GONE IN 30 SECONDS…

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It’s estimated that an average of 8 percent of all commercial rocket launches end in failure.

Multimedia eLearning program by: David A. Johanson © All Rights

David Johanson is a multimedia specialist, CTE instructor and a former Boeing scientific photographer. All content, including photography, graphics and text (unless otherwise noted) was created by the author. To see an alternative graphic format of this program, click on: www.ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com 

Learning Objectives Of This Program Includes:

≥ Definition and meaning of space law

≥ History and development of space law

≥ History and development of 20TH and 21ST Century Rocket and Launch disasters

≥ How, where and why rocket launch sites and space portals are located on the globe

≥ Potentially life threatening activities and components of rocket launches                           ———————————————————————————————

 

The Antares 110 rocket engines roared as they illuminated their departure from Earth — seconds later, appearing as if mortally wounded, the multi-staged rocket suddenly lost momentum and sank downward, creating an explosive tower of flames. Over the launch site’s PA system an urgent command required all media personnel to leave their equipment and evacuate immediately. It was reported no deaths had occurred — however the total environmental damage, the launch site cleanup and insurance liability issues are yet to be assessed.

Orbital rocket explodes after launch

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Here’s NASA video of the unexpected Antares rocket launch disaster.      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aL5eddt-iAo

The referenced video below shows, press journalist and photographers ordered to evacuate as the Antares rocket explodes and unleashes toxic clouds of vaporized solid rocket propellant. Winds should be blowing to the east, so that burning propellant dissipates over the Atlantic Ocean — not heading west towards potentially populated areas, as is indicated happening in this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IclTka711xo

Photograph: Kenneth Brown/Reuters

Photograph: Kenneth Brown/Reuters

On October 31ST, just three days after Orbital Sciences’, Antares rocket launch explosion, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2) disintegrates in an upper altitude reentry over California’s Mojave Desert. Unfortunately the space plane’s pilot was killed, as the remaining components of the craft slammed into an unpopulated area.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy1k5s7Fbl0 http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/nov/02/virgin-galactic-spaceshiptwo-crash-investigators-fuel-warnings

orbital_crs3_launch_milestones_e What Goes Up, Must Come Down

Rocket launch projects have always had to contend with laws of physics, in particular, Newton’s law of gravity. Today, these multimillion dollar programs are governed by another set of laws, involving multinational, liability space laws. These binding laws are for protecting individuals, communities and the environment from impacts caused by, man-made objects launched into space or subsequent damage of corporate or national operations in space.

Case Study: The first record of a space law liability incident occurring was in 1962, on a street within Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Apparently, a three-kilogram metal artifact from the Russian’s 1960, Sputnik 4 satellite launch, reentered the atmosphere unannounced, over an unsuspecting Midwest. The Russian’s denied it was theirs, fearing liability under international law. This event, helped set in motion, the 1963 Declaration on Legal Principals Governing the Activities of State in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space. As an international agreement, it puts forth the responsibility to the State which launches or engages in sending objects into space as internationally responsible for damages caused on Earth. In 1967, the agreement was slightly modified and was titled “Outer Space Treaty 1967.”satellite_crash_bpp_e1070

Earth has water covering 70% of its surface — when attempts fail to guide space debris towards open oceans, the chance for these falling objects to hit a populated area increase. Space Law assesses the liability for damages caused by space debris to the nation or agency responsible for its original rocket launch.

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By 1984, the United Nations General Assembly, had adopted five sets of legal principles governing international law and cooperation in space activities. The principles include the following agreements and conventions.”Outer Space Treaty” – the use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies (1967 – resolution 2222.) “Rescue Agreement” – the agreement to rescue Astronauts/Cosmonauts, the Return of Astronauts/Cosmonauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Space (1968 – resolution 2345.) “Liability Convention” – the Convention on International Liability for Damaged Caused by Space Objects (1972 – resolution 2777.) “Registration Convention” – the registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (1975 – resolution 3235.) “Moon Agreement” – the agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (1979 – resolution 34/68.)

Sky_look_ BPP_ae208Because so many international languages are used for creating these technical agreements — terms and meanings are often misinterpreted. There are linguistic limitations and a general lack of definitions to adequately cover all the specific space concepts and activities using Space Law. Each Nation has its own agenda and vision concerning the development of space, including corporate, cultural and religious interest, adding to the complexity of governing space.

Although most large “space debris” is monitored with top priority for enabling reentry over uninhabited areas such as oceans and deserts — satellites or sections of rockets still have potential for an unexpected re-entry over an inhabited area.

Cuba Gives A New Meaning To A Cash Cow

Case Study: In November of 1960, the second stage of a U.S. – Thor rocket fell back to Earth and killed a cow grazing in Eastern Cuba. The final settlement required the U.S. Government to pay Cuba $2 million dollars in compensation — creating the world’s first “Cuban Cash Cow.”

Dramatic Rocket Launch Failures Associated With Space Exploration

American physicist, Dr. Robert H. Goddard is the father of modern rocket propulsion. Goddard’s published rocket research during the1920s and 1930s, is what German military scientist used to help develop the liquid fueled V2 rocket, which terrorized Europe towards the end of WWll. The V2 (technical name Aggregat-4 or A4) rocket was the first human made artifact to leave the Earth’s atmosphere and reach into space. This basic design of modern rockets has changed little in the 100 years since Goddard was awarded a U.S. patent in 1914 for a rocket using liquid fuel.

It’s estimated since the 1950s, of the nearly 8,000 rockets launched into space related missions, 8 percent of rocket launches ended in some-type of failure (2012 spacelaunchreport.com.) The resulting anomalies have cost the lives of hundreds of individuals, including; astronauts, cosmonauts and civilians, along with billions of dollars of property and payload losses.

Here’s an abbreviated list of eventful, dramatic and tragic events associated with rocket launches.

A modified V-2 rocket being launch on July 24, 1950. General Electric Company was prime contractor for the launch, Douglas Aircraft Company manufactured the second

A modified V-2 rocket being launch on July 24, 1950. General Electric Company was prime contractor for the launch, Douglas Aircraft Company manufactured the second stage of the rocket & the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) had major rocket design roles & test instrumentation. This was the first launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

A modified V-2 rocket being launch on July 24, 1950. General Electric Company was prime contractor for the launch, Douglas Aircraft Company manufactured the second stage of the rocket & the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) had major rocket design roles & test instrumentation. This was the first launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

stage of the rocket & the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) had major rocket design roles & test instrumentation. This was the first launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVeFkakURXM

Vanguard TV3, December 6, 1957 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida (U.S.) was the first U.S. attempt at sending a satellite into orbit. A first event of its kind to use a live televised broadcast, which ended with stunned viewers witnessing Vanguard’s explosive failure. Unfortunately, this launch mission was not ready for prime-time and occurred as a reflex reaction to the Soviet Union’s surprise aerospace success of launching the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, on October 23, 1957. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVeFkakURXM

