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That Is Some Buggin' Out

Last night I attended a lecture at the Rose called "New Horizons: Mission to Pluto". The speaker was Richard P. Binzel, Professor of Planetary Science, M.I.T.

From the hand-out:

New Horizons is the first mission to the ninth planet -- the initial reconnaissance of Pluto and its satellite Charon, continuing on into the Kuiper Belt at the outer frontier of our solar system. With a launch planned for January 2006, New Horizons reaches Pluto in 2015, becoming the first exploration of a 'new' planet since Voyager nearly 30 years ago.

Of course, the 2015 arrival date depends on exactly when in the launch window they get to go. The primary window is January 11, 2006 to February 14, 2006. If they fit the launch into the first 23 days of the window, they'll swing by Jupiter and get a spectacular gravity assist that will get them to Pluto by 2015. If they're forced to wait for a launch opportunity in the last 12 days of the window, they'll have to do without the Jupiter slingshot and instead head straight to Pluto... which adds 4 years to the mission. I guess that's called getting there the Easy Way, or the Hard Way.

But here's what astonishes me.

On launch day, the little craft -- about the size of a Mini Cooper -- will be sitting atop a mighty Atlas V (v. 551) rocket and when she finally goes, man, she is going to be buggin'. She'll cross the moon's orbit just 3 hours after lift-off!

Hope she's got seat-belts and an airbag.

After the lecture, we had a bite to eat, then I copped a downtown #1 train at 72nd. Sitting across from me, a guy was studying a script and practicing his lines silently but expressively. A few feet away from him, some skater dude was gnawing open-mouthed on a slice of pizza and sucking a can of Coke. The script guy kept glancing at the skater guy. I couldn't figure out if he was annoyed at all the smacking/munching noises, or if he wanted to go out with the guy.

In between worrying myself about that, I kept thinking: "In the time it takes me to get home tonight, New Horizons would be 1/3 of the way to the Moon."

And that, dear children, is the difference between our lives and the lives of Spacemen.


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Re the actor and the skaterboy, I'm always amused by the quaint euphemistic use of 'go out with' in this context! And there's a third possibility: he could have been BOTH annoyed AND lustful. These two feelings are, alas, not mutually exclusive. I, for example, want to "go out with" Eminem - and I hate myself for that feeling.

Actually, there's a fourth possibility: he was watching him for role material. Not necessarily for the role at hand; lots of actors observe people as closely as they can get away with, in order to use them as templates should a role arise.

I'm not entirely clear which difference you mean as "the difference." They don't eat pizza? They have no human-observation experiences during their journeys? We aren't inanimate objects who can stand up to enormous g-forces?

I kid. But you knew that.

Actually, there's a fourth possibility: he was watching him for role material.

Possibly, but here I reveal a prejudice of mine.

The actor guy was clearly trying out how to say his lines. These aren't the words he was mouthing, but, e.g.: "To BE or not to be. To be or NOT to be. To be or not to BE." And so forth.

I'm always suspicious of that sort of thing. My theory is actors should study and learn their lines without affect. They should not "practice saying them"; they should recite them in order to learn them by rote. They should never practice saying them. When they get to rehearsal, they should know their lines but should not know how they are going to say them. Rehearsal is where you learn why you are saying your lines. Nowhere in the process, as far as I'm concerned, is there room for memorizing how you are going to say a line.

So... it's possible Actor Guy was studying Skater Guy for future character work, but it seems unlikely to me. I think -- and here my prejudice rears its ugly head -- Actor Guy was kind of a dummy and probably wouldn't really be concerned with that sort of observational work. I'm sure it's wrong of me to judge Actor Guy in that way, but there you are.

I'm not entirely clear which difference you mean as "the difference."

Among other things, we go slow and Spacemen go really FAST!!!

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