middle class salary, for doing something totally unique and incredibly dangerous. If they had a chance to make some extra cash on the side, all power to them.

This was just after the 1960s, however, and private enterprise and commercial profit was steadily going out of fashion. We as a culture had bought into the Soviet model of top-down government programs that were centrally controlled. For any of the individuals involved to make some independent cash for themselves was considered crass and corrupt.

Regardless, God speed, Al Worden.

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What Happens When an 18 Year Old Buys a Mainframe

An evening pause: This is a bit long for an evening pause, and I myself did not understand a good portion of the terminology, but it is still fascinating and worth watching nonetheless, if only to give you hope for the future. As the last questioner at the end said, “I think you’ve raised the bar on what all of us should expect from our kids now.”

Hat tip Diane Wilson.

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Bucky Covington – Different World

A evening pause: Performed live in 2014.

Hat tip Mike Nelson, who notes that the song probably “resonates far more to you and me than the performer. The lyrics trigger vibrant memories of my life as a kid in the 1960s going to Redeemer Lutheran grade school.” I agree, as someone who also grew up in the 1960s going to public school in Brooklyn, New York. Yet, I also suspect that Covington’s childhood, born in 1977 in North Carolina and growing up in the 1980s, was not that much different. No computers, and as a kid you played outside.

And most important of all, you grew up with a mother and a father, who were committed to staying together to raise their kids. That time is sadly long gone, and the children since have suffered terribly because of it.

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College apologizes because teacher accurately quotes historical document

The coming dark age: The head of the University of Oklahoma has publicly apologized for a journalism professor because that professor had, after warning the class, accurately read aloud an historical document that included the word “nigger.”

The heart of the apology says it all:

The professor, a faculty member in History, read from a historical document that used the “N-word” repeatedly. While she could have made the point without reciting the actual word, she chose otherwise. Her issuance of a “trigger warning” before her recitation does not lessen the pain caused by the use of the word. For students in the class, as well as members of our community, this was another painful experience. It is common sense to avoid uttering the most offensive word in the English language, especially in an environment where the speaker holds the power.

This apology is downright hostile to the pursuit of knowledge, and coming from the head of a university is especially appalling.

My regular readers know that I forbid the use of obscenities by commenters, as I oppose the recent cultural trend to make their use ubiquitous and casual. I think it debases everyone, and prevents thoughtful debate. However, if you want to get an accurate sense of history you must have the open-mindedness to tolerate hearing such things in order to understand that history.

Moreover, this administrator assumes that his students are so pathetically weak and delicate that hearing this word would destroy them. Poppy-cock! What is really happening is that he is bowing to the race-mongers and political bullies who have been using their demands on what language to speak to force everyone to endorse their political rule.

The future is grim if it will become impossible to learn anything that might offend you. In fact, in that culture you really will not be able to learn anything at all.

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Abraham Lincoln – an annual tribute

An evening pause: Today is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. As I try to do every year, I honor his memory on this date. As I wrote last year,

it is once again time to remember a man who stands as one of our nation’s — and possible one of the world’s — greatest leaders. Of our Presidents possibly only George Washington is more significant. We must above all not forget the incredible and now all too rare good will he held for everyone, even to those who hated him and wished to kill him.

Lincoln stood for freedom for all humans, the central heart of the American experiment. He was willing and did die for that stance. We should all be willing to do no less.

The video below shows probably every photograph ever taken of Lincoln, in chronological order. You can see him age and mature. You can also see a gaunt and serious man who appears to care deeply about whatever he does.

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A historian’s testament to Rush Limbaugh

It was very strange to me to hear yesterday’s sad announcement by Rush Limbaugh that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. In the last six months or so my mind had actually been contemplating the fact that Limbaugh had been doing his show for more than three decades, was in his late sixties, and was not immortal. I had been trying to imagine what it would be like when he was no longer a fixture in the daily news reporting cycle, and I had been failing. I couldn’t imagine it.

Now it appears we might all be finally facing it. As they say, reality bites.

For those who have listened to him regularly these past three decades, the loss will be immeasurable. Without question Rush Limbaugh has been the best political analyst, from a conservative perspective, for the past half century. You might disagree with his opinions, but no one has been as correct and as pertinent and as thoughtful, consistently getting to the heart of every political battle, and doing it in an amazingly entertaining manner.

I first heard Rush Limbaugh back in 1988, when I lived in New York and was starving for a different and refreshing perpective on the news.
» Read more

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Honoring Churchill on anniversary of his funeral

On this date in 1965 the United Kingdom buried Winston Churchill in the first state funeral for a non-royal family member in thirty years, and one that lasted four days.

