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For a Chinese American girl who grew up in Houston, had a dad who worked for NASA, and who watched basketball religiously–I first developed a taste for the game at church camp, in fact, the summer of ’86, when a big-screen TV got rolled out after evening services so we could watch the NBA Finals, Rockets versus Celtics–today’s a day of mourning.
In my grief, I recognize a weird symmetry to both of these events happening on the same day. The space shuttle Atlantis takes final flight, Yao’s grounded by injuries to his feet and ankles. It’s a perfect, Greek symmetry: Atlantis sank into the ocean, Achilles had a heel.
As a physicist’s daughter, I suppose I should know that gravity always wins, but it’s easy to forget about the physics of things when you witness something happen in your lifetime that you’d wished for and dreamed of but never thought would come true.
Filed under: A Dark Day, Achilles' Heel, Atlantis, Childhood Dreams, Farewells, Final Space Shuttle Flight, Goodbyes, Houston Rockets, NASA, NASA Space Shuttle Program, Rockets, Space Exploration, Space Shuttle Atlantis Final Flight, The Death of Dreams, Yao Ming Retires
I KNEW there was a good reason why I didn’t become an astronaut after boldly announcing that I would back in 7th grade, in an effort to impress my dad, who consulted for NASA.
(I mean, besides not being all that inclined towards math and science, not being a jock, and developing a fear of flying that dogged me through most of my twenties, which is to say, not possessing any of the qualities, really, of your typical astronaut.)
But I digress. Here’s the real reason:
Filed under: Astronauts, International Space Station, ISS, NASA, No Sex On International Space Station, Obama Space Policy, Obama Space Program, Sex Ban Aboard International Space Station, Space Experiments, Space Missions, This Is Not Hot
Name: Naoko Yamazaki
Hails from: Japan
Occupation: Astronaut for JAXA (Japan’s national aerospace agency)
Known for: Flying high. As of this morning, Yamazaki is now the second Japanese woman to fly in space. She joined NASA’s STS-131 mission to the International Space Station aboard space shuttle Discovery, which successfully launched today with only one minor snag:
Continue reading AMAZIAN OF THE WEEK! Naoko Yamazaki
Qian Xuesen (Tsien Hsue-shen), a pioneer of both the U.S. and Chinese missile and space programs, died in Beijing on October 31, 2009. He was 97 years-old.
The engineer was born in China, received his Master’s at MIT and his doctorate at Caltech in the 30′s, and was one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He developed missiles for the Army, consulted for the Air Force–earning a temporary rank of Colonel–and designed a space plane that served as an inspiration for the Space Shuttle.
He was obviously brillz, but also a victim of his time. After applying for U.S. citizenship in 1949, when the country was caught up in the Red Scare, he was accused of having Communist sympathies, falsely imprisoned, and put under house arrest for 5 years. Caltech rallied around Qian and appointed attorney Grant Cooper to defend him. Despite their efforts, Qian, his wife, and their two American-born children were deported in 1955 by the U.S. government back to China, where Qian went on to start the Chinese space program and where he’s regarded as a hero.
Cooper who would later say of the gross mistreatment of his client:
“That the government permitted this genius, this scientific genius, to be sent to Communist China to pick his brains is one of the tragedies of this century.”
Irony of all ironies, Qian eventually joined the Communist Party in 1958.
Filed under: Caltech, Chinese Space Program, Father of Chinese Rocketry, Geniuses, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, McCarthyism, MIT, NASA, Qian Xuesen, Red Scare, Rocket Man, Scientists, This is Bullshit, Tsien Hsue-shen
Hails from: Canada
Why He’s a Babe: Zahf Paroo is an astronaut. Well, he plays one on TV at least, in the new ABC drama, Defying Gravity, a terrible-yet-weirdly-compelling one-hour about astronauts on a six-year space mission who all see and hear things and go crazy for some mysterious reason. Zahf plays Ajay Sharma, who loses it during the pilot episode, ventures out on an unauthorized space walk, and has been grounded since. But did we mention that we think astronauts are “haut,” even the fake ones? Must be something about that jumpsuit.
Defying Gravity airs Sundays 10/9c on ABC.
When I was a kid, I thought it would be sooo cool to be an astronaut. I desperately wanted to go to Space Camp (and dreamt, too, of getting accidentally launched into space like in the movie). I was determined to rock a marshmallowy space suit. When the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up, I mourned it the way other people mourn the untimely death of a rock star. And the coolest thing of all about being astronaut, in my mind, was how it would win the approval of my Hardass Asian Dad, who occasionally worked for NASA.
