Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Book Review - Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery

I have always found space travel to be so very interesting so when I read that Scott Kelly had wrote a book about spending an entire year on the International Space Station (ISS), I had to give it a read.

The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have. Now, he takes us inside a sphere utterly inimical to human life. 

He describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both existential and banal: the devastating effects on the body; the isolation from everyone he loves and the comforts of Earth; the pressures of constant close cohabitation; the catastrophic risks of depressurization or colliding with space junk, and the still more haunting threat of being unable to help should tragedy strike at home--an agonizing situation Kelly faced when, on another mission, his twin brother's wife, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot while he still had two months in space. 

Kelly's humanity, compassion, humor, and passion resonate throughout, as he recalls his rough-and-tumble New Jersey childhood and the youthful inspiration that sparked his astounding career, and as he makes clear his belief that Mars will be the next, ultimately challenging step in American spaceflight. A natural storyteller and modern-day hero, Kelly has a message of hope for the future that will inspire for generations to come. Here, in his personal story, we see the triumph of the human imagination, the strength of the human will, and the boundless wonder of the galaxy.

The book is very well written and it is so easy to tell as I read on that he is very much a detail oriented person. I believe that most astronauts are naturally inclined to be that way and have to be. Throughout the book he constantly stresses the detail of the things he does and the importance to that detail, whether it is inside the station or even more importantly during a spacewalk.

I knew that space walks were dangerous but never understood until I read this one how exhausting one could be. The space suits themselves can add danger to a walk as I found out when he described how one of his partners suits started to malfunction causing a huge water bubble to form inside the suit.

One thing I was disappointed in was that I wanted to read about the negative effects on his body after returning to earth after a year in space. He talks about it in the prologue and it sounds like something I would not wish to go through myself, but he never speaks of it again in the book. I think that telling the story would be worth a chapter or two at the end of the book as after all, the effect of long term space travel on the human body was one of the main reasons he and his Russian comrade Misha were sent up for a year.

It is an entertaining and interesting story and one that I would recommend.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Westin Hotel. Ottawa

While we were in Ottawa, Teena and I stayed at the Westin Ottawa which is close to the Byward market.

The view from our room was excellent as we overlooked the Parliament Buildings, the Chateau Laurier Hotel and the Rideau Canal. The canal when frozen, such as now, becomes the world's largest skating rink.

 Robes are supplied, which I wore to the salt water pool and hot tub.

There also is a nice sized workout room and a spa also in the hotel. I would definitely stay here again.

Eating in Ottawa

The first night Teena and I arrived in Ottawa, we ate at the Grand Pizzeria and Bar, which is a Napoli-style Italian restaurant. We both order the meat pizza which came on a thin crust and was delicious.

The next morning I ate at Cora's on Wellington. The food was great, as was the service, but I decided not to take pictures as it is a chain.

That night we ate at Fatboys Southern Smokehouse.

I had the fried chicken and ribs. The chicken was so juicy and full of flavour. I offered Teena a piece of my rib as she had ordered just the fried chicken and was surprised when she pulled a small piece off of the bone just with two fingers.

What I enjoyed about it too was that it was nicely spiced and slow cooked and they didn't put sauce on it afterwards. Three sauces are on the table so you can add your own. I loved them just the way they were. Once again the service was great.

My last breakfast in Ottawa was breakfast which I had at Zak's Diner.  It is fashioned after an old style diner with booths everywhere. Once again I had great service and a tasty meal.

I needed a snack after my visit to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum so stopped into the Highlander Pub on Wellington.

 I had the Cock-n-leek soup which was hot and hearty. Note to self, learn how to make this at home.

Usually during a trip, even a short one, there is one so-so or bad meal. I never had one during my stay in Ottawa.

Exploring Ottawa

I love Ottawa and it was great to get back after a number of years. This is my first trip during the winter. The Ottawa sign is located at the entrance to the ByWard Market.

Here are the eight locks that connect the Rideau Canal to the Ottawa River. It was taken from the Wellington Street Bridge.

The East Block of the Parliament Buildings taken from the same bridge.

The War of 1812 Monument.

Our beautiful Parliament Building, also know as the Centre Block, in which the House of Commons sits. I'll have to go sometime during Question Period. It would be interesting to observe in person.

Here is the controversial rink that was built on the Parliament lawn for our nation's 150th birthday. I think it was well worth it.

The Centennial Flame.

The Bank of Canada has a museum attached. Entrance to the museum is free. Although it is geared to young adults, I found quite a few interesting artifacts. There is a large display regarding crypto-currency.

