Happy Earth Day!
To help celebrate, I decided to jump on the “Global Seflie” shuttle that is being promoted by NASA Today. NASA is hoping to create a mosaic of the Earth from the ground up rather than from space down with the participation of selfies from all across the globe in celebration of Earth Day.
I’m stoked about this campaign by NASA because I think it demonstrates a growing trend connecting space sciences with global and social awareness. My other website www.nobordersfromorbit.com uses space and science fiction to promote social change. As my formal education is in international development, I am always thrilled to bring both my interest in space and social change together and indeed I truly believe both fields inspire one another (which I spoke about recently at TEDxUTSC full video coming soon!) Apollo astronauts said that in going to the Moon, we discovered the Earth. Indeed, nobody had seen the world like Apollo saw it; a blue marble adrift in a giant black ocean. Certainly puts things in perspective.
Our knowledge of the Universe gives us a perspective that inspires us to treasure our tiny blue dot and remember that our world, and the life that it cradles, are fragile and precious. Let’s take care of it! And, on that note, to the Global Selfie I took. It started as a chalk drawing I did at Simon Fraser University Residence where I live and work. My drawing skills are not amazing, but I thought it would be fun to do something that could be captured from the roof of the building I live in. The idea is that you show where you are on Earth right now. I am standing generally in British Columbia (based on my semi-accurate chalk drawing 😉 )
From the Roof
I encourage you to take your own Global Selfie today! Just remember to use the hashtag #globalselfie
A quick update to let you know that I’m giving a talk at TEDx University of Toronto Scarborough this weekend. What’s the topic? SPAAAAACE! (of course). More specifically, the theme of this TEDx is “Converging Realities.” They are looking for speakers who could bridge two fields/concepts/ideas that might seem otherwise unrelated. In my other life, I help run a small non-profit organization called Esther’s Echo. In fact, my background is in International Development where I studied the field at the University of Toronto. In this talk, I will be sharing how space actually encourages my work for social justice, both at home and abroad, which inspired my other site No Borders from Orbit.
Below is a teaser of the talk. The conference is streaming live from www.tedxutsc.com. I’m up at 10AM EST this Saturday February 1st, but the talk will also be available later on YouTube and we’ll post it then as well!
Last week did not bode well for SpaceX’s first attempt at launching dragon. Aborted launches at 4am are not fun for viewers (I’m on the West Coast) never mind for the engineers that had to build, test and attempt to put the craft into space.
However, with a successful launch this past Tuesday, Dragon has now officially docked with the ISS to become the first commercial vehicle to do so. If deemed a success, this mission will secure a resupply contract for SpaceX to run similar missions in the future. The flight will also determine the capsule’s fitness for future human space missions.
And I also learned today that James Doohan (Scotty from Star Trek) ashes were also brought to space along with the capsule! May you continue to boldly go!
History is about to be made with the first private launch to the International Space Station.
The automated Dragon cargo ship, the product of private space flight company Space X, is due to launch at 4:55 EST. You can watch the launch live at NASA’s public “Ustream” http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv
The launch represents NASA’s new strategy to use private space companies such as Space X and the parallel Orbital Sciences Corporation to supply the ISS. Seed funding as well as access to NASA patents was provided to both companies to catalyze the transition.
Space X’s Dragon Capsule (below) will be used for cargo on this flight to the ISS, however the capsule has been designed to sustain a human crew planned for future launches
Below: A mockup of the capsule I captured while in the Vehicle Assembly Building this past March
Be sure to catch the launch at just before 5AM!
Lately, I have given a great deal of thought to my childhood dream of going to space. Reflecting on space has certainly been a central part of Chasing Atlantis, the documentary we shot this past Summer about the final flight of space shuttle Atlantis. The famous lines from the opening of Star Trek described Space as the Final Frontier. It is the ultimate manifestation of the outward journey; one that leaves the confines of this world to explore the beyond. However, I feel that my own journey has breached a different frontier. A more inward journey, one of remembering past goals, finding new hopes, new projects. I may not be venturing into space itself, but I certainly feel like I have been exploring new spaces. With my colleague and friend, Paul Muzzin, Director of Chasing Atlantis, we have a documentary in the works; one which has taken on a life of itself that went beyond any of my wildest expectations. I have a new website up that has become a new outlet for creativity and thought, and the woman I met in Africa back in 2004 who became foundational to Esther’s Echo will be visiting Canada in 10 days.
