December 27, Great Beginnings Day: Darwin, Apollo, and more

December 27, 2013

December 27 is one of those days — many of us are off work, but it’s after Boxing Day, and it’s not yet on to New Year’s Eve or Day. We should have celebrated, maybe.

We should celebrate December 27 as a day of portent: A good embarkation, and a good, safe end to a nation-encouraging trip to almost touch the Moon.

HMS Beagle, Darwin's ship

HMS Beagle, on a voyage of discovery

On December 27, 1831, Charles Darwin and H.M.S. Beagle set sail on an around-the-world voyage of discovery that would change all of science, and especially biology, forever.

December 27 1831
After a few delays, H.M.S. Beagle headed out from Plymouth with a crew of 73 under clear skies and a good wind. Darwin became sea-sick almost immediately.

Darwin never fully overcame his seasickness, but he fought it well enough to become the single greatest collector of specimens in history for the British Museum and British science, a distinction that won him election to science societies even before his return from the trip — and cemented his life in science, instead of in the church. Darwin’s discoveries would have revolutionized biology in any case. In analyzing what he had found, a few years later and with the aid of experts at the British Museum, Darwin realized he had disproved much of William Paley’s hypotheses about life and its diversity, and that another, more basic explanation was possible. This led to his discovery of evolution by natural and sexual selection.

Mini-sheet from the Royal Mail honoring Darwin's discoveries in the Galapagos Islands

Mini-sheet from the Royal Mail in 2009 honoring Darwin’s discoveries in the Galapagos Islands

On December 27, 1968, Apollo 8 splashed down after a successful and heartening trip to orbit the Moon. The three crewmen, Commander Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders, had orbited the Moon, a very important milestone in the methodological race to put humans on the Moon (which would be accomplished seven months later). 1968 was a terrible year for the U.S., with the North Korean capture of the U.S.S. Pueblo, assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy during the presidential campaign, riots in dozens of American cities, nasty political conventions with riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, a contentious and bitter election making sore the nation’s divide over Vietnam policy, and other problems. On Christmas Eve, Borman, Lovell and Anders broadcast from orbit around the Moon, a triumphant and touching moment for the Apollo Program and Americans around the world. Their safe return on December 27 raised hopes for a better year in 1969.

Motherboard.tv has a great write up from Alex Pasternack, especially concerning the famous photo taken a few days prior to splashdown:

In 1968, NASA engineers were scrambling to meet President Kennedy’s challenge to land a man on the moon by decade’s end. Because delays with the lunar module were threatening to slow the Apollo program, NASA chose to change mission plans and send the crew of Apollo 8 all the way to the moon without a lunar module.

Exactly 43 [45] years ago, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 became the first humans to orbit another celestial object. As they came around the dark side of the Moon for the third time, Frank Borman, the commander, finally turned their capsule around. And then they saw the Earth.

Borman: Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.
Anders: Hey, don’t take that, it’s not scheduled.
Borman: (laughing) You got a color film, Jim?
Anders: Hand me that roll of color quick, will you…

One of the resulting photos taken by Anders on a Hasselblad camera became one of the world’s most iconic images.

As Bill Anders recalls it:

I just happened to have one with color film in it and a long lens. All I did was to keep snapping… It’s not a very good photo as photos go, but it’s a special one. It was the first statement of our planet Earth and it was particularly impressive because it’s contrasted against this startling horizon… After all the training and studying we’d done as pilots and engineers to get to the moon safely and get back, [and] as human beings to explore moon orbit, what we really discovered was the planet Earth.

Plan to raise a glass today, December 27, 2012, to Great Beginnings Day for the human race. December 27 is a day we should remember, for these achievements.

Also on December 27:

Adapted from a post from 2010.

More:


September 12 — Anniversary of the 1962 day JFK challenged all of America to go to the Moon, “because it is hard”

September 12, 2013

President John F. Kennedy speaking to an audience in the football stadium at Rice University in Houston, September 12, 1962.  Kennedy made the public case for why the U.S. should try a Moon shot.  NASA photo.

