Yes, exactly like Uranus, or Jupiter, or Mars.
from How to Bake a Universe
written by Alec Carvlin
illustrated by Brian Biggs
Norton Young Readers, 2022
Last Friday, April 8, 2022, Axiom launched Dragon from SpaceX’s site on Cape Canaveral. A little less than 27 hours later, it successfully docked with the International Space Station. Their plan is to stay at the ISS for eight days then return to Earth in a splashdown off the coast of Florida. It’s a first for an all-civilian crew.
The four international astronauts will conduct over 25 experiments in preparation for building and running a private space station. The research will include collecting information from “human health considerations to novel infrastructure and design for our future homes away from Earth…” from Axiom's website While Axiom is its own company, it is working in partnership with SpaceX.
Using TESSERAE technology, one experiment will focus on different methods of self-assembly to produce necessary components of the Space Station. They will also investigate the effect of a microgravity environment on cancer cells. A Japanese company will demonstrate the ability of light to enhance air quality to “convert volatile compounds in the air into carbon dioxide and water…” from Axiom's website
A variety of health data will be collected from each of the astronauts and centralized in a research database. They are expected to find how long-distance and long-duration space travel will affect human health and how to prepare for the demands made by long-lasting and faraway trips including to the Moon and eventually, to Mars.
Axiom’s long-term goal is to build privately owned Space Stations within Earth’s orbit. According to their website, they want to sustain human growth away from Earth and to provide untold benefits for all humans everywhere.
That sounds like science fiction to me. Thinking about robots, holographic transport, and AI feels like I’m stepping off the universe, ungrounded, incredibly exciting and unbelievably scary at the same time.
I struggle with finding balance in my life. I love being able to see my grandkids and kids whenever I want, sorta. FaceTime, Zoom, sending silly and beautiful and inspiring photos makes my life wonderful. At the same time, I’m very OK with my dumb TV (without cable), a grocery list I keep on paper with a pencil that I actually sharpen, and lights that I turn on and off manually. I like the TV clicker, even though I don’t have a clue about why it works.
And I love my solar panels! (See this space on June 9, 2020 for my over?simplification of how they work.)
An English professor of mine once explained Chaucer in his time; he had one foot in his century and his other foot on a banana peel. Chaucer was born in 1342 or maybe 1343, just before the Black Death killed 1/3 of the population (1348-1359). He died in 1400, at the precipice of Richard II’s turbulent reign. So, Chaucer, like all of us moderns, lived during a time of great societal change. The Peasant’s Revolt, corrupt religious institutions, and pervasive ill-health all influenced him and his writing. He coped as we all do by looking for meaning in his everyday. He wrote about it.
But change is inevitable. And necessary. It’s the current pace of change that makes living with it difficult for many of us.
I remember when a long distance phone call was complicated and expensive. Now astronauts communicate in outer space, with each other and with us. I remember when a phone had a dial and a dial tone, and a chord, but no camera, internet connection, or Solitaire. Everyone watched "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "All in the Family" at the same time each week. Weekly magazines kept up with the news. Real journalists told the truth as best as they could understand it.
We are being catapulted into a future almost faster than time itself. My coping strategies: Breathe deep, spend time in nature, and enjoy the ride!
-—stay curious! (and embrace the future)