In the early 1960s I was in grade school, and my mother let me stay home to watch NASA’s Mercury and Gemini spacecraft launches on TV. We’d follow the whole exciting run-up and count-down, and cheer for blast-off, willing the fiery ship up, up and away into space.
This gave me my life-long love of space travel stories. Every moment of Star Trek the original series, the next generation, the movies. Star Wars amazed me with its realistic hardware, like Luke’s rusty little flying car – it felt so real! I never miss a space flick on the big screen if I can help it.
I carried my space fandom into adulthood, thrilled when the Shuttle began to fly, and devastated when the Challenger burst apart before my eyes in the Florida sky. Then we lost Columbia, and the shuttle missions withered to an end.
While we may not be launching as many humans into orbit, NASA has stayed busy with amazing planetary missions and probes bringing us closer to the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets.
Today, the incredible Cassini mission to Saturn and its moons begins its final mission, 20 years after it lifted off from earth. For nearly 13 years Cassini has amazed with the data and imagery from the moons, rings and storms of Saturn.
Watch this. This is epic space opera, folks. And this one is REAL.
I’ve been posting here less often for a very good reason: after five years of under-employment, I landed a job.
I’ve gone to work for a company called Earth Resources Technology, a prime contractor for NOAA.
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration is under the Department of Commerce. That’s because the agency’s sections, oceans and weather, are vital to the American economy. Because of this, I have high hopes that NOAA will escape the worst of EPA’s fate.
Alas, we learned today that the word “science” has been removed from EPA’s mission statement. It find it confusing that people can decide that the tradition of scientific method, patiently carried out over centuries, can suddenly be discounted.
I’m working in the Restoration Center, part of NOAA Fisheries division, whose mission is restoring damaged wetlands and marine environments. Below is an article of the sort I hope to be creating in the near future.
So expect more musings on things of a watery nature from me. From Harsen’s Island, Michigan, to the Everglades, from the Great Dismal Swamp to Piscataway NP (where I live), the wet places have always had my heart.
By the way, I heard the first Spring Peepers yesterday!
In ancient times, (or when I was in grade school) the planets were very smooth, like billiard balls. We had no detailed images, only descriptions of what they might be. Images of the galaxies and nebulas were quaintly fuzzy.
Over the past 40 years we humans have sharpened our focus. The Hubble Space Telescope and numerous planetary explorations have yielded not only amazing data but astonishingly detailed images as well.
Dramatic view of the Pluto system as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew in for close-up on July 14; then passed behind Pluto to see the atmosphere glow before watching the sun passes behind Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Stuart Robbins
Watch this a few times and enjoy the ride: how you find the bright dot in all that darkness, spiral in, and then glory in the uniquely Plutonian landscape. This, the orb that had it’s planetary status revoked!
(You may find it odd that I am adamantly pro science and still hark to astrology, but consider hearing me out. The following gives a cultural perspective on the ninth rock from the sun.)
Astrologically Pluto has a profound gravitas, the inescapable resonance of the everpresent but unseen, representing our own soul.
Prominant Astrologers had some interesting things to say about Pluto’s change in status.
Scientists no doubt had sound, rational reasons to exile Pluto from the traditional solar system and transfer its realm to the Kuiper Belt with the other dwarf worlds, but they were also under the influence of deeply unconscious forces too. The expulsion of Pluto marked a symbolic turning point in the triumph of scientism, a mode of thinking that values only what’s visible, measurable, and categorizable. But Pluto is more than the rocky planetoid representing it: Pluto is an essential phase of human consciousness.
The overall downgrading of Pluto is a milestone in the modern attempt to depreciate the soul’s mode of awareness and make it subsidiary to the deductive mind. To banish Pluto is to deny that living in the soul has any value to us.
The god of the Underworld, was amused by being called “Dead as a planet.” “Of course I’m dead, I’m the god of the dead.”