So, I may not be headed to space, but certainly I have had the opportunity to explore some incredible frontiers lately. And regardless of the Race for Space outcome, I wanted to thank all of you who supported my entry. I was so encouraged by the many supporters who wrote me continually to remind me that they were voting, by those who also shared their dreams of one day going to space, and friends with whom I was reunited even after many years who saw my entry online and wanted to share their support. You all made the competition so worth it! Besides…somewhere inside, I still believe I’ll make it there some day. Perhaps many of us will. Lots of exciting things have happened in space sciences since the end of the Race for Space. The United Nations observed the international day of human space flight on April 12th. The Space Shuttle Discovery flew on the back of a 747 to Washington replacing Enterprise at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Enterprise will be flying over New York City on April 27th, and a new company called Planetary Resources made a bold claim that steps are being taken to begin mining asteroids to delivery their precious resources to our home (they are hiring right now by the way 😉 ).
Above: Enterprise and Discovery Swap Places
Space is a physical place. It is the place beyond the boundary of what we know and what sustains us. It is a place beyond our comfort zones in the most extreme sense. And perhaps it is a place that will yield future resources. But perhaps space, then, is also a place within where we breach the expected, the comfortable and find certain riches. So, in light of the Race for Space and the experience it has been I ask you, what frontiers are before you that you can begin exploring right now? And, if there is a competition involved, know that I’ll for sure be voting for you too!
http://www.un.org/en/events/humanspaceflightday/ (United Nations Day of Human Space Flight)
http://www.planetaryresources.com/ (Planetary Resources Website)
http://www.universetoday.com/94662/enterprise-go-for-big-apple-fly-over-on-april-27-viewing-guide-in-nyc/?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews (Enterprise scheduled to fly over New York City on April 27th)
A very cool friend of mine, James Joyce (not to be mistaken for James Joyce the Irish Novelist), sent me a link a while back to an article in Discover Magazine that I just resurrected from my Facebook Inbox. James studies astronomy at the University of Toronto and gets access to much cooler equipment than I do *shakes fist. Anyhow, the post, by “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait, features a panel discussion at The Amazing Meeting (TAM) in Las Vegas in July of 2011 right around the time that we were filming in Florida for our first round of Chasing Atlantis Footage. The panel is made up of science celebs Bill Nye (The Science Guy), Astronomers Neil Tyson and Pamela Gay, and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss who are all speaking on the future of humanity in space. The video is older now, but I hadn’t seen it yet and it still addresses the current state of affairs of the current space program (with one update below).
Now, we touched on this topic quite substantially with Chasing. Although, probably more on a micro scale. The livelihoods of many of the individuals we spoke to in Titusville was directly connected to our future in space. When we interviewed retired Astronaut, Story Musgrave, he was certainly critical of humanity’s lack of progress into space and the fact that the Space Shuttle had not ushered in a new era of cheap space flight. But one thing was clear, the question of space travel centered around a central point…money. Can we afford to go there?
The Kennedy Space Center is a fascinating place. And I have certainly been fortunate to have had the chance to visit so many times in the past few months with Chasing. But one thing is evident, the visitor center is almost becoming more of a “Good-Ol Days” museum than anything else. The music played is from the 60’s. Videos depict Kennedy with his famous lines ushering in the space race. And we are reminiscent of days when the US was spending 7% of its GDP funding Apollo. I began to wonder, outside of geo-political catalysts such as the Cold War, will there ever be the same impetus on space travel? The answer is unclear, but Neil Tyson did make two points that really stood out in my mind.
1) Governments push frontiers before capitalists do. Why? Because governments can soak the risk. Tyson cites Louis and Clarke, Columbus, Magellan all who traveled on Government funding to explore. Once the frontier was pushed back, companies took advantage of the new opportunities. Private industry is now taking a more direct involvement into space; albeit space tourism for the moment. Perhaps our push to the planets will still require a government directed project. However, Tyson does argue that the patents created by government through NASA are now also being used by private industry to help offset the initial costs. Perhaps this will lead to breakthroughs in future human flights to the planets.
