On this day in 1958, the U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a civilian agency responsible for coordinating America’s activities in space. NASA has since sponsored space expeditions, both human and mechanical, that have yielded vital information about the solar system and universe. It has also launched numerous earth-orbiting satellites that have been instrumental in everything from weather forecasting to navigation to global communications.
A list of some of NASA’s greatest achievements:
1958: First US Spacecraft.
1961: First US Astronaut
1969: Man on the Moon
1972: Pioneer 10 launched to photograph Jupiter.
1973: Pioneer 11 to photograph Saturn
1990: Hubble Space Telescope launched
1973: Skylab first space experimental station
1977: Voyagers were launched to explore outer space
1999: X-Ray Telescope launched to photograph supernovas and black hole
1975: Mars Exploration and Rover landing
Happy 55th birthday NASA!
I wind my way across a black donut hole
and space that clunks.
Once I saw on a stage,
as if at the bottom of a mineshaft,
the precise footwork
of some mechanical ballet.
It was like looking into the brain
of a cuckoo clock and it carried
some part of me away forever.
No one knows when they first see a thing,
how long its after image will last.
Proust could stare at the symptom of a face
for years, while Frank O’Hara, like anyone with a job,
was always looking at his watch.
My favorite way of remembering is to forget.
Please start the record of the sea over again.
Call up a shadow below the pendulum of a gull’s wing.
In a city of eight million sundials, nobody has any idea
how long a minute really is.
~ Elaine Equi
Music by Alex North from 2001: A Space Odyssey (based on “Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss)
“The knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on earth—the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars—the high mass ones among them- went unstable in their later years—they collapsed and then exploded- scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy—guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems- stars with orbiting planets. And those planets now have the ingredients for life itself. So that when I look up at the night sky, and I know that yes we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up—many people feel small, cause their small and the universe is big. But I feel big because my atoms came from those stars.”
Not many people get to travel to outer space, but here, we can at least see what it looks like from amazing aerial perspectives. Landsat 5, a satellite that observed our planet for more than 29 years in space, will soon be ending it’s mission. Originally set to orbit Earth for three years, the satellite lived well beyond its intended means. But, a recently broken gyroscope has declared the end of the machine’s time in space.
It orbited Earth more than 150,000 times, capturing more than 2.5 million images of our world’s terrain. In honor of the mission’s end, here are a collection of Landsat 5’s best images of our planet. Landsat 7, which has been orbiting Earth since 1999, will remain overhead and Landsat 8 will be launched into space in February 2013.
Jupiter, the most massive planet in our solar system — with dozens of moons and an enormous magnetic field — forms a kind of miniature solar system. Jupiter does resemble a star in composition, but it did not grow big enough to ignite. The planet’s swirling cloud stripes are punctuated by massive storms such as the Great Red Spot, which has raged for hundreds of years.
Jupiter’s appearance is a tapestry of beautiful colors and atmospheric features. Most visible clouds are composed of ammonia. Water vapor exists deep below and can sometimes be seen through clear spots in the clouds. The planet’s “stripes” are dark belts and light zones created by strong east-west winds in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere.
Antennae Galaxies (NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team)*
“The things that existed were so immense and so desolate. She continued to be conscious of these vast masses of substance for a long stretch of time, the clock still ticking in the midst of the universal silence.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out
Friday afternoon. Beautiful blue skies and cool. Autumn temperatures.
Pain scale: Head 6, back 8.
So I had my first migraine since the Botox shots, and I have to say that if this is the results, then it’s well worth having someone stick a needle in my face. I took a Relpax when it hit, and within a few hours, I was already feeling better. About six hours later, I was a bit weak, but no more migraine. It’s been so long since once onset med did the trick that I just didn’t even know how to react.
The headache I’m currently dealing with isn’t a migraine, more of a stress/sinus combo, so I’m trying to take just ibuprofen for these types to see if that will do the trick. It would be wonderful to be able to give up at least one pain medication. Just have to wait and see.
As for the back pain, well, nothing new there. Omnipresent, just manageable on some days, and then on days such as today, almost debilitating, as in turning over in bed is painful. As in trying to do one of those wake-up body stretches, arms above the head kind of thing is impossible. Consequently, I was unable do drive the kids to school this morning, and Corey had to do it. I know that sometimes he thinks that I just don’t want to get out of bed, but as I had been awake since 7, that wasn’t the case this morning.
I dreamed of candles within rocks, natural candles formed by pouring the wax into the hollows of rocks, and a quilt. I was making a quilt for my mother, and somehow I knew how to do this even though I do not sew, and I was looking for the perfect centerpiece for the quilt, something with eyelets, but the fabric store was closing. And somehow I had to include grosgrain ribbon on the quilt. It was an assignment for some class, and I wasn’t in the least disturbed by the incongruity of it all.
“In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.” ~ Cormac McCarthy
I have realized why some parts of Europe like Ireland and Wales seem to call to me: It is the commingling of the ancient with the now, being able to live in a country that is thousands of years old, that has structures that have weathered centuries, sometimes millenia, to live near these, to feel the history even as life progresses ever onwards into the future. That is what I want because that is what I feel inside—that I am a mix of the old and the new, the ancient and the present. I have always felt that I was this way. I have no explanation for it.
