When astronaut John Glenn commenced mission Mercury-Atlas 6 to become the first American to orbit the Earth, he had something strange strapped to his silver spacesuit: a stopwatch.
Seconds after launch, Glenn starts the stopwatch in sync with tracking stations across the world and at that moment Mission Elapsed Time begins counting up from zero. And so a new timezone shared between a handful of specialists on Earth and one man in space is created: a new epoch.
As a reminder, there's also a written version of this podcast that I send out as an email newsletter. They're intended to be consumed side-by-side – adamstoner.com/epoch is the place to read it.
Talk of 'the new normal' is gauche this far since the epoch moment of March 23rd 2020 when the UK entered its first lockdown. Yet, over the past few weeks, in conversations with friends and colleagues, and as I walk around London and visit museums and galleries and live comedy shows, a realisation has come to pass: the pandemic is over.
Not scientifically – the pandemic is still there – but attitudes towards it have changed. Gradually, we've shifted our perspective. The news agenda has moved on, offices have re-opened, restrictions relaxed, the vast majority of people have the most effective vaccine in them, and we're emerging from the nineteen month tunnel dazzled by a new dawn.
Mercury-Atlas 6 was the name of the mission. The spacecraft itself John got to name. He chose Friendship 7. After three orbits – 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds – John splashed down safely in the North Atlantic. After, he uttered just a few simple words:
We have an infinite amount to learn from both nature and from each other.
I think that sentiment is just as poignant today as it was when John uttered it 59 years ago.
We are in a new epoch and we have an infinite amount still to learn.
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