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Humans Explore: We Are Capable of Greatness, a new short by Space City Films

1 Jan

A new short film by Space City Films beautifully combines images from EFT-1 – the fist test flight of NASA’s Orion capsule on December 5, 2014 – with Carl Sagan’s passage We Humans Are Capable of Greatness.

Turn on the HD and watch:

These are Carl’s words:

We were hunters and foragers, the frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the earth and the ocean and the sky. The open road still softly calls. Our little tarraquest globe is the madhouse of those hundred, thousand, millions of worlds.

We who cannot even put our own planetary home in order, riven with rivalries and hatreds; are we to venture out into space?

By the time we are ready to settle even the nearest other planetary systems, we will have changed. The simple passage of so many generations will have changed us. Necessity will have changed us.

We’re an adaptable species. It will not be we who reach Alpha Centauri and the other nearby stars, it will be a species very like us, but with more of our strengths and fewer of our weaknesses. More confident, far seeing, capable, and prudent.

For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallabilities, we humans are capable of greatness.

What new wonders undreamt of in our time will we have wrought in another generation and another? How far will our nomadic species have wandered by the end of the next century and the next millennium?

Our remote descendants safely arrayed on many worlds through the solar system and beyond, will be unified. By their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that whatever other life may be, the only humans in all the universe, come from Earth.

They will gaze up and strain to find the Blue Dot in their skies. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of all our potential once was.

How perilous our infancy. How humble our beginnings. How many rivers we had to cross before we found our way.

– Carl Sagan

It is always remarkable how well Carl captures the contrast between our problems here on the Pale Blue Dot and the potential for what we can accomplish.

The filmmaker, Marc Havican, tweeted that this film is the first in a series he and Space City Films are creating called Humans Explore.

Can’t wait to see the next one!

30 years since the first Canadian flew in space – #Garneau30

5 Oct

It was October 5, 1984 just a little after 7 a.m. ET when the Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off the pad from south Florida.

On board were Jon A. McBride, pilot; mission specialists Sally K. Ride, Kathryn D. Sullivan, and David C. Leestma; payload specialists Paul D. Scully-Power and Marc Garneau and crew commander Robert L. Crippen.

NASA, not having figured out a sensible numbering system for shuttle flights yet, called the mission 41-G — but this was actually the 13th space shuttle flight.

Up here in the north though, it was simply the first mission that carried a Canadian into the final frontier.

But that wasn’t the only first for STS-41-G.

It was also the first shuttle flight with a crew of seven; it was the first flight with two women on board; it was the first flight where a spacewalk would be conducted by a woman (Sullivan).

STS-41-G was Sally Ride’s second and last spaceflight.

During the course of the eight day mission (they landed October 13), Garneau was responsible for conducting 10 science experiments on board. He also assisted with general house keeping duties, such as preparing meals.

Garneau was on board representing the National Research Council of Canada – which at the time made the Canadian astronaut selections – since the Canadian Space Agency did not yet exist (the CSA was founded March 1, 1989).

Garneau’s backup for the mission was fellow Canadian astronaut Dr. Bob Thirsk, who flew into space on STS-78 (1996) and as part of the Expedition 20/21 (2009) crew to the International Space Station.

Besides STS-41-G, Garneau also flew into space on STS-77 (1996) and STS-97 (2000).

Over the course of STS-41-G, Challenger completed 133 orbits covering some five million kilometers.

The photos below all courtesy NASA/JSC.

Portrait view of STS 41-G crew in civilian clothes. Bottom row (l.-r.) Payload specialists Marc Garneau and Paul Scully-Power, crew commander Robert Crippen. Second row (l-.r-) Pilot Jon McBride, and Mission Specialists David Leestma and Sally Ride. At very top is Mission Specialist Kathryn Sullivan.

Portrait view of STS 41-G crew in civilian clothes. Bottom row (l.-r.) Payload specialists Marc Garneau and Paul Scully-Power, crew commander Robert Crippen. Second row (l-.r-) Pilot Jon McBride, and Mission Specialists David Leestma and Sally Ride. At very top is Mission Specialist Kathryn Sullivan.

View of the early morning launch of STS 41-G Challenger. The dark launch complex is illuminated by spotlights as the orbiter begins its ascent from the pad. The light is reflected off the clouds of smoke from the orbiter's engines.

View of the early morning launch of STS 41-G Challenger. The dark launch complex is illuminated by spotlights as the orbiter begins its ascent from the pad. The light is reflected off the clouds of smoke from the orbiter’s engines.

