Hello again after a somewhat long absence. Early in July, my grandson and his family where here for our annual trip to the Neskowin Coast for the 4th of July including a home town style parade with dogs and kids in wagons the townsfolk competing in contests for what amounts to the goofiest costume, and of prime importance to Jakie, a chance to sit in a real, live, fire engine.
So, I was not posting much that week as I had taken a bit of a vacation.
Unfortunately, right after we got back, my Mom, who has been in a gradual decline for a while now, took a sudden turn for the worse, and I left for Pittsburgh, where I spent several weeks visiting with her as her health and time permitted. Things are still running their course with Mom, and I am back in Portland as it seems that life goes on for some even while life for others nears its end. I’d like to think that Mom would be pleased that I am going about doing my thing as she and Dad always said that they raised us to do just that, and each, in their own way, demonstrated that approach to life. Here they are on there wedding day; I share this just so you have faces to put with the names so to speak, which I always find to be helpful.
So, I write this having a bit more difficulty focusing than usual, just to let you know where I’ve been and to share a few interesting if not necessarily HVAC related insights and websites that I ran into in the past several weeks.
As you might imagine, spending time with Mom at this point in her life gives one a lot to think about. I tend to do that sort of thing sitting outside at night, looking at the sky and the stars. That became my end-of-day routine while in Pittsburgh. I would arrive back at my Mom’s condo at dusk after my final visit with her for the day and would just sit on the deck and watch the fireflies (we don’t have them in Oregon and I miss them) while the stars came out, all while talking to Kathy (my bride) on the phone, and just thinking about life.
One evening, as I was sitting there, I saw a bright light moving across the sky and stars. Fairly quickly, I realized that it was probably a satellite versus and airplane, and then, realized that it was really bright for a satellite, and then realized that it might be the International Space Station.
This was interesting on a number of fronts for me. For one thing, I have always been interested in the space program. I grew up in the 60’s and spent many summers attending science classes at the Pittsburgh Planetarium where I took every class I could about stars and rockets and the emerging space program. At the time, one of my proudest possessions was a white, oval shaped pin with an orange planet earth on it that had a mercury capsule circling it and proudly proclaimed that I was a “Space Cadet”, a title that many will agree I have maintained to this day.
Mom and Dad both were very supportive of my interests in these areas and one of my earliest memories is of standing in the back yard on my Dad’s shoulders with my Mom one night looking for Sputnik , the world’s first artificial satellite which had just been launched by the Soviets. Given that I was not quite three at the time but can remember the event pretty vividly, it must have been pretty significant. At the time, I was too young to feel frightened by it as many, including Mom and Dad likely were (see footnote). I was just amazed and happy to be sitting on my Dad’s shoulders with Mom at our side and getting to stay up late and do something with the grown-ups that seemed important.
Suffice it to say that I have a long history of looking at the night sky and spotting satellites and that the history has a bit of connection to my Mom and Dad associated with it. So, my possible observation of the ISS and my memory of looking for Sputnik together was the topic of conversation for my visit the next morning with Mom. Conversations with Mom are pretty short at this point, but she smiled when I mentioned the subject and we ended up looking at pictures from a number of different space flights that happened to be in the issue of Air and Space Smithsonian that I had with me. When I left that day, she looked straight at me and said “thank you for today”. Those words and the morning’s conversation as we browsed my Air and Space magazine, will be unanticipated pleasant memories that I carry with me for the rest of my life.
All of that got me to wondering if there was a way to verify that I had in fact seen the ISS. And, it turns out there is, via a really cool website called Heavens Above that predicts the orbit of not only the ISS, but also of a number of other satellites. The opening page gives you a number of useful links if you like looking at the sky and stars, including a globe with showing the current location of the ISS.
If you register (it’s free), you can set up a number of different observing locations and get predictions for visible passes in the form of a table that projects out for about three weeks. The table includes the date and time and point in the sky where the visible pass will start and finish. If you click on the date, you get a star chart with the predicted path of the satellite plotted across it. Here is the map for the night I noticed the satellite, which confirms that what I saw was in fact the ISS.
And, you can also link to a map of the ground track associated with the pass (the circle represents the line at 10° above the horizon).
All-in-all, a pretty cool find for an aging Space Cadet reflecting on life and his past and what the future might hold. Like my Mom kept saying to the nurses and visitors as they came in; “Its a wonderful life”.
Senior Engineer – Facility Dynamics Engineering
For me, and I suspect others of my age, frightened came a couple of years later, in 2nd grade, when I saw a film of an atomic bomb going off and concluded that the “duck and cover” strategy they were teaching us in school to protect us in such an event probably wasn’t going to work very well.