That's a picture of an Orthodox Christian priest, blessing the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft.
It seems like a weird and outdated pairing: Religion and space exploration. But they're actually a lot more intertwined than you might think, writes Rebecca Rosen at the Atlantic. A lot of astronauts are religious. A lot of astronauts that aren't really religious seem to have an urge to carry the cultural traditions of religion into space. And religion returns the favor. For instance, The Book of Common Prayer now includes an astronaut option in its prayer for travelers: "For those who travel on land, on water, or in the air [or through outer space], let us pray to the Lord."
I'm sorry. I'm an atheist and that just kind of gave me the shivvers. Basically, being out in space, so far from your fellow humans and in such an alien environment, makes for a really good example of the way religion (and ritual) can serve as a tie binding us to the rest of humanity. For some people, it's a connection to a bigger sense of history. And when they look the future (and/or the vast emptiness of space) full in the face, they need that connection to humanity. It doesn't work for everybody. But the relationship between religion and space travel is a good place to start when you want to have a conversation about the fact that there really don't have to be conflicts between religion and science. (Really, people. For serious.)
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Here's the scene: It's Christmas Eve, 1968.
A second launch attempt for the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is scheduled for 3:44am EDT, Tuesday May 22. Weather is currently 80% go. Watch it live here. For background, watch Miles O'Brien's PBS NewsHour feature, and SpaceFlightNow's QA with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. SpaceFlightNow will also have live coverage from Mission Control, with streaming video. (Image: SpaceFlightNow) Read the rest
Participants in a rocket competition cheer after their rocket was successfully launched during the rocket festival known as "Bun Bangfai" in Yasothon, northeast of Bangkok, May 13, 2012. The festival marks the start of the rainy season when farmers are about to plant rice.
Chris sez, "My name is Chris Peterson. I run web communications for MIT Admissions and have been a loyal BB reader for years. For the last several years we have been sending our admitted students their acceptance letters in cardboard tubes. First because we sent a poster, but now it's its own thing. 2012 is the anniversary of an old MIT balloon hack, so we put a letter in all of the Early Action admit tubes telling them we wanted them to hack the tubes somehow, and set up http://hackthetubes.mitadmissions.org to collect responses. Lots of them are great, but this one, from Erin King (MIT '16) in Georgia, is the best."
Update: Erin sez, "I goofed on my Erin king 'MIT admit letter in space' submission. She is 17. I plain forgot what year it was - been too buried in applications!!"
It looks like Boeing will be the main competitor for Space X in the race to see what U.S. company will provide the commercial space flight services that NASA eventually plans to rely on.
Space X has its Dragon capsule, and Boeing is developing a new capsule system, called the CST-100. That capsule would ride into space under the power of an Atlas V rocket, an engineering descendant of the Atlas rockets that carried the first four American astronauts to space half a century ago. Read the rest