PI in the Sky

Ever since I watched Pathfinder land on the rust-colored surface of Mars back in 1997, I have been captivated by space, astronomy, and in fact all science.  But, space exploration has always held a soft spot in my heart.

I love the idea of traveling to other worlds, whether through robots or with actual humans.  These days, it seem, the robots are winning. But, during a lecture Wednesday night at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics I learned that private space flight tourists could be the dark horse that change the whole race.

Michael Belfiore, a New York based writer for Popular Science and Wired, gave a talk based on his book “The Rocketeers: How a Visionary Band of Business Leaders, Engineers, and Pilots is Boldly Privatizing Space” and blog “Dispatches from the Final Frontier.”  It’s a great book (I read half of it before his talk, and I am just finishing it up now).

The best part about his talk and the book is the look into the lives of the people daring to do what many felt was impossible:  build a spacecraft in your garage. Remarkably, I think that do it yourself attitude is true to science’s roots, and epitomizes many of the greatest leaps forward in human knowledge (Einstein working in a patent office anyone?).

However, the most exciting aspect (besides the obvious HOLY COW I MIGHT GET TO FLY IN SPACE SOON!!!) was that the winning of the X Prize might be a Kuhnian revolution in scientific thought.   Our entire paradigm of space exploration has been overthrown by these guys with spare time, some nitrous oxide, and a few million bucks.  Kudos to them.

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