24 May 2012

Dragon shorts

I've always loved spaceflights and astronautics, so this has been a good week. On Tuesday, the SpaceX Corporation's Falcon 9 rocket propelled their Dragon space capsule into orbit, which then began closing in on the International Space Station--succeeding today in reaching that target. Tomorrow, if all goes well, the ISS will snag Dragon, whose cargo of supplies for the station can then be transferred.

It was sheer fun watching the coverage of the Falcon 9/Dragon launch. That is, for me it was sheer fun. It must have been incredibly tense for the people in charge of the launch. Their joy and relief at news of success was wonderful to behold. I never get tired of watching these sorts of control-room celebrations. (Another sample--listen to the soundtrack as the solar arrays deploy.)

One thing about the SpaceX launch that struck me was the contrast between the control room (personnel and furniture) and those of the International Space Station control room.

The Falcon 9 control room looks like it was built from conference room tables and off-the-shelf computer monitors; the young staffers look right at home in that setting. The other place looks far more "establishment."

However, neither location resembles the Cape Canaveral blockhouses of the 1950's and 1960's.... The only woman visible in the Explorer I launch (1958) is the teletype operator.

Another recent space celebration took place earlier this month, when the Mars rover Opportunity left its winter perch and (remarkably) began yet another season of exploration. If you have only been vaguely following this amazing story, you might be surprised how much time has gone by: Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004 with an anticipated life of 90 days.

Hermitage tour group
Victory Day, May 9:
carrying flowers to Elektro-
stal's World War II memorial
In the company of Judy and our friend Elena and our guests from the USA (Hal, Nancy, and Linda), I set my own personal land speed record on our trip to St. Petersburg last week. We took the Sapsan train, which hit a peak speed of 230 km/h, about 140 mph, the fastest routine speed of a bullet train in Russian service to this point. I've not been on a bullet train in other countries, so this is the fastest I've ever gone on ground transportation. Inside the train, there was no sign of dramatic speed; we were able to focus on entertaining the baby in the seat behind Hal....

Another speed record rather shocked me: the speed with which tour groups pass by Rembrandt's stunning Return of the Prodigal Son in St Petersburg's Hermitage collections. This painting was one of the things that drew us all to the city and the Winter Palace, and I found myself almost physically unable to leave the painting for an hour. But organized tour groups seemed to be able to sweep by in 30 seconds or less. The exceptions were groups carrying little folding chairs--they could stay for a couple of minutes.

This school year, ending in just a few days, seems to have set a speed record of its own. With finals to grade before tomorrow afternoon, I'll add a few links and say goodnight.

"My day at the NATO protests." "Justice is comprised of acts big and small, and God is never short on ideas."

Roland Allen's classic book Missionary Methods: St Paul's or Ours, which in turn inspired Christianity Rediscovered:An Epistle from the Masai by Vincent J. Donovan, is now available for download in several formats from archive.org. (Thank you, Bible and Mission, for the link.)

Jeremy Mott brought this newspaper editorial about my hero Gordon Hirabayashi to my attention: Hirabayashi, who died earlier this year, will receive the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom this month. Here's the White House announcement.

I've gotten a bit behind in following my favorite blues podcast, The Roadhouse. The 377th podcast, from May 12, featured winners of this year's Blues Music Awards. But I especially liked no. 378, through which I found out about the latest Mannish Boys release. I've already downloaded a couple of wonderful tracks.

More from Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi and their great band:


Jeremy Mott said...

Gordon Hirabayashi is one of my heroes as well. I first read about him in the book by Peter Irons,
Justice at War. You can now find out a lot about him on the AFSC website.
I believe that GH was one of the
greatest Friends of the last half of the Twentieth Century. In several ways, he was similar to Bayard Rustin, another great Quaker who deserves a posthumous Medal of Freedom but has never received it.
Both these men were active Friends throughout their adult lives. Both were civil rights activists. GH is best known for re-fusing to co-operate with the WW2
internment of Japanese Americans;
BR is best known as the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. Both of them were imprisoned in WW2 as conscientious objectors--this was the SECOND WW2 imprisonment for GH, a little-known fact about him.
I wish to say some more.
Jeremy Mott

Jeremy Mott said...

Gordon Hirabayashi seems to be the only Quaker who has received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in a very long time. Of course, Joan Baez (who was raised as a Friend,though she has never had formal membership) and her father Albert Baez, a physicist who invented the X=ray microscope, also deserve these Medals, like Bayard Rustin.
I think it's high time for other nonviolent activists who opposed the Vietnam war and later wars, like David Harris, to receive these medals. Most of all, it's high time for President Obama to end the war in Afghanistan.
Gordon Hirabayashi and Bayard Rustin were followers of Gandhi; they believed that nonviolent action might work against almost any aggression. Do we Friends now believe anything like this?
Jeremy Mott