One small step

NASA and space exploration have always been one of the things that makes me proud to be an American. Today in 1969, humans stepped foot on another celestial body for the first time.

Apollo 11 bootprint

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing remains one of the singular achievements of the human race. My hope remains that I will live to see our species send representatives to the Moon again, and then on to Mars.

Literary decay

There’s something lovely about abandoned books. They’re somehow beautifully tragic in their dusty, moldy state, and yet still full of potential — whether it’s to be rescued, taken to a new home (as I’ve done with several books I’ve found in abandoned houses and barns) and perhaps read once more, or turned into something new. James Charlick found this abandoned library in a manor house while doing a bit of urban exploration.

The Grand Library

Via Boing Boing.

打ち寄せる古里の波

You can also read the earlier English version of this poem.

その瞬間、砂に立ちながら気付いたのは
     足下のがらくたが何であること
          流木にもつれ合っている
     羽毛でまだらの
          昆布にまつわりつかれた物

蕎麦屋の壁、酒屋の屋根
     数え切れない住宅から
          黄色い絶縁体の塊

台所と居間から
     浴室と寝室から
醤油がまだ中に流れる瓶
     紅茶と麦茶と歯ブラシ
          テレビ

高潮がうちよせた曲線を歩む我
     割れたサンダルをまたぎ
          長靴の靴底を渡る

この物一つ一つは意味があると解った

ただのゴミではない

だれかが捨てた物でもない

あの晴れた金曜日の午後
     緊急警報が放送された一瞬
          おじいちゃんは
     テレビで何を見ていたのか

床が震え、
     戸棚から料理の材料が
          霰のように降り
     近所の人々が外で叫び出したとたん
          おばあちゃんは
     どのような食事を準備していたのだろう

前は避難勧告が鳴り響き
     後は海のとどろき
          走れるところも無く
     おばあちゃんは階段で靴を無くしたのだろう

一万キロ離れた我はその夜
     母国が流されるのを観た
          故郷の土で黒く染められた波
               木製の風浪

古里へ戻ることは出来ない

この砂浜でそれは分かった
     
しかしながら、
     黒く染められた波に乗り
          木製の風浪に運ばれ
     古里は我の足下に流されていた。

Visiting the Space Shuttle FFT & touring a B-17 at the Museum of Flight

A couple weeks ago, I watched NASA’s Super Guppy flying in the crew compartment section of the Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer (FFT). Today, I checked it out while it was being reassembled at the Museum of Flight here in Seattle.

Space Shuttle trainer assembly (1)

Yes, it’s made of wood, but every shuttle astronaut was trained in the FFT, and the last crew even signed their names under the nose — it’s an important part of NASA history. One of the wonderful things about Seattle getting the FFT rather than one of the actual shuttles is that visitors to the museum will be able to go through it, as we can do today aboard the first jet-powered Air Force One, a Concorde, and one of the last B-17 bombers still in flying condition.

As much as I’m anticipating a tour of the FFT, I was most inspired today by a walk-through — more of a crawl-through, really — of that Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The “Boeing Bee” is one of only a handful of B-17’s still capable of taking to the skies. The bomber was manufactured just up the road from the Museum of Flight, and our docent was a retired Boeing engineer, able to rattle off both technical details and war stories with equal panache.

B-17 cockpit (1)

After squeezing around the ball turret, through the radio room, across the bomb bay, and into the cockpit, it wasn’t difficult to imagine how hellish it must have been for the ten-man crew, flying into German flak and fighters. But with thousands of pounds of bombs and eleven .50-caliber machine guns sprouting from just about every surface, the B-17 dealt death to the world below in equal measure.

Standing there in the July sun outside the Museum of Flight, I thought back to a quote I’d just read inside, from James Smith McDonnell, founder of the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation — builder of both fighter planes like the F-4 Phantom II and space capsules for the Mercury and Gemini programs:

“The creative conquest of space will serve as a wonderful substitute for war.”

Perhaps there’ll be a day when we pour as much technology and passion into the conquest of space as we do into conquering each other.