Saturday, September 22, 2012

Books and Spaceships

Empaneled. Coro got a high chair because he came in late.

I had a really nice time at the Sonoma County Book Festival this afternoon, particularly doing a panel on graphic novels with Paige Braddock, Brent Anderson and Justin Coro Kaufman, moderated by the graphic novel buyer for our local library system, Steve Alcorta. Unfortunately, Coro got caught in traffic driving up from San Francisco and showed up with only 10 minutes left in our hour, but it was a real pleasure to meet him and reconnect with Paige and Brent. We filled the room with around 45 people, said wise and witty things, and sold a few books. I especially appreciated seeing some friends and familiar faces turn up (Marion, Mike, Judy, Warren and Kristin and others). All that plus a knowledgeable moderator = a good panel.

I like talking comics with comics-making people. Letting other people listen in is just a bonus.

Paige, Brent, Me and Coro. My wife Karen got me my t-shirt when she visited the Library of Congress. It's a graphic of books on a shelf with a quote by Thomas Jefferson: "I cannot live without books." Seemed apt.

* * *

The Space Shuttle Endeavour was flown over northern California yesterday, on its way to permanent drydock at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. I didn't see it (too busy working for a living) but my two girls did. Here are a few of my favorite photos of the flight.

Splitting the towers of my favorite piece of civil engineering. I think the angle of this shot makes the Shuttle appear lower than it actually was, but still: cool.

The iconic Hollywood sign is OK, but the winner for me is the historic Griffith Observatory at the right.

The "Soarin' Over California" ride is one of the best attractions in the Disney California Adventure theme park across the way from Disneyland, so this photo of Endeavour . . . well, soarin' over Soarin' Over California . . . is hard to resist.

Endeavour flying over Vandenberg Air Force Base, capturing a big chunk of the history of flight in one image.

Not a great photo of the Shuttle (just above the ridge) but my favorite because it was snapped by my daughter Robin on the site of her archaeology dig.
I've read a few people bemoaning the end of the Shuttle era as a shameful surrender of American space presence. Someone online compared Endeavour's flyover to raising a white flag. I don't really see it that way.

The Shuttles were old, outdated, and deadly. They'd killed before and, had they continued flying, would have eventually killed again. Their mission as originally conceived--essentially as delivery trucks to space--turned out to be more expensive than promised, bad for science (the size of the Hubble Space Telescope was limited by the size of the Shuttle cargo bay), and in many ways just a bad idea. Turning routine spaceflight over to private companies seems like a pretty exciting and smart idea to me, and frees NASA to push other frontiers. Yeah, we've got a small gap here where we need to hitch rides from the Russians, but we had a similar gap between Apollo and the Shuttle that no one remembers now. Give it a couple of years: we'll be back, smarter and safer than before.

I look forward to seeing Space Shuttles in museums but am glad I'll never see one strapped to a rocket again. It's time.


Jim O'Kane said...

Spot on.

All those in favor of seeing another Shuttle launch, raise your hand if your stomach did not tie itself in knots when hearing the words "Go at throttle up" after liftoff.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Like Jim said, spot on, especially your analysis of the STS's (does anyone but geezers use that acronym any more?) shortcomings. And, as Jim also says, "Go at throttle up" is not a set of four words I ever care to hear again.

Marion said...

I really enjoyed your panel. What a great bunch! And the enthusiasm of all the self-published writers selling their books was nice too.