Stephen Hawking once said that humans have 1,000 years left on earth. This week, he changed that number to 100. Shocking, I know.
On my visit to The Kennedy Space Center last Friday, I learned that scientists who agree on earth’s limited future see escaping to Mars as an option for survival. And they’re working on it.
That whole issue got me thinking. Which is the purpose of this incredible educational complex. The KSC strives to perpetuate our existence through faith in American know-how and problem-solving.
A Look at the Past
I was lukewarm about visiting Cape Canaveral because I lived through the space race. I already knew the history, right? Shepard, Armstrong, Glenn …
Yet, in thinking about the past, I was shocked to realize that too soon there will be no one left alive who walked on the moon.
The Future Trajectory
The KSC looks as much to the future as it does the past. I learned that research on Mars as a place of future habitation has moved way beyond the realm of science fiction. If you read or watched “Martian,” you saw the kind of ingenuity required for survival. Who knows that stuff? To begin with, the author, Andy Weir, as well as modern scientists. Geniuses.
And speaking of genius, when you go to the KSC, prepare yourself to be blown away by other technologies, including pictures from the Hubble Telescope. Incredible!
On its website called Spinoff, NASA discusses over 2,000 technologies invented to solve space travel problems, products which have crossed over to benefit us on earth, from Velcro to computers to Pampers. Those who thought space exploration was a waste of money—like those who cut the budget—should go to this site to see if they could live without NASA spinoffs.
Cooperation on Mars
Though NASA is not currently launching spacecraft, it hopes to eventually partner with Elon Musk and his company, SpaceX, which, along with other companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, lease facilities at the Kennedy Space Center. In the meantime, the US partners with Russia, paying them $80 million a pop for each American astronaut traveling to the Space Station for research.
What drives Elon Musk and his Mars research is the need to preserve the human race. “By producing clean energy, recycling water and waste, and implementing other green solutions, we will work towards real sustainability.” The next SpaceX mission—on May 15—will not go to Mars. It will launch a global communications satellite built by Boeing.
Here’s the biggest revelation. The astronauts who will eventually lead missions to Mars—called deep space explorations—are in middle and high school right now. They don’t even know who they are. Yet we’re depending on them already.
A One-Day Visit
Seeing the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex requires a full day. An excellent two-hour bus tour takes you around Cape Canaveral and shows you all the problems that were solved for issues like transporting a rocket just a few miles to the launch pad, preventing fires, tamping the ear-splitting volume of lift-off noise, or keeping alligators off the launch site.
You can see a set of very moving IMAX videos about the development of the space shuttle. (You’ll get a kick out of the creative ending.) In the late sixties NASA wanted a reusable capsule that didn’t splash into the sea.
Of course they figured it out.
NASA intended to use the space shuttle for ten years; it lasted twenty-six. I witnessed the NASA jet flying (piggy-back style) the Space Shuttle Atlantis to its final landing place. At that moment, I wanted to jump out of my car and put my hand over my heart.
Back at the visitor center is a full exhibit on getting ready for Mars, including a display on the evolution of space exploration vehicles to maneuver planetary surfaces.
Don’t miss the incredible 1969 moon landing presentation (“a video with a technology twist”). It shows the footage of the near miss we never knew about. The “twist” will stun you with its creativity.
Each unique presentation underlines NASA’s main message: everything is possible in space and in the movies.
My Paradigm Shift
Growing up, I was filled with a spirt of hope, much of it due to NASA. But, Houston, we now have a problem. The American spirt seems overcome by doubt and contentiousness. We need to abort our negativity and take stock of America’s brilliant scientific innovations, accomplished through education, perseverance, courage, and faith.
A trip to the Kennedy Space Center Complex will restore your spirit and, more importantly, inspire your kids—because we need them!
MARGIE LAWSON has a great writing university online. I’ve taken several of her courses. My goal was to attend her Deep Editing weekend in Denver. Now I don’t have to. She is coming to Bellingham March 30. Trust me, if you have a day job, this Master class is worth a day off. For a sample of her instruction and a link to the Chanticleer Conference, click here: Master Class. NB: You don’t have to pay for the whole conference in order to participate in this class.
When I lived in Jordan, I drove the 55 miles to Jerusalem as often as I could. It’s a fascinating city on a hill, and I felt like I had to be there to know it.
Truth and Tension
Followers of three religions, all evolving from the Old Testament, live and worship among each other in the Old City of Jerusalem. Though the Old City is walled, inside there are few physical barriers separating the people. They pretty much flow from one section to the other, though you do need to pass through security to reach the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock.
The noticeable barriers are mostly tension and mistrust. On my first visit, I was guided by a Catholic priest I met at a Thanksgiving dinner. The next day, he took my husband and me through the public and private areas of the Christian Quarter. The main holy site is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, managed for the last 160 years, by the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Roman Catholics and, to a lesser degree, by the Coptics.
As we passed by priests from other denominations on our walk, our Franciscan guide would either smile or grumble. There’s even tension among the Christians.
And where are the Protestants? Outside the wall and down the street at the Garden Tomb, which they believe is where Christ was really buried and rose from the dead.
Though the U.S. Embassy warns Americans not to go to the Old City on Friday, it is the most interesting day of the week. And at that time, we didn’t know if we’d ever be back, so we saw it all.
Friday Morning, The Call to Prayer
In mid-Morning the narrow, cobblestone lanes are jam-packed with Muslims returning from the mosques and heading to their shops.
Friday Afternoon, The Stations of the Cross
At 3:00, Christians follow the procession along the Via Dolorosa (“The Painful Way”) where priests explain what happened to Jesus at each station of the cross.
Station I begins near the Lions Gate at the Monastery of the Flagellation. Then proceeds to Station II at the Ecce Homo Convent, where Pontius Pilate gave his “Behold, the Man” speech, and so on.
The Ecco Homo Convent, by the way, is an inexpensive and historically interesting place for tourists to stay—if you don’t mind being blasted awake by the predawn call to prayer next door.
The procession safely winds through the Muslim Quarter—where the men have already opened their shops—and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Friday evening, The Beginning of Shabbat
As the sun sets on the Old City Wall, you will see various sects of Jews, dressed in beautiful, traditional clothing, make their way to Shabbat Services in the Old City. Everyone walks because operating machines is prohibited on the holy days.
The miracle of all this is that these very different people carry out their religious lives every Friday without a hitch. Jerusalem is a beloved place to three religions—though, to me, the tension in the air feels stronger than the love. Still, The Old City right now functions more or less smoothly as a significant world religious capital, and I hate to see that change.
Other T Words
Talk about moving the U.S. Embassy from Israel’s political capital in Tel Aviv to Western Jerusalem is getting louder. Several other countries tried this in the eighties and quickly moved back to Tel Aviv.
It’s a symbolic gesture, the proponents say, and symbolism doesn’t really hurt anyone. Yet, on the heels of the controversial travel ban, this move will be seen as more than a symbol. The world already knows about America’s unflagging support for Israel’s right to exist. So, do we need another symbol, one which will inhibit America’s ability to serve as an honest broker for peace?
Is this “symbolic” move worth the risk of stirring up more animosity and upsetting the current peace, tenuous as it is? Jerusalem is an ancient, historic, and sacred treasure. I say we do everything we can to preserve it.