Tag Archives: Space

Dark space

Dark space, like green space, is essential for our well being. Dark space, like green space, is our past, our taonga, and our right. Dark space, unlike green space, is not prioritised in our city plans, is not part of our conversation about Te Tiriti, nor is it where we go for relaxation and inspiration. But once it was. Dark space is accessible to us all, if only. If only we turned off the lights and looked up. Dark space is the night sky, the moon, the planets, the stars and galaxies. Once visible to every child, now lost in the haze of light pollution; once the source of wonder and joy; once the inspiration and the starting point for the personal journeys of countless scientists and philosophers, religious leaders and poets.

The week is Matariki. The new year celebrated at the first appearance of the stars known as Matariki – the pleiades. A time for friends and family and celebration. Sadly, even tragically and certainly scandalously most tamariki in Aotearoa will struggle to see any of the stars of Matariki, let alone the nine that are supposedly naked eye objects. This is because we have not acted as kaitiaki of our night sky. We have not guarded it from our modern obsession of pretending night is just an extension of day rather than a time to rest, recuperate, and, yes, gaze on the heavens in awe-filled wonder.

Matariki (Source: http://deography.com/m45-the-pleiades-seven-sisters/)

All is not lost, though. The solutions are in our own hands. As we have preciously defended the green spaces in our city, now we must do the same for dark space. We must insist that our city ordinances are such that lighting that spills light into the dark space is not permitted and that the kinds of lights we employ are not of the most polluting and disrupting kinds. As individuals we can turn down or off our outside lights that blaze away even when we are not there. We must be guardians of the night – protecting not just the taonga that is the view, but the darkness that enables our night loving insects and birds to survive. Matariki is also a time to reflect on our health and wellbeing. Perhaps this year we may reflect on the fact that the blue light emitted by our phones and tablets which we have been warned is detrimental to our health, is the same kind of light emitted by the LED street lights, which cities are rushing to pollute dark space with.

Let us together, all who call Aotearoa New Zealand home, reclaim our kaitiakitanga of Matariki.

(Featured Image by cafuego https://www.flickr.com/photos/cafuego/32719827268)

Glenn urinates in space

Well, it could have been the headline around the world 50 years ago.  One of my prized possessions is a copy of NASA’s report on the “First United States Manned Orbital Space Flight” which John Glenn flew 50 years ago this week.  The flight lasted about 5 hours, but that was plenty long enough for the NASA scientists to collect a bag of urine.  This may not seem exciting, but given they didn’t even know if he could pee normally, it was significant.

The report states:

“The inflight urine collection device contained 800 cubic centimeters of clear, straw-colored urien with a specific gravity of 1.016, pH 6.0, and was negative microscopically and for blood, protein, glucose and acetone.  This volume of urine was passed just prior to the retrosequence; bladder sensation and function while weightless was normal and unchanged from that of the customary 1g, group environment” (my italics)

Well, that was a relief…not being able to pee in space could have put an end to NASA’s plans to put someone on the moon.  Alternatively, Armstrong’s first words may have been….”That’s one small step for… dang I’m busting, hold on a minute……ahhhhhh…now, where was I?”  As it happens, it appears that Buzz Aldrin who accompanied Neil Armstrong that day was the first to pee on the moon.  In his book “Magnificent Desolation” (Bloomsbury 2009) he says as he paused coming down Eagles’s ladder after missing a rung: “I decided this would be an excellent opportunity to relieve the nervousness in my bladder.”

Back to John Glenn.  His success in urinating opened the door to exploring the far reaches of space.  It also cost NASA many millions as they never seem to have managed to design a toilet to work in the absence of gravity!

If anyone wants to read NASA’s report it is available in pdf format here:  Here are a few excerpts: