Stress testing

Done with the semester, woohoo!

Just this morning, SpaceX was supposed to launch their innovative rocket (Falcon 9) and capsule (Dragon) to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). The incredibly optimized one-second launch window was interrupted by a last-minute hiccup, so they're trying again on Tuesday. I'll share some awesome rocket science things next time.

The International Space Station in all its glory


Today, I wanted to write about the purpose of the mission, and how it relates to everyday life. The whole assembly is unmanned. The Dragon is an autonomous, solar-powered space vehicle that's been programmed with everything necessary to approach the ISS. The spacefaring nations of the world are reasonably protective of their $150 billion baby, and they don't want some rogue robotic pod to damage it, so before the Dragon can get close, they're testing it thoroughly. They're pushing its limits and exploring its bounds of performance to gain confidence in its primary, relatively simple task of waddling up to the space station and giving it a hug.

I think stress-testing ourselves has some value too. I've had many a sleepless night this semester, and I find comfort in knowing that I can go 56 hours without a wink and still resemble my bright and sunny self. I was reading some thoughts from a Shaolin Monk who felt similarly. When asked about the immense mental and physical stresses of Shaolin martial arts training, he replied, 


Through enduring the worst, enlightenment is found. The ground for this is that Shaolin teaches you to endure the worst, and once you have endured the worst and learned how to succeeded in it, you become the best. You realize there's nothing out there that can really harm you, and if you realize that ultimately, you are free.


I buy that. This is what they're doing to the Dragon. Putting it through flips and spins and demanding precise control. If successful, it's the best in its class. 


I think this is also why travel is so important to personal development. By putting yourself in unfamiliar places and just getting out of your comfortable world, you're challenging yourself, you're stress-testing your character, resilience, and confidence. Once you've proved yourself worthy, you can settle down somewhere and find solace in the fact that you can handle much of what life can throw at you. Except maybe asteroids.