Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Got it! Yet, we live in one town, one house, and are supposed to keep faith with one spouse. I have two bird nests at my house. One belongs to a pair of sparrows. They built their outpost on top of one of my back patio Bose outdoor speakers. The other is a pair of Pyrrhuloxia, or desert Cardinals. They built a nest on my large, expensive front entry light fixture. These birds, and all their relatives, have been continuously occupying these two nests for eight years.
When my father first noticed the construction debris from the bird nest on the front porch, ever the inventor, he developed a bird nest deterrent contraption. At the time my Dad was 92 years old. While I was at work he climbed up the 12’ ladder and installed a blue circular foam donut around the top of the front entry speaker. Out of the donut were about 50 crucifixion length nails. I first laid eyes on his creation when I went out in the morning to pick up our beloved Sun. Dad sleeps late so I did not get the full story until cocktail hour. Oh yeah he said, that’s the end of them. No more bird poo in the front entry. Within two weeks there was another even bigger nest up there. The nails were perfect beams to anchor a now very sturdy nest.
Each of us gambles. Birds put all their eggs in one basket. They gamble too. It’s the gambling I want to address. I’ve pretty much put all my eggs in the Las Cruces basket. I bought my first home in 1990 for $49,000. The housing market in Las Cruces is finally absorbing most of the inventory left from the great recession. Our housing market is half of what it was in 2006. None of us could have predicted the impact of the mortgage swap instruments, derivatives on Las Cruces. Nor could we anticipate the “Too Big to Fail” bank collapses. So many people lost their homes, and faith in our American dream of home ownership. I think human nature is much more persistent than one housing collapse. People want homes, no matter what or where.
I write a lot about human nature. Working in an industry where the destination is space probably has something to do with my focus on the importance of understanding human nature. Humans have always lived on earth until we started living in space in 1973. Sky Lab was the first space station built by the Americans. It existed from 1973 until 1979. Then the Russians built the Mir Space Station. Former astronaut Frank Culbertson, wrote that Mir was a symbol of Russia’s past space glories and her potential as future leader in space. It was the first large-scale, technical partnership between the US and Russia in space. The Mir name translates into world peace. Russia launched the first MIR Base Block, in February 1986. In in 2001, Mir re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and broke up over the South Pacific. Frank Culbertson wrote a great article on the Mir. He was NASA’s Shuttle-Mir Program Manager. You can find the article on NASA’s website. He is a graduate of the Naval Academy, became a pilot, has flown two Shuttle missions and was on Expedition 3 which launched in 2001 to the ISS.
About this gambling thing, you see the space business is just that, a business. It has been a career for Mr. Culbertson. Frank is now President of Orbital Sciences Space Systems division. This division has built the Antares rocket and Cygnus space capsule which started re-supplying the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Re-Supply Services (CRS) program. The Americans have had many partners who put all their eggs for human living off earth into a partnership which has persisted since 1986 and led to the International Space Station.
Bob Bigelow is not a gambler although he lives in Las Vegas. His gamble is on building a commercial habitats for use in space. As long as I have known Mr. Bigelow this has been his mission. Create places where humans can live and work, come and go to space as a business proposition. Now, his expandable habitat is on the ISS. It has just hit a snag. On Thursday, May 26th, astronaut Jeff Williams began the operation of expanding the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, BEAM. The module expansion did not go as planned. Having been to his facilities two week ago, and looking at what he is planning for the future of humans in space, I know he has not put all his eggs in one basket. But like the birds building outposts on my front and back porches, he’s partnered with good people and has chosen a safe place to nest. Jeff Williams will try again. Can you imagine yourself in Bob Bigelow’s shoes? Think about the night you signed the mortgage on your first home. Then you might get a sense for how he feels. You did everything you could to find the right place, in the right neighborhood. Still it’s a gamble.