For two reasons, today was a bittersweet day. It started off normal, up before 7am, working before 8. It’s pretty hot here in the Pacific Northwest, and I wanted to get my stuff done before the heat of the day hit. (I live in a 100 year old condo, and like most stuff around here, there’s no central air, and it’s not cost-effective/energy-efficient for air conditioning. So I knew I was gonna be sweating as the day wore on.)
This morning I was going through old photos, old company art, and old video. I consider this stuff to be of historic relevance… because someday, humanity is going to have (at least) three Elevators – Earth, Moon, and Mars. And when that happens, there will be people who look back at their humble beginnings. And those first steps, those false starts, those triumphant moments, and those visions of an amazing future – they began with us! (“Us” as in the global Space Elevator community; I’m not so egotistical to think that it was ‘just’ LiftPort’s accomplishments!)
I’m honored to have been there since the beginning – with NASA’s first Advanced Concepts award; with NASA’s Centennial Challenges Competition; as four pivotal and critical non-profits carried to torch. I’m proud of the work that my team at LiftPort has accomplished – trying (and failing) for a breakthrough in carbon nanotubes, building robots that first were made of Lego, and then evolving into ‘bots that could climb a mile into the sky! I’m amazed at their talent, creativity, dedication to a noble pursuit, and the perseverance they have shown – despite overwhelming obstacles.
And I’m reviewing the images that we captured along the way. I’m thinking about the stories of that each picture represents. I’m thinking of 14 years of my life that I’ve focused on this thing. I’m thinking about the men and women who have been a part of this grand idea. Some of them I’ve lost track of. Many have gotten married, and quite a few have had babies. Some have died slowly, in agony, others unexpectedly/suddenly, and one was so very very tragic that it still breaks my heart. Some have gone on to get their PhD, their Captain’s bars, some have volunteered to rebuild bombed-out cities. Others have chosen more simple pursuits – mortgages, kids, and traditional careers. I miss them. I miss their hope, their optimism, and their certainty that we were building something great.
I’m reviewing tens of thousands of pictures. There is a local artist that would like to put on a showing, probably in August. He needs material, and he needs the stories that go with them. This is very hard for me. It reopens festering wounds. But I’m proud to tell their stories. Their stories deserve to be told.
These Flickr albums are just a glimpse into the past. But they are also the only online archive available. Eventually, I’ll have to post current work, and to organize this in a way that other people can use it. For now, this is my personal Flickr account. Please ignore/be respectful of random scenery, trips, and photos of my grandmother or family weddings. All of these images are pre-crash of LiftPort 1.0. I do not have current online archive of images.
Now, I’m going to go off-script and talk from my heart; a rant that is unrelated to our Space Elevator journey.
Today, I’m also sad because three people in my family are gay. One is ostracized for this, and has chosen to live far from his core family. One died during the bad old days, 20 years ago, doped on morphine to dull the agony of AIDS; his shamed brother unwilling/unable to acknowledge him. The third has been living ‘in the closet’ for 35 years because, again, the people around her don’t/won’t/can’t understand. I’m happy for yesterday’s ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States. I really am. Yet on this day of remembering, I can’t help wondering if this decision had been made a decade or two earlier, how much sorrow, suffering, and grief could have been eliminated?
I grew up a product of my generation; I grew up homophobic. My uncle’s life, and death, shaped me in ways he never knew. I had my social blinders removed – forcefully – by some drag queens I’m now proud to call my friends. I’m happily ‘straight’, but I’ll never again be ‘narrow’. Congratulations to the United States of America… It’s about Goddamn time!
Take care, mjl
p.s. Here’s a selection from my Flickr set. The link is to the overall directory of all my 3000 photos. Feel free to explore the relevant Space Elevator photos. Some are more interesting than others. Each image has its own story. If you have a Flickr account and want to ask a question about an image, I'll try to respond. For this art exhibit, I’ll endeavor to tell some of those stories (and I will share them with you, too, if you’re interested).