Vostok rocket, March 18, 1980, launched from Plesetsk, Russia (formerly the world’s busiest spaceport). While being refueled the rocket exploded on the launch pad, killing 50, mostly young soldiers. (Source: New York Times article, published September 28, 1989) ⇒ http://www.nytimes.com/1989/09/28/world/1980-soviet-rocket-accident-killed-50.html

Challenger STS-51-L Space Shuttle disaster, January 28, 1986, launched from Kennedy Space Center (U.S.) marked the first U.S. in-flight fatalities. After only 73 seconds from lift-off, faulty O-ring seals failed, releasing hot gases from the solid propellant rocket booster (SRB), which led to a catastrophic failure. Seven crew members were lost, including Christy McAullife, selected by NASA’s Teacher in Space Program. McAullife was the first civilian to be trained as an astronaut — she would have been the first civilian to enter space, but tragically, the flight ended a short distance before reaching the edge of space. Recovery efforts for Challenger were the most expensive of any rocket launch disaster to date.   http://www.history.com/topics/challenger-disaster/videos/engineering-disasters—challenger

Long Mark 3B rocket launch, payload: American communication satellite, built by Space Systems Loral – February 14, 1996 in Xichang (China) – two seconds into launch, rocket pitched over just after clearing the launch tower and accelerated horizontally a few hundred feet off the ground, before hitting a hill 22 seconds into its flight. The rocket slammed into a hillside exploding in a fireball above a nearby town, it’s estimated at least 100 people died in the resulting aftermath. This event was most likely the worst rocket launch disaster to date, due to the massive loss of human life. Disaster at Xichang | History of Flight | Air & Space Magazine  ⇒ http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/disaster-at-xichang-2873673/?c=y%3Fno-ist  video of the rocket launch disaster https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_EnrVf9u8s

Antares rocket launch explosion with firebrands cascading from solid propellant — NASA photo

Antares rocket launch explosion with ‘firebrands’ cascading from solid propellant — NASA photo

Delta 2, rocket launch – January 1997, Cape Canaveral (U.S.) – this rocket carried a new GPS satellite and ends in a spectacular explosion. Video link included to show examples of worst case scenario of a rocket exploding only seconds after launch (note brightly burning rocket propellant cascading to the ground is known as “firebrand”.) The short video has an interview with Chester Whitehair, former VP of Space Launch Operations Aerospace Corporation, who describes how the burning debris and toxic hydrochloric gas cloud fell into the Atlantic Ocean from the rocket explosion. Rocket launch sites and Spaceports are geographically chosen to mitigate rocket launch accidents. US rocket disasters    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4-Idv6HnH8

Titan 4, rocket launch – August 1998, Cape Canaveral (U.S.) the last launch of a Titan rocket – with a military, top-secret satellite payload, was the most expensive rocket disaster to date – estimated loss of $ 1.3 Billion dollars.                                                        http://www.military.com/video/explosions/blast/titan-iv-explosion-at-cape-canaveral/1137853205001/

VLS-3 rocket, launch – August 2003, Alcantara (Brazil) – rocket exploded on the launch pad when the rocket booster was accidentally initiated during test 72 hours before its scheduled launch. Reports of at least 21 people were killed at the site.                               http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2003-08-22-brazil-rocket_x.htmvideo of the rocket launch disaster ⇒ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_EnrVf9u8s 

Rocket launch debris fields are color keyed in red & Links to space port's web sites included. (CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE) Quiz ??? - 1.) Do you see any similarities in the geographic locations used for these launch sites? 2.) What advantages do these locations have regarding "Space Law?" 3.) For most rocket launches, which site has the greatest geographic advantage & why? 4.) Which has the least advantage & why?

Rocket launch debris fields are color keyed in red & Links to space port’s web sites included. (CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE) Quiz ??? – 1.) Do you see any similarities in the geographic locations used for these launch sites? 2.) What advantages do these locations have regarding “Space Law?” 3.) For most rocket launches, which site has the greatest geographic advantage & why? 4.) Which has the least advantage & why?

Rocket launch debris fields are color keyed in red & Links to space port’s web sites included. (CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE) Quiz ??? – 1.) Do you see any similarities in the geographic locations used for these launch sites? 2.) What advantages do these locations have regarding “Space Law?” 3.) For most rocket launches, which site has the greatest geographic advantage & why? 4.) Which has the least advantage & why?
Location, location, location is a huge benefit for rocket launch sites.

If you zoom into the above World map with its rocket launch sites, you’ll notice they’re located in remote, uninhabited areas. Another feature most space ports share is their proximity to large bodies of water, which are located in an easterly direction (with the exception of the U.S. Vandenberg site.) Rockets are launched over oceans to minimize   the risk to people or property from catastrophic accidents, which includes falling launch fuel_tank_bpp_e82debris and toxic clouds of burnt fuel propellant. Liability from a launch vehicle is the main reason why all ships and aircraft are restricted from being in water anywhere near or underneath a rocket’s flight path. Rocket’s debris can contain highly toxic forms of unspent fuel and oxidizer, especially from solid propellant fuels.

The majority of rockets are launched in an easterly direction, due to the Earth’s easterly rotation. This procedure gives the rocket extra momentum to help escape the Earth’s gravitational pull. An exception for an east directional launch is a Vandenberg site in California. This site launches most of its rockets south for polar orbits, which is used by a majority of communication and mapping satellites.

Launching rockets closer to the equator gives a launch vehicle one more advantage — extra velocity is gained from the Earth’s rotation near its equator. At the equator, our planet spins at a speed of 1675 kph (1040 mph,) compared to a spot near the Arctic Circle, which moves at a slower, 736 kph (457 mph.) Even the smallest advantage gained in velocity means a rocket requires less fuel (13 percent less fuel required for equatorial launches) to reach “escape velocity.” This fuel savings translates to a lighter launch vehicle, making the critical transition of leaving Earth’s gravitational field quicker.

International space law is emerging from its infancy, attempting to clearly define itself from a nebulous amalgam of; agreements, amendments, codes, rules, regulations, jurisdictions,

Photo-illustration: David A Johanson — of space debris using a NASA photo of Skylab

Photo-illustration: David A Johanson — of space debris using a NASA photo of Skylab

treaties and non-binding measures. There exists today, enough legal framework for commercial interest to move cautiously towards developing outer space. However, with the unforeseen variables and dynamics of space activities, exceptions will be made & rules will be stretched, if not broken to accommodate necessity, justification or exculpation. ~

Part 1 of 2 editions – please check back soon for the conclusion of this essay.

The next edition of the Space Law series includes:

Potential Minefield Effects From Space Debris And The Regulatory Laws To Help Clean It Up.

Will Asteroid Mining Become The Next Big Gold Rush And What Laws Will Keep The Frontier Order?