View of the Canadarm end effector touching the SIR-B antenna during STS 41-G

View of the Canadarm end effector touching the SIR-B antenna during STS 41-G

View of the SIR-B antenna being deployed during STS 41-G

View of the SIR-B antenna being deployed during STS 41-G

False-color image showing Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and was acquired by the Shuttle Imaging Radar-B (SIR-B) during STS 41-G. The St. lawrence River dominates the right portion of the photo. Several bridges cossing the river are visible. Pink and blue areas are generally buildings or pavement. Light green areas regions of natural vegetation; darker green areas are generally cultivated regions. A race track like structure is apparent at top left. The Riviere des Milles Illes and the Riviere des Prairies (left and right, respectively), join to form a U-shaped waterway at the center of the image. The large elliptical green-centered feature west of the St. Lawrence is Mt. Royal.

False-color image showing Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and was acquired by the Shuttle Imaging Radar-B (SIR-B) during STS 41-G. The St. lawrence River dominates the right portion of the photo. Several bridges cossing the river are visible. Pink and blue areas are generally buildings or pavement. Light green areas regions of natural vegetation; darker green areas are generally cultivated regions. A race track like structure is apparent at top left. The Riviere des Milles Illes and the Riviere des Prairies (left and right, respectively), join to form a U-shaped waterway at the center of the image. The large elliptical green-centered feature west of the St. Lawrence is Mt. Royal.

STS 41-G crew photo taken on the flight deck of the Challenger during the flight. Front row (l.-r.) Jon A. McBride, pilot; Sally K. RIde, Kathryn D. SUllivan and David C. Leestma, all mission specialists. Back row (l.-r.) Paul D. Scully-Power, payload specialist; Robert L. Crippen, crew commander; and Marc Garneau, payload specialist. Garneau represents the National Research Council of Canada and Scully-Power is a civilian oceanographer with the U.S. Navy.

STS 41-G crew photo taken on the flight deck of the Challenger during the flight. Front row (l.-r.) Jon A. McBride, pilot; Sally K. RIde, Kathryn D. SUllivan and David C. Leestma, all mission specialists. Back row (l.-r.) Paul D. Scully-Power, payload specialist; Robert L. Crippen, crew commander; and Marc Garneau, payload specialist. Garneau represents the National Research Council of Canada and Scully-Power is a civilian oceanographer with the U.S. Navy.

The Space Shuttle Challenger lands at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at the end of the STS 41-G mission.

The Space Shuttle Challenger lands at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at the end of the STS 41-G mission.

Title: Space Shuttle Challenger landing at Kennedy Space Center at end of STS 41-G

Title:
Space Shuttle Challenger landing at Kennedy Space Center at end of STS 41-G

STS 41-G crew leaves the orbiter after landing at Kennedy Space Center at the end of their mission. Astronaut Robert Crippen shakes hands with George W.S. Abbey, Director of JSC's Flight Crew Operations, while the other crewmembers wait behind him. They are Jon McBride, David Leestma, Sally K. Ride, Kathryn Sullivan, Marc Garneau and Paul Scully-Power.

STS 41-G crew leaves the orbiter after landing at Kennedy Space Center at the end of their mission. Astronaut Robert Crippen shakes hands with George W.S. Abbey, Director of JSC’s Flight Crew Operations, while the other crewmembers wait behind him. They are Jon McBride, David Leestma, Sally K. Ride, Kathryn Sullivan, Marc Garneau and Paul Scully-Power.

Official photo of the 41-G crew. They are (bottom row, left to right) Astronauts Jon A. McBride, pilot; and Sally K. Ride, Kathryn D. Sullivan and David C. Leestma, all mission specialists. Top row from left to right are Paul D. Scully-Power, payload specialist; Robert L. Crippen, crew commander; and Marc Garneau, Canadian payload specialist.

Official photo of the 41-G crew. They are (bottom row, left to right) Astronauts Jon A. McBride, pilot; and Sally K. Ride, Kathryn D. Sullivan and David C. Leestma, all mission specialists. Top row from left to right are Paul D. Scully-Power, payload specialist; Robert L. Crippen, crew commander; and Marc Garneau, Canadian payload specialist.

A Summer of Scuba Diving

14 Sep

Over the summer Ashley and I have taken it upon ourselves to learn to scuba dive. There’s no real reason for it – no major travel planned – but it was something we were both interested in and so we decided there’s no time like the present.

So back in May-June we did the PADI Open Water Diver course with the Toronto Scuba Club (a friend of mine had done a course with them a couple years back and thought they were good, and since I trusted his experience, that’s where we signed up). The course consisted of two mornings in a classroom, two afternoons in a school pool, and a weekend in an actual lake for our checkout dives (though in this case the actual lake was one called Gulliver’s Lake – a manmade rectangle the size of a couple soccer fields and about 20 feet deep). We had homework to do ahead of the classroom sessions, written tests once we got there (though it would take effort not to pass them), and we were checked repeatedly on our practical skills in the pool and the lake.

