Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What a difference a century can make… sometimes…

What a difference a century can make… sometimes…

(OR: How can we go from the first powered flight to the second(!) Space Shuttle disaster in just 100 years while another hundred-year span sees all the US Presidents photographed in black and white?!)

The difference can be dramatic, but other times we are left to just shake our heads at the frustrating lack of apparent progress…

On one hand we can go in a hundred years from the first sustained, controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight (the Wright Brothers, Dec. 1903) to the second(!) time an already humdrum(!) Space Shuttle program manages to reignite our flagging attention – but only through a spectacular disaster.

This latter horror was when Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry over our incumbent President's home State of Texas on February 1, 2003.

I was at my son’s basketball game enjoying his budding defensive play and the diversion of my Walkman knockoff when the sad news came in via radio.

While the game was interrupted by an announcement and a moment of silence, I think that most of the kids (mercifully) didn’t really get it, even though we adults took the event very much to heart.

Sadly, in addition to our American crew, the accident also killed an Israeli hero, their first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who also participated in Operation Opera that finally destroyed Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti’s Osirik nuclear reactor in 1981.

Here is a little more on Ramon, from Wikipedia on April 1, 2008:
  • Ramon was born in Ramat Gan, Israel and grew up in Beersheba. His mother and grandmother were survivors of Auschwitz concentration camp.
  • Although apparently a secular Jew, Ramon sought to follow Jewish observances while in orbit. In an interview he said, "I feel I am representing all Jews and all Israelis". He was the first space flight participant to request kosher food.
  • He also gathered rabbinic opinions from the local Chabad-Lubavitch representative Rabbi Zvi Konikov, about observing the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat) while in space, since the period between sunrises in orbit is approximately 90 minutes.
  • Aboard STS-107, Ramon carried a pencil sketch, "Moon Landscape", drawn by 14-year-old Petr Ginz, who died in Auschwitz.
  • Ramon also took with him a microfiche copy of the Torah (from the Holocaust) given to him by Israeli president Moshe Katsav.
  • Ramon asked the 1939 Club, a Holocaust survivor organization in Los Angeles, for a symbol of the Holocaust to take into outer space with him. A barbed wire Mezuzah by San Francisco Artist Aimee Golant was selected.
  • Ramon also took with him a dollar of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.

Ramon and the rest of the Columbia crew died over Texas in the Southern United States during entry into Earth's atmosphere, 16 minutes prior to scheduled landing. He is survived by his wife Rona and their four children.

By contrast, the first shuttle disaster was in 1986 during Challenger’s 10th (and by then already routine) launch.

Pretty diametric opposition, eh?

But compare that dramatic and expansive technological era to the apparently slow progress we made in the field of photography over its seminal hundred-year span.

The President who was elected in 1860, one Abraham Lincoln, was probably the first one who was widely photographed. (Sure, one of his predecessors, William Henry Harrison, is the first to have his picture taken in 1841).

But a full hundred years later, many if not most of the photos of President John F. Kennedy (elected in 1960) were in plain old black and white.

If you doubt this, bear in mind that it was less than two years after JFK’s death that the first color episode of the Beverly Hillbillies appeared. Do I know from bellwethers?!

It just goes to show you….

Oh yeah – welcome to my blog.

P.S. Sorry if I don’t add links to everything I reference, but I assume that most of you are big boys and girls and know how to use a search engine. If not, how can I save you?!

No comments: