Saturday, October 29, 2011

USA Today Special Issue Ads - a Glimpse of the Future

Holding an "end of an era".
Photo: Yanir Govrin
In July, USA Today published a special edition called "End of an Era" commemorating and summarizing the space shuttle era. On the cover, Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-129, seconds after lift-off. Inside, a plethora of articles about everything shuttle - the missions, the tragedies and the people. What really caught my eye were the ads in-between. Unlike your regular USA Today which contains ads for anything, from anti-acne lotions to once-in-a-lifetime-opportunities to get previously forgotten gold coins, this issue is chock-full of space related ads.

Browsing through the magazine I found myself leaving behind our economical woes and the pause in U.S. human spaceflight and drifting into a future where there are too many spacecraft to count, where spaceflight is a frequent activity and where being a space tourist or researcher is as normal as being an engineer at a technology company.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Honey, Don't Forget the Replicator!

A little over a year ago I went camping with my family near Grand Lake, Colorado. We had everything we needed - tent, stove, air inflatable mattresses and rechargeable pump (we left the flat-screen TV at home, what more can you ask for?). On the second day we had a problem we didn't anticipate - the beautiful Colorado summer weather turned its face - a swift but fierce hail storm broke one of the fiberglass poles of our tent, more precisely the metal joint that puts them together. We found a repair kit in the nearest town, but needed pliers to get the broken piece off and put the new one from the repair kit on. Being on a paid-for campground (OK, I admit, we even had power and running water, not exactly the wilderness...) we conveniently borrowed one from a friendly neighbor. A short time later the tent was as good as new apart from Duct-tape (look at the bottom of the page for another example of my Duct-tape mastery) replacing what was once a clear triangular skylight, heavily perforated by the hail storm.

What if instead of a campground I were somewhere in deep space and instead of Amnon Govrin my name was Jean-Luc Piccard? Then I'd be on the Starship Enterprise, of course, where a replicator could in seconds create nearly anything, from a cup of tea (cup included) or, in my case, pliers.