President John F. Kennedy speaking to an audience in the football stadium at Rice University in Houston, September 12, 1962. Kennedy made the public case for why the U.S. should try a Moon shot. NASA photo.

Kennedy’s speech at Rice University, “We Choose to Go to the Moon,” was delivered in the football stadium (not nearly full), on September 12, 1962.

Obviously, that was back before global warming held such a tight death grip on Texas (it’s so bad here, even Rick Perry is trying to move north, out of the state).

Day in and day out, Kennedy’s speech, the text, the audio, and sources of commentary on it, are among the most popular of the nearly 5,000 posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. Go see why:

September 12, 1962, was also the ninth anniversary of JFK’s marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier.  She let him go out of town to talk rockets?

Anything for the nation, I suppose.

More:

Moonwalking astronaut salutes the U.S. flag on the Moon. Twelve people went to the Moon, all of them in the U.S. space program run by NASA.  (My photo source does not identify this astronaut.)

Moonwalking astronaut salutes the U.S. flag on the Moon. Twelve people went to the Moon, all of them in the U.S. space program run by NASA. (My photo source does not identify this astronaut.)


July 24 – Arrival Day: The journey’s not over until you get there

July 24, 2013

There’s a lot of encore material here — I think about this in the middle of the summer, and July 24 is a good day to commemorate arrivals: It’s Arrival Day.

July 24 – almost the end of the month, but not quite.  In Utah, July 24 is usually a state holiday, to celebrate the date in 1847 that the Mormon refugees arrived in Salt Lake Valley and began to set up their agriculture and schools.  In Salt Lake City, bands from across the state and floats from many entities form the “Days of ’47” Parade.  When I marched with the Pleasant Grove High School Viking Band, the route was  5 miles.  We had only one band uniform, for winter — I lost nearly 10 pounds carrying a Sousaphone.

When the Mormons got to Salt Lake, after a couple of months’ trekking across the plains (then known as “The Great American Desert,” the Great Basin and the Mojave being little known), and after being on the run for well over a year, they got right down to priorities.  Summer was nearly gone, and crops had to be planted quick.  Within a couple of weeks, the Mormons had dammed local streams to create irrigation systems to grow what they could before fall (this is, popularly, the first major crop irrigation set up in America); they’d started to lay out plans for settlements, with straight streets based on Cartesian-plane grids:  The first serious community planning?  And they began construction of schools, knowing education to be one of the most important attributes in the foundation of free societies, a position Mormons have reneged on recently in Utah.  Water, communities, schools.

Maybe spending a few weeks struggling across a prairie and risking your life focuses you on the important stuff.  How would it improve America if we put more people on a bus to Omaha, put them out there, and said, “Hike to Salt Lake City from here.”

They’d focus.  Can we start with Paul Ryan, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell?

Ah, the good old days!

July 24 features a number 0f other arrivals, too.

From various “Today in History” features, AP, New York Times, and others:

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

July 24, 1969: Apollo 11 returned to the Earth, and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong — Aldrin and Armstrong having landed on the Moon.  In our celebrations of Apollo 11, and in our remembrances of President Kennedy, we may forget, though young kids rarely miss it, that Kennedy didn’t just say ‘Let’s put a guy on the Moon by 1970.’  Getting back safely was a key part of the challenge.

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish

On July 24, 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 returned, safely.

July 24, 1847: A larger contingent of Mormons, refugees from a literal religious war in Illinois and Missouri, entered into the Salt Lake Valley under the leadership of Brigham Young, who famously said from his wagon sick-bed, “This is the place; drive on!”

Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and organ

Would there be a Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and organ, had the Mormons settled somewhere other than Utah? Wikipedia photo

July 24, 1866: Tennessee became the first of the Confederate States, the former “state in rebellion,” to be readmitted fully to the Union, following the end of the American Civil War. (Does Tennessee celebrate this anniversary in any way?)

