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...

Dnepr launch failure destroys 14 CubeSats

Unfortunately, even the world's most reliable launch vehicles have to fail sometime. That was the case yesterday in Kazakhstan—the Dnepr rocket carrying a Belarussian remote sensing satellite, three microsatellites, and 14 CubeSats crashed shortly after launch. CubeSats are simple little satellites that fit in a 10cm cube. Because they're small, they're low cost ways for universities to participate in space programs—costing roughly as much as a new car—and they fit as secondary payloads on larger launches, in this case, the remote sensing satellite. I was paying attention to this launch because University of Illinois was launching their first satellite, ION1 on that mission. Better luck next time with ION2...

Here are the participating CubeSats...

Trains in India

Scratching down ideas...

  • Mumbai to Bagalkot—BCT to UBL (Hubli), UBL to BGK
  • Bagalkot to Vellore—BGK to VLR
  • Vellore to Pondicherry—VLR to PDY
  • Pondicherry to Allahabad—PDY to ALD
  • Allahabad to New Delhi or Calcutta (depending on which flight to the US is cheaper)—PDY to NDLS/HWH

This looks like the probable order of cities I'll visit, and the train connections that I'll use—any suggestions, guys?

Links to use:

Unedited 'On the Road' coming out soon

The edited-out versions of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, direct from the scroll, are coming out soon. Awesome. Though I expect it to be largely gibberish—it wasn't just edited out because it was controversial, but because it was likely unintelligible from the editor's point of view—it's exciting to think of reading the book in its full form. Just before leaving for Florida in June, I read Desolation Angels, and earlier in the spring I read Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954.

Now, On the Road is one of my favorite books, like every other book, far behind Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and slightly behind Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey (or slightly ahead, depending on my mood). I have read it about five times, and the last impression I have of it is that you first get swept up in the fast-moving free-wheeling roaming-about feeling of the book, partly because of the prose style, partly because of the content—one mimics the other. But in approximately the second half of the book, I get a different feeling—irresponsibility, lack of character, uselessness. I still get the talk about "knowing time" and the freedom of moving about, exploring the idea of God and people in different quarters of the US, but Desolation Angels brought a new view to that. In the second half of that book, you can feel Jack's tiredness with the Beat "movement" and the flitting about, acting intellectual, acting as if there's more than there is, just acting different instead of being—a sort of critique on the movement that he helped to start.

Anyway, more on this later, perhaps. Why is this in a blog called "Road Trip to Space?" First, because I prefer this type of literature to astronaut biographies, and it is my blog, dammit. Second, because I'm writing a piece where I simply take out the word "Beat" and replace it with "Space," i.e., thinking about the Space Generation as an insider-outsider, much as Jack did with Ginsberg and Co., the drivers of the Beat Generation.

finished reading Walden this morning

A few lines of note from the last few chapters of Walden by Henry David Thoreau (bold included by me)—

From the chapter "The Pond in Winter"—

After a still winter night I awoke with the impression that some question had been put to me, which I had been endeavoring in vain to answer in my sleep, as what—how—when—where? But there was dawning nature, in whom all creatures live, looking in at my broad windows with serene and satisfied face, and no question on her lips. I awoke to an unanswered question, to Nature and daylight.

From the chapter "Spring"—

A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty. We loiter in winter while it is already spring. In a pleasant spring morning all men's sins are forgiven.

Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it.

From the chapter "Conclusion"—

The universe is wider than our views of it.

If you would learn to speak all tongues and conform to the customs of all nations, if you would travel farther than all travellers, be naturalized in all climes, and cause the Sphinx to dash her head against a stone, even obey the precept of the old philospopher, and Explore thyself.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagine, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

A distinction

According to Dr. Hugh Hill in an ISU lecture on astrobiology today—

  • Astrobiology is the study of the origin, dispersion, and future of life in the universe.
  • Bioastronomy is a combination of of biology and astronomy, searching for evidence of life in the universe.

This is certainly an interesting distinction—to me, at least. I had previously ascribed astrobiology to the folks at SETI which, though fascinating, never particularly interested me. Apparently, that's bioastronomy, which I could do without—let someone else worry about they why's and what's of that, someone with a sharper interest. Astrobiology? Where we came from and where we're going? That's more interesting, more useful, I think.

So I'll pass along a link I saw on NASA Watch: astrobiology.net

Martigny, Switzerland and Chamonix, France

Full set of photos: Martigny - Chamonix, July 2006

Dave at the wheel
Full picture: An Aussie driving on the right... look out!

A9 in Switzerland
Full picture: Sunset in the clouds near Lac Leman

Martigny
Full picture: Up the hill from Martigny

Chamonix
Full picture: Over the Martigny valley

Trient
Full picture: Hiking near Trient

Swiss Alps
Full picture: Mont Blanc

Swiss Alps
Full picture: Looking over the Chamonix valley

Swiss Alps
Full picture: Into the next valley

Swiss Alps
Full picture: Down the ridge

Dave in the snow
Full picture: Summer snowfight

Lac Noir
Full picture: Lac Noir

Swiss Alps
Full picture: Paragliding