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One Experience of a Lifetime April 5, 2018

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture, Uncategorized.
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Last month, I ran in a race called Gateway to Space.  It was executed on the Space Shuttle runway (known as the NASA Shuttle Landing Facility, because the Space Shuttles never took off horizontally) at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The NASA Shuttle Landing Facility is 15,000 feet long, one of the longest runways in the world (Denver International has a longer one, and there may be a couple of military ones, such as Vandenberg and Edwards, that are similar).  Technically, it is about 1400 feet short of 5K, so we started on the aircraft parking area, and ran a short taxiway out to the runway.

We were told to watch out for alligators and other wildlife on the runway.

There were close to 2000 runners, although many walked it.  We began at the southern end.  There was a Space Shuttle mockup about halfway up the runway, and multiple plaques embedded into the runway designating landing and stopping points for the last Space Shuttle landings.  I have photos of several; here is one, complete with my running shoe, which other people were doing to demonstrate their physical presence.

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The weather was very nice, although it got warm fast, the distance was good, and there were water stops.  At the end, there was plenty of juice to drink.

There may be better life experiences out there, but I will always own this one.  I have always been fascinated by flying, and by space.  I am bitterly disappointed that the US cannot send people into space.  I think our government has dropped the ball, and I hope that private companies can pick it up.

In the meantime, I run the landing facility.  Definitely cool.

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The Final Frontier July 6, 2017

Posted by Peter Varhol in Education, Technology and Culture.
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Yes, these are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.  Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

To someone of my age, this defined the possibilities of space, perhaps even more so than the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

We failed at this, in my lifetime, to my dying (hopefully not soon) regret.  We failed, not because of a lack of technology, but because of a lack of will.  Since the 1980s, America has been looking inward, rather than reaching for the next brass ring in the universe.

Today, we have no ability to launch astronauts into orbit.  No, we don’t.  Our astronauts go into orbit courtesy of the ESA or the Russians (not sure that ESA is doing all that much any more).  I am sure many of you are pleased at this, but you miss the larger picture.

May I quote Robert Browning: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

Seriously.  Life is bigger, much bigger, than our individual petty concerns.  We may think our concerns are larger than life, but until we reach beyond them, we are petty, we are small.  Until we give ourselves to larger and more grandiose goals, we are achieving nothing as human beings.

Look at the people, throughout history, who have given their lives, willingly, in favor of a larger goal.  Not just the astronauts, but soldiers, sailors, explorers, yes, even a few politicians.

Today, my only hope is with the private companies, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and their ilk.  They are our future.  Not NASA, or the government in any way, shape or form.  I hope with all of my heart and soul they can reach where the collective citizenry has declined to.

Set controls for the heart of the sun.