Astronauts have always maintained their rock star-mystique for me, long after I gave up the dream. That is, until yesterday, when a few of them aboard the International Space Station drank their own (purified) piss:
Know what? It’s really not so cool to be an astronaut after all.
Occupation: Founder and Chief Technical Officer, Zero Motorcycles
Known for: Manufacturing the world’s least offensive–read: quiet and eco-friendly–two-wheeled machines. After setting a World Aviation Record (for creating the world’s first human-powered helicopter) and serving as a NASA project manager, Saiki founded Zero Motorcycles–home of the fully-electric dirtbike.
After a year of blowing motocross minds (like mine, because doing pony hops all day without smelling like 2-stroke fuel all night, or pinning it up a hillside without releasing any ugly emissions into the atmosphere, are such joyous prospects that I could just hug someone) Zero Motorcycles has now released a street bike that offers similar benefits (silent operation, lightweight body, instant torque, and no need for fossil fuels) to its predecessor. Lordy, lordy… what will Saiki dream up next?
Filed under: 2-Stroke, Eco-Friends, Electric Dirtbike, Electric Motorcycle, Emissions, Green Solutions, Innovation, Motocross, NASA, Neal Saiki, Pony Hops, Street Bikes, Two-Wheeled Fun, Zero Motorcycles
…we’ve been killing some pretty serious couch time reading new contemporary adult fiction–Christine Son’s Off the Menu–today. And while we don’t frequently partake in the medium-sized print and expressive, decorated dialogue of most CAF (Disclaimer: we’ve both admittedly read Amy Tan’s opus The Joy Luck Club, and I openly wept while taking in Nicholas Sparks awesomely bad The Notebook on the beach in Puerto Vallarta), we couldn’t help but wonder what would come of Son, a Bible-belt Texasian (sounds like Jen!) who has done her parents proud by going to law school (sounds like my sister!) but has always dreamed of writing clever banter between friends and lovers (sounds like me!)–when she actually went for it and wrote a goddamn novel.
Some of it’s to be expected–Son’s primary character is an overworked, Texasian female lawyer who’s billing too many hours and dreams of ditching it all for a music career (as my grandma would say to my cousin, the music major: “Piano, painting, writing… it’s all the same. What kind of job are you going to get? Best to become doctor”). Her two closest friends are, similarly, well-achieved but secretly unhappy and want of something more. Sure, the prose isn’t Didion’s (but even Didion’s fiction was dreck compared to her genius non-fiction)–the author is seemingly obsessed with her characters’ cheeks, stilettos, and the zaftig chef character conveyed as explicitly, repeatedly, bang-you-over-the head fat.
But some of it’s kind of delicious, like family members in NASA, Hardass Asian Parents spouting perfect English, and frequent pepperings of the word y’all. And for its part, Off the Menu has kept tons of things off of my mind during the too-long free hours of this holiday weekend (like bills, work, anxiety about failure, and Mumbai)–so it must be doing something right.
Occupation: NASA’s Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office
Why She’s a Babe: It’s no secret that we have a thing for astronauts. But even among people who have the Right Stuff, Sunita is exceptional. She holds the record for the longest spaceflight for a woman, at 195 days. She ran the 2007 Boston Marathon–in space, in four hours and 24 minutes. Then she ran it again, on earth, in 2008. And for a Naval officer and total badass, Sunita has really sweet, endearing qualities. Like how she brought samosas with her on her 6-month space odyssey. Or how she got her long hair cut on that mission to donate to Locks of Love. On top of all that, she’s a rabid Red Sox fan…so, yeah, she’s basically our idea of a perfect woman.
Ruh-roh. The Japanese Kibo modules installed onto the International Space Station in March and June are running out of…lightbulbs. Wired Science reported that 9 out of the 21 fluorescents on board have burned out, a number dangerously close to half, at which time Kibo will be too dark to work in. AND, incredibly, there are no more spare bulbs on the ISS. NASA now plans to bring more lightbulbs to Kibo on its next Space Shuttle trip in November.
Looking on the bright side (yuk, yuk), just think of all the lightbulb-changing jokes that will come out of this! Cornball humor for $450 million? It’s so, so worth it!