Here Comes the Monsoon

Hands for Venice, Early
Cicadas & a Flooded Vault

To some, you haven’t lived if you haven’t fallen in love. Or planted a tree. To write a book or have a child, all give us meaning, and reasons to be remembered. Yet to others, pain is life’s truly master and nothing turns you into one faster than a leak dripping on your bed.
Water’s tomorrow’s gold. Without it, there’s no life. Too much of it, and billions lose their roof. As glaciers melt, floods dictate survival. Thus, Venice’s a sinking treasury, cicadas are coming out early, and an Arctic seed vault, our future food insurance, is not ready for doomsday.
‘There occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune, all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.’ The 360 B.C.E. retelling by Plato on an earlier account, still haunt us, even as it’s most likely fictional.
It’s a tale about an once proud civilization doomed by the power of natural forces and succumbing entirely into a watery grave. It can be argued that it’s happening all over again in a larger scale, and that natural power this time has been unleashed not by fate but by the human oversized collective ego.
More recent and certifiably historical catastrophes have happened ever since, as when Pompeii and Herculano were lost to the not so sudden fury of the Vesuvius. The lesson is a recurrent one: force the hands of Earth and she’ll do as it has for millennia. Some see in the mutating climate a harbinger of yet another planetary cleansing.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
Speaking of which, Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn prepared a surprise for the 2017 Venice Art Biennale. Support, the two giant hands that emerge from one of the canals of the legendary city on the lagoon, is a stunning statement about global warming. And its striking visual impact leaves no doubt about the power of art promoting awareness.
Among the five or 10 most distinctive cities in the world, Venice is obviously the most vulnerable to rising sea waters. Even as the rapidly eroding coastal lines of Rio or New York, Sydney or Tokyo, place them equally on the crosshairs of a dramatic change in global temperatures, if Venice sinks, so does its irreplaceable architecture and art.
Despite a perennially complicated relationship with its environment, it has overcome centuries of political turmoil and Italy’s rising (more)
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Read Also:
* After the Flood
* Sunken Past
* In Hot Water Continue reading

Journey to Forever

The Challenger Explosion
& Its Thunderbolt Lessons

It was the U.N. International Year of Peace, and ‘We Are the World’ was a big hit. On its second visit in a century, the Halley Comet was at its closest to Earth when a melting Chernobyl reactor caused the world’s scariest nuclear disaster. But right off the bat, 1986 marked the worst tragedy of the space age.
On January 28, the Challenger Shuttle exploded on live TV, killing all seven astronauts, including Christa McAuliffe, who was to become the first space civilian, but turned out to be the last teacher to be nationally mourned and eulogized in the U.S. It’s been downhill for educators ever since.
It was the Reagan era, and footage of him will probably be all over the airwaves. In a year of yet another flawed immigration law, his administration would be caught selling illegal weapons to Iran and arming the Contras to top Nicaragua’s democratic elected government.
The 30 years that now separate us from the Challenger explosion also equal the entire length of the Space Shuttle Program, which folded in 2011. Before that, another group of astronauts perished in 2003, when the Columbia, the program’s first space-worthy vehicle, tragically disintegrated while reentering Earth’s atmosphere.
These tragedies, along with the program whose many achievements are now part of our daily lives, look now so far back into the past, that even the ideas that inspired it seem remote. NASA doesn’t even have a comprehensive space plan currently running.
A MAJOR MALFUNCTION
It’s also easy to forget how close we all came to believe that space travel would be a new century routine, and many are quick to point that it was exactly that kind of sense of false security that led to the fatal errors causing the Challenger’s demise.
Perhaps. What’s for sure is that, without daring mistakes, we wouldn’t even have gotten to the Moon, and how uninspiring our age really is if our dreams nowadays have to come attached to a mandatory bargain price tag. Unlike weapons and conspiracy theories.
McAuliffe was slated to conduct the first high school science classes from space, to a Internet-less world full of teenagers who still cared about the subject. Instead, children along millions endured her spectacular dead, and that of her co-travelers, broadcast live.

