Friday, March 27, 2009

Unlucky 13 Isn’t So Bad In Space

The number 13 often gets a bad rap. Friday the thirteenth is one of the most dreaded days on the calendar – it’s even the name of a well known horror movie franchise.

Many buildings don’t have a thirteenth floor – my high rise is one of them. The numbers in the elevator go from one to 12, and then 14 to the penthouse. Technically, that means people living on the fourteenth floor are physically on the thirteenth floor – but don’t go telling them about it.

Not everything associated with the number 13 is all that bad. A baker’s dozen includes one more than a true dozen, so in a sense it’s like buying 12, while getting one for free. The history behind this actually is based on compassion – not fear of the number 13.

During The Great Depression in the 1930’s, bakers often would reward customers purchasing a dozen muffins, cookies, bagels and other baked goods, by tossing in an extra one at no charge. They did this as a sign of patronage to customers who came back to get more baked goods, despite the economic hardships.

Today marks another triumph for the number 13 – space exploration. Every year, a handful of extremely lucky – and brave – souls ride rockets out into space. The number of humans floating around high above us is usually quite small.

Unless you consider 13 big – that’s the number of men and women orbiting us in space today. It marks a milestone in the space race, as that’s the most people ever to be in space at the same time. The last time there were almost this many people in space was in 1995.

NASA’s Discovery Space Shuttle is currently circulating the Earth with a standard crew compliment of seven. Three astronauts are currently calling the International Space Station home, and three replacement astronauts are in space, en-route to that space station, via the Russian Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft.

So the number 13, often associated with bad things like walking under ladders, black cats, and broken mirrors, isn’t all that bad, especially if you’re in space. Though I suppose when you’re that far from home, luck is the furthest thing from your mind.

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