Cassini Images

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. I would look at the photos from the voyager probes and wonder what it would be like to really be there and see those sights, and more. One of my favourite photo books is the collection of photographs taken on the Apollo moon missions entitled Full Moon (and I do not for one minute believe the conspiracy theorists who say it was all staged - yeah I saw the movie Capricorn One but I truly believe that we are just that insane to actually send those men up there in that aluminium foil box...)

Every so often I take a look at what those crazy scientists are doing now - for example, the following images of Saturn were taken by the Cassini Probe, with it's two massive telescope cameras - a whopping 2 metre focal length, f/10.5 Ritchey-Chretien telescope and a f/3.5 color-corrected refractor, with a 200mm focal length fronted by an array of interchangable filters and focusing light onto a CCD sensor built in the 90's. (For a really dry scientific paper on the probe's imaging systems check out this 134 page document; pretty cool even if - like me - you don't understand the algebra.)

So pictures like this take me back to my childhood dreams of being an spaceman. Only a tiny percentage of humans will make the trip into space in the forseeable future. The last manned trip to the moon was in 1972 and it doesn't look like we're in any rush to head back there.

It's a shame. There are those who say we should sort out our problems here on Earth before heading off to other planets and I wholeheartedly agree, though part of me believes that missions to space could serve as an inspiration to us here on the ground; who would fail to agree with the notion that the images of the Earth as seen from the moon give us a realisation of how tiny and fragile our world is, or with the the observation that "For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one."? (Even if it was Nixon who spoke the words...)

Also, thinking along these lines brings to mind the words of the late great Bill Hicks, who would so often make me laugh simply becasue he told us the truth. He would often close his stand up sets with the following:

"Here's what we can do to change the world right now, to a better ride; take all that money we spend on weapons and defense each year and instead spend it feeding clothing and educating the poor of the world which it would many times over not one human being excluded and we can explore space together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace."

Amen to that.


griffineyes said...

If I had 20/20 I might have gone to the air forceand then maybe space school which would have only been the beginning of my master for world dominance. Yet alas my imperfect vision foiled my plans to rule a master race of people with common sense. Sorry to all we are stuck with what we have. I've been following NASA's twitter for a while (It's kinda crazy that astronaughts use Twitter). This one guy was updating from a barbeque a few days after returning from the space station. They also launched a Lunar orbiter today after some weather delays.

Tom White said...

Eventually they're gonna crash the orbiter into the moon at 5,600 mph in two bits and analyse all dust it's going to kick up (some 10km high dust cloud apparently...) to check for water etc - to see if it's worth going to colonise and mine the moon.

Actually, by now, we should be living in peace, exploring space and mining dead asteroids instead of destroying this living thriving planet to get at it's resources and in the process killing each other for the privilege....