Commercial space flight: Opening the door to the final frontier?

Eight years before the lunar landing the first manned spacecraft left Earth’s atmosphere making history and Yuri Gagarin famous (a crater on the moon is named after him). His flight lasted just under two hours – enough time to orbit the Earth once. Nearly a decade and 33 manned missions (varying from suborbital flights to trips around the moon) later Apollo 11 set down on the moon’s surface and Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on an extra-orbital body.  In 1972, Apollo 17 was the fourth and last mission to the surface of the moon and more than 30 years later we have yet to accomplish another extra-planetary landing, but that might soon change.

Virgin Galactic is opening the first commercial spaceport (I have found conflicting reports on the opening date, one says it opened last month another says it will open in four months).  Space tourism has been on the radar for 40 years. Pan Am was actually taking bookings for commercial flights to the moon following Apollo 11’s succesful landing. Although there have been a few private citizens who have embarked on tourist missions to space, this will mark the beginning of regular and “affordable” ($200,000 is affordable compared to $20 million) tourist flights.  What it also means is advancement.

Unlike a government-controlled agency, private business has a greater incentive to improve and become more cost-effective. One tourist operator will lead to a variety of tourist operators and to succeed they will need to offer the best experience at the best price. Ten-day orbital tours will evolve into trips around the moon, spacewalks and eventually lunar landings. From there, well, the sky is no longer the limit. To achieve this with untrained private citizens the technology will have to be nearly fool-proof, but, most of all, it will have to push the envelope. Those developing the space-tourism industry will be locked in a battle of progression and hopefully that will mean rapid progression in spacecraft design and propulsion systems.

Although $200,000 is a bit out of my price range, as competition increases and technology improves the cost will come down. When that happens new experiences will have to be marketed and the real advancements will emerge. When orbital and lunar tours have become yesterday’s unique pleasure trips then companies will have to go bigger and farther. I can’t wait to book my spa get away at the Ritz Mars.

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1923 time traveller: fun while it lasted.

Is the person walking through the shot in the Charlie Chaplain film a time traveller speaking on a cellphone or is she simply testing her new Siemens Hearing aid?

Unfortunately it is likely the latter; but it is fun to think we captured an inattentive time agent strolling through a movie set while sending a message back to the future via her hand-held communication device.

For years time travel was lumped into the pile of garbage science; ruled impossible by scientists and left in the realm of science fiction. Over the past few years the advances in quantum theory have led to more credible theories about how time travel would work. In a past post I mentioned Stephen Hawking’s theory.

Hawking isn’t the only scientist with public views on how time travel is achievable. Dr. Michio Kaku also has theories on the subject. What is interesting about Kaku’s theory is his solution to the grandfather paradox. Essentially the paradox refers to a time traveller meeting his or her grandfather in the past and murdering him (how could you go back in time and kill your grandfather if without him you could never be born?).

Kaku’s theory delves into alternate universes. Think of it this way: every time you make a choice there are mulitple possibilities for outcomes and multiple possibilities of other choices you could have made. The instant a choice is made multiple branches of our universe are born – whole parallel world’s with different choices and outcomes.

So, if you were to go back and time and meet your grandfather – according to Kaku’s theory – time would diverge and you would be meeting the grandfather of your alternate self.

So does that mean if we were to catch a time traveller on film the person wouldn’t just be from the future, but also an alternate universe? I mean if you can’t meet your own grandfather what is to say you could travel into your own past? Would it mean if I went back in time and killed Hitler the holocaust would still happen in my time, just not some alternate universe’s time?

So much for going back for last week’s winning lotto numbers.

Posted in General, Science, Science Fiction | 1 Comment

Freedom of ignorance. Attack on Yellowknife Muslims by CBC commenters is disgusting.

I have been debating whether to write this post, but I am so appalled by the crap people choose to spout in the name of their right to free speech I have to vent.

It has been a week since CBC posted a story on its website about a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad glued to the door of the Islamic Centre in Yellowknife. First of all, CBC should be ashamed of itself for some of the comments it has allowed to stand and even more ashamed it has allowed the same hateful comments to continue for nearly a week.

Second, the people who have chosen this forum to spew their hateful remarks are among the most ignorant and racist I have seen in a long time. Freedom of speech is a right in this country but their should be a law that states: if you’re an ignorant sack of shit, you should not be allowed to speak or mash your ideas out on a keyboard.

Here we have a religious group whose place of worship was debased by a person with enough understanding of the religion to strike a chord. Is it a hate crime? Probably not. But it was definitely hateful. I don’t blame Nuir Ali for going to the police and if his reaction was severe that is also understandable. It amazes me some people have the audacity to cast the blame for this vandalism on the people whose property was vandalized.

The disgusting comments on CBC’s comment board demonstrate the bias Muslims in North America have to put up with on a daily basis. The comments calling every Muslim a terrorist come from people brainwashed by the media and U.S. wartime propaganda machine. Think about it; in times of war governments can’t have their people doubting the evil nature of the enemy so all are coloured with the same brush. People of all walks of life and races practise the religion which condemns millions of innocents to become victims of hate. My hope is these propaganda puppets are people too stupid to think for themselves; people whose travel experience consists of their trips from the trailer park to the liquor store. Sadly, that is likely not the case. I am sure a lot of decent and well-educated people have joined this hate-filled mob. I guess that’s what fear does to a person. Cowards love the mob, it frees them from responsibility.

I am not going to claim that I am an expert on the Quran or the Muslim faith. But my experiences have taught me that, as in any demographic, there are good people and bad people. Actually, the only Muslims I have seen who would fit the “evil-doer” label have been on TV.

I remember being on a bus in Malaysia. A friend and I were stuck in the worst traffic jam I have ever seen. It actually took us an hour to go a block. On this bus were three Muslim women, a mother and her two daughters. The eldest daughter was 19 and exotically beautifully (exotic from my western perspective anyway). I know all the ignorant fools out there are already confused. How could I tell what she looked like clad in her oppressive garb that hides her from public view. Oh wait, that’s cause not all Muslim women cover their faces. In fact, during a tour of a Mosque later in the week the man who showed us around explained that the Quran actually doesn’t say women should hide their faces. It only says they should wear modest clothing that covers to their hands and ankles as well as head scarves. It is by no means the only religion with such conservative beliefs. Try being a woman and getting into the Vatican wearing shorts or a tank top. There is also a passage in Corinthians (oh yeah that is the Christian Bible by the way) that says women should cover their heads during prayer. The man at the mosque added, apparel such as the all-shrouding burqa are tribal interpretations of the Quran.

The mother and eldest daughter on the bus wore headscarves while the youngest daughter wore jeans and a T-shirt. At first I thought they were from Canada or the U.S. because they spoke perfect and unaccented (to my Canadian ears) English. It turns out, however, they were Qatari (side-note Qatari is the greatest name for a people ever). Anyway, Qatar is among the more liberal Muslim nations (others being Jordan, UAE, Turkey, Kuwait and the list goes on). The eldest daughter, whose name escapes me now, was studying neurosurgery (hmm I guess Muslim women are allowed to be educated).

If we were to cast all peoples into the same basket as their extremist counterparts the world would fall into chaos. We would be too afraid or hateful of each other to get things done.

As much as I embrace our right to freedom of speech sometimes the things people choose to say makes me sick to my stomach. Maybe one day we will be better than animals.

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