Nazca lines face threats from elements, negligence

Nazca lines
The Nazca lines are some of the world’s most mysterious ancient monuments. Giant images of people, animals, plants, and geometric shapes scratched onto the surface of the Peruvian desert by three different cultures from 500 BC to 500 AD, they’ve made generations of researchers scratch their heads over their purpose and meaning.

Now it turns out these unique figures aren’t so unique after all. They’re among the many ancient wonders under threat from the natural and man-made causes. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has been listed in the World Monuments Fund’s 2012 Watch because of threats from flooding and tourism. As you can see from these pictures, roads actually cut through some of the images.

Popular Archaeology has reported that trash has accumulated at the site and that tourism facilities are crowding the area. Some mudslides and flooding nearby didn’t seriously hurt the designs, but serve as a warning of what could happen. The regional government is working on a plan to save the situation. The region makes a good deal of money from tourism, so they have every reason to preserve these enigmatic figures for the next generation.Nazca linesSadly, there’s another threat to the Nazca lines–the threat of ignorance. Most of what you see about the lines in the media is New Age pseudoarchaeology about Atlantis and aliens. I’ve written before about how the ancient astronaut theory is racist, being implicitly based on the assumption that cultures with dark skin couldn’t possibly have scratched out designs in the dirt without help from beings from another planet.

Yes, they’re so big they can only be seen from the air, but all you have to do is make a smaller drawing you can see easily and then expand the dimensions to create your final product. There’s also a theory that the builders had hot air balloons, although there is no direct evidence of this. There’s no direct evidence that they were UFO runways either, like Erich von Däniken would have us believe. While I’m not sure I buy the balloon theory, that’s no reason to immediately jump to the least plausible explanation.

[Condor image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Monkey image courtesy Maria Reiche]

The Final Shuttle Launch and the Future of the Space Coast

About 12 hours before STS-135 was set to blast off for low Earth orbit, my friend Rob and I were driving toward Titusville, Florida with a car full of camping supplies and our fingers crossed. The weather was foul, and the chances of a launch were just 30 percent. But we were in Central Florida to see a blast off, and so to the Space Coast we were headed.

Traveling the American Road – The Last Shuttle Launch: STS135


As we know now, the shuttle did take off as scheduled, making its final graceful, powerful arc into the low clouds, punching through the smallest break in the weather on the way to the International Space Station. It was an exciting, historic moment, made bittersweet by the mass layoffs that would follow the shuttle’s landing on July 21.

The economic impact of the program’s end on the Space Coast will extend beyond the pink slips delivered to now-unneeded engineers and shuttle support staff. As one construction worker I met explained, the estimated 1 million visitors that turned out for the final launch will likely never again come to his hometown. Rooms, restaurants and tours will go empty, leaving the tourism business reliant on seasonal fishing trips and historians of the space age who will trickle in, yes, but not in numbers like those seen this July.

Two days after the launch, I visited Kennedy Space Center, where pride in the 30-year history of the shuttle program is enormous–to the point that no one there seemed to have acknowledged its end. A sign reminded visitors that “NASA centers have embarked on a phased program of expanding and updating the space shuttle’s capabilities” and a short film suggested that “Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see a shuttle on the way to the pad today.” While there was no shortage of visitors that day, I wondered how long the attraction of the place would last without a manned spaceflight program and how long the gift shop would continue selling out of STS-135 merchandise.

Driving away from the Space Coast, we stopped for a bite at Corky Bells, a seafood restaurant in Cocoa, Florida, very close to the Space Center. Near the register at the entryway was a doorknob from its original location, engulfed by a fire sparked by Hurricane Frances in 2004. The restaurant moved into its current building, reconnected with its regulars and kept serving heaping platters of fried crabs, clams, shrimp and fish. Lunch was excellent, but without launch-day crowds, will Corky’s weather the coast’s latest storm?

National Geographic celebrates the last space shuttle mission ever

Space Shuttle Atlantis blasted off on its last mission everYesterday morning, at 11:30 AM Eastern Time, the Space Shuttle Atlantis blasted off on the last shuttle mission ever. For fans and proponents of space exploration, it was a bittersweet moment to say the least. To celebrate what truly is the end of an era, National Geographic has updated their Space Shuttle Hub page with a look back at the storied vehicle’s tragic and triumphant history.

At various times, NASA‘s fleet of space shuttles has included five different vehicles, including the Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavor. The Nat Geo page covers all of them, and even has articles discussing the two orbiters that were lost – the Challenger, which exploded shortly after take-off back in 1986 and Columbia, which tragically burned up on re-entry in 2003. Other articles celebrate the many achievements of the shuttle program over the three decades they have been in service however, giving the remaining three vehicles the final send-off they richly deserve.

During this final flight of the Atlantis, National Geographic space editor Victoria Jaggard will also be posting regular blog updates on the progress of the mission. She has already covered the launch and will continue to add more thoughts and commentary until the shuttle returns to Earth in about two weeks time.

Tomorrow, the Atlantis is scheduled to rendezvous with the International Space Station one final time. While there, the astronauts on board will resupply the ISS and perform routine maintenance on the station, which will be serviced by Russian Soyuz spacecraft in the foreseeable future.

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Atlantis Launch, Wakeboarding, Seaworld, & Magic Playoffs!


GadlingTV’s Travel Talk, episode 18 – Click above to watch video after the jump

In our last Orlando installment, we showed you the retired side of life in Orlando – and now we’re going full throttle.

Because Orlando is famous for its theme parks, we discuss the biggest, best, and most bizarre theme parks around the world. We’ll tell you where you can pay to wear a gasmask and ‘experience communism’, drive tractors, and who holds the title for the most rollercoasters in one park.

As we explore Orlando’s adventurous side, we head to Titusville for a live Shuttle launch, teach Stephen how to wakeboard, ride roller coasters at Seaworld, and witness our first NBA playoff game. Enjoy!


If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.

Subscribe via iTunes:
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Show directly in iTunes (M4V).
[RSS M4V] Add the Travel Talk feed (M4V) to your RSS aggregator and have it delivered automatically.

Links
Actually want to experience survival drama for yourself? Visit Europe’s strangest attraction!
There’s only two more shuttle launches left! Find out all the details on the remaining launches from NASA.
Thinking of picking up wakeboarding? Read these beginner tips first!



Hosts: Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Drew Mylrea
Special Guests: Nathan, our wakeboard expert.

Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Drew Mylrea

Music by:
This Holiday Life
“Mission Control to My Heart”
myspace.com/thisholidaylife

Build up your summer at the Atlantis LEGO workshops


I wish these existed when I was a kid, and I have to admit, I’m even kicking around going as an adult. The Atlantis is offering three five-day LEGO workshops this July. Kids will get the chance to work with a LEGO Master Builder in hands-on challenges. And, parents can play at the same time. The program is designed to help families spend time together and express their creativity.

The program at the Atlantis includes all activities and LEGO materials, a chance to swim with the resort‘s dolphins, lunch every day for the kids and a variety of other activities, but rooms are separate and require a four-night stay. The three sessions are: July 12 – 16, 2010, July 19 – 23, 2010 and July 26 – 30, 2010. Pricing is $425 per session.