Friday, December 27, 2013

we've all been there

You know how sometimes you have a project that involves installing electronic equipment.
Like an automatic garage door opener.
Or a wireless internet system.
Or a camera in your goat barn.
Or a couple of expensive cameras that took years
to design and build.

Maybe the installation site is easy to see
but hard to get to.

Maybe you need to work high up.
Like in a cherry-picker.
Or on a roof.

A extra pair of hands may be required.
Good thing you have expert assistance!

It's funny, matter how big your workspace,

sometimes you still have to be careful
not to bump your partner with an elbow.

You have a long task ahead of you, but you are prepared.
You begin to connect, and disconnect, and reconnect.

Slowly, carefully.

Following step-by-step directions.

Sometimes with tech support from someone in another country, far away.

And as with any garage door opener or wireless router,
once you've opened the box there seem to be 
so many strange-looking parts floating around!

After hours and hours of careful attention,
pleased that your work is done and done well,
you smile.
You are ready to move on to the next item on your to-do list.
But first:

the glory moment!

You step outside the garage with your new remote,
or turn on your computer, click a browser,

No connection.
No connection.

And after a moment of utter disbelief,
all you can do is: 
slowly and carefully, step by step,
dismantle all the work you have just done.

You put all the parts back in their original packaging,
and hope that further analysis will 
identify and resolve the problem.


I feel so much empathy with the Russian cosmonauts Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy, who are at this moment carefully and methodically undoing all the work they have done in the past seven hours outside the International Space Station.

I also feel very sorry for the people who designed and built the two cameras as part of a commercial agreement between the Russian Space Federation and a private company in Canada. Imagine the excitement and pride shared by the employees of that Canadian company, doubtless watching the NASA livestream as the two Russian cosmonauts began to install "our cameras" this morning. And imagine the gut-wrenching dismay as Kotov and Ryazanskiy made repeated attempts to achieve a connection, before ultimately determining there was simply nothing else to try.

Doesn't this scenario have a familiar feel to it? In one way or another, we've all been there, haven't we? It's just a matter of scale. For me, most of the amazing and awe-inspiring aspects of the ISS are a matter of scale.