Although it was difficult to take photos due to the colourful lighting throughout, I did manage to get a decent one of the printing plate fro a $1,000 bill.

The Bank of Canada.

Here is the highest court in the land, The Supreme Court of Canada. Tours are available. On my list of things to do on my next visit.

The National Archives. I went inside and there is a large exhibition going on but I didn't have the time. Another thing to put on my list of places to visit in the future.

All these buildings are on Wellington Street. It might be one of the most interesting streets in Canada.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

A Visit to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa

The Canadian Aviation and Space Museum is a ways out of Ottawa and as I didn't have a car, I had to take a $20 cab ride to get there and sure hoped it was worth it. The place is amazing and I'm so glad that I went.

As you walk in the door you can't miss the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) Snowbird jet hanging upside down form the ceiling.

About 99% of the planes in the museum are authentic, have flown and their service history is shown. The first aircraft that greets you as you enter is, of course, a reproduction of the Silver Dart, invented by Alexander Graham Bell and was the first heavier than air craft to fly in Canada.

It was flown on February 23, 1909 in Bras d'Or, Nova Scotia and when I looked at the plane, thought how brave the pilot was to fly such a rickety looking contraption. The plane was made of wood and cloth, powered by a small engine and steered with a wooden steering wheel. 

The museum is huge and full of planes from every era.

A McDowall Monoplane from the early age of flight. It was built between 1912 and 1915 and is the oldest surviving Canadian built airplane.

This is a Curtiss JN-4 "Canuck" and was used as a trainer in WW1. It was the first aircraft to fly across the Canadian Rockies. This model was built by Canadian Aeroplanes in 1918.

Another group of bi-planes.

This is a twin engine A.E.G G. IV German bomber built in 1918 and is the only one left in existence.

A Bristol F.2B fighter from WW1. This is one of only three airworthy Bristols that exist.

When I toured the Canadian War Museum I saw the fuselage from Billy Barkers Sopwith Snipe that had crashed after his Victoria Cross winning action. Here is a complete one built in 1918.

This mahogany Curtiss Seagull was built in 1920 and was considered a flying boat and not a seaplane.

I attended a demonstration about pilot equipment and ejection seats. Everything shown was worn or used in the past. Very interesting!

A Bomarc missile was built in 1960 and was set up ready for action in North Bay, Ontario. It's huge! The Avro Arrow program was sadly discontinued as these missiles were thought as a better defence. They are now retired from operation, yet the Arrow would still be flying today. Bad decision!

More fighters.

A Stearman Senior Airmail used for eastern mail deliveries by Canadian Airways.

I took very few pictures in the space area. There are so many interactive displays to use and films to watch. I wasn't bad in guiding the Canadarm. The actual arm is here on display.

A scale model of the International Space Station.

The suit used for a space walk.

This is Commander Chris Hadfield's Sokol Suit from his ISS mission.

A Canadian Forces Boeing Labrador rescue helicopter built in 1963 and was the very last Labrador in use at the time of it's retirement in 2004.

In comparison, this little Bell HTL-6 could only carry two and was built in 1955. It was retired in 1966. The same model of chopper was used for the TV series MASH.

A DC-3 which was built in 1942 and flew till 1983.

OK. My favourite fighter is the British built Harrier.  This model manufactured in 1973 is a Hawker Siddeley Harrier. It flew with the US Marine Corps attack squadrons until 1985. It's on here on loan from the US marine Corps and is so, so coll to see up close.

The cockpit of a MIG that once belonged to the German Air Force. The MIG was produced from 1959 to 2009, longer than any other fighter.

This supersonic fighter dressed in Russian camouflage is a Canadair CF116 built in 1970. It was used for air to air combat training at Cold Lake, Alberta, and was retired in 1995.

The German Messerschmitt fighter from WW2 and built for use in the war in 1942.

It's adversary was the Spitfire. I didn't get a clear picture of the Hawker Hurricane but the one here is a British built Submarine Spitfire. The Hawker and Submarine Spitfires were used extensively during the Battle of Britain. This one was manufactured in 1945 and retired in 1950 and put in storage.

About twice a month there is a thunder over our neighbourhood in Toronto when a single Lancaster Bomber flies overhead from Hamilton. It is one of only 4 that are still flying. A single one is quite noisy and I can't imagine what hundreds of them flying in formation would sound like.

This Lancaster X was built in 1945 and is considered the most complete Lancaster X in existence remaining very close to it's wartime condition. It's huge and a wonder to see up close.

As usual there is so much to see and I took only a small number of pictures compared to what is there. There are also flight simulators and in the summer bi-plane and helicopter flights. It may be a ways out of town but worth the scenic riverside drive to get there.