TEACHING CHILDREN WELL
Such brutal awakening may have also marked, at least symbolically, the beginning of the end of Americans’ appreciation for the role of teachers and educators. It’s a curious phenomenon, promoted by half-witted politicians and their austerity policies.
Even though science and innovation was one of the tenets of U.S.’s ascension to its world power position, an entire generation grew apathetic and spoiled by the inventions that surround us. Science school grades have never been so low in average.
That’s probably why, instead of tele-transportation and weekly trips through the Solar System, we’ve got only a better iPhone (more)
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Read Also:
* Farewell Mission
* Waiting For Discovery
Continue reading

Enterprise

Brief Scrapbook About
the Newest New Yorker

As the Space Shuttle Enterprise arrived at the Intrepid Museum this week, and it’s getting ready to greet the locals at its new home, let’s take a quick look at what we’ve found on our files about it and its distinguished sisters. NASA’s gift to New York may not have traveled too far out in space but it was the first to open its fleet’s storied 30-years of space flights, adventures and drama.
The Enterprise was used as a test vehicle for the other shuttles that followed it and it did fly a few times, in the late 1970s. It even went into a world tour, which introduced the then new concept of a reusable space vehicle as the next stage of human space exploration. No one can say it didn’t serve its purposes of making travel for future astronauts a lot safer.
While it lacks crucial features incorporated in all other crafts of its fleet, such as the thermal protection system and radar equipment, for example, its overall design and interior configuration are pretty close to the others. The idea of retrofitting it and preparing it for orbit was abandoned due to costs, though, and it remained an oddity once the program started rolling.
In other words, a typical New Yorker already: ‘different,’ eclectic, slightly under-achiever, but, ultimately, not really interested in being like everyone else. The Enterprise will receive its guests at first under a temporary tent, just like newcomers to the city who crash at their friends’ studio for a few months, before finding their own place.
The Intrepid Museum will eventually build a special enclosure to its new resident, but way before that it’ll hopefully have achieved what we all expect from it: to fire up the imagination of thousands of school kids who, from mid-July on, are expected to visit and get a closer look at what a real spacecraft looks and feels like.
Other cities may have gotten higher-mileage shuttles than the Enterprise. Some of those have a lot of history, and stories to tell, Continue reading

Welcome Home

Endeavour’s Night Landing
Sets Shuttles’ Final Mission

As the Shuttle Endeavour touched down in Florida today, NASA’s 30-year space program got a bit closer to a conclusion. After 16 days, the shuttle’s mission ended in no different fashion than all her previous ones: flawlessly.
It’s a fitting finale for a storied shuttle, which delivered the first and now the last pieces of equipment for the assembling of the now completed International Space Station, the 11-year Continue reading

The Storm Before the Storm


Endeavour’s Last Mission

Postponed Till End of Week

NASA delayed the flight until at least the end of the week to replace a switch box in the engine compartment.
In the end, it wasn’t the fiery storm over the skies of Florida (pictured) what determined the postponement of Endeavour’s last mission. It was a heater for the fuel line leading to one of Continue reading

Space Landmarks

Shuttle Enterprise Comes to
New York Intrepid Museum

Maybe it’s all a coincidence. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight, the one that Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin‘s undertook around the earth. That historical, 108-minute trip ignited a fierce competition between the Soviet Union and the U.S. to land a man on the moon and ended eight years later with American Neil Armstrong stepping on the surface of earth’s satellite.
Twenty years to the day of Gagarin‘s flight, NASA launched the first of the Space Shuttles, Columbia, which along Continue reading

Human Shuttle


Space Center Workers Mark
Program’s 30th Anniversary

Final Shuttle

Atlantis May Land

on New York Intrepid

NASA is about to retire its flee of Space Shuttles and aerospace museums all over the U.S. are jockeying to display the Atlantis or the Endeavor. The Discovery is already promised to the Smithsonian Institute in DC. In New York City, the Intrepid Museum is a candidate with excellent credentials. The aircraft carrier, among Continue reading