13 March 2011


SPACE TOURISM. Thanks to my friend Tathagata for this link to an article on the environmental costs and the effect on climate change which an accelerated schedule of launches would create -- apropos of a previous post in which I described the imminent retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, and an even earlier post in which I rhapsodized upon my dream of traveling into near space, even if it means doing so by commercial (as opposed to NASA) vehicles. My dream remains intact, but this naturalist/environmentalist is grateful for the reminder that nothing comes without a hidden price -- and sometimes that price is unacceptable.

QUAKE AFTERMATH. The Japan earthquake and tsunami have generated a perfect storm of media coverage, not only on the immediate devastation to life and property (click here to view some astonishing aerial photos -- simply slide your cursor from left to right on each photo to generate the before-and-after effect), but also some very alarming coverage of a number of nuclear power plants damaged by the quake. Concerns have rightfully been raised over the prospect of core meltdowns and the release of radiation to the atmosphere, which would potentially affect everyone in the northern hemisphere. Visions of the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters dance in our heads.

But wait. My friend Bill sent me a link to a piece written by an American who lives and works in central Japan. In it, the American urges us all to take a deep breath before panicking. He provides some very useful background on Japanese geography, national disaster preparedness, and factual information on actual events on the ground, both generally and specifically with regard to the nuclear plants. I strongly encourage you to read what he has written, as a balancing viewpoint in contrast to what we hear on the news.

Below is a hypothetical worst-case-scenario image of the airborne path of radiation resulting from damage to one of the nuclear plants in Japan. It does not reflect any official projections at this point in time. Click to enlarge.

ON THE OTHER HAND. There are moments when terror is justified. Witness this footage of an aviation crewman being sucked into the running jet engine intake of an A-6 Intruder (see image below). Crew safety is stressed in every aspect of aviation training, whether military, commercial, or private. Our friend experienced a grievous lapse of judgment which should have killed him. Amazingly, he suffered only minor injuries. A candidate for the Darwin Awards, or simply one lucky SOB who made a mistake anyone could have made? I'm leaning toward the former descriptor. What do you think?

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