Music video portal of rocket launches (nostalgia enriched content):

Boards of Canada – Dawn Chorus  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfVfRWv7igg

Boards of Canada – Gemini – http://vimeo.com/68087306

Boards of Canada – Music is Math http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7bKe_Zgk4o

Links And Resources, For Space Law And Related Issues

http://definitions.uslegal.com/s/space-law/

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2588/1

https://www.gwu.edu/~spi/assets/docs/AGuidetoSpaceLawTerms.pdf

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/spacelaw/38/

 

The Space Review: International space law and commercial space activities: the rules do apply Outlook on Space Law Over the Next 30 Years: Essays Published for the 30th – Google Books “SPACE FOR DISPUTE SETTLEMENT MECHANISMS – DISPUTE RESOLUTION MECHANISM” by Frans G. von der Dunk Asteroid mining: US company looks to space for precious metal | Science | The Guardian Planetary Resources – The Asteroid Mining Company – News 5 of the Worst Space Launch Failures | Wired Science | Wired.com Orbital Debris: A Technical Assessment NASA Orbital Debris FAQs ‎orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/library/IAR_95_Document.pdf A Minefield in Earth Orbit: How Space Debris Is Spinning Out of Control [Interactive]: Scientific American SpaceX signs lease agreement at spaceport to test reusable rocket – latimes.com Earth’s rotation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The Space Review: Spacecraft stats and insights Space Launch Report V-2 rocket – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Billionaire Paul Allen gets V-2 rocket for aviation museum near Seattle – Science Germany conducts first successful V-2 rocket test — History.com This Day in History — 10/3/1942

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/billionaire-paul-allen-gets-v-2-rocket-aviation-museum-near-1C9990063

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Big Picture One – Directory Of Multimedia eLearning Posts

Multimedia essays & eLearning programs by: David Anthony Johanson  © All Rights 

To quickly view sites of interest, just click on the white text to the right of the feature photo & above the program’s description. You also have the option to navigate to each essay by simply scrolling down past the end of this directory.

Essays are listed in chronological order from when they were first published.

You’ll find in each program essay, a spectrum of resources to help better understand & appreciate the subject matter. To enhance your experience, a variety of carefully considered dynamic content is used, including: photographs, videos, graphics, text & hyperlinks to other sites. Every effort is made to assure the information presented is factually correct by cross referencing content & giving proper credit for creative work used in the stories & essays.

You’re invited & encouraged to comment on the programs presented here, by doing so, you enrich the site by making it a more interactive experience. All constructive comments are welcome, even if you’re not in total agreement with the article’s point of view.

The author of these sites is a multimedia photographer, CTE instructor and a former Boeing scientific photographer.

For an alternative graphic format of these programs, please visit — www.ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com 

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/new-brain-based-learning-strategies-explored-using-neuroimaging/  New Brain-Based Learning Strategies Explored To Help Achieve Your Full Potential. Finding and sharing new learning strategies, that are inspired from evidence based, neuroimaging and brain-mapping studies, is a dynamic process to help assist individuals in reaching their full learning potential. Brain-based learning is a spectrum of teaching strategies, which uses neuroscience research on how the brain functions in achieving ideal development and potential. Learning concepts used: Applied Learning, Adult Learning, Competency-based Learning, Critical Thinking, Integrative Learning. Key: Words or phrases italicized are used to focus on essential concepts or terms for enhanced learning and retention.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/tag/gone-in-30-seconds-elearning-program-on-rocket-launch-disaster/  Gone In 30 seconds… It’s estimated that an average of 8 percent of all commercial rocket launches end in failure. This eLearning program includes a compendium of 20th & 21st century rocket launches, including dramatic failures. A succinct introduction to space law is included for greater appreciation of the consequences and liabilities related to the growing number of commercial rocket launches. A detailed world map illustrates the major spaceports & launch centers using GPS coordinates and web address. 

An eLearning program for secondary/post secondary education and community learning content covered: — aerospace/astronautic engineering, avionics, economics & business, environmental footprint, financing, manufacturing, marketing, obsolescence management, technology& Space Law. Learning concepts used: Applied Learning, Adult Learning, Competency-based Learning, Critical Thinking, Integrative Learning. Key: Words or phrases italicized are used to focus on essential concepts or terms for enhanced learning and retention.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/tag/david-a-johanson-historian/  Will The Next Jet Airliner You Fly Be Obsolete, And Ready for Early Retirement?  This multimedia essay examines the evolving financing strategies and technological developments affecting older generation commercial aircraft. An eLearning program for secondary/post secondary education and community learning. Assessment tool: A quiz and answer key is located at the end of the program. Learning content covered: aerospace/airliner— aerospace engineering, avionics, economics & business, environmental footprint, financing, manufacturing, marketing, obsolescence management, technology. Learning concepts used: Applied Learning, Adult Learning, Competency-based Learning, Critical Thinking, Integrative Learning. Key: Words or phrases italicized are used to focus on essential concepts or terms for enhanced learning and retention.

[ Disclaimer: David Johanson is a former Boeing scientific photographer and currently has no stock holdings or a financial interest in: Boeing, Airbus or any other companies referenced in this program. Research in this article has been cross referenced using at least three sources, however, all perspectives and opinions represent only the viewpoints of the author.]

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/the-environment-our-earths-lost-frontier/ The Environment, Our Earth’s Lost Frontier. A photo essay dedicated to the environment using photos from editorial and industrial photo assignments. From Alaska’s oil rich Arctic region to the tropical rain forest of Hawaii, environmental encounters and stories are visually shared. eLearning – suitable for secondary/postsecondary education, community & extended learning. Photo-illustration, graphics, text and links on Earthday and the environment included within this program. 

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/the-martian-prophecies-earths-conquest-of-the-red-planet/  The Martian Prophecies. In this futurist multimedia photo essay, a correspondent from 2054 presents a series of Astronautical engineering and Astrobiology developments enabling the remarkable colonization of Mars. ELearning – suitable for secondary/postsecondary education, community & extended learning. Extensive photo-illustration, graphics, text and links on Mars colonization included within this program.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/an-introductionary-guide-to-steampunk/ A Beginners Guide to Steampunk. — Photo essay introduction to Steampunk subculture. As a sub-genre of science fiction its practitioners feature Victorian era clothing along with accessories such as goggles, intricate antique jewelry & a wide spectrum of retro-futuristic attachments. Subjects include critical thinking, alternative lifestyle, 19TH Century Industrial History & Steampunk Etymology.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/how-did-romes-vitruvius-become-the-worlds-first-impact-player-in-architecture/  Multimedia photo essay introduction to Roman architect & engineer Vitruvius, who writes the first book on architecture. Vitruvius’ influence is relevant for modern architecture, STEM, Pre-Engineer & CTE related content. For Secondary & post secondary learning. ELearning, Links relating subject matter, quizzes for learning. Extensive photography of Roman architecture featured from: Rome, Ostia Antica & Herculaneum.