Below is a short video of that event, possibly the largest such funeral in the twentieth century. And it was so large for good reason, as noted by then Australian prime minister Sir Robert Menzies:

In the whole of recorded history this [the Second World War] was, I believe, the one occasion when one man, with one soaring imagination, with one fire burning in him, and with one unrivalled capacity for conveying it to others, won a crucial victory not only for the Forces (for there were many heroes in those days) but for the spirit of human freedom. And so, on this day, we thank him, and we thank God for him.

I wonder, who are our Churchills today? Who is willing to stand against tyranny, either within or without our country, and fight for freedom?

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Two abandoned satellites might collide

According to a company that monitors objects in low Earth orbit, two abandoned satellites might actually collide on January 29..

The two satellites, NASA’s IRAS space telescope and the experimental U.S. Naval Research Lab satellite GGSE-4, will swing past each other at 6:39 p.m. EST at an altitude of about 559 miles in the skies above Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They’ll be hurtling along their orbit at a relative velocity of about 32,880 miles per hour and could swing within 50 feet of each other.

LeoLabs noted that, at the time of the tweet, the odds of a collision were about 1 in 100 and said the relatively large size of the two spacecraft increased the risk of a collision.

IRAS was the first infrared space telescope ever launched, and operated for ten months after its launch in 1983. The other spacecraft was a National Security Agency test satellite of surveillance technology.

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Repost: The real meaning of the Apollo 8 Earthrise image

I wrote this essay last year, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon. I think it worth reposting, especially because stories about Apollo 8 still refuse to show the Earthrise image as Bill Anders took it. Note that they took the picture on Christmas Eve, not Christmas day.
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Earthrise, as seen by a space-farer

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the moment when the three astronauts on Apollo 8 witnessed their first Earthrise while in orbit around the Moon, and Bill Anders snapped the picture of that Earthrise that has been been called “the most influential environmental picture ever taken.”

The last few days have seen numerous articles celebrating this iconic image. While all have captured in varying degrees the significance and influence of that picture on human society on Earth, all have failed to depict this image as Bill Anders, the photographer, took it. He did not frame the shot, in his mind, with the horizon on the bottom of the frame, as it has been depicted repeatedly in practically every article about this image, since the day it was published back in 1968.

Instead, Anders saw himself as an spaceman in a capsule orbiting the waist of the Moon. He also saw the Earth as merely another space object, now appearing from behind the waist of that Moon. As a result, he framed the shot with the horizon to the right, with the Earth moving from right to left as it moved out from behind the Moon, as shown on the right.

His perspective was that of a spacefarer, an explorer of the universe that sees the planets around him as objects within that universe in which he floats.

When we here are on Earth frame the image with the horizon on the bottom, we immediately reveal our limited planet-bound perspective. We automatically see ourselves on a planet’s surface, watching another planet rise above the distant horizon line.

This difference in perspective is to me the real meaning of this picture. On one hand we see the perspective of the past. On the other we see the perspective the future, for as long humanity can remain alive.

I prefer the future perspective, which is why I framed this image on the cover of Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8 the way Bill Anders took it. I prefer to align myself with that space-faring future.

And it was that space-faring future that spoke when they read from Genesis that evening. They had made the first human leap to another world, and they wished to describe and capture the majesty of that leap to the world. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Yet, they were also still mostly Earth-bound in mind, which is why Frank Borman’s concluding words during that Christmas eve telecast were so heartfelt. He was a spaceman in a delicate vehicle talking to his home of Earth, 240,000 miles away. “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.” They longed deeply to return, a wish that at that moment, in that vehicle, was quite reasonable.

Someday that desire to return to Earth will be gone. People will live and work and grow up in space, and see the Earth as Bill Anders saw it in his photograph fifty years ago.

And it is for that time that I long. It will be a future of majesty we can only imagine.

Merry Christmas to all, all of us still pinned down here on “the good Earth.”

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Father Berndt – A Soldier’s Silent Night

An evening pause: I think this is appropriate one day before December 7th. From the youtube webpage:

The audio recording of this adapted version was recorded by Father Ted Berndt and his daughter Ellen Stout. Father Berndt was a priest at Bread of Life Charismatic Episcopal Church in Dousman, Wisconsin, a proud Marine, and a WWII Purple Heart recipient.