And used to being dissed, exiled, albeit at tremendous cost to cultures that do so. Of course human dementors would like to stick their fingers in their ears, and say, “no, no, no, we deny the invisible. We deny the dead, the invisible, the principle of power, the abuse of power known as plutocracy, now rampant.” Death is cheap, not valued, marketed wholesale, so that even the god of death is appalled.
Last year I wrote for Blogging for Mental Health 2014, and other themes emerged, capturing my interest. For 2015 I’m declaring a more specific intention: to honor my title: Art•Spirit•Nature more specifically, in the following ways:
ART: I really want to feature profiles of the amazing creative people I know. And, show you the creative work I’m doing. So that I do it! And talk about art, that speaks about spirit, and nature.
SPIRIT: My wish is to share the life of the spirit with everyone, to cross the lines that labels draw around us. Pan-religious, I love rituals and prayers and teachings of many faiths, perhaps for their intent: to draw us closer to God and each other. This category will also deal with mental health and social issues.
NATURE: My primary theme here is the everyday miracles around us and the science behind them. Ignorance of science is an issue that frightens me more than anything, for the amazing capabilities of human beings without the wisdom of knowledge and awareness is a profoundly dangerous thing. So stay tuned – I may rhapsodize, but I also may rant!
Lately I’ve heard a number of interviews with Natalie Batahla, planetary astronomer and poet. She works with NASA’s Kepler Mission, a search for earthlike planets. Natalie has a beautiful optimism about the ability of science to reveal mysteries and nourish the human mind.
“I have a great reverence for the mysteries of the cosmos… Carl Sagan said that understanding is a form of ecstasy.”
“No matter how extreme the environment here on earth there seems to be life. nature seems to be creative, and robust, and my thought is that if it’s creative here it’s likely to be true in the whole universe as well. “
Natalie describes Dark Energy as Love:
“Ninety-five percent of the mass of the universe being something we can’t even see, and yet it moves us. It draws us. It creates galaxies. We’re like moving on a current of this gravitational field created by mostly stuff that we can’t see. And the analogy with love just struck me, you know, that it’s like this thing that we can’t see, that we don’t understand yet. It’s everywhere and it moves us.
“I am the universe, and I am taking a look at myself, using my senses.”
Then she quotes her (and my) hero, Carl Sagan:
“for small creatures such as we, the vastness is only bearable through love.”
I owe you all a post or three from my recent travels in the Golden State. So here’s just one of the many highlights.
Josephine, my dear friend and east-to-west migrant got tickets for a planetarium show, and I thought, “Cool! I haven’t been to a Planetarium for decades!” I had no idea just how cool this would get.
This show wasn’t JUST a planetarium show, it was The Kepler Story, written by Nina Wise and produced in incredible dome-surround audio-visual amazing magic at the California Academy of Sciences Planetarium. And if you are in or near the Bay Area, run don’t walk to get a ticket, it’s an awe-inducing experience.
The show consists of actor Norbert Weisser playing Kepler as he copes with the waves of change in his amazing life, against the backdrop of the universe, projected on the dome, plus an inspiring original score. It’s the first collaboration of planetarium in-the-round projection and live theater, and it’s intense, emotional and uplifting. The performance aspect is beautiful minimal stagecraft and a powerful solo performance, set against astonishing visuals that range from interiors of great architecture to Kepler’s mathematical imagination to the universe itself.
Kepler’s personal story is fascinating and pivotal. He lived in the time of Galileo, defied the Roman church, a significant patron of math and science funding at the time and suffered the consequences. His mother was accused of witchcraft in retaliation for Kepler’s intellectual intransigence. He was working with the emerging yet still heretical idea of orbiting the sun, and his lasting legacy is the discovery that orbits are not circular but elliptical — a building block in the theories of gravity and relativity.
Kepler pursued his work with passion, intelligence and faith: not, perhaps the sort that his employers wished, but clearly a great faith in the beauty and harmony of the universe, as well as the god-given power of the human mind to comprehend it.
Coming Soon: Part 2: Opening the Gates of Awareness