Friday, January 22, 2016

Ground Control to Major Tim.


There are many gems of wisdom in the book The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and one of them is that the human race can’t really afford a sense of perspective.
In the book a wife says to a husband “go and get a sense of perspective on this", so the husband goes to his shed and builds a total perspective vortex.  Anybody who enters the vortex immediately goes mad because the human brain can’t really cope with how insignificant we are in the huge scheme of things.
                                            The live broadcast waiting for the walk.
For instance, if a plane can circle the world in six hours passing the International Date Line four times why do you only gain one second in real time rather than ending up four days before you set off? And if the water at the bottom of the Mariana Trench never changes, does it go off? Such are the issues of bar room physics.
                                           Very clever, very brave people.
But watching the marvellousness of the two Tims’ spacewalk was something to behold.  As you probably know that walk was cut short due to moisture forming on the visor of Tim Copra’s helmet. But the whole televised experience was so much more than that.  The first thing was – I might need to put this into some perspective (!!!) for non UK readers.  Dara O’Briain is an Irish comedian who also has a degree in astrophysics.  He is a large chap, six feet three.  Next to him we have a pop star who used to be in the group D Ream, Brian Cox and he is a professor of astrophysics.  He is the Carl Sagan of today.  He is six feet tall. With them was the rather wondrous Chris Hadfield, who is as bright and fit as a butcher's whippet.  
                                                     Tim team GB
Tim Team USA
So on the tv screen Dara O’Briain looked like a giant sitting on the sofa built for children and Chris Hadfield looked like a three year old sitting on a sofa built for giants. The engaging sight of the panic on Dara’s face as his earpiece told him that the spacewalk was being cut short due to some kind of malfunction.  It was an extremely human response and Brian turned and looked at Dara and you could see on his face the words “Are they safe?”  They then both turned to Chris who had no knowledge of the situation at all at that point – and I’m imagining the director saying “don’t go to the live stream in case something awful happens” and Chris was just so wonderful, so calm,' we might be panicking but they won’t be, anything that may have happened to them they will have practised. They will slowly be making their way back to the module etc etc' and then further news came through about the moisture in the helmet and again very calmly he went through the two reasons why this might be, 'leaks don’t get better they only get worse'.  He single-handedly controlled that live transmission but I guess that part of his character is why he’s a Commander.
James Tiberius Kirk
Doing a bit of reading about him I guess NASA think he’s almost perfect.  His build, his intelligence, his character, the fact that he’s a Canadian (very proud of his northern English and Scottish ancestry), his scandal free life of marrying his childhood sweetheart, his media savvy son who engineered the Twitter conversations between Chris in space and James T Kirk on earth (he will always be James T Kirk to me). And, of course, more poignantly he can sing.
 Everybody in my living room was on the edge of their seat as the astronauts made their way slowly, hand over hand, back into the module.  Too many Hollywood films had programmed us to believe if they didn’t get into that module quickly, some dreadful shark toothed alien was hiding in the shadows waiting for them. 
                            Yeoman Janice Rand ( I used to practice that stare in front of the mirror)
Of course they returned safely and all is well.

Other highlights were a quote from Tim Peake’s dad who had just seen his son walk in space and he said “that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that boy at his work”. 
And then Brian Cox explaining that Jupiter is visible in the sky at the moment and that gravity of Jupiter is one hundred million times what it is on the earth, so I guess we would all be half a millimetre tall and three miles wide. 
And then the man from the Rosetta project came on and said among other things that Philae on the comet 67P/C-G has recovered hydrocarbons (I think he said that as I was too excited to pay much attention) and then went on to say that this means - the building blocks of life, the building blocks of DNA have been found on a comet particle that was created at the Big Bang!!
So thinking about that, my head now hurts and I will hand over to one of my heroes;
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it's all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let the children boogie.

 Caro Ramsay Planet Earth


  1. Lovely column, Yeoman. Er... Janice. Umm.... Caro. Always wonderful to see people pushing the boundaries (their's and everyone else's). Kind of like the bloggers on MIE...

  2. I think Jeff is always pushing the boundaries of comedy. Some of his puns are beyond a joke......tee hee hee

  3. I don't know what the two of you are talking about. I have only one question raised by this dynamite post: Isn't Mariana Trench the maiden name of Donald Trump's current wife?

  4. Do you think Tim Peake's dad is hoping for a 'bring your parents to work' day?

    And Jeff ... seriously ... :-)

  5. here's the new Carl Sagan at a London TED talk Cara

  6. I love this, Caro. I share your enthusiasm for space exploration. But as usual it is your Scottish wit that I love the most.