The poem was recorded in one take. The recording received a national A.I.R. (Achievement in Radio) award from the [u]March of Dimes [/u]and continues to be played in radio stations across the country.

Father Berndt passed away March 19th, 2004 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. According to his daughter, “All he ever wanted to do was touch lives…to make a difference. We are blessed to share “A Soldier’s Silent Night” again with you this Christmas.”

It remains a truth still today that the only soldiers who are routinely welcomed by ordinary people everywhere in the world are American. To paraphrase Chamberlain’s speech in the film Gettysburg (1993), “We come to set other people free.”

Hat tip Edward Thelen.

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Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Some background here.

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Wayne Brady – Thriller

An evening pause: This Postmodern Jukebox version does Michael Jackson’s song in the style of 1930s jazz.

I remember the passion for this song when Jackson first released it in 1982, including crowds forming on the street near Times Square to watch the music video. Yet, I have always wondered why. To me the song and video has always seemed quite uninteresting, almost boring. This version, however, I think brings it to life much better than Jackson. The two dancers are especially good.

Hat tip Diane Zimmerman.

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Celebrating Apollo 12

The Apollo 12 landing site on the Moon
Click for the full resolution image.

Fifty years ago today Apollo 12 was launched, landing on the Moon several days later to become the second manned mission to land on another world.

To celebrate that achievement, let’s review a few of the mission’s high points. The image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows that landing site, the lunar module Intrepid, the various tracks for the two moon-walks Pete Conrad and Alan Bean took, and the unmanned Surveyor-3 probe. The image was taken by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter late in 2011 and released to the public in 2012. To really see some detail you will look at the full resolution version by clicking on the image. Or you can explore the landing even more thoroughly at the original release site.

First, there was Pete Conrad’s point blank landing. They wanted to land close enough to Surveyor 3 so that the two astronauts would be able to walk over to it during a spacewalk. He did this perfectly, bringing Intrepid down only 600 feet away. They were thus able to recover the probe’s scoop, camera, television cable, and other assorted parts. Once back on Earth the big discovery was that a single bacterium, Streptococcus mitis, had survived the journey from Earth and was still alive upon its return. Scientists theorized its survival occurred because prior to launch it had been freeze-dried during prelaunch vacuum tests.

Second, there were Pete Conrads’s first words upon stepping off the lunar module. As the third man to walk on the Moon and also one of the shortest Apollo astronauts, he won a bet with a French reporter, who did not believe he had the freedom to say whatever he wanted as his first words, by saying, “Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small step for Neal, but it’s a long one for me!”

Third, the astronauts installed the second seismometer on the Moon, which functioned for eight years.

Fourth, they brought back 75 pounds of material, which showed that while the Ocean of Storms was a mare lava field like the Sea of Tranquility, it had formed 500 million years more recently.

Fifth and most important, Apollo 12 proved that the Apollo 11 landing was not a fluke, that the engineering behind the Saturn 5 rocket, the Apollo capsule, and the lunar module, was sound. With courage and determination and a little clever re-engineering, those vehicles had been capable of taking humans anyway in the solar system. It is a shame we never took advantage of that possibility.

Hat tip to Mike Nelson for reminding me to post this.

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Comparing Trump vs Obama against ISIS

This very interesting article does a nice job of reviewing the history of ISIS since 2010, the year that the Obama administration released just killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, using multiple news sources and stories.

Here is a rough timeline:

Obama presidency:
2008: ISIS forces estimated to be about 700 fighters, holding practically no ground.
2010: al-Baghdadi is released.
2011: al-Baghdadi takes over ISIS.
2014: Obama refers to ISIS as a “JV team.”
2015: ISIS forces estimated to be between 20,000 to 31,000 fighters.
2015: ISIS establishes global terrorism network resulting in terrorist attacks worldwide.
2016: ISIS occupies 17,500 square miles, with 35,000 fighters.

Trump presidency:
2017: (July): ISIS pushed out of Mosul.
2017 (October) ISIS in full retreat to U.S. backed forces, loses its capital Raqqa.
2017 (December): ISIS forces now estimated to be 1,000 fighters, holding 1,900 square miles.
2019: al-Baghadi is killed.

At this moment ISIS remains a threat, but a significantly reduced one from its peak in 2016.

Like Trump or hate him, an objective look at how he has handled this issue versus Obama’s handling once again puts the victory mark in Trump’s column. Obama’s policy made things worse in the Arab Middle East. Trump has so far improved things.

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Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, dies

R.I.P. Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, passed away today at the age of 85.