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Pearl_Harb_VC_BPP_e8v474bigpictureone.wordpress.com/tag/photos-of-pearl-harbor-visitor-center/  Low light architectural photography of the new Pearl Harbor Visitor Center on Oahu, Hawaii. Multicultural essay of modern Hawaiian & Pan Pacific Cultures. — multimedia photo essay, eLearning, photo tutorial on marketing & night photography, reference links

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Sky_look_ BPP_ae208Is Space Law Really That Far Over Your Head? | bigpictureone   Space Law introduction, case studies, space port launch sites, space debris, asteroid mining includes history of the modern rocket program. — Multimedia essay, eLearning, STEM & CTE content, quizzes, interactive map, video links, reference links
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Reflecting on the 33rd Anniversary of Mount Saint Helens Eruption | bigpictureone    Reflections on a close encounter with one of the worlds most active stravovolcanos.  Mt. Saint Helens eruption – photo essay, eLearning, reference links

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What Chance Will America’s Youth Have In A Changing   STEM_EXPFair_ESD_BPP_E23Global Economy? | bigpictureone STEM Education & Magnet Schools – Origins of the program & its success in public education. STEM expo at Mountlake Terrace HS -Edmonds School District.–  Multimedia essay, eLearning, STEM & CTE content, reference links

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Photo-illustration: David Johanson Vasquez © All RightsReflections From A Future Hawaii. Can A Tropical Paradise Become A Portal To Deep Space? | bigpictureone   Futuristic Hawaii in the year 2054 as it’s transformed into a space port & gateway to space. — Multimedia essay, eLearning, links

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Waikiki_Santa_BPP_E22An unusual encounter with a Waikiki Santa Clause | bigpictureone      Photo essay of a Waikiki Santa Clause using an adaptation of Clement Clare Moore’s (1799 -1863) classic poem — Twas the night before Christmas. Multimedia photo essay.  Mele Kalikimaka! — multimedia, poetry, eLearning

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Silhoute_man_ocean_BPP_E227https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/will-the-last-people-remaining-in-america-turn-the-lights-back-on/  Multimedia essay on solar flares, solar/geomagnetic storms & solar maximum of 2013-2014. Potential solar storm scenarios, which government scientist & federal agencies are warning about, including loss of world power grids. Resources & links to various publications & sites  included. — multimedia, eLearning on solar storm history & threats to current infrastructure, STEM related content, quizzes, reference links

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EPSON scanner imageA Glimpse Into Havana’s Legendary Watering Hole | bigpictureone Family photo taken in 1941 at Havana’s Sloppy Joe’s, inspired this photo essay of events shortly before & after the start of WWII. Family chronicled as they arrive in Panama for reunion with my grandfather, evacuated & survive being stalked by German wolf-pack U-boat submarine. — multimedia essay – eLearning

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R22_Helicopt_DAJ_44The Latest Full Throttle Multimedia Video of Seattle From the R22 Beta Helicopter – Part 2 of 2 | bigpictureone  Helicopter safety & repair video, aerial photography of Seattle & Boeing field, using an R22. — STEM & CTE learning, multimeida, eLearning, quizzes video essay.

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R22_helicopt_DAJ_42A Full Throttle Multimedia Video of Seattle      From the R22 Beta II Helicopter – Part 1 of 2. | bigpictureone  Helicopter safety & repair video, aerial photography for Port of Seattle, from Boeing Field, using an R22, eLearning video essay. STEM & CTE learning, aerospace engineering. — mutlimedia, eLearning, quizzes, resource links

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Man_micro_chip_BPP_et169https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/who-were-the-titans-of-telecommunication-and-information-technology/ Introduction to R&D research labs through a multimedia history of Bell Laboratory, its developments inventions. Second chapter explores Xerox PARC founding in Silicon Valley &  contributions it made to personal computing & telecommunications. — eLearning, quizzes, reference links

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Star_Showr_Ref_Lk_BPP_e616https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/blinded-by-the-light-in-the-middle-of-night/  Photo essay on light pollution’s effects on night photography, astronomy, animal migrations & quality of life. Mount Rainier National Park & long exposure photographs of landscape & star constellations are featured in this essay. — multimedia, eLearning, STEM related content,  quizzes, resource links

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Aurora_Bor_BPP_il_0011_1https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/theres-nothing-new-under-the-sun-or-is-there/  Multimedia essay introduction to solar storms (including historical perspective), CME’s, effects of geomagnetic disturbances & potential threats to global electrical power grids. The connection between solar storm activity & aurora Borealis — eLearning, STEM related content, quizzes, resource links

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Orvi_Italy_BPP_E0412https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/exploring-etruscan-ruins-beneath-the-cliffs-of-medieval-orvieto-italy/ Multimedia essay on one of Europe’s best kept secrets — the medieval fortress citadel, Orvieto. Explores Etruscan ruins, grottos, medieval architecture, massive cathedrals & nearby Umbria countryside. Examines Etruscan art & its misunderstood cultural traditions under the shadow of the Roman Empire. — Critical thinking, World history & culture, travel, e-Learning, extensive photo gallery, quizzes, resource links

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Paint_Hills, BPP__42https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/1382/ Multimedia essay includes video interview with a National Park Service’s ranger on the unique geology & wildlife qualities of John Day National Monument’s Painted Hills. Video features exclusive walking tour, which occurs only once per year. — night photography, resource links

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Boe_ing_787_First_Flt_BPP_Bg404Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner Historic First Flight From Paine Field, Everett, WA. | bigpictureone Historic first flight video of Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Everett facilities by BigPictureOne. Multimedia of Boeing Scientific photography experience related to aircraft structures & test engineering. — ELearning, STEM & CTE Ed, large photo gallery, quizzes, resource links

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SeaSPNed_BP_90_MRhttps://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-world-event-which-launched-seattle-into-a-post-modern-orbit-50-years-ago-today/  Multimedia essay explores an early postmodern World’s fair — known as Seattle’s Century 21 Worlds Fair, opened in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  e-Learning, STEM related content, quizzes, extensive photos

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twinT_WTC_NYC BPP_arl_44https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/the-day-after-911-ten-years-after/ Multimedia narrative of a 1998 visit to the NYC World Trade Center Towers & the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Seattle architect Minoru Yamasaki’s designs of the NYC Trade Centers are compared with his Seattle Science Center design for the Century 21 Worlds Fair —eLearning, critical thinking, extensive photo gallery, quizzes, resource links

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Snoqu_almie_Falls_BPP_Ae_6174Luminous Beauty of Low-light Photography | bigpictureone Photo essay tutorial on low-light photography. Strategies & techniques of using low noise sensors in digital cameras. Terms such as magic hour & HDR photography are explained. — eLearning, CTE related content, photo gallery

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Kingdome Demo_BPP_ 2KIngdome demolition March 26 2000 | bigpictureone Video multimedia essay of one of the World’s largest demolitions of Seattle Kingdome. E-learning, video tutorial (featured slow-motion & high-speed video effects), essay of event & aftermath from dust storm. Reference links included.

