Friday, August 29, 2008

Human Powered

They looked like large Oompa-Loompas, straight from the scene where they are beaming chocolate across television waves (which I am still waiting to happen!). Completely covered from head to toe in a clean suit, only their eyes could be seen. They might have even had orange skin, and gender was impossible to distinguish. We peered down on them, as if they were an exhibit, animals in a cage.

These men and women were highly skilled and educated enginners at JPL in Pasadena, and they are making the next Mars Lander (twice the size of the current ones ). In a very large clean room, they were deep in the process of building the Lander. Each part was put on, then inspected, then recorded by photo and on paper, then inspected some more. Very slow and deliberate moves. This was technology at it's absolute best. They had every tool they could possibly need at their disposal. It was fascinating to watch, but not because of the amazing technological advances that were being made in the room. It was fascinating, because of the people. It is the humans that design, create, and manufacture this space vehicle. Every step of it has human touch to it and although, JPL says they only work on robotic and not "manned" flights, this is fully human powered.

The opening ceremonies of the Olypmics a few weeks ago, had an amazing scene with Chinese printing blocks (by the way, I have a particular fondness for printing presses). It was wondrous to watch as hundreds of large blocks moved up and down to form Chinese characters and depictions. As I studied them with awe, I became a bit critical as one block or another was off a little bit. I commented how frustrating that must have been to director Zhang Yimou. Then, like many other viewers, I was shocked to watch as humans popped their heads out of the blocks. They were human powered.

Ah, the way technology will advance and change our world is only through human power.

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