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All posts for the month December, 2008

2008 into 2009

It’s been an interesting and busy year for me here at TheSpaceWriter’s Blog.  I’ve been immensely pleased and flattered by your interest in what I have to say, and thankful for the many friends who have linked to this blog.  I do my best to thank everybody as the links and mentions come in, so if I’ve missed anybody, please accept my thanks here.  Also, please have a look at the links in my Blogroll as well as my “other blogs that link to me” page.

In addition, I want to thank my friends Phil Plait and Pamela Gay for linking to and mentioning me occasionally in their well-written Badastronomy.com and Starstryder.com blogs.  I’ve known both of them for years and admire the work they do.  I think they admire me, so it all works out pretty well.

Some new folks to add to  my link roll:  the ladies who run Find Schools Online, a site that has pointers to online educational resources. They’ve named TheSpacewriter’s Ramblings as one of their Top 100 Space and Astronomy Blogs, which pleases me greatly.  Thanks, folks!

Thanks to all my readers and commenters for cogent and thoughtful reading and discussions both online and behind the scenes.  And, finally, thanks to Mark who — as my partner in life and in Loch Ness Productions — often points me to new and interesting things to write about.

It’s been a great year blogging and I look forward to continuing my conversations with all of you in 2009!

Take a Look Before You Head Out (or In)

Tomorrow night is the Big Kahuna Night for New Year’s Eve celebrants. The old year ends, flowing smoothly into the New Year in a tick of a second. Some folks like to go out and partay; others like to stay in and celebrate it at home. Whatever you do, here’s a little skygazing task for you before you embark on your celebration:  step outside sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. (1700-1800 hours) and look to the western horizon. If your skies are clear, you should be able to see the crescent moon and the planet Venus near each other.  The chart below shows how it should look from my latitude (42 N).  Take a moment to savor the sight!  And, you can practice for it tonight — Venus, the crescent moon (not quite as close together as tomorrow night)  and Jupiter and Mercury (both just setting) should be visible not long after sunset.  Well worth checking out!

New Years Eve sky view to the west-southwest after sunset.

New Year's Eve sky view to the west-southwest after sunset. (Sky scene created using TheSky 6 from Software Bisque.)

Health and Exploration

I’ve been down with a cold the past few days and it’s no fun.  There’s not much you can do about these things except rest, drink your fluids, and take whatever decongestants/achy-breaky medicine work for you. These colds usually take 7-10 days to run their course if you do nothing but lay around and rest, and about the same amount of time if you load up on cough syrup and aspirin and other stuff and lay around and rest.

As is my usual practice, I was gulping down my OTC nostrum of choice and had a sudden thought about the folks up in the International Space Station.  What do THEY do if they catch colds?  More to the point, DO they catch colds?  What if one of the visiting astronauts brings up a nasty little bug?  Do they all moan around for days, whining about stuffy noses and achy limbs, just like we do here on the surface?

I suppose other people in enclosed environments, like submarines, have to deal with these things, too.  I’m sure the ISS and NASA and the Navy all have plans in place that help them cope with illness outbreaks.

I recall from a long-ago meeting called “Case for Mars” that we discussed such plans as part of the long-term exploration of space, specifically the 18-month trips to Mars that folks will undergo someday. We had lively conversations about the common cold and flu, as well as the more outlandish (but perfectly human) conditions of pregnancy, broken bones, and even the possibilities of crew deaths en route to the Red Planet.

It’s unlikely to think that all the specialists we need for such missions will be in perfect health all the time. It may be, as I read recently, that an astronaut/explorer who is the best at the job may well have diabetes or perhaps asthma — conditions that can be treatable and still allow the bearer to do their jobs and live normal lives.  So, I suppose we can figure out work-arounds for the cold and flu. That’s some comfort, I suppose.  Now, if I could just shake this lingering cough!