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Brazil: Pontes Touches Down

Brazilian bloggers’ reactions to the space flight of Marcos Pontes, the first Brazilian astronaut, run the gamut along a scale from enthusiasm to cynicism.

At the “unqualified joy” end of the scale an amateur radio operator in the northerneastern state of Piauí was positively effervescent over a Piauense's ham radio conversation with Pontes (pt):

IT'S TRUE… THE FOLLOWING TOOK PLACE THIS AFTERNOON (14:47 LOCAL TIME), 03 APRIL 2006. HAM RADIO OPERATOR JOÃO NETO (PS8PY) WAS THE FIRST RADIO AMATEUR FROM PIAUI TO MAKE CONTACT WITH BRAZILIAN ASTRONAUT MARCOS PONTES (PY0AEB). IT WAS AN INCOMPARABLE THRILL FOR JOAO. THE CONTACT WAS MADE IN VOICE ON FREQUENCY 145.800 (RECEIVING) AND 144.490 (TRANSMISSION). CONGRATULATIONS NETO, YOU'RE A GIANT AMONG RADIO AMATEURS!!!!!!!

Over!

In a rather less capitalized post, Daniel Ferreira da Silva is happy to see a Brazilian in space (pt), but wonders whether now is the right time to be focusing the country's resources on such adventures:

In other news: of course we were happy to see the first Brazilian astronaut, Marcos Pontes, carry out in first mission into space… It's also important that the government invest so that we can join the club of countries that send up astronauts (which today includes the United States, Russia, and China), which could happen in the longer term. But is this really something that's necessary today, and not in a more ?stable future? Perhaps this investment could be used for more urgent needs, like the development of Brazil's own space program, which is running a bit behind schedule? Something to think about. In any case, good luck to our space pioneer, on this the anniversary of the first flight of Santos Dumont.

In his post “Pontes, Patriotisms, Politics and Perspectives (pt)
“, a young skeptic argues that while Pontes is to be commended for showing that it's possible for a Brazilian to reach orbit, the public would be better served by more sustained media efforts to popularize science in Brazil, particularly by recognizing the work of Brazilian Scientists such as physicist César Lattes:

It would be better if the press would explain the thoughts that have made it possible for him to be there. It wasn't the Catholic Church, it wasn't the President of the Republic. It's because of people like Newton, Godard, and even Sagan. It's an offense to the intelligence of these people to say that Marcos Pontes or any other astronaut conquered space or is closer to the stars. 350 km are insignificant compared to a light-year.

But what happens? Everyone thinks that getting into orbit is further than that, and no one makes the effort to understand the physical principles that are involved. Telescopes reach much further than Pontes every day. And no one makes the effort to inform the public how far they go. After all, there are people who have never been in orbit 350 kilometers above the lithosphere, but who deserve far more praise than Marcos Pontes. The people who are working on the reconstruction of the launch pad in Alcântara, for example. HOW MANY BRAZILIANS KNOW WHO CÉSAR LATTES WAS??! We're less worthy of recognition than Marcos Pontes, and Marcos Pontes is less worthy of re cognition than César Lattes.

One wag suggested that a certain politician take direct inspiration (pt) from Pontes’ flight:

The day before yesterday in the embassy of China in Brasilia, when Lula saw the first Brazilian travel into space on TV, he couldn't contain himself and he said “That's the kind of trip I'd like to take…” … So I'm launching a campaign so that we can all help poor Lula in some way. HELP HIM REALIZE HIS DREAM OF BECOMING AN ASTRONAUT!

Apparently not a Lula fan!

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