It’s been many years since I’ve taken the time to watch the entirety of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial nearly 50 years ago, on August 28, 1963. Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as well as the second inauguration of the first African-American president of the United States.
Hearing Dr. King’s aspirations once more, it’s clear we’ve come so far in the last 50 years, but we still have a long way to go.
On her last day as the Expedition 33 commander aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams filmed a 25-minute tour of the ISS, complete with explanations of how the toilets work, where the food is stored (American, Russian, and Japanese), demonstrations of exercise equipment, and an inside view of the Soyuz return vehicle.
External photos of the ISS against the curve of the Earth and abstract numbers like a length of 72.8 meters, a width of 108.5 meters, or a pressurized volume of 837 cubic meters can never really give you a sense of just how massive humanity’s outpost in low-Earth orbit really is. At the same time, all the tight squeezes and small compartments illustrate just how small it actually is.
In many respects, the ISS is the culmination of human progress, not just technologically but also culturally. Apollo-Soyuz notwithstanding, the level of cooperation across national boundaries between former enemies — the United States, Canada, Japan, various members states of the EU, and Russia — would have been unimaginable for most of the 20th century. (A college friend trains astronauts in Houston. Her business cards are English on one side, Russian on the other.)
Sunita Williams says in the video that she spent a lot of her down time during her stay on the ISS in the Cupola, gazing down at Earth. You can’t see borders between countries from space…