Leonov also participated in the Apollo-Soyuz mission, the first joint mission between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

The obituary notes Leonov’s sense of humor. I met Leonov in 2003 when I was in Moscow interviewing cosmonauts for my book Leaving Earth and found him to be a jovial, friendly, and open person.

He told me one story that I thought was significant. He noted the American practice in the 1960s to openly discuss everything that happened in its space effort worked to enhance our achievements, while the secrecy of the Russians only devalued anything they did. As he said,

The honesty of the American press made [those space achievements] more persuasive, more influential. Every little problem was written about in great detail, so that the image of the American astronauts grew, making them heroes. It was a much more clever approach. [Leaving Earth, p. 172]

Leonov for years would accompany astronauts on the bus on their way to the launchpad, providing encouragement. When Helen Sharman flew in space as a tourist in 1991 he gave her

…a ridiculous-looking, pink, frilly jumpsuit. “I got one of the ladies at the hotel to make it up for you,” Leonov said, his sweet round face lighting up in an infectious grin. “Just for fun.” [Leaving Earth, p. 301]

She wore it the first day in space, to the silly delight of everyone.

In the long endless future of humanity in space, only beginning now, Leonov will always hold an honored place.

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Ulysses S. Grant

In my leisure reading these days I have been very focused on the life and history of Ulysses S. Grant, the man who more than any single person made it possible for the north to win the Civil War in the 1860s..

More importantly, Grant’s unwavering offensive strategy in war, to never retreat, to always take the battle to the enemy, to always demand, as he wrote after winning his first major battle at Donelson, “complete and unconditional surrender,” and to always follow up that victory with grace and mercy, became the central tenet of American military and political strategy for the next eighty years, through the end of World War II. It is for this reason Grant in many ways could be considered among the four or five most influential individuals in American history.

In this leisured effort I have read a number of classic histories, including Shelby Foote’s three volume The Civil War: a Narrative and Bruce Catton’s A Stillness at Appomattox. I also, as I always do when I am trying to learn something about history, read the original sources, and for this Grant’s own memoirs came next. (Historians such as I might try to get things right, but for any non-historian it behooves you to read some original sources as well. This will help you distinguish between the historians who succeed in getting it right, and those who don’t.)

I then followed most recently with Jean Edward Smith’s 2001 biography, Grant. The previous writing had focused only on the Civil War. This book gave me the story before and after.

Grant is a remarkable figure. He appears to have been an astonishngly honest and straightforward man, coldly rational about war and what must be done to win. He also was amazingly unambitious, even as he strove hard to succeed. It was his belief never to aim for a promotion, because he believed that effort would warp his judgment. Instead, he tried to do the best he could at any moment, and hoped that by his good works he would rise.

One story I think not only epitomized the character of Grant, but of the America of his time. After the war and the completion of his two terms as president, he went on a world tour, where he was greeted everywhere with honors and adulation. Upon his arrival in Berlin Chancellor Bismarck immediately invited Grant to come and visit.
» Read more

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New York Mets – September 24, 1969

An evening pause: This pause was first posted by me back in 2011. As tonight is the fiftieth anniversary of that grand moment, I post it again, if only to remind the jaded and pessimistic youth of today that miracles really can happen. As I wrote then,

In 1969 the lowly New York Mets, doormats in the National League from the moment the team was created in 1962, came out of nowhere to win the pennant and the World Championship of baseball. … I and my friend Lloyd attended the game in which the Mets clinched first place in the National League Eastern Division. Below is video showing highlights of the game plus the final out, with the crowd pouring onto the field. Though you can’t see me, I am in that crowd, jumping for joy at this most unlikely sports miracle. There was no rioting, only happy fans chanting “We’re number one!” in exuberant disbelief.

And I still have that small piece of turf from Shea Stadium, collected on that night, proof that the unexpected and improbable is always possible.

The unlikeliness of the Mets championship in 1969 cannot be overstated. Before 1969, the team had never finished higher than next to last, each season losing more games than they won. Then, in 1969 they posted a 100-62 record, while coming from far back to overtake the favored Chicago Cubs for the pennant. Moreover, during that 1969 season all kinds of unusual things kept happening. To give just one example, they won a double header by scores of 1-0, with the pitcher in both games driving in the winning run.

As their first manager and Hall-of-Famer Casey Stengel would say, “You could look it up!”

In 1973 the Mets won the pennant again, following the motto “You gotta believe!” pushed by their relief pitcher Tug McGraw. McGraw was so right. Combine talent, dedication, hard work, and an unwavering belief that all things are possible, humans can sometimes do amazing things.

