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One Book One Marin: Chapter 1

And so, my fellow One Book One Marin readers, the game is afoot. We’ll be covering a chapter a week of Mary’s book, so check in frequently. Also, comments and questions are encouraged.

So let’s talk. Roach provides a pretty compelling introduction, no? Anyone else utterly absorbed by the  philosophical  implications of the Outer Space Treaty and whether putting a flag on the moon counts as ‘colonization?’ Here’s a link to  the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (NOOSA) website which lists the rules of the treaty. It’s well worth a look.  ”States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner.” Well, there go the plans for the Death Star.  And how would the Agency enforce the rule: “States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects?”

The first chapter of Packing for Mars gives us some insight into the desired qualities of future astronauts: being able to play well with others, fairness, adaptability, a sense of humor, empathy, the ability to sleep quietly without snoring, etc. Most of these sound extremely reasonable. Anything surprising? I can’t help thinking I wouldn’t make it past the preliminaries–from bottling my frustration (how does one express the appropriate amount?) to panicking under pressure (probably not best to admit this, but I tend to panic first, then calm down once I’ve had a chance to step back and look at the situation. I’m working on changing this behavior). I’m a big fan of Origami  however, so I think the thousand cranes exercise might be my ace in the hole. Of course, I think it’s fascinating that they’ll look at the progress over time–the sharpness of the creases, the accuracy of the folds. It makes sense, it’s just so…devious in some ways. Let it not be said that space programs aren’t the ultimate constructors of mind games.

What’s stuck with me most throughout the introduction and the first chapter is the discovery that every little thing is a test and needs to be carefully considered. From the scientists who are designing the rockets, space suits, shuttles, etc…to the applicants who are under 24-hour surveillance. Don’t get me wrong–I’m glad the space program demands such quality and consistency of character from its members. After all, we wouldn’t want just anyone floating around in a billion dollar space shuttle which took years to prepare, make, and test. It’s intriguing, though, because what it sounds like NASA and other space programs throughout the world demand is nothing short of perfection. Which, as we know, is impossible.

How would you stack up? Are you astronautical material? Can you think of friends or family members who would make great astronauts? Other thoughts on the first chapter?

~Ali

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