Atlantis and the Oil Rig

The space shuttle Atlantis sailed past the 120 million-mile mark in space Wednesday and is ready for touchdown today at Cape Canaveral  to end its flying career.  A few hundred miles to the west, crude oil oozes from the out-of-control oil well that is wreaking havoc in the Gulf of Mexico.  What an amazing set of contrasting human events!

The technology of these two events are centuries apart- pumping oil from the earth and flying in orbit around it in a space module.

What does this say about us humans? Perhaps that we think big yet are tightly tethered to the past?  One can only wonder what future history books will say about Wednesday, 26 May, 2010. Will it focus on the wonderment of humans in space or of that massive natural disaster created by the same, foolish oil-thirsty people?


5 thoughts on “Atlantis and the Oil Rig

  1. The passage of time becomes more compressed as our lives become more obsessed with speed.
    The century of technological progression, from the first oil wells to space flight is worth meditating on. Things change, things remain the same, we still make the same mistakes and wrong choices but at a faster rate of repittion.
    How to break the cycle?
    How can we explore the cosmos when we still have our feet mired in the primeval ooze of prehistoric forests?
    Is this what it means to be human?

  2. I really enjoyed this post. I think what will be remembered of the United States centuries from now, is that we were the first nation and people to land a man on the moon. NASA is a great analogy of what is possible if humans are pressed to overcome hardships. Think of all the great things NASA has done with it’s 0.5% of the federal budget. The Apollo astronauts went to the moon and back powered by hydrogen fuel cells; the mars rovers are still roving after almost 7 years on just solar power – solar power that is only a fraction of what the earth receives. They rove on in constant sub zero temperatures and blinding dust storms. Next year NASA will launch an even better rover at mars – the Mars Science Laboratory. When people marginalize the Federal Government’s ability to solve large problems, I just think of NASA.

  3. Steve, I am very sorry to have to tell you this, I was a little verklempt when I found out…in just the last few days, the intrepid little Mars Rover finally shut down…
    The orbiting satellite which relays the Roer signal was able to diagnose the problem and the solar panels have ice damage…
    How many years did the Rover function? It was a highpoint in ingenuity and economy. I remember that at one point, the actual system was being controlled from a pc in an apartment in Manhattan.

    I think that the one greatest attribute of humans as a survival factor is the ability to improvise. We will always have a “System D” to fall back on.

  4. You might be thinking of the phoenix mars lander MD. Yes, that one indeed has died – but they expected that it would coat over with CO2 ice over the mars winter given it’s polar position – that particular lander was only designed to operate for a few weeks. But the Mars rovers- Spirit and Opportunity are still plugging along. Spirit is stuck though in some kind of sand trap and so they weren’t able to move it to a good position to collect the most sunlight over the mars winter – so Spirit is incumunicado at the moment, but they expect it to revive any day. The other mars rover, Opportunity, on the opposite side of the planet is still traveling toward a far away crater – even during the mars winter solstice. They are using a technique of “lillypad” hopping. Driving to idea positions to tilt the solar panels toward the receding sun. I will be really sad when these things die. I have followed them religiously since their landing on mars in 2004. It seems so long ago! I had yet to start nursing school and the wars were still in their infancy. Just think about all the events of history that have transpired while these little anthropomorphized robots do science, oblivious to the problems of earth, millions of miles away! Spirit climbed a mountain; Opportunity has traveled almost 13 miles visiting a handfull of craters and confirming the past watery nature of mars. I can’t wait for the landing of the mars science laboratory – but the plucky two solar powered rovers will always seem like close friends.

  5. Steve thanks for the correction. I went back and looked and indeed the Rover is still going strong.

    Have you ever heard of a group of artists obsessed with robotics called Survival Research Labs? I saw a performance by them in the early 90’s that was brought to a halt by the NYC fire department. They were doing a presentation at the World Fair Grounds out in Queens and they tended to get rather messy.

    I have to google this stuff right now…they were brilliant madmen and their obsession with their art makes me wonder if any of them have survived.

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