Friday, September 29, 2017

Becoming A Multi-Planet Species, v.2.0

On Friday, September 29, 2017, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk delivered a presentation to the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. This presentation updated a bold, visionary plan for Mars settlement he introduced last year in Guadalajara, Mexico. The updated version included a downsizing of the Interplanetary Transport System introduced last year (from ginormous to just really huge), which enables its use in for other applications including Earth orbital and lunar missions, and even for point-to-point suborbital transport around the Earth. With its multiple applications, the name of the vehicle appears now to be TBD. Musk seems to have reverted to his original nickname for the vehicle, the BFR (meaning "Big F---ing Rocket).

The resizing of the SpaceX vehicle and its application to multiple uses is designed to make it more affordable. SpaceX plans to phase out production of its Falcon and Dragon vehicles after stockpiling an inventory so that the largely reuseable vehicles will be available for years after their production has ended. How the economics of this plan will pay relative to rising competitors in the space launch/travel industry and, for the suborbital transportation service, with competitors in the aviation industry, remains to be seen. But Elon Musk is known for breaking the mold and pushing whole industries to innovate. This latest venture to expand humanity's role beyond Earth will certainly be interesting to watch.

Monday, September 11, 2017

In Remembrance of September 11, 2001

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass

Sixteen years ago today, I overheard a coworker down the hall from my office telling someone else about planes hitting the World Trade Center. I checked in on the Internet and on news radio for reports on what would develop into the the modern era's day of infamy. We know of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but there was also the attack that did not occur because of the heroic actions of the passengers on United Flight 93.

Sixteen years of daily living, along with increasing domestic rancor, may have dimmed the feelings of shock, horror, and outrage and the response of prayer, compassion, and resolve that united the people of America and most of the world. However, the current horrific events in the Middle East and the recent attacks around the world and here in America serve to remind us that the threat is still real. We must not allow complacency or political correctness to distract us from recognizing the reality of the current danger.

This anniversary stirs abundant remembrance and reflection and many stirring pictorial and video items have appeared on the web and on Facebook. I still find this audio/visual Internet presentation developed by a New Yorker shortly after the attacks as one of the most powerful portrayals of those times. The sequence is ~15 minutes long and some of the images and sounds are quite disturbing, others are inspirational. (Use the browser View/Zoom function and adjust the scroll bar to enlarge the slide show.)

It is important that we remember, not only to honor those who died and those who acted heroically that day, but to remain constantly aware of the ongoing and growing dangers, of the presence of real evil in the hearts of some people, and to maintain constant vigilance and a determination to defeat this evil. Finally, we must always remember to trust in God and his mercy during trying times. The story of the cross formed by two beams found among the ruins of the twin towers is recounted here.