Blue Origin brings space exploration back to Texas

January 5, 2007

Texas plateTexas’ regular license plate features a Space Shuttle, some stars and a crescent Moon, but a lot of Texas 8th graders are foggy on just why. I hope kids living near Houston have a better idea, since the Houston Johnson Space Center is in their area. To most kids under the age of 20 in Texas, space exploration is not a part of Texas history. I had one student in class ask why it was that in the movie version of the Apollo 13 story, the astronauts said “Houston, we have a problem.”

The drive to get a private spacecraft into commercial use has at least one company using Texas as a base. Space exploration may once again become a current event item in Texas social studies classes.

Jeff Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, tested their space craft in November, and the tardy news is bustling around the internet — and present in print and broadcast media, too. That the story is so hot on the internet should be a cue to mass media that it’s time to start paying attention.

The company’s test site is in Culberson County, in far west Texas — far away from the giant media markets in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. El Paso is the closest major market, and it’s in a different time zone from the rest of the state.

This space exploration group reverses NASA’s Houston-to-Cape Canaveral style of operations — Blue Origin is headquartered in Kent, Washington, closer to Bezos’ Amazon roots.

Blue Origin is hiring engineers, by the way.

Watch that space.

Goddard in flight

Tip of the old scrub brush to Futuresheet.

Ordered the cake yet? Millard Fillmore’s 207th birthday coming up

January 5, 2007

Just a reminder that Millard Fillmore’s 207th birthday anniversary is Sunday, January 7, 2007.

How do you plan to celebrate?

Image from NY State Library

Did he really say that? “May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not.” (attributed to Fillmore)

Update, January 6, 2007: Elektratig tried to source the quote, but cannot — posts that the line does not sound like Fillmore. At the end of the day, January 5, neither the New York State Library nor the good people at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society could confirm the quote. We may have to add this line to the list of Bathtub debunkings; but there are many sources yet to check.

Image: State Library of New York

$100 laptop idea rolls on

January 5, 2007

One of its architects, Seymour Papert, lies in a Boston hospital (but out of intensive care) recovering from a head injury suffered in a collision with a motorbike in Hanoi in early December, but the idea of equipping tens of millions of students around the world with inexpensive, wireless-ready laptop computers continues to roll towards implementation.

The Christian Science Monitor carries an editorial more full of hope than opinion, on January 5, 2007, about the computer project. The laptops have been dubbed “XO.”

For billions of parents who earn only a few dollars a day, paying for a child’s education – books, etc. – often gets neglected. Many simple solutions that break that cycle of poverty have been tried and have failed. Now another one is on the horizon: a “$100 laptop.”

While noting past errors in sending technology to the third world, the Monitor cites some numbers from implementation that are quite dramatic, if accurate: Read the rest of this entry »

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