Look, up in the sky

Drama-free, commonplace and mundane. Wow, it's nice to write that. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

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Big night for the space program last night. As The Washington Post covered it:

SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday in a spectacular evening liftoff that came days after the company’s Dragon capsule became the first privately owned and operated spacecraft to be certified by NASA for human spaceflight.

SpaceX earned that designation and the right to undertake what NASA hopes will be regular missions to the space station and back after it completed a test flight of two astronauts earlier this year.

That May launch was the first of NASA astronauts from U.S. soil since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, forcing the United States to rely on Russia for flights to orbit for nearly a decade.

This also happens to be the month in which we mark the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station — two full decades during which the United States and other countries have continually had space travelers orbiting the Earth.

The name that NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins (commander), Victor Glover (pilot, and Shannon Walker (mission specialist) and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi (also a mission specialist) chose for their Dragon capsule? Resilience.

There’s something really fitting about that during this year, don’t you think?

Also, judging by the limited demographic information I get for the readers of Understandably, I think people will appreciate the astronauts’ ages. Glover is the baby of the mission at age 44. Hopkins is 51, Walker and Noguchi are both 55.

This crew will stay up there for about six months, joining another U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts.

Anyway, I don’t know if anything can bring the entire world together the way I’m told that things like the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing did. (I wasn’t born yet, but it’s what I’ve always heard.)

And in fact, this is almost the opposite of that milestone. As Kenneth Chang and Allyson Waller put it in the NYT, Sunday’s launch was “a momentous step toward making space travel commonplace and mundane.”

But, I think it’s pretty cool. And I’ll set a few reminders on my phone to look toward the horizon this week — over the next 10 days or so from the New York City area, the space station should be visible to the naked eye for a few minutes each evening.

Assuming all goes well, the capsule should reach the space station and dock at around 11 p.m. Eastern tonight, after a 28 hour trip. You should be able to check it out live here, if you’re so inclined.

7 other things worth your time

  • Thanksgiving? About 38 percent of Americans say they plan to go ahead with a dinner with at least 10 people, pretty much like a normal year. (The Hill)

  • What do you think of the Electoral College? The Washington Post’s editorial board called for it to be abolished recently, which I think is a pretty big editorial step. But I also read a pretty compelling (but unexpected) argument for keeping it, in The Wall Street Journal recently. I know this wouldn’t happen anytime soon, but I’d be interested to hear what people think. (WashPost, WSJ, $)

  • With Covid numbers going back up, some schools (including my local district) are returning to online-only education. In New York City, hundreds of thousands of parents now look each morning to see if the city’s seven-day average positive test rate for Covid-19 stays below 3%; below that (it’s now around 2.5%), public schools stay open. (CNN, NYT, $)

  • Meet Kim Ng, the first woman ever named general manager of a Major League Baseball team. She got the job Friday with the Miami Marlins. (NPR)

  • Know anyone looking for a short-term job during the holiday season? Shipping companies like UPS, FedEx, etc. are hiring like it’s going out of style. They’re very concerned about being able to meet demand during November and December. (Axios).

  • College applications are down. MBA applications are up. (WSJ, $)

  • Kind of related to the trip to the space station: How six scientists survived living on a simulated “Mars” for a year. (NY Post)

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