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Tech_abst_BPP__3ea1Will The Current Solar Storms Hitting Earth, Lead To Lights-out for us by 2013-2014? | bigpictureone A multimedia essay introduction to solar storms, history of geomagnetic effects on industrial & postmodern societies. Civil preparedness, Photos & videos of Aurora Borealis. STEM & solar physics undergraduate content, extensive photos, resource links

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The World Event Which Launched Seattle Into a Postmodern Orbit, 50 Years Ago Today.

Photos and essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights – Third Addition

Content includes: Blended learning, critical think, Seattle Postmodern History, (Video Links – MGM film segments with Elvis Presly at Seattle’s World Fair, postmodern video of early NASA rocket launches & spacewalks, video defining “postmodernism”)  (Web links, history org feature of Century 21 Seattle’s World’s Fair & Architect Japanese American Minoru Yamasaki)

On this day, April 21st, 1962, Seattle’s Century 21 World’s Fair opened the doors for its national and international visitors.  Eventually, almost 10 million guests attended the entire event to — “imagine a futuristic tomorrow,” which promised technological wonders for improved living and for promoting world harmony.

Century 21 Fair Exposition Logo.

The 1851 London World’s Fair, which took place in London’s  Crystal Palace, was the vanguard of this type of global gathering.  The industrial age was in a mature stage of development, offering new and exciting forms of technologies. In this era, people became aware of time-and-space being compressed — due to steam-power’s ability to hasten long-distance travel with the locomotive and steamship.  As the World’s people experience shrinking obstacles towards bringing distant nations and cultures together—the creation of global fairs was created to promote industrial development and international exhibits.

Queen Victoria opens the first international World's Fare in 1851. ( Image in public domain )

Queen Victoria opens the first international World’s Fair in 1851. ( Image in public domain )

Seattle’s first World’s fair — Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in 1909, occurred near the peak of an industrial age, which helped Seattle obtain national name recognition.

The Space Needle, an iconic landmark from Seattle’s 1962 Century 21 World’s Fair.

Significantly, the Century 21 World’s Fair was created in an emerging postmodern era. The Fair was remarkably successful with a number of tangible results, notably: it was one of the select few world event of its kind, which made a profit and most importantly, it lifted Seattle out of its perceived provincial setting, and placed it onto a world stage. The timing was ideal for the city’s economic development trajectory.  With Boeing Aerospace as a Seattle-based company, it benefited from the international exposure, at a time when the postmodern world began to embrace jet travel for global access.

Seattle Center with Mount Rainier in Background.

Optimism and enthusiasm associated with the 1962 World’s Fair was authentic, however, in the big picture, a dark shadow was growing with super-power tensions. As the cold war thermometer was nearing a boiling point, a serious situation was escalating.  President Kennedy’s excuse of having a cold for not attending the Century 21 closing ceremony in October was a ruse — actually his efforts for de-escalating the Cuban Missile Crisis were urgently required.  As a result of averting a nuclear war over Cuban missiles, President Kennedy successfully presided over the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union’s signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in  the following year of 1963.

Ironically, it was the Soviet Union, which created the theme of science for Seattle’s Century 21 World’s Fair. On October 4, 1957 the Russians launched Sputnik, the first orbiting man-made satellite, which gave them an edge in space development. With the Soviet’s apparent satellite success, Americans feared they were falling behind in science and technology; as a result of tech envy, a theme of science became the framework for Seattle’s Worlds Fair.  From this time forward, the U.S. Set goals to be leaders in space exploration and technology development.

Elliott Bay with Seattle Center and Mount Baker in background.

The shock-wave effect created by Sputnik, awoke America from its complacency of 1950s idealism.  Now, a sense of urgency was created  in looking for optimism within the futuristic Technology of tomorrow.  This quest for all things technological, was the fuel which Seattle used for launching its World’s Fair.  Late in 1957, the title: Seattle Century 21 World’s Fair was selected as the brand name to help promote America’s vision of optimism in a technological future.  To champion this cause, Albert Rossellini, Washington State Governor from 1956 to 1965, selected an exceptional group of business and civic leaders for a commission which successfully acquired local and national financing for the Seattle World’s Fair.

Governor Albert Rossellini, on Veteran’s Day 1961.

Governor Rossellini, a Pacific Northwest civic titan, had the vision which helped develop the region into a world-class, economic dynamo.  The Century 21 World’s Fair, along with the state’s modern transportation infrastructure , and post secondary education developments are just a few examples of Albert Rossellini legacy. One more fascinating contribution from Governor Rossellini was his contribution in bringing the “King of Rock and Roll” to Seattle’s World Fair. Albert Rossellini actually pitched the idea to MGM, for making a movie with Elvis Presley (click on the video link ↓ )  It Happened at the World’s Fair — (Movie Clip) Happy Ending  Enlisting Elvis, a mega superstar, to help promote the Fair in a movie was a brilliant marketing move, with true creative vision!

Most impressive icons of the Century 21 Fair are the Space Needle and Monorail, which went on to become revered Seattle landmarks and its biggest tourist attractions.

The ever popular Seattle Monorail is gliding past Paul Allen’s EMP building.

Internationally, the Space Needle is a more recognizable symbol of Seattle, than the city’s actual name or any other single reference.

The inspiration for the Space Tower as it was initially called, came from a napkin sketch by C21 chairman, Eddie Carlson of a 400’ TV Tower with a restaurant in Stuttgart Germany.  The idea of a tower with a “flying-saucer” shaped restaurant at the top, was presented to architect John Graham, who added the concept of a rotating restaurant to allow viewers a continuous change of panoramic views.  Victor Steinbrueck, professor of architecture at the University of Washington and architect John Ridley produced concept sketches which featured an elegant tripod, crowned with a saucer structure observation deck.

Minoru Yamasaki, a first-generation Japanese American, born in Seattle, was the main architect, along with Seattle’s NBBJ Architects chosen in designing  the U.S. Science Pavilion, today’s Pacific Science Center.

Minoru Yamasaki’s innovative, graceful design was also used for Seattle’s most daring piece of architecture, the Rainier Tower, supported by a gravity defying inverted pedestal!

Another of Minoru’s Emerald City designs is the IBM Building, used as a model for the New York City twin tower design (destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attacks.)  The architectural style of the Pacific Science Center and NYC twin towers is “gothic modernism,” which is found in most of Minoru’s designs (please see examples of Gothic modernistic elements in the photographs be low.)

Seattle IBM Building designed by Minoru Yamasaki, was used as the model for NYC WTC Twin Towers. An example of Yamasaki’s “gothic modernism” style.

 

During the summer of the World’s Fair opening, my parents took me to experience the exposition. Although I was very young while attending… I clearly recall the impressions of wonder from seeing the futuristic architecture and dynamic exhibits.  The theme of life in the 21st century, awoke my imagination and interest in science technology at an early age, which still continues to this day in the form of stories, essays and multimedia work, which I share with you now. ~

Twilight view of Space Needle and Pacific Science Center.