Harrison Underwater

Harrison Underwater

From the classroom/pool session, the highlight for me was twofold – though both experiences happened at the same time. One of the skills you have to master as a scuba diver is how to empty a flooded mask (as water will, invariable, get into your mask at some point) while you’re underwater. It’s a simple enough procedure of tilting your head back, blowing out your nose, while simultaneously pressing the top of your mask against your forehead. In that maneuver holding the top of your mask against your head prevents the air from escaping; this allows the air to displace the water in the mask – which quite literally drains out the bottom (even though you’re underwater!).

On my first attempt to do this though, when I tilted my head back and pressed the top of my mask against my forehead, for some reason I inhaled through my nose. Considering I was in a pool filled with water, this was of course not the correct thing to do. Naturally, having just inhaled a bunch of water, I started coughing. But this lead directly to my second highlight: learning to trust my equipment.

When you’re underwater with scuba equipment you have a regulator in your mouth so that you can breath. With modern regulators though, you can do a lot more than just breath while they’re in your mouth. You can sneeze, cough, puke, burp – whatever. And while I didn’t test all of those, I certainly did test the coughing capability – and it worked perfectly. I was able to breath and cough without any difficulty underwater. This was an important realization, and it put me at ease: whatever happened, as long as that regulator was in my mouth, I could breath.

And once I was done coughing, I successfully cleared my mask.

Ashley after a successful dive to 100'

Ashley after a successful dive to 100′

On the open water checkout dives (the weekend at Gulliver’s Lake), we were being tested on the various skills we had learned in the classroom and the pool, except now we were in a lake 20 feet deep instead of a pool 9 feet deep. Overall, it didn’t really feel any different. The equipment was the same. The company was the same. Though it was nice to be outside for the weekend – and being outside did allow for two new experiences: first, actually being able to swim some distance without hitting the wall of a pool; and second, compass navigation.

Being able to swim more than six feet before running out of real estate was an important opportunity to work on buoyancy (as you want to be neutrally buoyant, i.e. “weightless”, as much as possible – which is achieved by adding or removing a little bit of air to a piece of equipment called a BCD – “Buoyancy Control Device”). Working on compass navigation was also fun – and it brought me back to my days of doing IFR flight training. When we had time for a free dive, Ashley and I actually successfully navigated both square (40 kick cycle) and triangle (50 kick cycle) patterns underwater (in very poor visibility) on our first attempts. I was proud of us for that success.

At the end of that weekend, Ashley and I were both PADI certified Open Water Divers. But! We didn’t stop there. Having enjoyed the experience, we decided to continue our training and do our Advanced Open Water certification during a weekend trip to Rockport, Ontario in August. The Toronto Scuba Club operated this excursion as well.

I would compare moving onto the advanced certification similarly to how I felt transitioning from my Private Pilot Licence to my Commercial Pilot Licence. We weren’t learning anything new per se; rather we were learning how to apply what we already knew in a more refined, precise way – which allowed us to take our scuba diving to new depths – pardon the pun.

Harrison after a successful dive to 100'

Harrison after a successful dive to 100′

For the advanced weekend, we were in the St. Lawrence River (finally a real body of water!) in the 1000 Islands area of eastern Ontario. To complete the advanced certification we had to complete some reading material ahead of time and complete five dives over the weekend. The dives were deeper and in a more challenging environment than we had experienced before, but the skills were the same. Simply getting accustomed to the environment struck me as the only real challenge, as I was comfortable with my equipment and confident in my abilities.

Of the five dives we did (deep, wreck, night, navigation, and drift) the one that stands out in my mind the most was the night dive. It was amazing. It felt like a combination of watching a National Geographic video about exploring the ocean floor with the experience of going on a spacewalk (there’s a reason astronauts train for spacewalks underwater!).

For more on the advanced weekend, just watch the video at the top of the page – it shows you what we did.

Also, I mentioned a couple times that aspects of scuba training reminded me of my flight training. And it really did, from start to finish. I’m not sure exactly why – perhaps the technical aspect, perhaps some personality similarities between flight instructors and scuba instructors, or maybe the comradery amongst the divers – but it was a very familiar and comfortable feeling from the onset.

In any case, if you haven’t tried scuba diving, I highly recommend it. It was a fantastic experience, and I can’t wait to see where we’ll dive next!

Getting onto the boat at the end of a dive

Getting onto the boat at the end of a dive

#CSATweetUp – John H. Chapman Space Centre

6 Feb

I’m very excited to announce that I will be traveling to the headquarters of the Canadian Space Agency at the John H. Chapman Space Centre in lovely Montreal on February 7, 2013 for the Twitter event with Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield (who will be participating from the International Space Station) and fellow Canadian Astronaut Jeremy Hansen.

All the details of the event can be found here.

You can follow along all the action on Twitter by following the hashtag #CSATweetUp.

Also give me a follow @ZamboniPilot as I will be posting plenty of updates and photos during the day. I will also update this page in the days following the event with all the cool stories.

Follow my #CSATweetUp Twitter feed LIVE right here:




Follow the entire #CSATweetUp event LIVE right here: