Pigs in Space

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Captain’s blog – stardate 071104.1909

Museum-night! Does your city do this? What? You don’t live in a city? THE HORROR.

So seriously, not everyone has to live in a city, I know. But if you do, you probably have some sort of annual event where they are all open til 2 or 3 in the morn and they turn themselves into all sorts of nocturnal hip-spots. The idea is, of course, to promote museums to audiences who may not always check them out (young people like my non-museum going self?). Having lived in quite a few cities mostly in Europe, I have to say Amsterdam puts the Muse in Museumnacht. Bright lights, trams dating back to 1915, old ass buses with postboxes attached to their bumpers, and a whole lot of people running from museum to museum like it’s an easter-egg hunt.

So the mysterious Anne from Underabell decided to combine our first ever in-person meeting with this special evening’s events, and she arrived in Amsterdam just in time for some of my famed green-bean soup and hummus on olivebread. Needless to say she was high on good eatin before we even started museuming. In total we hit up about 6 museums (Artis, Tropenmuseum, Oudekerk and the Waag, among them) and took one old fashioned tram ride. In this one night we managed to see prostitutes, canal fish, a Javanese mating dance, artifacts from the Aztec civilization, a Tango competition, computer nerds at play, and one of the coolest Astronauts ever – LIVE.

My favorite part had to have been the hour we spent in the planetarium listening to André Kuipers, as he showed up images of his mission aboard the International Space Station. The training involved is so intense, the ISS looks amazing, and cosmonaut culture in Russia and Kazakstan fascinates me to no end. The snow, the images of Yuri Gargarin, the Russian computers, and the orthodox priest who soaks you in Holy Water when its launch day.

But there’s a larger issue I want to discuss with you friends and readers. Why oh why does space research and travel fail to interest the masses? What happened to the romanticism of exploring the new frontier? What needs to be done to get the public and the powers-that-be to get interested in space for reasons besides making “friggin laser beams.”

After André Kuipers, who just returned from the ISS, who crashlanded softly back in a Kazak desert and back in Amsterdam, who played with M&M’s in zero gravity while orbiting the earth, after he finished his presentation, he opened the floor to questions. A crowd of maybe 80 to 100 presumably Dutch people, considered highly educated folk, a majority of this crowd walked right our the door like the room was filled with the plague. A few people, myself and Anne included, stayed and listened more. We wanted to shake his hand. I wanted to give him a hug and say thanks on behalf of humankind.

But all is not lost. André didn’t seem worried. He spoke about the a mission to land a vehicle on a comet, the inevitable human-landing on mars, and YES – Europe (ESA) beginning its own shuttle program from its beautiful base in French Guyana. From there they will launch Soyuz and Arianne rockets and move forward together with the rest of the world, regardless of NASA and its obsession with weapons of mass destruction in space. And let me not forget the Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Brazilian space programs, that are advancing quickly and are interested in understanding the universe as well.

Still I come back to that nagging feeling, all those people walking out, the disinterest and underfunding of space programs versus insane money spent on stupidity. What needs to be done? Oh.. and DAM — Its hard to become an Astronaut with the ESA.

Today’s Sounds: Dave Mathews – Some Devil

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