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Charles Walker: the first commercial astronaut

Charles Walker on the Space Shuttle in November 1985

Last night I attended another one of the monthly Arizona Space Business Roundtable events held here in Tucson to bring together the business-oriented space community of this city.

The speaker was Charles Walker, who had flown three shuttle missions in 1984 and 1985, but not as a NASA-employed astronaut but as an employee of McDonnell-Douglas, making him the first astronaut to fly in space under the employ of a private commercial company.

Walker’s job then was to monitor and maintain a drug-processing unit designed to produce large quantities of pure biological hormones that on Earth were simply not possible. Gravity polluted the process, while weightlessness acted to purify things. If successful the hormone produced could be sold to fight anemia, especially in individuals taking radiation treatments. The image on the right shows him on his third and last shuttle mission, launched November 26, 1985. He is working with a handheld protein crystal growth experiment, with the larger hormone purifying experiment on the wall behind this.

According to Walker’s presentation yesterday, this third flight in November 1985 demonstrated the process worked and could produce as much as one liter of hormone, enough to easily make back the cost of the project and leave room for an acceptable profit. They were thus ready for fullscale production on future shuttle flights, only to have the entire project die when the Challenger shuttle was lost on January 28, 1986. With that failure President Reagan declared that the shuttle would no longer be used for commercial flights.

Their business plan had been dependent on the artificially low launch prices NASA had been charging them for shuttle flights. Without the shuttle there was then no affordable alternative for getting into orbit.

The process is still viable, and the need for these drugs still exists. Whether they could now be flown on the new cheaper private rockets, on board future private space stations like Bigelow’s B330, remains unknown. A new company would have to pick up the pieces, as McDonnell-Douglas no longer exists, having been absorbed into Boeing.

I personally suspect there is real money to be made here, should someone decide to go for it.

What struck me most while watching Walker speak was the same thing that has struck me whenever I have seen or interviewed any astronaut: He appeared to be such an ordinary down-to-earth human being. He could have been anyone you meet anywhere.

What made him stand out, as he described his upbringing and how he became an astronaut, was not his intelligence or any physical attribute, but his clear willingness to stay focused on his goals, to work has hard as possible to make them come true. What made him succeed was an unwavering commitment. He wanted to get to space, and by gum he was going to do it!

Charles Walker on first flight, August 1984
Walker on his first flight in 1984.

For example, he was too young to fly in the initial space race in the 1960s. When he finally was old enough and ready in the 1970s, NASA’s space program was being shut down. That option seemed dead. So instead, he began looking for another route into space, and found it with private industry and possibility of making money by using weightlessness to produce medicines in space that could not be produced on Earth.

Obviously, luck is always a factor. Had his project been a little delayed, only a year, it would have never flown, and he would never have gone into space. Similarly, he needed to be in the right place at the right time to get this particularly job in the first place.

At the same time, “Luck is a residue of design,” as said by Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodges in the 1950s. Walker didn’t give up when the Apollo program died in the 1970s, and thus he put himself in the right place at McDonnell-Douglas when this opportunity arose.

We should all pay close attention. If you have a dream, you need to follow it, with a fearless wholehearted commitment. If you do, you still might not get it as you dreamed, but you will increase your chances, and regardless, you will end up doing far better for yourself and everyone around you.

And you still might end up like Walker, bouncing around in weightlessness out in the vast reaches of outer space.

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The modern academic view of the future

Samsung has just released a new report, dubbed Samsung KX50: The Future in Focus, where the company asked “Six of Britain’s leading academics and futurists” to give their prediction of what the world will be like fifty years hence.

According to the report [pdf], people will be living mostly in very dense urban environments consisting of giant, self-sufficient skyscrapers that grow their own food, huge underground complexes, and even undersea colonies. Travel will be by self-driving pods that can double as hotel rooms on long trips, with travel possible between places like Britain and Scandinavia by aquatic highways. Alongside these will be autonomous air taxis that use rivers as commuter routes, hyperloops, and hypersonic airliners.

Not that there will be much traveling. For environmental reasons, most food will be grown close to home, if not in the home itself. Manufacturing will be equally local thanks to 3D printing. And, thanks to automation and artificial intelligence, most people will work in their self-cleaning homes with most of their professional and personal interactions with others conducted through means of full-feedback holographs.

