Life On The Space Station

Earlier this year, I attended a "Star Party" at the MacDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, a venerable institution perched on a hill in the far west Texas desert. The skies out there are, understandably, crushingly big and so teeming with stars that the astronomers guiding the public stargazing events need to aim high-powered laser pointers at the sky in order for anyone to tell one star from another. On the evening of my attendance, our guide was giddy with the news that the International Space Station, formerly an invisible blip in the night sky, had recently been expanded to the point that it might now be visible from Earth. His calculations showed it scheduled for a fly-by that evening, so he ushered a group of us outside to the parking lot and commanded us to look at the horizon. Suddenly, a point of light slightly larger than a star emerged from the night.

There it was.

It shot across the sky in a graceful arc, growing larger as it flew directly above us. No one said a word. It seemed incomprehensible that men and women were up there, in that tiny point of light, swallowing beads of floating water and conducting esoteric experiments. I felt inexplicably proud of this achievement, glad to be implicated in it by virtue of my membership in the human race. Despite the thrill, however, it was humbling: here was a minute dot of light, speeding across the sky as it encircled the Earth. From their vantage point, the astronauts aboard the ISS saw dozens of sunsets a day, saw the world in all its complexity as a blur of browns and blues, felt safe and massive in their technological warren; but from Earth we could see them as they really were, one blip among millions, a hunk of metal shining among massively powerful stars and the vastness of space.

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On an unrelated note, now would perhaps be an appropriate time to announce the soft launch of a new project, Space Canon. I will be reading every important science fiction book ever written and blogging about the process, and it might take years. Any other heads are welcome to follow along in my journey, provide suggestions, and make comments like "After reading Neuromancer, I too think the Wachowski brothers should be sued for plagiarism!"

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that video is beautiful!