Superior Scribes

 

Maureen Arges Nadin

Maureen Arges Nadin  started writing professionally in 2004 after emancipating herself from a 28-year career in the Public Service to pursue a lifelong goal to become a freelance writer and journalist.  She feels that her midlife change of coordinates brought her into the writing field at a time “when she had lived long enough to have something interesting to say.”

As a monthly columnist with the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal, she decided to draw on her life long fascination with space travel and exploration –“I’m definitely an astronaut wannabe!” She has been writing “The Cosmic Neighbourhood” since 2005, a monthly first person perspective which takes an non-technical but informative and lively approach to a myriad of topics, from the Shuttle program to the Mars Rovers to music on the International Space Station.   


Formerly a
regular freelance contributor to Voyage North on CBC radio, writing scripts and broadcasting segments for “Under the Radar” stories and issues for pet owners, Maureen now writes graduate profiles for the Lakehead University Alumni Services E Zine. Maureen was born and raised in Thunder Bay and graduated from Lakehead University in 1974 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and English Literature.



Writer’s Statement: 
“I write to inform, engage, share my wonder at the world around me and, in the case of my column, worlds beyond.  As a writer, I believe that my most important job is to connect with the reader.”

Contact Maureen at mnadin@shaw.ca

Read a sample article by Maureen:


Dextre the Space Station Handyman

by Maureen Arges N
a
din

    There’s a new man in my life.  He’s larger than life and has the strength of several men.   And no wonder.  With arms that are 11 feet long, a shoulder span of almost 8 feet and standing 12 feet tall, my latest space guy is built for performance, more brawn than brains.

    And although Shuttle astronaut Garret Reisman is quoted in a CNN March 10th website article as describing him as “enormous...a little monstrous” and the article opens by announcing that he will “rise like Frankenstein” from his transport bed, nothing can deter my devotion from my new crush.  Because he is going to be a modern day space hero, bravely facing the darkness of space and the challenges of zero gravity to conduct dangerous maintenance and repairs of the Space Station. And he will accomplish all this without a space suit and a Canadian flag proudly emblazoned on his neck. 

    My ever patient spouse knows that he need be concerned about my new man because “Dextre” is not human but rather the latest addition to the Mobile Servicing System on the International Space Station.  “ He” joins the MSS family that already consists of the world famous and widely respected “ Canadarm” and his full name is the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator or “Dextre” for short.

    Dextre was “born” on March 11th when he lifted off aboard the Endeavour, bound for the International Space Station to begin his career as a cosmic mechanic.  Of course, some assembly was required and that job fell to three space walking astronauts who told the CNN interviewer that they felt like a dad on Christmas Eve, “endeavouring” to put together that special toy for the kids.

    When fully assembled, Dextre not only has two very large arms but also seven joints that facilitate the performance of a wider range of tasks.    Under the skilful guidance and control of astronaut operators aboard the station as well as flight controllers from the ground, Dextre will be able to perform tasks such as removing and replacing component parts such as batteries and power units.  And that will require him to live up to his name and use his dexterity to bolt, unbolt and then align and insert the new battery.  

    Once fully “dressed” in his work uniform of lights, video cameras, stowage platform and robotic tools, Dextre is an imposing figure indeed.  The Canadian Space Agency website tells us that he can pivot at the waist and will be performing his tasks with a strong but gentle touch.  This docile giant, created at the cost of 200 million dollars, is a welcome addition to the international space program.  Not only will Dextre  reduce the need for human astronauts to perform risky manoeuvres in space but his presence provides  us with an opportunity to learn first hand about the benefits of using robotic assistants to perform activities that are either too dangerous for humans or beyond their capability.   Dextre’s hard working sisters, the Mars Rovers,  have already proved to be invaluable as preliminary explorers of alien terrains and his future descendants may continue to evolve to be even more sophisticated robotic scouts as we extend our reach to other planets in our solar system.

    The CNN article tells us that Daniel Rey, the engineer who heads the Canadian Space Agency Dextre team, evidently shares my fondness for personifying mechanical objects.  But the robot, he reminds us, is not human and does not have any artificial intelligence, at least not at this point. But good old Dex, my automated hero, may have some human like qualities.  When he was first being assembled on March 14th, he could not be activated because of what the Canadian team eventually discovered to be a design flaw in one of the cables.  That was corrected when he was connected to his less sophisticated sibling, the Canadarm and he quickly woke up and was ready for action.  A glitch in the power system or perhaps Dextre was just taking his time.

    Congratulations to the Canadian Space Agency and the Dextre team and may my latest space hero enjoy and long and happy career as the Space Station Handyman.

                    Copyright Maureen Arges Nadin 2009 All Rights Reserved