Typewriter of the moment, and cold: Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard

September 25, 2016

Wikipedia caption: Polar explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard in front of his typewriter in the Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans (Ross Island, Antarctica). August 30, 1911. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection)

Wikipedia caption: Polar explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard in front of his typewriter in the Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans (Ross Island, Antarctica). August 30, 1911. British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection)

Even in the Antarctic, scientists and explorers need to write their findings down. A typewriter was the state-of-the-art tool in 1911. Here we see Apsley Cherry-Garrard with his typewriter, on expedition.

Cherry-Garrard probably used that machine to write the notes, if not the actual text, for his account of the expeditionThe Worst Journey in the World:

The Worst Journey in the World is a memoir of the 1910–1913 British Antarctic Expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott. It was written and published in 1922 by a member of the expedition, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, and has earned wide praise for its frank treatment of the difficulties of the expedition, the causes of its disastrous outcome, and the meaning (if any) of human suffering under extreme conditions.

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Voyager I becomes Earth’s first interstellar object

September 14, 2013

Can you recall what you were doing on September 5, 1977?

The Voyager 1 aboard the Titan III/Centaur lif...

The Voyager 1 aboard the Titan III/Centaur lifted off on September 5, 1977, joining its sister spacecraft, the Voyager 2, on a mission to the outer planets. Wikipedia image, from NASA

That’s the day NASA launched Voyager I, on a trip to photograph planets in our solar system more close up than we can get with Earth-bound telescopes.  The Hubble Space Telescope was not even on the drawing board then.

After completing its mission, Voyager I continued on its path.  Scientists thought it would survive to leave the solar systems, and a few forward-looking thinkers hoped to learn more about just how far the influence of our Sun really extends.  At some point, Voyager I would leave space where the chief gravitational and wind influence is the Sun, and move into truly inter-stellar (“between the stars”) space, where gravity and particle emissions are dominated by other objects in our galaxy.

Last week NASA announced that time came in August of 2012, confirmed by data transmitted back to earth by Voyager’s primitive capabilities, over the last year.

Space.com explains it well:

Interesting to think of the investment in thought, money, effort and patience by scientists and policy-makers to wait more than 35 years for such a research result.

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Voyager I, artist's interpretation.  NASA image

Voyager I, artist’s interpretation. NASA image


So, you want to be an astronaut?

February 2, 2013

What’s it like to be an astronaut?

You gotta learn how to cook and eat snake.

A discovery engine for meaningful knowledge, fueled by cross-disciplinary curiosity.
Edited by Maria Popova for Lore.
Twitter: @explorer

Art & Design Science & Technology Culture & Society History & Literature Creativity & Innovation Media & Communication Thought & Opinion About

Science & TechnologyHistory & Literature
What’s it like to be an astronaut? An animated first-hand account by NASA’s Jerry Carr, who tells his fascinating life story.

Complement with Sally Ride’s first-hand account of what it’s like to take off on a Space Shuttle, and this illustrated chronology of the Space Age.

Do kids dream of being an astronaut any more?  It’s a great, character-building dream.

Tip of the old scrub brush to BrainPicker, at Explore.

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December 27, Good Trip Day: Darwin and Apollo 8

December 28, 2010

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 it 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 42 years ago, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 became the first humans to orbit another celestial object. As they came around the dark side 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.

Yeah, we missed toasting it on time in 2010.  Plan to raise a glass on December 27, 2011, to Good Trip Day for the human race.  December 27 is a day we should remember, for these achievements.


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