Friday, September 11, 2009

Atlas Is Still Going Strong...

When I was a little boy in the late '50s, the Atlas rocket was under development as both an ICBM and as a means to put satellites and men in orbit around the Earth.  The news stories about it had the same aura of wonder that today might be seen when talking about a manned mission to Jupiter.  There was much uncertainty about whether it would work – and when it did work, much joy and pride.  John Glenn rode an Atlas into space, and for those of us who grew up in that time and were fascinated by early space exploration, that event sealed the Atlas' claim to fame.

The initial Atlas of the '50s evolved into an entire family of rockets.  Together, the Atlas family is by far the most successful set of launchers any nation has ever developed, with hundreds of successful launches and very few failures.  The photo here is of the most recent family member, the Atlas V, which just this week launched a satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral.   As with any technology that has evolved over many years, the current Atlas doesn't very closely resemble the original.  But if you follow the history of the beast, you'll see that from the first one to the current one, the Atlas models are a series of incremental developments and changes.

A 60 year old rocket.  Who'd a thunk it?

Remembering 9/11...

Eight years ago, it was.  I still think about it every day – usually, for some reason, on the way home from work.  I still remember my shock, and over the next few days, my dawning realization that the radical Muslims were actually serious about killing us all.

These days I feel like a bit of a minority...

In reading many other rembrances this morning, Peggy Noonan's piece resonated most strongly.  A taste:
They've been marked by 9/11 more than they know. It was their first moment of historical consciousness. Before that day, they didn't know what history was; after that day, they knew they were in it.

It was a life-splitting event. Before it they were carefree, after they were careful. A 20-year-old junior told me that after 9/11, "a backpack on a subway was no longer a backpack," and a crowded theater was "a source for concern." Every one of them used the word "bubble": the protected bubble of their childhood "popped." And all of them said they spent 9/11 and the days after glued to the television, watching over and over again the footage—the north tower being hit by the plane, the fireball. The video of 9/11 has firmly and ineradicably entered their brains. Which is to say their first visual memory of America, or their first media memory, was of its towers falling down.

I'd never fully realized this: 9/11 was for America's kids exactly what Nov. 22, 1963, was for their parents and uncles and aunts. They were at school. Suddenly there were rumors in the hall and teachers speaking in hushed tones. You passed an open classroom and saw a teacher sobbing. Then the principal came on the public-address system and said something very bad had happened. Shocked parents began to pick kids up. Everyone went home and watched TV all day, and the next.
And her conclusion:
He remembered after 9/11 those who rose up to fight terrorism. Even as a child he was moved by them. There are always in history so many such people, he said. It is always the great reason for hope.
The whole thing is here.


Yesterday was my 30th (that is, 3019) birthday, and we celebrated Jamul-style.  Our friends and neighbors Jim and Michelle took Debbie and I out for a sushi feast and great company.  Then we went home and enjoyed a quiet, relaxed evening whose main events were feeding the hummingbirds and the dogs, having a nice glass of wine, reading (I'm re-reading Lord of the Rings), and sharing some time together.

My kind of birthday party!