Every New Yorker trapped in a tiny, cramped apartment--since Mr. Blandings--has dreamed of a new world...a new life--and driven by enough extreme urban chaos--even a new planet, if NASA would just oblige. The madness that springs up in a city-dweller's 3 a.m. heart from noisy, neighbors, screaming kids, barking dogs, pipes rattling with every flush, garbage trucks grinding their dream-killing gears, and random front-door buzzers too drunk to get the apartment right, leads even the most stoic to the certainty that there must be a better way.
And that dreamed-of life, that peaceful planetary oasis, for the Blandings and so many New Yorkers, is a house in the country. To be more specific, thanks to IMDB, a home, like the one in New Milford, Conn., that appeared in the Myrna Loy, Cary Grant classic, Mr. Blandings builds his dream house back in 1948.
When the movie came out, it went for $38,000. Today that real, charming white, art deco/colonial house is still there, on Indian Hill Road. Today, the database estimates it would go for about $340,000. Not too bad, really.
The Blandings came to mind when I read the recent news that, finally, after my years of waiting, NASA has found a perfect new planet for all of us-both New Yorkers and all those bridge-and-tunnelers living on the rest of Mother Earth. Its Kepler mission has confirmed its first habitable planet. That means the surface would allow for liquid water, which is really important in a country place-especially if you love to garden--though this one is 600 light years from New York, so not quite as convenient as New Milford. And I think it might even be farther, if you don't drive the direct route, which I hear is less scenic.
The Kepler telescope, launched in 2009 aboard a Delta II from Cape Canaveral, is according to NASA, a 0.95-meter diameter telescope called a photometer or light meter. It has a very large field of view for an astronomical telescope-105 square degrees, which is comparable to the area of your hand held at arm's length. It needs that large a field in order to observe the necessary large number of stars. It stares at the same star field for the entire mission and continuously and simultaneously monitors the brightnesses of more than 100,000 stars for the life of the mission.
While the noisy overcrowding is a bother, what with the planet's population topping 7 billion already, and possible heading to 10 billion by 2100, it might just be time to start looking for a comfy spot for the species to occupy part-time. A little weekend getaway--second biosphere--might come in handy in a few short centuries, what with nuclear reactors failing in Japan and monocrop agriculture making us pretty much a single-point failure away from global starvation...and the looming threat of a potable water shortage in many parts of the U.S. and the world...a drug resistant microbes and a failure to manage the world's health needs so that a really bad plague could easily get out of hand and spread like wildfire at any moment--and I won't even mention the various potential hotspots that could explode into local and even global wars. You get the picture.
The new country-house neighborhood-Kepler-22b-is 2.4 times the radius of Earth and orbits around a sun that is similar to ours, so things are promising. It's about 72 degrees on the surface, so, actually, it might be even nicer than New Milford, weather-wise. And it's never too early to start hunting for bargains-before everyone discovers it. Remember Nyack a few decades ago? Try buying something at a good price now!
That said, you won't find anything of Kepler 22-b for $38,000-or even $340,000. Just to find the place was pretty pricey, at least by second-home standards. The Kepler mission, which hunts for earth-like planets that might support human life, is running NASA about $600 million a year.
Still, when you think about, it that's not a bad price to find a place that could guarantee not just mellower weekends, but survival of the human race long-term. Like politicians are so fond of saying, especially those whining about debt-cutting and how much the U.S. space agency costs taxpayers, it's for the children-and that's a burden for them that, in the future, they will be glad to have to pay.