Live from Earth

I know I said there were going to be no blog posts for a while, and that is still almost true. However, in light of my hearty agreement with this blog post, which I read this morning, and the recent airing of Live from Space on UK TV, I felt a sudden urgency to repost the following, er… post. (it also ties in quite well with the new blog site, as you’ll see at a later time)

Some people may take issue with what I am about to say. Some of them may also laugh derisively as they tell me that I’m am being petty, but I ask those people to consider carefully the following:

  • Have you ever mocked the musical tastes of others, because you played an instrument in a band from time to time, so you feel you know better than they do?
  • Did you ever grit your teeth because a small child in a Jar-Jar Binks T-Shirt said to you: “Do you even know what Star Wars is?”

I’m sure some version of the above has happened to you at some point in your life, and I’m quite certain that almost every person I know has been guilty of something similar, so relax and try to absorb the message… or don’t.

You see, I am a space travel nerd. A real space travel nerd. I have sat all alone in my little room for days on end, reading through the transcripts of the Apollo 8 mission, and been ridiculed for it. I suppose you’re asking for a little ridicule when you spend your time reading through transcripts containing every single word that was uttered inside the command module during the 6 days of Apollo 8, but it is my favourite of the Apollo missions. You can keep your Apollo 11… I have a soft spot for Borman, Lovell, and Anders; the oft forgotten astronauts who saw the surface of the moon up close, 7 months before Armstrong and Aldrin even got there.

Now, I suppose the fact that I am exactly the sort of dork who has a “favourite Apollo mission” in the first place, deserves a little ridicule, but when you have watched people shake their heads and roll their eyes, every time you start to bang on about the history of, or advances in, human spaceflight… If you have found yourself alone at a dinner table after everyone gets up to leave when you start talking about the Kepler array… If you have fumed as some trendy but clueless teenager – who can tweet and apply make-up at the same time, but needs to check their passport if you ask them to write their own name – says: “I don’t geddit! Wots intrestin baht spaaace?” If you have been the source of many a giggle because of your passion for, or obsession with, space travel, and the universe outside the living room… it does get to you a little bit when some of the same folks that ridiculed you start discussing how they are “becoming a total space geek”, because they watched a TV program about life aboard the ISS.

The post from The Good Men Project, which I linked at the beginning, made me think once again about the social media driven world we now live in. The self-styled life gurus, reposting memes with such tired rhetoric as “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”, or those all important likes by which bloggers like myself measure internet success.

This and the observation that seeing the International Space Station on TV seems to have elicited untold excitement from my home across the water, have encouraged me to repost the following, from August 28th, 2011.

Remember those painful times during your school days… when life was just one long popularity contest?

Thank God those days are over, huh?

They don’t have roads but they have facebook

Life, it seems to me, is a series of moments between here and there. Most are completely insignificant:

  • Pouring milk into your tea; opening the mail; sitting  in a chair, etc.

Any one of those, at any time, can become a moment of significance:

  • Pouring too much milk into your tea; resulting in a spillage which destroys your laptop, along with your formula for a new spot-cream.

The significance of a life overall, is dependant upon whether or not these moments are significant to others:

  • Pouring milk into the tea of a work colleague, whose allergy to milk, though previously unknown to you, causes anaphylactic shock, and a trip to the hospital.

…or perhaps even the entire human race:

  • 2 days later, the work colleague, whilst doing field research in the rainforest, experiences biphasic anaphylaxis (It’s OK to look this up. I had to) and dies, 3 days short of completing their cure for cancer… Oops!

Now… this is certainly a “glass is half empty” viewpoint. I could just as easily have said that you had discovered a cure for cancer but, in the interest of continuity, I thought it best to stick with the milk analogy, and couldn’t think of any way that would translate into your saving the world.

I have had many significant moments; most of them significant only to me; a few of them significant to others. I suppose the two most significant moments in my life have been my birth and the birth of my daughter. My daughter will inevitably go through a period of resenting me for her birth, and my big sister has never really forgiven me for my own (and not without justification, if I’m honest). Still, I like to tell myself that my birth was responsible for that of my little brother, if only because I imagine my father spending a few months with me before he felt it necessary to see if he could get it right next time.

Ultimately though, I have had no moments sufficiently significant to result in my name being sung through the ages by descendants of the little nerdy kids, who survived the nuclear holocaust because playing Fallout taught them how to make bottlecap mines, and kill Radroaches with a pool cue. The only way I could realistically make ripples in a big pool would be to work at Water Meadows, operating the wave machine.

However, through the sorcery of social networking, we can now share moments of personal significance with the world and see if they turn into moments of ever-so-slightly-greater significance. I recently had the opportunity to share one of these moments, and, to be fair, I genuinely thought it was a pretty big one. I hadn’t just “had a random nosebleed 😦 ” or “seen my reflection in a spoon 🙂 LOL” or anything quite so mundane. I had been tweeted… by a robot… in orbit, aboard the International Space Station!! Now, OK, it’s the astronauts who actually operate the robot, but human exploration of space has always been a really important subject to me, as can be seen in this post, so to say that I was excited is an understatement of “I think these horseless carriages might catch on” proportions. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited to receive a personal message from the first humanoid robot in space? Well… pretty much everyone I know as it turns out.

It is, to say the least, slightly depressing to post what might be the coolest moment of your life so far, in your facebook status and receive not one single response, whilst “LOL. My belly button looks like a face” has received over a dozen. Are you f**king kidding me? I just received a personal message from a $2.5 million dollar piece of hardware, aboard a f**king space station! I actually did find it rather impressive that my sister in-law killed 27 flies at work the other day (Congrats on your multi-kill skills, Sal), but come on…

ROBOT!

SPACE STATION!

And so… social networking gives us a new perspective on moments of personal significance; allowing us to see the level of our importance as clearly as if it had posted on the stock exchange. Jocks and
geeks are no longer separated by the length of a football field, but by how many status responses they get on facebook. The popular kid posts about an extremely loud fart he did in geography class and becomes a hero, while the geek who successfully replicated the origin of life in the chemistry room gets a facebook wedgie in the form of: 0 Likes – 0 Comments. I wonder; if the Apollo Moon landings had happened in the era of social networking, would Gene Cernan post: “Leaving the surface of the moon now. No human being will return here in my lifetime.” Only to find that he sank to the bottom of the facebook wall because his mate in Arizona put his trousers on back-to-front and everyone thought it was hilarious.

I simply haven’t yet got the hang of social networking. I mean, all joking aside (yes… for a few moments I will try to be serious), I am not a facebook friend collector. I only add people that I am actually interested in talking to. Any status update is unlikely to elicit many responses when your circle of friends doesn’t stretch all that far into the double digits but, in the 21st century, we depend on social networking when we’re stuck indoors, and our view of the outside world is confined to that which we can see through our office window. And, since I won’t be leaving the house until I have finished MAKING THIS MOTHER-FU…. sorry. Count to ten…

…I meant to say that I will be busy for another couple of weeks yet, so please enjoy the cartoon, and, to all of you – particularly those lucky enough to have a view that changes whenever they have the time to untie the moorings – don’t take my comments to be anything other than a flimsy pretext for a blog post.

I’m going now. Enjoy what’s left of your day, and I’ll see you on the network.

 

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2 comments on “Live from Earth

  1. I seem to remember this post. It’s definitely more relevant in the current context than ever before, but it is still ridiculously wonderful that my husband has been tweeted… from outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Come on! You’re the only person I know who has received communications from space! Weeeeee!

    Also, major giggles on some parts there.

    Like

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