Preparing to roll on...

Wooo, update: I have a ride to Barcelona with three other guys from ISU on 2 September. And there is a small amount of funding available if I present our ISU team project paper at the International Astronautical Congress in Valencia. Getting to Spain was a huge hurdle, and staying in Spain—without running out of money—during September was a second hurdle that immediately followed that one. Other issues remain such as where I'm going to stay in Barcelona and Valencia, but hey—things tend to turn out well in the end if you put enough sensible effort into preparation.

That's funny—there were only nine planets when I woke up...

Now there are twelve planets, apparently, thanks to a draft resolution from the International Astronomical Union's General Assembly.

Really I don't care that much if Pluto is a planet or not. Astronomers, for all of their empirical, stiff exterior, however, have an emotional attachment to it—one way or the other, for or against. It's not about numbers, no matter what the verbiage in the draft resolution says—Pluto remains a planet because it has always been a planet.

And that's OK with me.

Pluto would always have nostalgia saving its status. Maybe not just nostalgia—inertia. Emotional inertia. Discovering another planet in the solar system is a big deal. For all of my cynicism, I recognize that. It's like discovering a new continent or island on Earth, or discovering a new element. To try to take away the prestige of a fundamental discovery would not even be seriously considered. The solar system is our neighborhood, and when new neighbors are discovered it makes the place that we live more interesting. As residents, we become accustomed to the neighborhood and we are comfortable that we know all of its other residents. Even though all of these objects have always existed in the solar system, they never had status, and now that there is the opportunity for status, there is the opportunity to identify more residents and to slightly change what we know about our identity.

It's funny what a title can do. Suddenly, Ceres has status. Now it is important. On 15 August, Ceres was an asteroid. On 16 August it is a planet. We learn about the asteroid belt as students, floating there uninterestingly between Mars and Jupiter, not taking on any life or importance of its own. A footnote—something that has to be covered after the rocky planets but before you get to the gas giants.

Now Ceres is a planet. And so is Pluto's moon Charon, and an object known as 2003 UB313 that is so far away that it takes approximately 560 years to make one revolution. What's more important is that there are likely more objects out there that will be known as planets. They just have to be found.

There are candidate planets...

Yeah, I certainly sound like a space cadet about all of this, but I don't mind. My cynicism has hardened me sufficiently to avoid getting too excited about personally exploring space, but the discovery of the strange things that are out in the solar system or universe—or any discovery on Earth—still excites me. It's the only part of my self that still connects to the six-year-old in me.

Where in the world is ISU?

Check it out, Google Earth placemark: International Space University, Illkirch-Graffenstaden, France

i.e., where the "party" is from 8am to 8pm every day...

Also, our home: Foyer l'Etudiant Catholique, Strasbourg, France. Yes, it's called FEC—the Irish kids here love that name...

Update: Here is the path that I take every day from FEC to ISU. Go to Tools > Play Tour (or ctrl + alt + P) and you can take a tour. It's not that impressive of a tour; this is the first time that I have created a path in the upgrade of Google Earth Plus that I just purchased yesterday.

That is, I just updated from a relatively benign drug to something much more serious.

To Prague

Nothing to write about this weekend—Australian Dave (i.e., Dai-eeve), Jo, and Jorge are heading to the Czech Republic this weekend to do... whatever there is to do there. I've heard good things, and I'll report back with pictures. All I know is that it's not part of the Eurozone, so I get to pick up another form of currency: the Koruny—approximately 1 US dollar equals 22 of those.

Medical evacuation on Mars, err, Canada

Upstairs, the ISU summer session Life Sciences department is remotely participating in a simulated extravehicular activity (EVA) medical evacuation, i.e., someone's fallen and they can't get up on fake Mars in northern Canada. Down here on the "first floor"—this would be the second floor back home, but I'm trying to convert my brain, and don't get me started about my inability to convert to Celsius accurately—we're talking about space policy in Luxembourg in the Policy and Law department. Shoot me.

Does anyone want to place odds on which is more likely during their lifetime—the Cubs winning the World Series or people walking on and returning from Mars? Trust me: your best bet is that the Cubs are not better than anything, no matter what the bet is...