Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “space shuttle”

Remembering Ilan Ramon

Sometimes it is hard to forget that Israel is such a tiny country. It takes six hours to drive from the most northern point to the southern border with Egypt. I’m told you can fit 250 States of Israel into Texas. Our population is considerably smaller than New Jersey.

So when one of us excels in something we are all proud. I remember Maccabi Tel Aviv winning the European Basketball Championship or when Israeli soldiers rescued the prisoners at Entebbe.

So you can forgive us getting extremely excited when one of our own was chosen to fly into space – to boldly go where no Israeli has gone before.

imgresIlan Ramon was chosen to join the ill-fated space shuttle payload specialist of STS-107, the fatal mission of Columbia, in which he and six other crew members were killed in the re-entry accident.

He was a man acutely aware of his place in history and the weight of his people on his shoulders. Ramon asked the 1939 Club, a Holocaust survivor organization in Los Angeles, for a symbol of the Holocaust to take into outer space with him. A barbed wire mezuzah by the San Francisco artist Aimee Golant was selected.

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Against all odds, or perhaps a divine act, several pages of his journal impossibly survived. Curator Yigal Zalmona said: “The diary survived extreme heat in the explosion, extreme atmospheric cold, and then “was attacked by microorganisms and insects. It’s almost a miracle that it survived — it’s incredible. There is ‘no rational explanation’ for how it was recovered when most of the shuttle was not, he said.”[

Ramon wrote on the last day of the journal: “Today was the first day that I felt that I am truly living in space. I have become a man who lives and works in space.”

An entire nation mourned the tragedy. Three days later my second son was born. Asif Ilan never knew his namesake, but he proudly tells people of the man he was named after ten years ago, a man who reached for the stars.

We remember Ilan Ramon.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.

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America – Spaced Out? – Tom Rossi

One of the things Mitt Romney and Republicans like to whine about, lately, concerning President Obama is the end of the space shuttle program. They claim that it’s just another example of how Obama just doesn’t care about the glory of America.

It’s interesting, because the Republicans, at the same time, seem to think that every “unnecessary” cent of government spending should be cut. The shuttle program has cost the United States taxpayers over $200 billion. And while this figure is dwarfed by our war habit, which costs somewhere between $1 billion and $2.7 billion per day and has gone on for years.

Nonetheless, $200 billion is a nothing to sneeze at – especially for a program that has little benefit for the typical, middle-class family.

Well, maybe. Just what could $200 billion get that might be better for the average person than a whole lotta’ “gee whiz” value? Republicans are always making noise about abortion, but don’t want to do anything but ban it. They don’t want to address the causes and the reasons that women have abortions at all – for one, the economic catastrophe that raising a small child can be for a family (or especially single mom) with limited income.

Child day-care costs around $250 per week, give or take $150 or so. $200 billion would pay for 800 million weeks of day care, at that rate, or about 35 weeks for every single child aged 0 to 5 years that currently lives in the United States. 

Want something more… concrete? As it stands, the U.S. annual highway repair bill is just over $70 billion per year. That falls way short of the $186 billion that would actually improve our highways to the point where we weren’t playing catch-up with aging and deterioration. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimate our infrastructure backlog (roads, water pipes, electrical systems, bridges, etc.) at $2.2 trillion.

Fixing these problems would mean jobs. I’m one who is fascinated by the space program, but I’d trade it right in for reliable systems on which American lives and livelihoods depend. This is one decision on which I agree with President Obama. $200 billion is too steep a price for gee-whiz value and some trickle-down technological advances that make things like a faster iPhone possible. As I always say, we need to prioritize.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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