Corey and I watched Valhalla Rising, a movie with little dialogue and a lot of mist. I alit on this movie in the middle of the night mostly because it starred Mads Mikkelsen, who played Tristram in King Arthur, which is enough for me but not quite enough for this movie. It is set at some point in the Dark Ages of Europe, and the plot, what little plot there was, involves a warrior who had been held captive but gains his freedom only to go on a journey into a hellish unknown. I only mention this for two reasons: Don’t watch it unless you need a soporific; conversely, watch if you are interested in a lot of landscape.
The weather is harsh, the mountains forbidding, and the conditions, unforgiving. But I still found something hauntingly beautiful about the landscape, the wide open unpopulated spaces. The movie is not an action film, but I think that it’s supposed to be some kind of extended metaphor for about what awaits us in the unknown.
The movie’s title references Norse mythology, Valhalla being that great hall for the chosen dead. Odin, who rules Valhalla, chooses those warriors who will come to him after death. And perhaps the visions that One-eye (Mikkelsen’s character) has reference the Medieval literature, most of which includes visions of Valhalla, blood, and battle. Or perhaps I’m overthinking, which I have been known to do.
“Beauty consists of its own passing, just as we reach for it. It’s the ephemeral configuration of things in the moment, when you see both their beauty and their death . . . Does this mean that this is how we must live our lives? Constantly poised between beauty and death, between movement and its disappearance? Maybe that’s what being alive is all about: so we can track down those moments that are dying.” ~ Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (tran. A. Anderson)
So today is 11/11/11. I’ve never paid much attention to these significant dates. I mean, I didn’t notice when it was 10/10/10 or 9/9/9, etc. But something about the 11 sequence is intriguing. Eleven has always been one of those numbers for me, like 3 and 7. Prime numbers. I don’t mean to imply that I’m deeply into numerology or anything like that, but there is a certain elegance in numbers, one that has always eluded my right-brained thinking.
I’ve never had a deep affinity for math, except for geometry, which I love to this day, but the idea of trying to determine the next number in the sequence of pi does not fascinate me; just as I’m certain that people interested in calculating pi are not necessarily interested in words in the same way that I am. Nevertheless, I respect numbers, am intrigued by sequences, find the complexity of it all rather mysterious.
Take the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.), which intrigued me before Dan Brown employed it. I wrote a post about the Golden Mean a couple of years ago. What I find most fascinating about the Fibonacci sequence is its appearance in nature: the perfect blending of science and art, the means and the method. Am I rambling? Probably.
I suppose it boils down to this: The mysterious, the truly mysterious has an explanation on one level, but remains mysterious on the other level. Consider the sunflower . . . Fibonacci. An aloe plant . . . Fibonacci. An artichoke . . . Fibonacci. Larger? Spiral galaxies.
Yes, the mind is zooming today, from one thing to another, no apparent connections. The only link is the mystery.
“Suddenly I began to find a strange meaning in old fairy-tales. Woods, rivers, mountains, became living beings. Mysterious life filled the night. With new interests and new expectations I began to dream again of distant travels” ~ P. D. Ouspensky
Actually, these things of which I am speaking are not so unrelated. Consider, I made the mistake of assigning Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to a class of freshmen. Ah, the follies of youth. I was a graduate student at Virginia Tech at the time. Now, of course, I realize that very few 18-year-olds know anything of the darkness that can lie at the heart, know little to nothing of the journeys we make into the unknown with little to guide us besides some vague idea of a mission.
Consider the artichoke heart: My friend Mari once wrote of how her father would steal the heart of the artichokes from his daughters, saying to them that they would not like the heart, when of course, the heart is the tastiest part. When eating a fresh artichoke, something I did not do until I was 18, we peel away the leaves, each one subsequently smaller than the previous, and we arrive at this heart, covered with a protective layer of fibers.
To get to the heart, we reveal a natural Fibonacci sequence, but how many of us are aware of that? And then the heart, it is covered, and if this is our first time, we know nothing of its substance, so we can be convinced that we won’t like it.
And One-eye, knowing nothing of the journey he makes with the Christian Vikings, arrives in a New World that is completely foreign to him, and at the heart of his journey is only more darkness. And Marlow, who journeys into the unknown of Africa, finds at the end a darkness that is almost unfathomable.
“Ishmael gave himself to the writing of it, and as he did so he understood this, too: that accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.” ~ David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars
We all make our own journeys near and far, figuratively and literally, and some of us arrive at something that is unknown yet sweet and delectable nonetheless, and some of us arrive only to find that we have not found that for which we thought we were searching, that we have found instead something quite different, something dark and forbidding.
And then some of us, never make the journey at all, remaining stagnant at the first 1 of the sequence, unable to build upon what came before, either from fear or ignorance, or a combination of both, and because of this, we are never able to finish the quilts that represent out lives even though we thought that we knew how.
Our personal histories guide us, but they do not necessarily define us. The smoke from the bridges that we have burned can leave us with the most bitter of tastes. But fire also cleanses and renews. And I am reminded of my favorite line from Michael Ondaatje: “The heart is an organ of fire.”
More later. Peace.
*All images are from the NASA Galleries found here.
Music by Brooke Waggoner (just discovered her), “Come Love, See My Hands”
So we’ve moved out of the years.
I am finally back upstream
and, but for their holiday grins
on every bookcase, the boys
were never born, it was a dream.
Here is where my past begins
in a garret beside a bridge,
woken by birds pecking moss
from the dark. The river’s clear.
It will not turn to sludge
till it reaches you and the mess
of streets I hated, endured
only because you were there.
My windows are full of leaves.
There are mountains in my skylight.
Perhaps you would like it here.
It is the same river—it moves,
perhaps, towards the same light.