A must see postmodern era video featuring the beginnings of the space race. Click on link below. ↓

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfVfRWv7igg 

What is postmodernism video (click on video link below ↓)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL8MhYq9owo 

HistoryLink to Century 21 — The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, Part 1 ( Click on link below ↓)

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=2290

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner Historic First Flight From Paine Field, Everett, WA.

Multimedia and video essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

The presentation includes: Video of a 787 Dreamliner first flight, aerospace structural testing practices, aerospace engineering design practices, aerospace manufacturing, fiber composite materials.  

My video camera kit had been prepared months in advance, ready at a moment’s notice for the first maiden flight of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner—21st Century entry airliner.  Finally, Dave Waggoner, the director of Paine Field Airport, queued me into the date to witness an evolutionary advance in commercial aviation.

Cameras Packed And Ready To Go

My home is only a short drive from Boeing’s production facilities at Paine Field, Everett; so I was motivated to video record this “making of 21st century aviation history.”  Due to initial production delays, an entire year went by before I received reliable news of the 787-8 wide-body, long-range airliner was ready for her much-anticipated maiden flight. The 787 Dreamliner’s first flight was at 10:27 a.m. PST, December 15, 2009.

Experienced As A Boeing Scientific Photographer

The 787, first flight video project brought back some great memories from my former career as an aerospace photographer with the Boeing Company.  When first hired on by the iconic aviation leader, my assignment involved providing video support for the Everett plant’s test engineering groups, who were conducting bulkhead fatigue test on airline fuselages. In preceding years, some airlines began experiencing inflight catastrophic failures related to metal fatigue. Tragically  the determined cause was from the age of the aircraft, specifically, stresses created when interior cabins went through an excessive number of pressurization cycles.

BOE 747 skin_BP_Pbgl747

An event in the 1980s, of a Boeing 737 was dramatically documented as it safely landed with a massive section of the fuselage missing. The Aloha Airlines, 737 jetliner experienced a catastrophic failure due to metal fatigue. The metal fatigue issues caused from pressurization cycles on the aircraft were not clearly understood, so the FAA required engineering test to research the potential safety threat.A series of highly documented Test were conducted over a period of months; going through thousands of pressurized cycles.  The purpose was to recreate what a jet airliner physically experiences when the cabin is repeatedly pressured and unpressurized — as in every-time an airliner takes-off, gains altitude and eventually returns for its landing. Our team of scientific photographers had series of video cameras, strategically placed within the test bulkhead, which sat shrouded in layers of protective coatings, in a remote section of the Everett facilities. Over-pressurizing the bulkhead eventually caused the anticipated failure, announced  by a thunderous sound of cracking metal. The  bulkhead  test was well documented using various engineering test methods and imaging equipment. Valuable test data gathered was immediately analyzed, studied and put to methodical use for redesigning, engineering and manufacturing safer jet airlines.

Examining a fuselage section of the 787 which uses composite carbon fiber materials.

Boeing’s Traditional Practice Of Over-Engineering

It’s been my experience, which confirms for me, what commercial pilots and engineers claim regarding Boeing’s reputation with its conservative practice of “over-engineering” their aircraft.  Historically, an over-engineering approach has proven itself as a life saving benefit — with countless Boeing aircraft surviving horrific damage… yet, still landing safely. Documentaries on WWII aircraft feature  shot-up Boeing aircraft returning safely, is an example of over-engineering.

For teams performing test  monitoring, with elaborate configured structures,  attached string gauges and actuators trying to force a break of an airplane part — the aerospace test may go on for days, or even months — the experience feels like sitting in bleachers for hours while watching slow-motion glacier races in progress.  All the invested resources of  time and effort, which goes into these aerospace component test,  helps to assure the flying public’s safety and the airlines performance records.

Engineers enjoy seeing how much torturous abuse their designed support systems will take before they bend, crack or break.  At the instant  a component does finally fail [normally, after far exceeding the range of what the it was designed to do] you’ll hear a loud noise caused from a test-object going beyond its limit. The sound of a breaking part, ends the tension of monitoring a test for hours or days — in an instant, the group of test engineers and technicians start cheering like a goal was scored by a home team in a stadium full of their fans.

Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner taxiing for its historic, maiden flight on December 15, 2009 from Paine Field Airport, Everett, WA.

Carbon Fiber Future In Aviation

One of many significant technological improvements for the new long-range, wide-body 787 Dreamliner, is a high percentage of composite, carbon fiber materials used in its construction. The amount of composite, materials employed in today’s aircraft have substantially increased from when it was initially developed  and used in military aircraft.  I recall, how amazingly light wing spares made of carbon fiber composite materials are, when moving them under lighting setups at Boeing’s Gateway studio.  It was fascinating observing and photographing the manufacturing of composite materials, as the process involves using massive heated autoclaves to form predesigned sections for aircraft structures.Now, remember the bulkhead test from a previous paragraph?  Carbon fiber composites eliminates the issue of metal fatigue associated with pressurizing  passenger cabin space.  Less concerns over metal fatigue allows for more pressurization  in the cabin for passenger comfort  — more importantly, the  integrated use of composite materials ensures greater safety, with substantially less risk to the structural integrity of the airliner.

Is Boeing’s Reliance On Outsourcing The Main Culprit For The 787 Dreamliner Being Grounded In A Global Lockdown?

In the past 15 years, Boeing’s upper management has broken formation from its traditional engineering leadership and replaced it by promoting executives with business and marketing backgrounds. The current Boeing regime embraces an outsourcing strategy, unfortunately, this trend of maximizing profits for shareholders has been on going with U.S. companies for the past two decades. Negative consequences of replacing an engineering management with a business one is clearly apparent in the power transmission industry — deregulation & marketing-driven-management  in the electric power industry has significantly placed this essential infrastructure at risk [overstretched power grid, vulnerable outdated high-power transformers.] Please see my multimedia essay – Will the Last People Remaining In America, Turn the Lights Back On? :http://sciencetechtablet.wordpress.com/tag/solar-storm-testimony-to-u-s-senate/                                           

                                                 Money_int _BPP_a223                                                                                                                                                 

A heavy dependence  on  foreign outsourcing is cited as a cause for unforeseen 787 production delays. Consistent, quality control monitoring becomes problematic when components are manufactured offsite, as result these issues can sometimes lead to extended,  unanticipated problems.photo illustration

