The Ongoing Pinnacle of Human Achievement

After 12 long years of ferrying labs, modules and transport vehicles up and down, The International Space Station (ISS) was completed last week by members of the Endeavor STS-134 NASA Flight crew. When they had attached the final part to the ISS, the space walker “stepped” back and said, “Wow. This is a big Space Station”. All this, I watched on the NASA TV live stream from the space station onboard cameras. The quote will stay with me for a long time, as one of the greatest human achievements within my lifetime.
NASA are about to retire their 30 year old Space Shuttle program. The last flight of Discovery launched in February, Endeavor launched 3 weeks ago, and Space Shuttle Atlantis will grace our skies one last time on July 8th on STS-135, the 135th Space Shuttle mission since the program started 30 years ago.
As NASA look into the future of space flight, I would like to dedicate a series of posts, albeit a very short one, to the ancient history of technology as we know it.
Enough of the serious talk for now. My class were asked to “make notes about how you find things out, how you discover and share information, and how you then store or remember what you’ve learned. Then turn the notes into a well-written blog post.”
Being myself, I had been making some notes, very flimsy ones, during exam time as well as free time (I seem to have way to little to do these days). Compiling these notes into a well-written blog post is challenging for me, as my teacher’s standard of “well written” is a list of examples. I don’t do that. Lists are useful, but boring in a blog post. I do paragraphs, and within them, make my futile attempt to convey my point, in an often entertaining and amusing way, I hope.

Lets lift off (see, notice the link there?) with how we find things. Remember the day when you would ask your parents about “those things”, and if they did not know, they would go to their offices dial up connection and look it up on the terrible ancient Google service. I remember that, as I am not that old yet, but many older people will certainly remember the day when you actually had to go to the LIBRARY! Woah! THE LIBRARY?! Bit of an overstatement there, but yes, people had to walk to look something up. Aside from the fact that “Googleing” (nobody says Binging…) something did not exist, there was no book of faces (facebook) to socialize online, there was no open encyclopedia containing ridiculous amounts of information (Wikipedia) and who had ever heard of electronic mail, used with an @? Ever heard of StumbleApon? Its great! You put in your interests and then you “stumble” through different sites that suit your interests, and you learn a lot on the way. For example, ever heard of the Y2K35 bug? It’s like the Y2K year 2000 bug, but this time, it will be worse in the year 2035. Watch out!
Having docked with the space station, lets move on to sharing. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace (HA, what a funny joke) and the, less developed, email. That’s how we share today, but digress back to the day when you had to send a letter or even pick up the nostalgic house phone and dial a number from a piece of paper. Way too much effort for the youth of today, like me! There are obviously many other ways of sharing things, like through insignificant social networking sites and, the biggest and LEAST outdated of all, word of mouth!
Leaving the space station for the final time, we progress onto remembering things. For those of you who have not noticed, I am describing a Shuttle Mission, one out of the last flights of Discovery, Endeavor and Atlantis. Guess which one it is (STS-133/4/5?)! Anyway, how do I remember things? My iPhone, the Notes app. If I need to desperately remember something, I whip out my phone and note it. As I have MobileMe, which is about to be discontinued in place of iCloud, it is available to me on my mac, iPhone and iPad immediately! However, do you remember when you had to drag around a notebook, or try to actually remember something, not to do with exams? Actually, now that I mention it, the whole exam system is out of date, isn’t it? I think (here comes the rant) that there is no longer a need to stuff facts into our heads any more. We have instant access to a 4th dimension of information though our phones, so why can’t we have access to a certified search engine, moderated by an exam board? I have no need to learn Latin vocab as firstly, Latin is pointless, and any Latin linguist will have a dictionary with him, so why can’t we have a database?
Having undocked and completed the station rendezvous, being myself, I want to add a bit to this “well-written” post. Change in usage of technology has progressed massively, without us even noticing. I like to game a lot on my iPad, usually very advanced games for that matter. It took my by surprise when my sister asked me to hook up our PlayStation 2 to the TV, which in itself was an experience due to the cable jungle all we have behind the TV, so she could play SingStar Party. She asked me to play with her and I agreed, as I was bored and there was nothing on to watch. The game was so simple but at the same time more entertaining than any other PS3 game I have ever played. My favorite series of games to this day are the Ratchet & Clank games designed for the PlayStation 2. Yes, sure, online gaming is fantastic, the graphics on the PS3 are astounding but they can never match up the hours of entertainment that Ratchet & Clank brought me on the PlayStation 2. It took me an hour and a half to stop playing SingStar with my sister and come up here to write this blog post! Even my friend’s older brother decided to take a Nintendo 64 to university over a PlayStation 2. Now that shows something, doesn’t it?
Slowly falling down back to Earth, I’ll like to mention one more thing before this blog post gets too long! The wallet, the trusted pouch of money that we all know and in most cases love, is dead. Google have paved the road towards this with their new newly announced service, Google wallet. This service from Google will allow most NFC enabled android phones to be used Instead of the wallet. In their promo video, Google effectively signs off to the wallet by saying “goodbye wallet, the phone will take it from here”. Google make an interesting point here, namely that the phone will eventually take over. It has already transformed the way we communicate and socialize and with new apps in the pipeline, this transformation has definitely not ended.
Having survived re-entry and performed a safe landing, the Endeavour Space Shuttle, Flying mission STS-135, has been retired. It remains to be seen what NASA will do after Space Shuttle has been retired but for now they are reliant on the Russians and Europeans to ferry their astronauts to and from the ISS. America no longer has any man lifting rocket capacity and there is currently no evidence of a new space program any time soon.
There is a reason why I am telling these two stories simultaneously: Having completed ISS construction, NASA is about to sever all ties they have with space. Even though one pinnacle of human achievement has been completed, development and exploration of new technologies must and will continue. The Americans will fall out of the space exploration picture, to be taken over by the Europeans, Russians and Chinese. Humans will continue to develop new technologies, and who knows, maybe one day we’ll see a new type of Internet. We can’t imagine now, just the people 100 years ago could never have imagined the current form of the Internet. We have not yet reached the pinnacle of human achievement, and most likely will be never will; therefore I believe we are now currently living in the ongoing pinnacle of human achievement.

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