Spacing Out

It Could’ve Been Worst,
But Keep Your Eyes Open

Done complaining? you’re actually very lucky. While you were asleep the other night, Earth almost got hit by an asteroid nobody knew about; you were closed to turn into confetti. See, things are not that bad. In fact, as you whine, a lot keeps happening right above you.
For instance, an old satellite just woke up from its slumber and began beeping, just like that. And you should also count your graces for not being a soon-to-meet-its-maker astronaut: they could accuse your deceased body of spreading microbes to outer worlds.
All this proves is that life, a train The Famous Pale Blue Dot Photo of Earth, Taken by the Voyager 1, on Feb. 14, 1990always ready to take off, keeps on tracking, and you’d better stand clear of its closing doors. Don’t want to be dragged down to a dark and narrow tunnel, watching riders go about their business inside, while you’re handed your papers outside it.
Speaking of tunnels, you may live in one and may not know about this, but since Tuesday, Nov. 8, a heavy fog came down, and a lot of people seem stunned, walking like zombies and foaming at their mouth. Something to do with some bad new – the 11/9, the say -, but don’t quote us on that.
The point is, you may think that it’s all unacceptable, unfair, and you won’t put up with it one little bit. Well, good luck with that; the next few years will be very depressing, indeed. You’ll find plenty of reasons to wallow in pools of disappointment and drown in wells of sorrow.
Or, after mourning the missing opportunities for a sec, you could lift up your chin up and catch a glimpse of the sky; it’s amazing how things are busy up there. For a change, that sobering realization that you are, after all, small and barely count, does put things in perspective.

THE MOUNTAIN THAT MISSED EARTH
Even your jubilant Uncle Bob, who can’t wait to corner you at Thanksgiving to tell you, ‘I told you so,’ knows that, among the infinitude of worlds out there, there’s a rock with our address and a clear mission: wipe out zealots and bigots and racists and misogynists with one swapping gulp.
That you don’t consider yourself ‘them’ makes not an iota of difference; you know you’ll be gone too. So, asteroids and meteorites usually top anyone’s list of civilization killers. On Nov. 1, a previously unknown one ‘almost’ became it. 2016 VA zapped within 0.2 times the moon’s distance from us.
It does seem far, but the thing is, either way, we didn’t know about it until it was too late to do anything. Now, put that ‘sobering realization’ in the context of your troubles, and you may catch a whiff of our drift here. Happens all the time. So, as the Brits say, chin up old chap.

THE GHOST SATELLITE THAT WOKE UP
Truth to be told, we track a lot of space rocks, but it’s impossible to track them all. As if we weren’t busy enough with that, we also track over 500 thousand man-made debris, all traveling at top speed, that we sent aloft and now are menaces to our survival out there.
Among them, are some of the Lincoln Experimental Satellite series, like the LES1 that almost immediately after launch, in 1965, malfunctioned and went dormant for 46 years, at the wrong (more)
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circular orbit. Until it managed to recharge itself and call home. It’s still useless, and dangerous, but now it beeps too.
The list of ‘solutions‘ proposed to eliminate this horrendous space garbage is as long as the one to ward off erratic asteroids. None has left the drawing board, something that in either case we may come to bitterly regret. It’ll all come crashing down, anyway, so look up.

THE MAN WHO DIDN’T FALL TO EARTH
Assuming that we’ll survive these potential hazards – never mind the next few months -, it’s likely that humans will arrive in Mars within a couple of decades. Would-be astronauts for just such a mission are already fully engaged in training, some still in their teens.
Regardless of their age, though, if theirs is an one-way ticket, so far a trip may involve what has been a rare event so far: the demise of a space traveler. Which prompts the question, what then: ship back or dispose the body? The first option is a non brainer, albeit expensive, but what about the second?
As usual, Sci-Fi already thought of many possibilities, but of all things being considered, there’s an intriguing new one: what if the body lands on another planet and its decay spreads out life there? It may take millions of years, and beating incredible odds, but it’s still possible. Better open your eyes.
THE TIME WE CAN’T AFFORD TO WASTE
It was Carl Sagan, whose 82 years were celebrated this Nov. 9, writing about that famous Pale Blue Dot photo of a tiny Earth, who wrote that ‘our delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe’ is challenged by that ‘point of pale light.’
We dream of traveling through the stars, and landing on new worlds, and finding out that we’re not alone in the vastness after all, and that’s beautiful and human and all that. The flip side of it is that we can’t help it but to carry along our trash and bad feelings and, well, microbes.
We’re made of stardust, as Sagan said, but can only produce space dust in return. To think that along with all our debris, we may also ‘accidentally’ contaminate other, pristine, worlds – just like we’ve already done here on Earth – is deeply disheartening. And that’s something to really mourn over.
Or rather, we can’t allow something disturbing, but essentially punctual, to reduce us into the measure of our despair. Not with so little time left, between asteroid hits and the next hecatomb. A fool on the hill is still a fool if all that climbing didn’t lead it to get closer to infinity. Or next week’s Supermoon, the biggest in 86 years.

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