2) Pamela Gay states at one point in the panel discussion that we cannot afford to go back to space. Tyson’s response? “We have chosen not to afford…The bank bailout of 2009 exceeded the 50 year total budget of NASA.” He went onto say that if we “double NASA’s budget” and we could do all the amazing space related endeavours we currently dream to do such as going to Mars, returning to the moon, landing a probe on Europa. (My personal fav would be Europa or Mars. But there is something to be said about putting actual humans into space)
There is an update to this meeting from TAM. There was dismay expressed by the panel of the dismantling of the James Webb Space Telescope. Since this was posted, that program has actually been saved. I am personally very excited about James Webb. The scope will have 17 times the light gathering power of Hubble which already has exceeded our expectations in terms of the window it opened into the Universe. James Webb will be able to resolve distant stars, perhaps help us understand more about dark energy/matter and increase our ability to find other planets. AND, I just discovered that there is a 24 hour live webcam where you can watch the thing being built. Crazyness. (Link below)
We spend far more on the war machine than we do on exploration. And much of our exploration has been, unfortunately, inspired by war and conflict or the desire to conquer. Perhaps the exploration of space is an opportunity to explore for the sake of exploration itself, something that, as Bill Nye says, brings discovery and adventure; something we inherently need as humans.
I’d urge you to check out the original article here:
The video link for the 55 minute panel discussion is here:
The link to the James Webb Space Telescope Page is here:
At midnight EST, the Race for Space Closes. Thank you very much for your support and votes! The goal is to hit 30K by the end of the evening. So let’s try to push for it!
Here is the link to vote http://metroinspace.com/ca/view/ct94 you can vote 10 times on any internet enabled device.
The youtube version of my entry in the Race for Space Competition is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmNmy1YDuoo Helps to explain my passion for the night sky.
It’s now Day 6 in the Race for Space! Yesterday I was setup with my booth at SFU. Got to talk to some folk who are also space geeks. Printed flyers with QR codes on them so that everybody could scan on their smart phones straight from the booth.
The Link to vote went down for a few hours last night. I believe there was a confusion on end of voting dates. It was supposed to close last night in the US but remain open until April 5th in Canada. I e-mailed the competition and they have since e-mailed me back apologizing for the confusion and have re-opened the voting link. The awesome thing is that now, if you go to the gallery page and sort by top entries
You can now find my entry on the first page! Huzzah. Thank you all!
To continue to vote, just click the link here http://metroinspace.com/ca/view/ct94/ Only 1800 more votes and I move up 3 more places! Already 16th, that would put me in number 13 edging in closer on the top ten! Remember, you can easily vote 30 times a day. 10 per device you’re on. 10 at work, home and on your phone.
It’s been 5 days competing in Metro’s Race for Space, a competition to win a trip on one of the first space tourism flights with aerospace company SXC.
As of right now, I just hit 8500 votes. Amazing! I thought I’d be struggling to hit 1000, and here we are. I want to make the top ten voted individuals. They are not specific as to which of the highest ranked will be considered, but I think that is a fair challenge.
I am currently prepping a booth to put out at Simon Fraser University’s Convocation Mall for tomorrow where, during the day, I will be campaigning to leverage the support of the student population. I’ve got some nifty decor picked out for the booth including some star and planet models, a lego shuttle, and my 80mm Skywatcher telescope. I figure that should draw some attention.
Thank you all again for your continued support, and remember you can vote up to 10 times per day on any connected device that you are on from now until April 5th. So, for example, that’s ten votes at work, ten at home and ten on your phone each day! I know we can crack the top ten! Here’s the Link!
Only a day and a half in and I’ve already grabbed 3400 votes for my entry in Metro Newspaper’s Race for Space Competition. Thanks to everybody who’s been voting for the support. Here’s the current strategy.
The top voter is still a ways off from where we’re at. However, we have moved to 30th place out of approx 2000 entries. Not too shabby. The goal is to get into the top ten meaning we’ll have to hit about 15 000 ish votes. It can be done! Still averaging about 50-100 votes per hour presently. And there are surges here and there as well. Once we get to the top ten, we end up closer to the front page meaning it is easier for people on the interwebs to see the post!
So keep those votes coming by going to the link: http://metroinspace.com/ca/view/ct94 and remember that you can vote up to ten times a day every day from now until the contest closes on April 5th!