Doing Is The New Seeing

May 29, 2011

The weather in the Midwest this Memorial Day Weekend has been so thunderously stormy and rainy, I have not been in the mood for any kind of strollin’ in the park. No high school baseball today. No picnics. No nuthin’ outside.

But not being able to walk outside did make me think of a short video (see below) – of two guys strolling one place you can always stroll.  A place with no weather to speak of.  The small downside – you have to get there – and it is 238,847 miles away. With gas prices being what they are these days, that would be a hell of a fill-up.

When I was growing up, space exploration was a national obsession.

Then, a feat even more insanely brave than being strapped to a relatively untested rocket and hurled into space with a course plotted by a super computer (less powerful than the one inside your cell phone, mind you), was followed by all Americans – and warranted a place on the cover of Life Magazine. Complete with 16 pages of Fantastic Color inside. I’m talking about going outside your cocoon and taking a stroll in space, as Ed White did, below.

Once upon a time, in the years before humans traveled to the surface of the moon. There was a space mission that was a bridge between the very first launches – Project Mercury – and the moon shot – Project Apollo.

Called Gemini, the steel apartment that was hurled into space was a slightly more advanced, bigger space capsule (about twice the size of my first NYC apartment but just slightly bigger than the size of my current Chrysler minivan) that could accommodate two astronauts.

And on June 3, 1965, Gemini 4 Command Pilot James McDivitt and Astronaut Edward White did something never before done (by an American).

One of them would open the spacecraft’s hatch… and stroll (on a long leash) into space.

The lucky one was Ed White.

For 20 minutes, on the third orbit, White went to a place where there was no up or down, and saw home. That amazing picture (above) is seared in my memory.

Space exploration was our national pride. As I said, 16 pages in Life magazine.

Now it appears only the size of Kim Kardashian’s engagement ring is capable of sparking so much national interest.

Amidst all the important news of today, I am sure hardly anyone noticed that the U.S. is one blast-off away from no longer having a rocket capable of taking people into space.

We will be grounded, having to hitch-hike on Russian rockets if we want to go back to the international space station we just finished building (a 15 nation, 13 year job).

And last week, we took our last space walk as well.

If you look close enough, you can see the shuttle, as well as Mission Specialist Mike Fincke at work. He and Mission Specialist Greg Chamitoff spent a total of 7 hours and 24 minutes on May 27th outside the International Space Station.

Space really is the last frontier (sorry Alaska). Discovering how to journey there in person is an incredibly important Endeavor.

Because a human seeing it with their own eyes, and describing it,  and touching it – will never be replaced by sensors and simulations.


The trumped up pixels of video and graphical representations may be prettier (like so many airbrushed Miss Junes) or may not be (sorry Donald) – but they are not what is.

No longer is seeing believing. My 13 year old daughter can do photo-manipulations that you would find impossible to deconstruct.

What is real?

Doing is real.

Seeing is no longer believing. Doing is believing. Doing is the new seeing.

Now here is the proof of why simulations can never model what will happen when humans interact…

Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt, the only geologist in the astronaut corps – is spontaneously singing while exploring the lunar surface during our last Moon voyage – Apollo 17 – almost 40 years ago – in 1972. Commander Eugene Cernan joined him out there in the fun. Could a robot have managed that?

I don’t think I will change my tune about reality, even if simulations get good enough to make a grown man want to skip.

And this not having our own rockets for space exploration is a real sorry state of affairs.

Starting in July we will need to buy a ticket aboard a Russian rocket with money we borrow from the Chinese – just to get back to space.



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