Outside vendors are capable of producing equal, if not superior quality components to that of Boeing in some technical areas. In fact, there are legions of aerospace companies in the Puget Sound region, which supply critical parts to the 787 Dreamliner’s manufacturer. Some outsourcing is absolutely necessary for Boeing to compete with Airbus. The concern is outsourcing critical components in a new airplane program, which is attempting to use technology never used in a commercial airliner. It’s ironic, li-ion batteries are at the center of the 787’s grounding — lithium batteries have been a concern for over a decade to the FAA, TSA & NTSB, even leading to bans & restrictions for passenger’s to bring on commercial flights. It’s almost hubris or a form of high-risk gambling, to “initially” rely so heavily on outside vendors [GS Yuasa, the Japanese firm making the li-ion & Thales, the French corporation making the batteries’ control systems] for producing an unproven, prototype system. L PI CRTBD BPP et99

While working as a Boeing employee in the 1990s, I recall an incident with a vendor supplying thousands of counterfeit aircraft quality fasteners made in China. Fortunately, the fiasco was caught early — but not before many hours and dollars were lost, going back to inspect wings on the production line, to remove and replace the defective fasteners. Unless solid

photo illustration

 metrics are emplaced to assure critical standards are met for each component, it’s only a matter of time before a failure will occur. Boeing has traditionally been an aerospace company, which “over engineers” it airplanes & errors on the side of safety. Hopefully the company has maintained & continues to practice these quality assurances. Outsourcing is practical both economically and politically for companies with international sells. It’s a successful strategy Boeing has used for many years; outsourcing has proven to provide incentives for foreign airline companies to buy Boeing aircraft, in order to support their own domestic aerospace industries.            World_box_BPP_et424The American auto manufacture Tesla, had similar “thermal runaway” issues when first using li-ion batteries to power its Roadster. Tesla Motors, benefited from its learning curve by switching to Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, which run at cooler temperatures. The innovative auto manufacture also developed its own battery pack architecture, with proprietary liquid cooling system packs — for controlling battery cell temperatures within self-contained, metal lined enclosures.  The nontoxic, Tesla battery packs are manufactured domestically in Northern California. Perhaps Boeing should be considering manufacturing all critical systems in-house and domestically as Tesla has done.  Boe_ing_747_stock_BPP_E221

According to MIT Technology review’s – Kevin Bullis, who points to Boeing’s battery manufacture,  GS Yuasa’s web site ,  the 787 is using Lithium Cobalt Oxide batteries, which it also manufactures for the International Space Station. These batteries are categorized  as “high-energy storage capacity,” but are not considered resistant to heat as other battery chemistry. Another issue I’m speculating could contribute to the  787 li-ion batteries overheating relates to Boeing reintroduction of an [electrical compressing system] to provide higher pressurization for the cabin environment. This type of cabin pressurization system requires more electrical energy than standard systems, so could this be putting additional demands on the batteries? Part of the advantage to using more composite materials in the 787 was to reduce metal fatigue caused from the cabin pressurization cycles. The Dreamliner uses higher cabin pressure than most aircraft to make it more comfortable for passengers — however, li-ion battery manufactures specifically warns against over-pressurizing these batteries. Is the cabin pressure contributing to pushing the li-ion beyond their tolerance?

Whether or not the stated technical issues are of a real concern for the onboard battery system packs, can only be determined by thorough testing.L TEC ELMICROS BPP et211

Again, it’s to early to know the exact extent of the problem with the 787’s battery systems. The issue will soon be isolated, as Boeing has long history of thoroughly testing and over-engineering its aircraft systems. One thing is certain, it’s rare for Boeing to experience a new aircraft being grounded simultaneously by  Japan’s transport ministry and by the FAA.

Ultimately,  A Bright Future Awaits The 787 Dreamliner

Gaining profitable fuel savings by developing a lighter, wide-body aircraft, combined with the fuel-efficient, GE or Rolls Royce engines, produces a major advance for airliner capabilities.  The tangible benefits in comfort, interior lighting and convenience  contribute to a remarkable passenger experience.  All the evolutionary, technical advances in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, creates a remarkable new development  for commercial aviation. ~

Future of Flight Museum - Mount Rainier & Paine Field in background - Everett, WA

Future of Flight Museum – Mount Rainier & Paine Field in background – Everett, WA

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Maiden Flight – December 15, 2009 – Paine Field, Everett, WA.  Video by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights Reserved

Exploring Etruscan ruins beneath the cliffs of medieval Orvieto, Italy.

 

     

Etruscan ruins under cliffs of the citadel of Orvieto

                                               

                       

Etruscan art presented in Orvieto museum.

Woman holding an umbrella during a rainy day in Orvieto, within Umbria region of Italy.

Photos and text by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Please note this story is designed to be a work in progress. New text and photos may be added at anytime. You’re invited to view the photos and read the essay as is. Thank you for your interest —to enrich the interactive nature of this story you’re encouraged to contribute with suggestions, questions or comments.

 —We boarded a train in Venice with just a few days remaining of a three-week adventure in Italy.  Our coach moved steadily from its station, with the island city quickly vanishing from view.  Soon my wife and I were transported into the countryside, which gave us fleeting panoramic views of charming Italian landscapes.  My mind wandered, trying to imagine what intriguing encounters we would find waiting for us at our next destination.

While the train traveled deeper into the center of the countryside, gray sky’s hung low overhead as morning turned into afternoon.  Undecided of our next destination, we took a chance to stay in a mysterious fortress city, perched on cliffs, within the region of Umbria.

We had engaging conversations with an Italian couple, who were traveling to Naples with their young children.  The youthful husband was born in Naples; his profession was a train engineer for the Italian rail network. His charming wife was blond, with blue eyes, and Norwegian born. Both husband and wife spoke fluent English.  We exchanged information and ideas about many subjects on world culture, technology and comparing educational systems.  Time went quickly as we used most of it in dialogue with our newfound friends, but soon we had to prepare to deboard at our intended destination.  As the train slowed down to stop I caught a glimpse through the clouds, of a mysterious town perched on cliffs,  appearing as if it were floating in clouds. We had arrived below the ancient town of Orvieto, and instantly became intrigued of its mysterious  atmosphere.   

This was a location we had penciled in as possible place to spend our 5th wedding anniversary.  Before flying to Europe, we visited the office of Rick Steves, an America’s authority of European travel.  His business is in a nearby town of Edmonds, located next to the Puget Sound.  We bought one of his books and attended a seminar on Italian travel in which the medieval town of Orvieto came up.  Steves mentioned this place was a refreshing one to visit, as tourist travel had not yet overrun it.  The tip was spot-on and there were few tourist in town compared to busy Venice where we just came from.  Rick Steves is an iconic figure in the travel industry and it’s remarkable how well he’s revered throughout Italy.  Whenever I mentioned his name to hotel workers, they smiled and had positive words to say about him and his organization.

Poster promoting a performing arts event in Orvieto, Italy.

Because we were traveling off-season, we found without reservations, a wonderful hotel just outside of the medieval township of Orvieto.  The hotel had a shuttle to take us up the steep road leading to the town, which resembled a fortress citadel on top of a volcanic butte.

