Wednesday, July 22, 2015

First Flight

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I'm a huge reader. With my back issues and whatnot these past weeks I have had the true delight of being able to read quite a bit lately. Some books on my ereader have been waiting for my attention for months. And who even knows what all is waiting there on my Nook. I love my nook; it holds so much material. My reading is so varied, everything from National Geographic (my favorite) to biographies to science tomes to Nora Roberts to historical fiction to novels. When that reading intersects with real life it can be serendipitous...sublime, even. 

About two weeks ago I started reading an amazing book that has been sitting on my Nook for several months. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. It is a narrative history of the Wilbur and Orville Wright's years of trial, error, lesson the lead up to the 1903 flight at Kitty Hawk North Carolina, the world's first flight. 

Flight: beyond soaring, beyond dirigible, beyond lighter-than-air, beyond kite. Flight.

The learning process of these brothers was incredibly well-documented in their own journals, letters, and images. As true scientists, Wilbur and Orville documented everything, read everything available, conducted experiments, contacted people who were also working on the problem of flight, and did everything the hard way. On their own, they had absolutely no outside funding and almost no support from anyone outside of their own family.

This month, July 2015, the world saw come to fruition another flight, 112 years after the first flight at Kitty Hawk. About twenty years ago people within NASA conceived of an interplanetary probe, a mission that would last well over a decade, and be the culmination years of science and math. This month, New Horizons, a mission that launched in 2005, did an unbelievable thing.

Using the math and science that NASA human beings computed, this piano-sized grain of matter navigated from one miniscule grain of sand in this solar system to another fraction of a grain of sand billions of miles away. It truly blows my mind. On July 14th, New Horizons passed closer by Pluto than our moon is to us. 

AND THEN New Horizons sent back pixel after pixel, through the vastness of space of our solar system and we collected those pixels, one after the next, right here on our planet. The pixels formed an image of a planet with a heart on it.

Less than 112 years after self-taught Wilbur and Orville developed their own motor from spare parts, figured out how to manage yar and attitude and other flight problems, and moved the 605 pound Flight III on the eastern shore of our country, New Horizons encountered Pluto.

As I was reading The Wright Brothers I kept getting these deep feelings of tremendous awe. I get so see this. I get to be alive while human beings actually see the surface of the planet Pluto. I am the grateful recipient of these first pixels that have travelled four and a half hours through the emptiness of space between beyond Pluto and Earth.

I can’t help but wonder what Wilbur and Orville would make of it.

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