Cosmic Woodstock

Space dot com calls it the Cosmic Woodstock: on Monday, June 21, in the Mojave Desert, USA, Scaled Composites will try and fly a plane called SpaceShipOne into space horizontally for the first time. What is twice as exciting about this, is that Scaled Composites is not government funded: this is a privately owned company participating in the space launch ‘race’.

Horizontal take-off and re-usable space craft promise to bring down the cost of space faring drastically (as long as the American defense ministry does not dictate the other features of the space craft, as with the US Shuttle).

Currently, the Russian space agency charges a tourist approximately 20 million US$ for a nine-day trip. It is estimated that the actual launch of a Soyuz space craft costs 60 million US$, and the craft has three seats. Launch and flight costs of a craft like SpaceShipOne are likely to be in the area of hundreds of thousands of dollars, not dozens of millions. For comparisson, the launch of a Space Shuttle is said to cost around half a milliard dollars.

The launch is scheduled to take place at 6.30 Mojave time, which should be 15.30 Amsterdam time. CNN is said to provide live coverage, although I don’t know if the US state propaganda broadcaster will do that for the entire planet.

Private space plane

Earlier, I wrote: “[…] the European Space Shuttle. […] equally important, this is today’s technology, not yesterday’s.”

Well, that is true, but it is today’s technology that is going to be used in 20 years. Still better than NASA and Energia, who want to use yesterday’s technology in 20 years, but not a scratch on American civilians, who are using today’s technology today!

Competing in the X-Prize competition, Scaled Composite’s (pity about the website) Spaceship One reached a height this month of 60 kilometers. That’s just 40 kilometers shy of real space. The system they use is similar as that planned for the European space shuttle, except that they are flying now, not twenty years from now.

Exciting times are ahead!

Eigenface

Geek news site Slashdot linked to a site from a Norwegian newspaper, where they let you upload a portrait and they will tell you which (Nordic) celebrity you most look like.

Apparently, my portrait at the Abeleto website makes me the spitting image of Roxette’s Per Gessle. Me, I disagree. He looks much more like my brother.

You agree not to upload obscene stuff, and apparently the newspaper reserves the right to use your picture for promotional purposes.

Something to do with eigenfaces.

[brankoper] Update (7-1-2006): since I will be changing the photo at Abeleto.nl soonish, I put a picture of me in this entry, to the right. (Now who is who?)

 

Afraid to read

There are many books that I started reading but never finished, because I got bored. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was among them. (Borrowed from the local book mobile when I was 8 or 9 years old. The librarian had been unwilling to lend me large books before, convinced that I would not finish them. Boy, how I would have liked to have proved him wrong on this one too.)

The book that sported the protagonist I was named after: De Bruiloft der Zeven Zigeuners (The Wedding of the Seven Gypsies) by Aad den Doolaard. Super sugar sweetness; I could not bear more than two pages, even though my father had kept the book for 18 years to give to me on my birthday.

However, recently I stopped reading a book because it was too good, too exciting. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is a thorougly convincing story about a disfunctional family, about how we cannot get away from those who torture us, about how meanness can be dispensed in tiny portions, not to be protested against, yet have far-reaching effects. About the holes we dig for ourselves.

I would like to get back to this book, because it seems one of the greatest works written in the English language. Yet for now, I want to keep the thorougly convincing account of pettiness at bay, and the feelings it evokes in me.