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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Three Orioles and an Astronaut (and His Family)


Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.
– Albert Einstein
 __________________

Another crazy dream post.
I seem to have a lot of them lately, but this one is a real head scratcher, at least where the astronaut is concerned.
I get the Orioles part: Jerry (my better half) and I were watching an extra-inning Orioles game that had gone well into the night (12 innings and past midnight), so that three Orioles would somehow work their way into my subconscious is not surprising.
But the astronaut?
Let the dream speak for itself:

I am a newspaper reporter charged with going into space to visit an astronaut and his wife and baby, who are with him on a family space station.
My assignment involves interviewing and watching this family as they navigate living in space.
To get to the space station, I board a SpaceX “airplane” (which looks suspiciously like an ordinary 767, along with all its typical steerage-class discomforts).
My fellow passengers are three very tall Orioles, their faces blurred out; in fact, they look like identical triplets. If anything stands out about them, it’s their ability to fill a space and make it seem small. They are wearing their gleaming white uniforms with orange letters and numbers, also blurry.
I ask them why they are visiting the space station. In unison, they say, “To interview the astronaut family for our fans.”
Community outreach, a concept embraced wholeheartedly by the Orioles franchise.
So we dock with the space station, which looks like a typical American ranch-style home – I suppose to make the astronaut’s family feel more at home. No one questions the configuration of the space station, for it makes a kind of sense and logic, at least in dreamland.
After we and much-needed supplies go through the airlock – delivered by the pilot and flight attendants – the family welcomes us by offering us space food and drink in tubes.
Yuk!
The three Orioles really fill the small living room, with their long legs and arms floating about, for we are all weightless. Wordlessly, they present the young family with a lot of expensive Orioles’ swag, such as signed Jerseys, baseballs, and bats.
After about an hour of mundane, predictable questions and their patient answers, the astronaut father somersaults his infant into the air, and as the baby continues to roll, she laughs and giggles. The proud father grabs his baby and stops the roll. “Otherwise,” he says, “Baby would just keep rolling around and around, for all time.”
I’m kind of surprised that a father would roll his baby in zero gravity – it seems a bit dangerous and cruel – Then I start getting all logical about the entire concept of shooting a baby into space – a spouse, yes, but a baby?
When I ask why SpaceX decided to send his entire family into orbit, he says, “Elon Musk, our CEO, wants to study how a family unit would endure the rigors of zero gravity and the psychological effects of family isolation. When asked by Mr. Musk, my wife and I agreed to be the first family in space.”
He then explains that the ranch-style space station was part of the equation: to mitigate the unfamiliar surroundings. “The only difference,” he says, laughing, “We can sit on our ceiling, which is why you see furniture on the two opposite sides of the square. The agency decided that two sides should remain as wall space, that some sense of up and down should be maintained.”
In my dream mind, I realize that the station was built long before the family was shot into space – that the square rooms are individually encased in clear bubbles with short tunnels connecting the rooms (much like hallways). I recall reading (in a dreamland newspaper) about how the bubbles act as another safety barrier. Also, any “outside” maintenance and work can be done within the bubble, minimizing the possibility of a mishap involving an astronaut being separated from the station and hurtled into space.
It is true that the ceiling furniture is very minimal and obviously designed for events in which a lot of visitors are on the space station at the same time. The astronaut explains: “You may not realize this, but we also act as a way station for stranded astronauts, which is why we have a lot of extra sections and foldout beds.”
They show us Baby’s room: squared like the living room, except that it is totally padded and devoid of any sharp edges (room controls are hidden and locked behind padded panels), even the baby’s bed, really just netting with straps , which can be stored behind a padded panel. The astronaut explains that this is the one place where Baby can “swim” and “roll” with complete abandon. “This station is filled with too many ‘no-nos’: sensitive buttons, touchy computer equipment, and hard edges, so we insisted on this room. Mr. Musk is the best because he listens to the needs of his crews.”
The astronaut then shows us a large ring room, spinning to create an artificial gravity. In this ring is an assortment of exercise equipment: a treadmill, stair stepper, stationary bike, two regular bicycles, and one tricycle. Baby toys are strewn about. The middle “path” remains clear, acting as a running or walking path. “We all spend at least one hour a day in this area, so that we can minimize bone and muscle loss.”
One “regular” bathroom is located here, complete with shower and tub, and a small kitchen area where regular meals can be cooked. “We use this kitchen only occasionally because part of the experiment includes how our bodies process food paste and food grown in space,” the astronaut says.
His wife speaks for the first time: “Baby and I spend a lot more time here. Her bones are still growing, so it’s important that she experience gravity. Also, she will soon be at an age where most kids begin walking. Once we return to earth, she will need to be familiar with gravity and know how to walk.”
The tour continues. we are shown the private areas: bedrooms (at least four more, presumably their bedroom plus three guest bedrooms) and zero-gravity bathrooms with showers [this part is kind of vague, probably because my knowledge base about such lavatories is limited]. We are shown a personal computer room (actually, each room contains a computer of some kind), which includes some bookshelves with actual books, mostly children’s books. “My husband and I don’t mind reading on our Kindles, but we thought Baby should be exposed to print books,” the astronaut’s wife says.
Then we tour the greenhouse, complete with grow lights and rows and rows of hydroponic vegetable plants, and food storage areas, both canned and tube foods.
Finally, they show us a well-stocked, albeit small, escape pod, which also acts as Central Control. “This is an area we hope we never have to use in an emergency situation,” the astronaut says, laughing a bit nervously. “But we’re glad it’s here – just in case.”
Back in the living room, the wife presses a button, to reveal a large screen. “We enjoy cable, Youtube, Hulu, and Netflix,” the wife says. “But we don’t have much time for extensive TV viewing. Although I’m considered a ‘trailing spouse,’ I am also a medical doctor, handy woman, and tech expert, so I have little time for entertainment.”
Then, in unison, the three Orioles speak up: “Where can we wash our hands?”
The wife says, “The gravity zero toilet is down the hallway, but you have to understand that using water in zero gravity has its own rules. You might want to use the gravity bathroom.” She gives them directions, and off they go.
When they return, we finally offer our goodbyes and board the ship back to earth.
The next thing I know, I’m at a press conference, with the three Orioles and Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter, answering questions about our journey to the space station.

Then I wake up, wondering, “What the hey”?
I doubt very much what I “saw” in this dream was original; certainly, the gravity ring is straight out of 2001:A Space Odyssey, and I don’t know what would be involved in creating a square room inside a see-through bubble. Moreover, what kind of substance could be developed into a see-through material that could withstand the rigors of outer space? Gorilla Glass? I honestly don’t know, given that I’m not knowledgeable about these kinds of materials. My mind could have been involved in magical thinking.
I have always been interested in space travel; as a child, I followed the space race with great interest and excitement: Alan Shepard’s wild ride into space and John Glenn’s three orbits around earth. When Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong first stepped out of the Lunar Module, I was 18 and totally excited about the prospect of future space travel, which hasn’t quite turned out as I would have hoped.
I wholeheartedly believe that seeking new worlds ought to be a primary and urgent goal, for the survival of the human race may depend on our ability to break away from earth and establish new colonies on other worlds – which is why I am so excited about young entrepreneurs like Elon Musk who have taken up where NASA has left off.
So, perhaps, my dream isn’t all that surprising.
I certainly don’t know why three baseball players would be going to a space station for any reason, but this surrealism is the very nature of dreams, which is why I love them so much and love writing about them.

Have a great day!



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