In ancient times this bastion had been the capital city of the Etruscan Civilization, predating the Roman Empire by centuries.  On my agenda was to explore the remaining Etruscan ruins, located at the base of the massive cliff stronghold.  To better understand the past, our plan was to do a walking tour of Orvieto, to see if there were any impressions still remaining from its ancient ancestors.

Arriving on top of a dramatic plateau, we were greeted by vast panoramas stretching in all directions. There are no shortages of striking views, which any past tribal or clan leaders would have recognized as strategic in value.  Bellow is rich fertile green valleys stretching outwards to distant foothills.  Nature would have a challenge constructing any better fortification than this volcanic butte, with its solid ring of 100′ foot sheer cliffs. From this vantage point it was clear why this site was chosen… location, location, location!

Returning to the interior of Orvieto we found a small neighborhood with an interesting subterranean museum.  Once inside, the steps descends rapidly in a winding cavern naturally formed into the porous tuff volcanic stone.  Dim light with damp smells created an environment  which hasn’t changed in thousands of years. This was ground zero of where this settlement’s roots developed. In prehistoric times this cave provided protection from the elements, attacks from aggressors–both man or beats and it provided a continuous fresh water supply.  Latter the Etruscan used the grotto for religious ceremonies and eventually carved out passages for escape routes leading outside of the walled city.

I’ve always liked the experience of exploring caves.  As a young teenager, I lived in California’s Mojave Desert, not far from Joshua Tree National Monument.  My brother Jim and I would explore natural caves and man-made gold mines; while enjoying the cool, moist air which was a relief from the scorching desert air outside.

My wife and I found this fascinating setting for our fifth wedding anniversary dinner, named Le Grotte del Funaro.  Enclosed in a natural grotto the restaurant featured windows cut through stone walls to view the valley bellow.  This place was like out of a location scout’s, central-casting dream, except it was authentically medieval.  The meals served were exceptionally fine—Italian seafood cuisine—paired with fantastic regional wines.  Any-one traveling to Italy knows how remarkably delicious and distinctive the food from each region is.  Realizing it was a special occasion for us, the restaurant staff gave us a wonderful dinning experience we will always cherish.

Italian hospitality is some of the best in the world. The people of this country are so gracious and accommodating, its no wonder celebrities such as George Clooney have chosen to live in Italy.

A large stone manor sat on a hill next to our hotel. It looked centuries old and I couldn’t tell from where we were, if it was still occupied.  Employees working at the hotel shrugged their shoulders when asked if they knew anything about the place.  It seemed as if the estate had been there so long, it just blended into the background and was ignored.

While traveling by rail or car, throughout Italy you see a landscape dotted by buildings centuries old, some are abandoned in various states of disrepair.  These orphaned stone structures intrigued me because they stood the test of time and all had stories to tell.  Finally an opportunity presented itself, to quench my curiosity of exploring one of these ancient sites.

Lounging farm animals near Orvieto, Italy.

I walked over a mile on a winding road, through rustic farm country. Following a dirt path uphill, past plowed fields, I came face to face with what was once a grand estate with a marvelous view.

The building was clearly abandoned, in disrepair with sections of walls missing, allowing for flocks of pigeons to fly out of its exposed interiors.  Cautiously walking into an entry; I considered each step taken between mounds of debris, to ascend a crumbling stairway.  At the top of the

flight of stairs a series of makeshift catwalks followed second story walls.

Carefully balancing myself with one hand holding my camera and the other holding parts of the building, I took a series of photos throughout the building.

                                                                         

Once back on terra-firma, I found a basement wall with iron bars on it.  The room appeared designed to either keep people out or possibly in.  Whether it could have been a storehouse for valuables or a jail for criminals, its dark entrance into the basement looked to foreboding for me to consider exploring  without a flashlight.  On the other side of the estate was a large kitchen with a wood oven and portions of a table still holding utensils. After taking several more photographs from various angles, I retreated back to the road and leisurely walked to the hotel for a rest from my solo adventure.

  Orvieto has an intriguing urban context with the way stone streets, buildings and neighborhoods are laid-out.  In some places the town resembles a maze, so we took advantage of this and turned it into a fun game—to just walk and explore new places in hopes of getting a little lost, then looking for visual clues to point the way back to a familiar landmark.

                                                        

Etruscan warfare depicted on ancient pottery.

Looking at preserved Etruscan artifacts, it’s apparent they adopted the Greek alphabet and most of this art appears borrowed from classic Hellenic culture.  No major surprise of a dominant cultural influence here, as Greek tribes heavily colonized the Italian peninsula, primarily with the Achaeans beginning in 800 BC.

With the recent popularity of Roman culture being portrayed in Hollywood movies such as: Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and STARZ cable series Spartacus: a misunderstanding has developed of where mortal combat began as a “spectator sport.” This brutal form of entertainment certainly didn’t begin in Rome, as many would be led to believe.  The Roman historian Lily, stated it was imported from the Achaeans who colonized the Campania region of southern Italy.  However, the majority ancient historians chronicle its beginnings  as a uniquely Etruscans enterprise from northwestern Italy.

Most ancient historians credit the Etruscan with inventing the blood lust sport of gladiatorial combat.

A series of Etruscan tombs located at the base of Orvieto, Italy

Etruscan tomb used as final resting place for individuals and family members.

A view from guarding walls, which perhaps have not changed in centuries.

What I find  intriguing and especially more so, for my better-half; is the power which Etruscan women held in their culture.  Unlike their Roman and Greek sisters, who were not allowed to freely mingle with the opposite sex or to own property, these women had much more control over their destiny.  It’s surprising the Roman’s question the morality of Etruscan customs, labeling it as scandalous and more promiscuous than their own. This was primarily due to Etruscan women empowerment, who could freely chose their mate, own property and have a say in politics. This concept  equality and of liberation had to wait until the 20th century for many women in the western world.

The beautiful Gothic Duomo of Orvieto, it’s architecture dominating the background.

One of my favorite Duomos (cathedral) of Italy is the stunning Gothic one found in Orvieto.  Construction of this impressive house of worship began in 1290 and it took over three centuries to complete.  Intricate, textured forms of the facade are partly accented with brilliant gold leaf, which projects illuminated light onto viewers even during an overcast day.  A multitude of Biblical scenes are marvelously painted in relief and beautifully incorporated into the dazzling front entrance.

It’s interesting to note the sites of churches and cathedrals in Italy, were once the very same sites used for earlier pagan temples and places of worship.  This practice of building over existing sacred sites has been done since prehistoric times and was continued by the conquering Spanish in the New World — as seen in places where Central and South American indigenous people had previously settled and worshiped.

Duomo di Orvieto – Orvieto, in Umbria region of Italy

For me, Orvieto was the most intriguing of the places we visited in the charming country of Italy. This ancient citadel’s isolated location allowed it to preserve and retain much of its architectural essence and unique character. Orvieto has a sense of mystery that I’ve never experienced in any other place and because of this, I hope to return their soon to explore more of its hidden wonders.