This is my very favorite type of story: the type of story that lets me pretend, for the 20 minutes or so it takes to read it and write about it, that we do in fact live in a scientific utopia in which all major practical problems have been solved to the satisfaction and benefit of all humanity, and billions of happy and healthy philosopher-scientists spread over the safe green lands of this Earth and the cold scientific outposts established on its nearest neighbors can settle down in well-funded laboratories to explore the most pressing questions left to them by responsible and forward-thinking previous generations.
Questions like, “Based on Mary Shelley’s account of the moonlight over a period of time, can we use astronomical data to confirm or deny the chronology she provides for the process of writing Frankenstein?”
Today is the 42nd anniversary of the first Moon landing, and Thursday is the final landing of the shuttle program. Thursday morning at 4:56 a.m. Central (my) time, to be specific. I think I am obligated to say “I could never get the hang of Thursdays” in honor of it being the 42nd Moonversary, and therefore slightly better and geekier than the 41st.
Just a side note: I have been trying for approximately 2 years to get “Moonversary” to catch on. Google currently yields 67 results for the word. Not sure why the rest of humanity hasn’t latched onto this most perfect of made-up words, to be honest. (I think it’s perfectly cromulent.)
Anyway, where was I?
Here? Was I here? The last surface the three Apollo 11 astronauts walked on before walking into their capsule and then on the Moon?
No, although I was there nearly 2 weeks ago. But now we’re talking about waking up at 4 a.m. on a non-work day. It’s a silly sacrifice, really, not even as bad as my 3 hours of sleep before the final launch of Atlantis. I can roll out of bed and watch NASA TV and livetweet while half asleep. I imagine it will be kind of fun. But it made me think: how much sleep would I sacrifice to see a Moon landing?
The answer being, of course, “as much sleep as I could sacrifice while remaining sane enough to view and appreciate said Moon landing.” I believe that would amount to two or three days. Not that the question’s likely to come up.
And unless unexpected strides are made in the area of space tourism, my career in neuroscience is unlikely to lead me anywhere near outer space. Although, there is one thing about biology: it doesn’t tend to wake you up at 4 in the morning. Of course, it’s also (currently) firmly rooted in Earth, so it’s win some/lose some.