From A Dip In The Ocean To A Ride Into Space (Well, Not Quite)

My weeks can be rather eclectic given all the travel I do and the subject matters I cover, but this past week certainly ranks among the most fascinating and diverse. In the span of several days I snorkeled in waters off the coast of Miami while observing coral samples get collected, chatted with rocket scientists in the Mojave Desert who want to take people into space, and spent time in a famous pool in Mission Viejo as I tried out one of the new Olympic swimsuits that cover most of the body. Yes, my week started and ended with me being all wet.

I started out in Miami on Sunday night and Monday as part of a story about a marine biologist there named Andrew Baker who's trying an innovative if somewhat controversial approach to improving the future of disappearing coral reefs. His research, in simplistic terms, involves transplanting more heat-resistant algae from other parts of the world to the coral off the coast of Florida. Coral and algae have a symbiotic relationship, with the coral receiving life-giving photosynthesis through the algae, and the microscopic algae finding a safe haven from predators as part of the coral.

But as waters in the area warm even by only a degree or two the algae can die and in turn cause the coral to "bleach" and also wither (there are other factors, too, like over-fishing and pollution). Baker wants to strengthen the algae in the waters in Florida, and he's got a Pew Foundation grant to help make it happen. But there are those who say it won't work, that "messing" with nature isn't the answer. At this point, his story is slated to air on the Evening News with Katie Couric on Monday night.

Then it was off to the Mojave Desert in California to spend time with the brilliant minds at XCOR Aerospace. They've designed the Lynx vehicle, which will compete with Virgin Galactic (and several other companies) to give us average folks -- so-called citizen astronauts -- a ride into sub-orbital space. They're also working on vehicles for the Rocket Racing League, an ambitious project to turn rocket racing into a kind of NASCAR-style event. (The legendary pilot Dick Rutan even dropped by our shoot for a short interview.) The RRL, as it's known, was co-founded by Peter Diamandis, who's been called everything from the Don King of aerospace to the modern-day Raymond Orteig (he sponsored the first airplane flight between New York and Paris, eventually won by Charles Lindbergh). We talked to Diamandis at the Santa Monica office of one of his other projects -- the X-Prize Foundation. He also chatted about the Google Lunar X-Prize with me, and you can listen to the CBS Radio segment . The full story on commercial space travel will be on CBS Sunday Morning sometime in June.

I ended my week doing a story for CBS Sunday Morning's upcoming "design show," which airs May 18. In that case, we talked to two leading swimsuit designers -- TYR and Speedo. The suits that swimmers wear today resemble the ones from the 1920s in terms of body coverage, but the materials are space age and meant to make the swimmer as streamline and rigid as possible without sacrificing flexibility. I did try one on, and while I only enjoy swimming on a recreational level (my times are measured in minutes, not hundredths of a second), I could see how it offers any swimmer a minor boost. How much of a boost? Well, I guess it depends on the swimmer. This Olympics could be as much a competition between swimmers as between swim suits. I hope you'll dive in and watch the story.

Stay connected, and have a great weekend -- who knows what next week will bring?
  • Daniel Sieberg

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