Far too many scientists who made major contributions to knowledge and human health go unremarked, forgotten save for the occasional postage stamp or Google doodle. So when I was offered the chance to write about a few of the many outstanding scientists who came from Spanish-speaking lands, cultures and ancestors, I was understandably excited…and a little nervous. On the one hand, combining such a varied assemblage of people under one term – especially the political term Hispanic – wasn’t ideal. On the other hand, it gave me the chance to explore, and raise awareness of, a remarkably diverse array of persons, backgrounds and accomplishments. I hope you’ll find their stories as inspiring as I did.
Imagine a Mach-20 aircraft capable of flying coast to coast in less time than it takes a passenger to clear security; now imagine the jet lag to follow. If the idea still sounds appealing, bear in mind that the most recent attempt at such a plane flew right out of its own skin before ditching into the Pacific.
Welcome to the world of hypersonic flight.
Of course, that was a military weapons platform; contrary to what some aircraft manufacturers’ flacks would have us believe, passenger planes are likely to remain subsonic or supersonic for the foreseeable future – and for good reason.
Space travel isn’t all glamor: Body odor and bad breath hang around; food and filth float; emotional pressure builds; weightlessness degrades bone and muscles; the body experiences higher radiation levels; and risks of kidney stones and eye problems mount.
Clearly, astronauts require a pioneering spirit, but near-future space colonists will need more than guts and gusto to thrive en route to, and on, other worlds. What constitutes an ideal astronaut candidate? Should we select space travelers based on genetic risk factors? Could we train colonists from childhood to be better adapted, mentally and physically, to life in space? And would we be willing to go to the extreme of changing what it means to be human?
“You know, you can see it for miles – goes on for miles, over the hills and everything. But, so does the M6. Do you know what I mean? You can see that for miles. And you go, ‘Great. And that does a job. You can drive on that.’” Thus did an unimpressed Karl Pilkington of An Idiot Abroad describe the Great Wall of China, allegedly the only manmade object visible from space.
Which raises and interesting question: Why can’t you see the British M6 motorway from space? Or can you? For that matter, can you actually see the Great Wall?
While Russia struggles to make up ground following a dozen-plus 2011 launch problems and the American Space Launch System sinks in Capitol Hill quicksand, the commercial space sector is racing to fill the gap — and to open new markets in space taxis, trucks and tourism. Since you can’t tell the players without a program, here are the . . .