23.5 Degrees

“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, ‘Well done. Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.’ Back on Earth we call this Christmas.” – Doctor Who

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of solar power and energy storage systems that extend the sun’s amazing power throughout the night. We installed our solar array and batteries in 2021 and I can’t help but watch and measure the incredible energy we see from our friendly thermonuclear fusion reactor in the sky.

23.5 degrees. That’s the tilt of the earth that pushes our daily spin more directly to the sun, or away from it. Ironically, due to the earths elliptical orbit, we are actually closer to the sun in the winter than the summer, 92 million miles instead of 95. But the tilt makes a huge difference. It causes the sun’s rays to hit us in the northern hemisphere at an oblique angle, bouncing off of our terrestrial globe instead of being absorbed. It’s hard for us to sense it, but the solar panels feel it! We saw a peak of 51 kWh of energy per day during this summer, now we barely get 13 kWh. That’s a quarter of what it was during peak production! The sun didn’t get lazy, we just stop getting its rays.

We have all been observing the growing blanket of darkness that pulls over us, stretching deeper into our mornings and evenings. Days get shorter and nights grow longer. As we tick inescapably towards our winter solstice on December 21, we feel the cold wind, the fading colors and the melancholy shadows that scrape against our souls. Darkness is here.

Light a candle. This isn’t our first trip around the sun. Our human family has witnessed this solar dance since our beginning. We measure the sky and plot the stars to know where we are. We embrace the rhythm of the year by decorating it with celebrations and traditions. In the darkness of the winter, we light our lights. We illuminate our winter journey. We adorn our homes with fragrant greens, twinkling lights, cheerful ornaments and glowing fires. All the while, we know, the light is coming again. The glory of the sun will return! But for now, we celebrate.

It’s almost here. The dead of winter has arrived. Cuddle up with a warm cup of coffee or tea, your loved ones and a glowing fire. The light will return. We are halfway out of the dark! Celebrate it. 

Merry Christmas!

Here is the solar energy year as seen by our solar panels via my Powerwall-Dashboard.

My Space Camp Adventure

I always wanted to go to NASA’s Space Camp. As a kid, I saw the movie SpaceCamp and dreamed of one day being able to go and learn about astronaut training and missions first hand like the characters in the movie. Maybe I’d even end up in the cockpit of the Shuttle during an FRF (Flight Readiness Firing). No, that didn’t happen, but it was fun to dream about. And of course, I never thought I would get to actually go… but then it happened!

I got to go to Space Camp! I didn’t go as a trainee, but thanks to my good friend, JD Black, I was invited to Huntsville, Alabama as a guest author, along with Gene Kim, to see among other things, the US Space & Rocket Center campus and program. We had the privilege of talking to them about their mission, software development, reliability engineering, history and leadership. It was amazing. We toured the training facilities, explored the rocket engines, and spent time in the mock international space station watching the trainees learn to tackle real-world challenges through the application of science.

For my fellow science history nerds out there, we managed to get a behind the scenes tour with the archivist, looking at equipment, notes and design plans used in the Apollo program to get us to the Moon. We even got to see the slide rule and calculations used by Wernher von Braun to design the Saturn V launch vehicles! We went from that to the Artemis mission, the NASA program to take us back to the moon in 2024-2025 with the plans to have a sustainable presence on the moon by the end of the decade. It was an incredible experience.

To the moon!

This visit inspired and reminded me of the amazing things we can do when we pursue our dreams and work together to make it happen. As a species, humans are insatiably curious. We are restless. We love to explore. We can’t help but push boundaries and reset the impossible. We dream and take moon shots. We strive to go beyond ourselves and our own restrictions. No limits, no ceilings, no borders. We apply energy, passion and ambition to go where we have never gone before. To infinity… and beyond. I love human beings… and love being human!

Keep dreaming, keep going!

Jason Cox with Gene Kim and JD Black, attempting to operate the mock ISS at Space Camp

Jason Cox with JD Black and Gene Kim at U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Birthday Connections

My dad and I share the same birthday. I once asked him if he liked celebrating his birthday. Without missing a beat, he laughed and exclaimed, “It’s better than the alternative!” 

Growing up, we would count down to the date together. He loved to call a week before to remind me that our birthday was almost here. Nine years ago, I got that last call from him. He told me a joke. We laughed together. We talked about our birthday, getting old and his new aches and pains. We reminisced and celebrated the decades long journey together. Six months later, his body would give out and he would close his final chapter. He had reached the alternative.

Today as I celebrate yet another trip around the sun, I’m reminded of my dad. I know he would be laughing and tell yet another corny joke. I miss him and will always think of him on my birthday. It is a precious thing. A golden moment that I can hug and cherish every year. 

Many of you, like me have had to say farewell to parents, friends and loved ones. Today reminds me of how precious those connections really are. It can be small things, like that simple call on your birthday, that forge a shared experience that will last the rest of your life. Can you think of a way to connect with a loved one today? Invest in those small things. Create those future memories today. Reach out to your loved ones while they are still with us. Wrap up those memories. Hold them tight against your heart and open them anytime you need a bit of encouragement. They will be a source of laughter, smiles and yes, sometimes even a tear.

Make those connections. Capture those memories. Celebrate them. We have a finite number of times around the sun, let’s make the most of them.

My first birthday celebrating it together with my dad. First time for him too. And that’s Aunt Annie and a very cool car I seem to have misplaced. – Jason