July 24, 1911:  On July 24, 1911, American archeologist Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu in Peru.  We still don’t know all the reaons the Incas built that city on the top of very high mountains.  Cell service was not a factor.

July 24, 2005: Lance Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France bicycle race. Little did we know then, the journey wasn’t over. (Lance Armstrong is no relation to Neil Armstrong.  Did I need to point that out?)

English: Cropped image of Richard Nixon and Ni...

Nixon advance man William Safire claimed later than he’d set up the famous “debate” between Eisenhower’s Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Communist Party Premier Nikita Khrushchev, at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959. Nixon argued that the technology on display made better the lives of average Americans, not just the wealthiest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

July 24, 1959: Visiting Moscow, USSR, to support an exhibit of U.S. technology and know-how, Vice President Richard Nixon engaged Soviet Communist Party Secretary and Premier Nikita Khruschev in a volley of points about which nation was doing better, at a display of the “typical” American kitchen, featuring an electric stove, a refrigerator, and a dishwasher.  Khruschev said the Soviet Union produced similar products; Nixon barbed  back that even Communist Party leaders didn’t have such things in their homes, typically, but such appliances were within the reach of every American family.  It was the “Kitchen Debate.”

Try explaining this to high school U.S. history students.  The textbooks tend to avoid this story, because it stops the class.  That’s a sign it should be used more, I think.  Does the Common Core even touch it?

Nixon’s arrival as a major political force in the Cold War grew clear from this event.  The pragmatic stakes of the Cold War were drawn in stark contrast, too.  It’s interesting to ponder that microwave ovens were not part of the exhibit.

Cover of Time Magazine, July 22, 1974, explaining the showdown between President Richard Nixon and the Special Prosecutor, playing out in the U.S. Supreme Court. Image copyright by Time Magazine.

July 24, 1974: In U.S. vs. Nixon, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that President Richard Nixon had to turn over previously-secret recordings made of conversations in the White House between Nixon and his aides, to the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the Watergate affair and cover-up.  Nixon would resign the presidency within two weeks, the only president to leave office by resignation.

July 24, 1975: An Apollo spacecraft splashed down after a mission that included the first link-up of American and Soviet spacecraft.  (The Apollo mission was not officially numbered, but is sometimes called “Apollo 18″ — after Apollo 17, the last trip to the Moon.)

More information:

Hoping not to arrive painfully on touchdown:

Ogden, Utah, Pioneer Days Rodeo Friday, July 19, 2013.  Photo by Brian Nicholson

Bareback rider Jerad Schlegel of Burns, Colorado, clings to his horse as it falls to the dirt during a re-ride at the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo Friday, July 19, 2013. Photo by Brian Nicholson (go see his blog)


May 25, 1961, 52 years ago: John Kennedy challenged America to go to the Moon

May 26, 2013

President Kennedy at Congress, May 25, 1961

President John F. Kennedy speaking to a special joint session of Congress, on May 25, 1961; in this speech, Kennedy made his famous statement asking the nation to pledge to put a man on the Moon and bring him back safely, in the next ten years.

It was an era when Congress would respond when the President challenged America to be great, and Congress would respond positively.

On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy delivered a special message to Congress, on the challenges facing the U.S. around the world, in continuing to build free market economies, and continuing to advance in science, as means of promoting America’s future.  He closed with the words that have become so famous.  From the Apollo 11 Channel, excerpts from the speech, via Fox Movietone news:

History from the Apollo 11 Channel:

In an address to a Joint session of the United States Congress, Kennedy announces full presidential support for the goal to “commit…before this decade is out, to landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” and urges Congress to appropriate the necessary funds, eventually consuming the largest financial expenditure of any nation in peacetime.

Though Kennedy had initially been convinced that NASA should attempt a manned mission to Mars, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Seamans spent three days and nights working, ultimately successfully, to convince him otherwise.

