Thursday, March 03, 2016

Data from outer space

Safe travels, Commander Kelly
London, ON
March 2016
For more data-infused goodness, head here
The other day, I sat in the cozy comfort of my home office and watched the utterly surreal sight you see here of three spaceman helping three other spaceman get into their spaceship.

A few hours later, their Soyuz craft departed the International Space Station and fired its rockets to lose  286 mph of velocity and drop the far side of its orbit deep into the atmosphere. Not long thereafter, said Soyuz plunged through the atmosphere, trailing superhot plasma in its wake, and then the ship settled safely into a rocket-assisted landing on the Kazakh steppe. After almost a year in orbit, U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly and his fellow #YearInSpace cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko as well as Sergey Volkov, were finally back on the planet.

As routine as these flights seem to have become, I still - and likely always will - view them as nothing short of unreal. The building blocks of establishing human life on another planet are being built right here, right now, and we get to watch it in breathtaking HD from the comfort of home.

In a sense, the screen grab you see here is just data. Pixels on a screen. A video like so many others that we'll watch today and every day. But this data is special. It came 320 km above our heads, from a ship flying at 28,000 km/h through the most hostile environment humans have ever dared explore. It's been massaged and shared just so, through an impossibly complex global network that's existed in its current form for fewer years than most of us have been alive. And it finally makes it into our homes, and allows us witness history.

We live in an incredible age. Moments like this remind me of the need to stop what we're doing every once in a while and drink in the wonder of it all.

No comments: