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Archive for the ‘The US Diaries’ Category

Many of our globe trotters these days complain of long duration flights across continents, cooped up in a metal tube which cruises at a height of 35,000 feet or so. They might simply shudder at the prospect of hopping across to the Moon, or undertaking inter-galactic travel on some future date.

One cannot be really blamed at feeling overwhelmed at the courage, conviction, perseverance and scientific precision with which Homo sapiens have been doing just that – undertaking perilous journeys into deep space. With each such sojourn, they enrich the knowledge we have about the planetary bodies around us.

Yours truly recently had an opportunity to visit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Manned Spacecraft Center, where human spaceflight training, research, and flight control are conducted.

Some of you may like some snippets from the visit.

General

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission Control Center

 

 

The place is getting refurbished, so as to be ready in time for the 50th anniversary of the first human being stepping on to lunar soil in 1969.

Special Vehicle Mock-up Facility

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experiments which leave one dumb founded.

Saturn V: A rocket which was never used

 

 

 

 

 

On our way out, we were shown the area where memorial placards have been put and trees planted for each one of the astronauts and their family members who are no longer alive. A touching tribute and a truly humane gesture.

Mars already holds sway over human imagination. The sun is also under a closer scrutiny. Besides USA, Russia and China have already learnt the art of propelling men and women beyond the narrow confines of our planet. India is also planning to put a human being in space by the year 2022, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its independence.

As a lesser mortal, one can merely wish all the space scientists across the world a great innings ahead in all their endeavours in the decades to follow, advancing the cause of scientific research and extending the boundaries of our knowledge about our universe.

One also wishes that our social scientists can match these efforts by building mental rockets which would propel our masses beyond the narrow confines of attitudes relating to caste, colour, creed, sex and nationality, hopefully prompting our politicians to work together to lower national barriers.

(Note: A note of gratitude is in order for the benevolent elderly couple who drove me down to NASA, followed by a drive through Galveston, a city by the side of the Gulf of Mexico. A ferry ride was the surprise part of the package!) 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/living-on-another-planet-a-2112-fantasy

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/time-to-start-dismantling-the-invisible-walls)

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Just like human beings, cities also have a unique personality and a collective consciousness of their own. The character of the residents is a major determinant of the same. This, in turn, is formed by the kind of livelihood opportunities the city provides. Some other factors are its political and economic profile, its infrastructure, the culture it espouses, the manner in which it showcases and markets its heritage and special features, and the kind of vision its founders and subsequent administrators have had and have acted upon.

One of the ways to discover some facets of a city is to soak in its architectural heritage. A recent trip to Chicago offered an opportunity for yours truly to do precisely this. I could see some of the city’s architectural masterpieces in a single 90-minute boat tour.

I learnt something about the city’s architectural history through an expert’s live narration. I am no expert in building designs, but was happy to be told of buildings which provide space for air to pass through them on higher floors, thereby making them more stable. This avoids residents getting jittery while either having a shower in their luxurious bath tubs or trying to have a quiet dinner with wine glasses and cutlery on the table doing a Salsa or a Chesterton. In a windy city like Chicago, this makes eminent sense.

A bunch of wide-eyed tourists like me attempted to absorb some of the rich information being provided by the narrator, duly laced with some Wodehousean humour.

Here are some of the visuals I could capture while on the cruise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cruise takes one through the famous ‘Y’ of the Chicago River. It is interesting to learn that since 1900 AD, civil engineering knowledge has been used to reverse the flow of this water body, creating a man-made hydraulic connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi watershed.

The boat cruise became possible due to the support of a loving family in Chicago which hosted me and put up with my tantrums for a few days, and also owing to the presence of a loving nephew and his family who took the trouble of flying in all the way from Los Angeles just to meet up – a creditable feat, what with a tiny toddler who behaved well and did not grudge the attention showered on yours truly by his loving parents for the time we happened to be together.

Travel is highly educational, said Jeeves. At times, one feels grateful to one’s Guardian Angels for being in a benevolent mood and ensuring that things fall in place for such an instructive experience as the boat cruise I could enjoy.

More to follow in some subsequent posts.

 

 

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