Tag Archive | space

My Life on a Space Station



What would my life be like if I lived on a space station? I mean a station orbiting high above the earth, rolling gently through our galaxy, rocketing into outer space. I mean an enclosed world all to myself, a world with no one but me.

On my space station, there’d be no conflict. No arguments, no yelling. Peace, calm, my mind at rest. Would it be freeing? Would I feel like I did as a child at the end of each summer, waiting in boredom for school to start again? It could be an eternity of boredom.

I’d need to stay busy, I suppose, or go mad. Ballroom dancing? Fun, but not without a partner. Gardening might be essential for survival, but I doubt I would find joy in weeding. I’d need to exercise. Treadmill, yoga. And meditation. I could watch my own navel.

How would I spend my time? Would I bring the complete works of Shakespeare with me to fill the hours? Would I choose great literature, opera, ballet? Mozart? Yum Yum and Van Gogh, Monet? Star Trek? Anne-girl and her Gilbert? Jo and Beth, Meg, Amy? The Big Bang Theory? Would I study string theory, quantum physics? The stars? Or would I discover them for what they all are, points of light too far away to reach.

Why would I choose to live by myself, in the middle of nothing, without company from any other human being? Would the melancholy become intolerable? I might crave affection to distraction. I might get all the way out there, billions of miles from anyone, only to find that I miss humanity. Of course I would miss my children. I would miss Paris, and the beauty of a New England autumn, the Acropolis and Rome. Mont Ste. Michele, Giverny. Would I miss you? Would I grow old and in the utter silence of a frozen universe, think of you?



Stellar Point


Have you ever wished for something that seems impossible to attain? Ever wanted something so badly it becomes an obsession? Put yourself on the line, made a fool of yourself, only to be shot down again and again? Have you raised your eyes to the starry night and made an if-only pact with the heavens?

If only they like me…
If only my job goes well…
If only my other job goes well…
If only I could lose a few more pounds…
If only the house sells quickly…
If only my kids are happy…
If only I could find a perfect new home…
If only I were rich…
If only I could get my book published…

If only, then what? What is it that I’m willing to trade to reach my dreams? I feel at times desperate for forward motion. Life can be a giant circle, a continuum of sameness. Treading water, never gaining, never changing. Many people, perhaps most, like that sameness. There is comfort in routine, in knowing exactly what’s coming next. Routine means security, safety in the performance. One has an almost perfect sense of the future. Turkey and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Gifts and decorations at Christmas. Candle-lit menorahs for Channukah. My son said to me yesterday, “Is it eggnog time of year yet?”

As comforting as all this predictable turning of the wheel is to most, I yearn for something different. I want independence. I want freedom. I do not want sameness. I want to take a risk, a chance. I’m not a crazy, jump off buildings kind of risk taker. It’s more that I want to experience the new. I want to find the kernel of truth in the making, that wonderful new idea, that stellar point. Yes, that stellar point, that sparkling tease high in the sky, beckoning me. Making me reach, making me work for the challenge. Fixing my mind on an impossible task, finding what makes me happy.

Yet there is nothing free in the universe. If only I could find happiness, would I stop dreaming? Would I stop reaching? Would finding what makes me happy actually make me happy? Or is it the if-only search of the heavens, that continuing quest, that obsession with the discovery, that desire for the future instead of the now, that will keep me alive and feeling? That wonder, that wish upon a distant and shining star? If only I knew.



Turbulent Magnetic Bubbles


A while ago I signed up for daily emails from NASA, me being a space and sci-fi geek. It’s true. Today an email reported that a NASA probe had reached the edge of our solar system. One would think that the solar system has no end. That it drains comfortably and seamlessly into the infinity of outer space. That there is a calm transition from our worlds to the universe beyond. One could think so, but one would be wrong, and now there is proof. The probe’s data shows that rather than tranquil, empty space, the edge of the solar system is composed of a turbulent field of magnetic bubbles.

A sea of frenzied, troubled bubbles. All attracting? Or all repelling? Perhaps some combination that allows individual bubbles of all permutations to intermingle or float alone. Does the field hold our solar system in place, keeping it from expanding too far or diluting its strengths? Maybe it blocks out a hostile, threatening cosmos. Magnetism, crushing us, also holds us all together as one. Turbulence, inconstancy, keeps us oxygenated and alive. Bubbles, closed impenetrable forms, are also spheres that hold the endless circle of creation. How amazing, how profound. The universe isn’t smooth and easy any more than our lives are. There is messiness and unhappiness and lack of control. And boundaries that aren’t clear cut. That bleed out even when you try so hard to rein in. And people saying and doing the wrong things and making all kinds of stupid mistakes. And mysteries, challenges of the unknown. This is the norm, if we take space as a model. The universe is a dangerous, difficult place.

Yet we have to find a way to live in it for the short time we have consciousness and awareness. Magnetism  is strength. Turbulence means change. Bubbles  – simplicity and clarity. The world is what you discover in it. The answers lie within your own mind and heart. The challenge is to assess the whole, to dissect and reassemble the pieces, to find the beauty in all things.