The complete speech is 46 minutes long.  The JFK Library has a longer excerpt in good video I haven’t figured out how to embed here, but it’s worth your look.  The Library also features the entire speech in audio format.

The complete copy of the written text that President Kennedy spoke from, is also available at the JFK Library.

NASA has a good site with solid history in very short form, and links to a half-dozen great sites.

Can you imagine a president making such a challenge today?

More:


Neil Tyson, still at it: We need to spend more in goverment research, in space, in science, in education

March 7, 2013

Here’s a guy who Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other “deficit hawks” refuse to debate.  Grover Norquist blanches when you mention his name, and hopes and prays you won’t listen to him:  Neil de Grasse Tyson.

The film was put together from several statements by Tyson, by Evan Schurr.

WRITE TO CONGRESS:
http://www.penny4nasa.org/take-action/

The intention of this project is to stress the importance of advancing the space frontier and is focused on igniting scientific curiosity in the general public.
Facebook cover: (not sure who made this but thank you!)
http://i.imgur.com/yqAGm.png

*FOR THOSE SAYING THE MUSIC IS TOO LOUD* This is the adjusted one http://youtu.be/Fl07UfRkPas

I give immense credit to The Sagan Series for providing the inspiration for this video.
http://www.youtube.com/user/damewse?f…

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. All copyrighted materials contained herein belong to their respective copyright holders, I do not claim ownership over any of these materials. In no way do I benefit either financially or otherwise from this video.

MUSIC:
Arrival of the Birds and Transformation by The Cinematic Orchestra http://www.amazon.com/The-Crimson-Win…

Credits
When We Left Earth http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/nasa/nasa…
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart http://www.thedailyshow.com/
HUBBLE 3D http://www.imax.com/hubble/
NASA TV http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv…
The Amazing Meeting http://www.amazingmeeting.com/TAM2011/
“US Mint” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZzKDL…
“New $100 Note” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgaytK…
Real Time with Bill Maher http://www.hbo.com/real-time-with-bil…
Pale Blue Dot – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blu…
STS-135 Ascent Imagery Highlights http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikzxtw…
CSPAN State of the Union Address http://www.c-span.org/
The Sagan Series http://www.facebook.com/thesaganseries
The Asteroid that Flattened Mars http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgMXPX…
University of Buffalo Communications http://www.communication.buffalo.edu/
Mars Curiosity Rover http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnlvvu…
Red Aurora Australis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC7Qro…

Thank you to user florentgermain for the French subtitles

Hey, this is a year old.  Why are you sitting on your hands?  Our future, our children’s future, our great-great-grandchildren’s futures, are on the line.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Robert Krulwich at NPR, who pulled this out and started discussing it again.

More:


December 27, Great Beginnings Day: Darwin, Apollo

December 27, 2012

December 27 is one of those days — many of us are off work, but it’s after Boxing Day, and it’s not yet on to New Year’s Eve or Day. We should have celebrated, maybe.

We should celebrate December 27 as a day of portent: A good embarkation, and a good, safe end to a nation-encouraging trip to almost touch the Moon.

HMS Beagle, Darwin's ship

HMS Beagle, on a voyage of discovery

On December 27, 1831, Charles Darwin and H.M.S. Beagle set sail on an around-the-world voyage of discovery that would change all of science, and especially biology, forever.

December 27 1831
After a few delays, H.M.S. Beagle headed out from Plymouth with a crew of 73 under clear skies and a good wind. Darwin became sea-sick almost immediately.

Darwin never fully overcame his seasickness, but he fought it well enough to become the single greatest collector of specimens in history for the British Museum and British science, a distinction that won him election to science societies even before his return from the trip — and cemented his life in science, instead of in the church. Darwin’s discoveries would have revolutionized biology in any case. In analyzing what he had found, a few years later and with the aid of experts at the British Museum, Darwin realized he had disproved much of William Paley’s hypotheses about life and its diversity, and that another, more basic explanation was possible. This led to his discovery of evolution by natural and sexual selection.

