Greetings Earthlings !
A bit about me to start with …
I am a spacecraft engineer working on the challenging field of Attitude and Orbit Control System (AOCS). I enjoy my work but I do believe that one must have an activity which they cherish, which one can engage in and smile on, to take their mind off of work. I haven’t found my life-altering hobby per se. I love long drives with music. I have recently started enjoying cooking. I love my endless nights of web research on the randomest of random topics.
But I guess the thing that brings immense happiness to my soul is TRAVEL. I love meeting new people, trying new food, wandering aimlessly on city streets, hopping around local transport and buying myself cute little souvenirs as trip memoirs. Being a traveler not a tourist, I put more emphasis on making memories and having a good time as opposed to ticking off things to do on a list. I invest my time and money in travel. Because I know that my future self would definitely appreciate the efforts.
I have been writing about my travels for a few years now. But this is the first time I’m venturing into something new. This is the first time I don’t know what to write but still want to put random words into play.
Although with this blog my main focus would be on penning down my travel tales, I do feel obligated to use this space to jot down my random thoughts once in a while !
So I dedicate this first post to my bread and butter: Satellites !
Let’s start with a few simple definitions.
An orbit is defined as a path described by one body in its revolution about another.
A satellite is a celestial body orbiting another of larger size. It can also be defined as a manufactured object intended to orbit a celestial body.
Having worked so closely with satellites for many years, I cannot avert my wandering mind from drawing this remarkable analogy of how I am a satellite revolving forever and ever in my very own orbit.
I fly around in the open skies. I float merrily amongst the stars. The entire universe is my playground. But I must not forget that I am bound. I am restricted to a fixed orbit. I am stuck in an infinite path. I am but a slave to my central body.
With better understanding of orbital dynamics I take it a bit further. Am I really bound to just one central body? Am I truly following just one fixed orbit? Even before my self demanded questionnaire is over, my mind is screaming a big NO. What am I then?
To answer my questions I turn to the well-known N-Body problem that has bedazzled astrophysicists since ages. This involves predicting the individual motions of a group of celestial objects interacting with each other gravitationally. With a few assumptions and some mathematical jugglery, this can be simplified to the Two-Body problem which describes the gravitational relation between two celestial bodies while simply neglecting the gravitational effect of any third body. If only, life were this simple. So it’s settled, my life is definitely governed by the N-Body problem. But is the solution simple? Is my trajectory, which at any given time is affected by infinite number of sources, always predictable?
Let’s come back to real life and forget about this orbital mechanics business for a while. Our lives are influenced by several factors. To name a few, this could be Family, Friends, Work, Passion, God etc. etc. At one point or the other, these are the things affecting our life, in varying degrees, obviously.
The already complex equations become much more cumbersome to solve as the fictitious spheres of influence of these infinite sources of interest continuously vary with time, age, mood and what not. Maintaining one’s sanity while striking a balance with these is what counts as living the perfect life that we all run after.
The bitter truth is that as a satellite revolving around a planet, with time we are bound to hate our fixed, routine orbit or even detest our planet. But it is absolutely vital to understand that without the force with which our planet keeps us bound, we would be flying around the deep space indefinitely, not even getting a chance to enjoy the marvelous sights around us. Our planet keeps us sane. It keeps us normal. Without it we would be wandering aimlessly in the cosmos. The perfect example I can think of to explain what I am trying to say here here is people who hate their jobs but are still unable to let go since it is the sole source of their livelihood. There are also other examples where we learn to compromise with a void of happiness in order to avoid change in our well-settled life.
The Voyager spacecraft duo launched in 1977 perfectly describes my wanderlust craving. My fernweh. Ok I’m sorry that I digress, but it’s important to point out that I didn’t just use fernweh because it’s a insta-popular wanderlustish word. It’s a German word made up of fern (far) + weh (woe) and well I learnt a little bit of German in school. And the beauty of this word would only strike you when you understand what it truly means. It’s the opposite of heimweh which means homesick. In most other languages it’s a feeling which would need atleast one sentence to describe it. But the Germans have one word for it, how efficient! fernweh means ‘a longing for distant places’, how beautiful. Now coming back to the Voyager duo after this long unnecessary detour. They set out on The Planetary Grand Tour more than 30 years ago and are still beeping somewhere in outer space. These were flyby missions, taking gravity assists from the giant outer planets as they progressed further and further away from “life as we know it” in search of a new one maybe. They are in the interstellar space now, several light years away, way beyond our solar system, way beyond the earth and the other planets. How Exciting ! Someday, maybe I can escape life too. Someday, maybe I can wander away too. Sigh !
Anyway, so why did I pick this name “The Drifting Satellite” ?
From Newton’s 1st Law of Motion, an object at rest continues to be in a state of rest and an object in motion stays in motion (with the same velocity) unless acted upon by an external or unbalanced force. This means, that if I wish to leave my orbit, I am required to spend fuel or apply thrust to enable escape from my fixed orbit. Also, there are a million external disturbances, some obvious and some unexplainable, that make me divert from my path and make me drift away from my orbit. I often let my heart and mind happily wander. But sometimes I have to constantly keep applying effort to continue on my prescribed journey.
Is it just me or do you also think that this is getting way too philosophical. Well, Egal (another brilliant can’t-be-described-in-less-than-a-sentence German word I love). That is what life is all about. It’s about striking a balance between where you are and where you want to be. In some circumstances, it makes more sense to continue on the path you already follow while avoiding all disturbances that try to make you deviate from it. In others, it’s best to focus all your energy in leaving the monotony of your boring old orbit and entering a brand new one. The best thing is, it’s never too late to change the course of life, because we are just one tiny bit in the mighty universe.
To end this super random post I want to reflect on how insignificant everything is. The biggest problems I have faced, the happiest moments I have cherished, the worst hardships I have suffered, everything I know, feel, love, do is so extremely insignificant when I think about these amazing words.
These are from noted astronomer Carl Segan as he describes the famous 1990 picture of our very own pale blue dot clicked by Voyager 1.