Time is a Long, Long Ladder


At some time in your life, you’re going to begin questioning why you exist. You’ll take a look at the length of your history, at your stories, your accomplishments, your failures. You’ll think of your present, of the beliefs you cling to and those you’ve allowed to slip away. And the future? An indecipherable mass of uncertainty. You can’t know.

Time only travels in one direction, even though one’s memory is not linear. But what if your life was more like a space elevator? A space elevator that runs along a ribbon-like track made of carbon nanotube fiber. Carbon nanotubes have enormous tensile strength. They can be woven together to form a very thin ribbon or cable of immense strength. The ribbon is cemented into the ocean floor at the equator, and a length over 22,000 miles long launched into space. It rises up to orbit with the earth, held in place by centrifugal force. That force at the top of the ladder is stronger than gravity. The ladder will seem stationary at its base on the surface of the earth, while its top will be spinning through time and space.

Now add an elevator that can climb the carbon ladder and deliver you right up to the top of the world, more than 22,000 miles up. And what’s at the top? A hotel for space tourists, of course. A real destination that you can visit as many times as you wish, vacation time permitting.

If you compare the ladder to your life, the base cemented into the ocean is your past. The cement, your family; the ocean, your friends. This is your watery world. Now step into the elevator cabin and thrill as you climb the carbon ribbon toward the sun. This remarkable journey is your present. You’ve got to shield yourself from the radiation all around you. And protect yourself from electrical storms. Those are the challenges your life brings your way. At the top is your future, that space hotel in the sky with every amenity available in the universe. What a vacation! You can’t imagine that future, you simply have to experience it. It’s the enormity of space: who can know what it will bring? Since it will take many days to reach the top, you’ll need a few months of time to fully enjoy your space hotel.

But then, probably too soon, your vacation is over and you must descend. Your past becomes your future, your return to your beginnings. The journey is still pleasant, though your ears may pop. But unlike the space hotel orbiting the earth, your final destination is known. Your future is no long a mystery. You’re going back. You’re going home. Your future becomes your past. Your present repeats, though in reverse.

How is it possible to know your future? How can you choose a future, when only the present is real? Maybe we live in parallel universes, where at any given time, what’s real can vary. I wonder if the only way to figure out why you exist is to take that carbon nanotube ribbon of a space elevator into the sky. Up through the clouds, up past the atmosphere, up into the coldness of space, up where the earth holds us but still allows us to spin freely in time, in utter darkness and emptiness. Time is a long, long ladder. But I wonder which way to travel on it. Which way is real. Which way?

PS Space elevators and carbon nanotube space ladders are real concepts originating in science fiction, but currently being designed and developed. Someday, you’ll be able to take your vacation up a very thin ladder to a space hotel in the sky.



Ask Not



January 20th is Inauguration Day, the day an elected U.S. president is sworn into duty. This year was the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. I don’t remember this speech, considering I was eight years old when he delivered it. I do recall very well the day he was assassinated. I was ten years old by that time and more cognizant of the world. I remember my teacher crying as the principal of the school announced over the loudspeaker that the president had been shot. I walked home after school as always, and saw my older sister crying as she caught up with me on the sidewalk. I remember saying, ‘we didn’t even know him, why are you crying?’ and her reply ‘you are too young to understand.’

It was clearly the end of an era, the end of Camelot, the end of innocence for an entire generation. JFK wasn’t a perfect president. In fact, with the Cuban missile crisis, we almost went to war. But his most important words live on, and instruct us well if we care to listen and learn. “Ask not what your country can do for you,” he said. “Ask what you can do for your country.” Our new era of individual liberties, self obsessions, and demands for instant gratification overshadow any sense that the common good should even be considered. His words sound almost quaint in today’s context.

But there was a time when individuals put aside their parochial concerns and turned their minds to greater ideals. This passage from my novel PERSEPHONE IN HELL brings back Glory’s memories of the moon landing.

“…it was the event of a lifetime, of a hundred thousand lifetimes. It was July 20th in the year 1969 – the first time ever in the history of humankind that a man would walk on the moon.

The Apollo 11 lunar module. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins. They were the talk of every conversation, the images behind every thought, everybody’s greatest heroes. The Eagle has landed, Armstrong said. That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. A human footprint on the surface of the moon, an inconceivable fete. Of course no one could think of anything else.

Perhaps it was the end of an era, the end of time as we know it, of a time when people had limits and old ways and weights placed on them so they could barely move forward. So even the brightest and best could only inch ahead.

Or maybe it was the beginning of time, a time of anti gravity, of breaking free from the old constraints, of leaping lightness, of acceptance and tolerance for new ideas.”

Though I was only a child when President Kennedy lived, I remember the pride and passion that he inspired people to feel for their country. Not in a bullying ‘we are the greatest’ way. Not in a phony ‘love it or leave it’ way. But with respect and pride for the incredible accomplishments of the day, and hope for a better future. That is the legacy that President Kennedy left us. That is the part about him that I will always remember.