Mini-sheet from the Royal Mail honoring Darwin's discoveries in the Galapagos Islands

Mini-sheet from the Royal Mail in 2009 honoring Darwin’s discoveries in the Galapagos Islands

On December 27, 1968, Apollo 8 splashed down after a successful and heartening trip to orbit the Moon. The three crewmen, Commander Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders, had orbited the Moon, a very important milestone in the methodological race to put humans on the Moon (which would be accomplished seven months later). 1968 was a terrible year for the U.S., with the North Korean capture of the U.S.S. Pueblo, assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy during the presidential campaign, riots in dozens of American cities, nasty political conventions with riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, a contentious and bitter election making sore the nation’s divide over Vietnam policy, and other problems. On Christmas Eve, Borman, Lovell and Anders broadcast from orbit around the Moon, a triumphant and touching moment for the Apollo Program and Americans around the world. Their safe return on December 27 raised hopes for a better year in 1969.

Motherboard.tv has a great write up from Alex Pasternack:

In 1968, NASA engineers were scrambling to meet President Kennedy’s challenge to land a man on the moon by decade’s end. Because delays with the lunar module were threatening to slow the Apollo program, NASA chose to change mission plans and send the crew of Apollo 8 all the way to the moon without a lunar module.

Exactly 43 years ago, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 became the first humans to orbit another celestial object. As they came around the dark side of the Moon for the third time, Frank Borman, the commander, finally turned their capsule around. And then they saw the Earth.

Borman: Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.
Anders: Hey, don’t take that, it’s not scheduled.
Borman: (laughing) You got a color film, Jim?
Anders: Hand me that roll of color quick, will you…

One of the resulting photos taken by Anders on a Hasselblad camera became one of the world’s most iconic images.

As Bill Anders recalls it:

I just happened to have one with color film in it and a long lens. All I did was to keep snapping… It’s not a very good photo as photos go, but it’s a special one. It was the first statement of our planet Earth and it was particularly impressive because it’s contrasted against this startling horizon… After all the training and studying we’d done as pilots and engineers to get to the moon safely and get back, [and] as human beings to explore moon orbit, what we really discovered was the planet Earth.

Plan to raise a glass today, December 27, 2012, to Great Beginnings Day for the human race. December 27 is a day we should remember, for these achievements.

Also on December 27:

Adapted from a post from 2010.

More:


We stopped dreaming: Tyson reprise on science policy and spending

October 18, 2012

A more melodic take on Neil de Grasse Tyson‘s “we stopped dreaming” statement:

“We went to the Moon, and we discovered Earth.”

Description from the YouTube site, by Evan Schuur:

The intention of this project is to stress the importance of advancing the space frontier and is focused on igniting scientific curiosity in the general public.

Sign the petition!: http://www.penny4nasa.org/petition
Follow @Penny4NASA1 and like on Facebook!

Episode 1:
http://youtu.be/CbIZU8cQWXc
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. All copyrighted materials contained herein belong to their respective copyright holders, I do not claim ownership over any of these materials. In no way do I benefit either financially or otherwise from this video.

MUSIC: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/samskeyti-acoustic/id452812943?i=452813003

Credits
The Space Foundation http://www.spacefoundation.org/
NASA TV http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html
HDNET http://www.hd.net/
SpaceX http://www.spacex.com/
When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/nasa/nasa.html
Disneynature: Earth http://disney.go.com/disneynature/earth/
Planet Earth http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/planet-earth/
HOME Project http://www.youtube.com/user/homeproject
User WolfEchoes http://www.youtube.com/user/WolfEchoes?ob=0
European Southern Observatory http://www.eso.org

Is NASA a handout, or an investment?  What do you think?

If a politician tells you that he or she thinks we cannot afford NASA, doesn’t it strike you that the person does not really understand what the United States is all about?  Doesn’t it make you wonder how they ever got to Congress, or why they should stay there?

More: 

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NA...

Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, in Washington, D.C. (Wikipedia photo)


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