That means that most people will live very sedentary lives, but they’ll also be monitored by biosensors throughout the day as virtual digital companions assess their health, help doctors to prescribe treatments to keep them at peak fitness, dispense health advice, and even custom tailor diets and medicines. [emphasis mine]

The last paragraph immediately stood out to me. These academics saw no moral or ethical problem with such monitoring and supervision. Nor it appears were they aware of the political ramifications of such technology.

Similarly, the report also envisioned “TV and movies beamed directly to your brain via optoelectronic devices” and “Living forever with our memories uploaded to the Cloud.” And from introduction in the report [pdf] itself:

One of the first things that struck me, reading their submissions, was how much consensus there seems to be between all our futurologists, on matters such as direct brain-to-internet connection being a very real possibility before 2069.

The essays in the report itself confirmed this impression. The predictions of all these academics are all focused on imposing their hot-button leftist agenda, including preventing global warming, allowing gender fluidity, pushing environmental activism, and eliminating of meat as food (to name a few), and doing so by the use of technology that is implanted directly into each human being. The world they envision will have every human a pawn in their interconnected robotic-controlled society, with brain implants eliminating our ability to think independently because we are now part of a kind of hive mind.

Samsung then asked British citizens to rank these predictions by what they would most like to see come true. Self-cleaning robotic homes was by far the most popular prediction at 63%, with “Body implants that monitor our health and translate any language” coming in second at 44%.

This poll however was rigged, as it did not ask anyone if they opposed some predictions. I wonder what response Samsung would have gotten had they asked that question.

Nonetheless, the number of people enthused by the idea of monitoring by body implants make me fear for the future. Today young people are addicted to their smart phones and that hive mind. They see nothing wrong with Google monitoring their lives and even acting to control them. I fear that when more convenient but invasive monitoring and control become technologically possible, future generations will be quick to accept it, while they simultaneously lose their individuality and ability to create uniquely.

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New Russia Soyuz spacesuits interfere with Russia pee tradition

Only in Russia: The newly designed Russian spacesuits for use by astronauts during ascent and descent in the Soyuz capsule apparently do not have a fly that will allow the continuation of a long-standing Russian tradition initiated by Yuri Gagarin on his way to the launchpad for his historic spaceflight.

The Sokol-M prototype suit was designed as a replacement for suits worn during launches to the International Space Station (ISS) on Soyuz spacecraft. … The maker of the suits, the aerospace firm Zvezda, says they will be made of new materials and adaptable to different body sizes.

But the new design makes it impossible to carry out one particular ritual launched by the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, who had to relieve himself on the back wheel of the bus that was taking him to the launch pad in 1961.

The stop has been replicated at every launch from the Baikonur launch pad and, many male cosmonauts and astronauts pee on the tyre for good luck – something that would be impossible in the new suit, according to its maker. Female astronauts are not obligated to participate but some have brought vials of their urine to splash on the wheel instead.

“I’m not sure how they will be able to (carry on the tradition), since we haven’t designed the fly,” said the Zvezda director, Sergei Pozdnyakov, quoted by Russian agencies. “We have the design specifications. They don’t state that it’s necessary to pee on the wheel. The design specifications would need to be adapted.”

I suspect, knowing how important traditions and rituals are to the Russians, that the Russian government will require a design change to allow this tradition to continue.

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Dick Cavett interviewing Orson Welles about famous people

An evening pause: Wells made one of the greatest films ever, Citizen Kane (1941), and then spent the rest of his life failing at finishing almost anything. Along the way he met some interesting people, and in this short clip during an interview on the Dick Cavett Show from July 27, 1970, he tells some of those stories.

His story about Churchill fits the gracious and humorous personality of that man to a “T”.

Hat tip Cotour.

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Jim Radford – The Shores of Normandy

An evening pause: I know this is late for the anniversary of D-Day, but I think it actually expresses well the same determination that made it possible for Americans to go to the Moon. Those men at Normandy, as well as in Apollo, stood for freedom, to paraphrase John Kennedy. And they were willing to die to make sure their friends, families, and nation remained free.

What do you stand for?

Hat tip commodude.

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Off to Huntsville, Alabama

I am about to leave for Huntsville, Alabama to give a lecture: tomorrow, July 25, 2019, at 6 pm (Eastern), at the National Geographic Theater located at the US Space and Rocket Center.

This event is part of their “Pass the Torch” lecture series. My subject: How Apollo 8, not Apollo 11, won the 1960s space race and changed the world

If you are Huntsville or nearby please consider coming by. It will be a great event.

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