The Live Streaming Supersonic Freefall From Space

Red Bull is a drink company that I always associate with a general low-brow, trailer trash sort of existence. Chances are if you are drinking Red Bull you are an abject fool in a tank top. Maybe you’ve got a tattoo right at the top part of your ass. You’re just a lumbering primate who thinks they need some extra energy. Okay? Deal with it.

But this former Air Force parachutist is preparing to jump out of a balloon capsule from 23 miles up wearing a pressurized suit that will allow him to survive a supersonic fall from the edge of space. That’s pretty interesting because you just have to wonder if he will make it in one piece. Can a person re-enter earth’s atmosphere from space? I’m sure one can. I enjoy this little advertising film for the live stream of the jump. Hopefully, the stream will actually show us something in the next few days since inclement weather has so far delayed the jumper, Felix Baumgartner.

The live stream of the Stratos jump will be here.

SpaceX Dragon Capsule Docks with International Space Station

The Dragon capsule from SpaceX has become the first privately operated spaceship to dock with the International Space Station. Early this morning astronauts aboard the ISS used the station’s robotic grappling arm to snag the capsule after its successful close approach. The arm then pulled the capsule in to berth with station’s Harmony module. This is another incredible achievement in space and should begin a new era of private space travel and support for the ISS.

You can watch video of the robotic arm capture.

Ikarie XB-1: 1963 Czechoslovak Science Fiction Film of a Stanislaw Lem Novel

This 1963 Czechoslovak science fiction film directed by Jindrich Polák is an adaptation of a Stanislaw Lem novel called ‘The Magellanic Cloud.’ Reflexively, one tries to find similarities between this film and Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ But I think the better place to look for influence is in Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film, ‘Solaris,’ which was also a Lem adaptation. ‘Ikarie XB-1‘ follows the crew of a ship sent to investigate a planet orbiting Earth’s nearest star, Alpha Centauri. On the way, they encounter a derelict space ship from 1987 Earth which appears to originate from the United States and carries a load of deadly poison and nuclear weapons. Crew members begin to inexplicably fall asleep. The ship also finds a giant dark star that emits an unknown type of radiation from which the humans are mysteriously rescued. The end of the film is a stunning sequence of mental breakdown leading to fantastic and life-affirming discovery.

But the various events do not matter as much as the way the film dwells on the people within their technological surroundings. It’s the focus on the mental status of the crew as opposed to exciting episodes that makes for the strength of this film and its influence on ‘Solaris.’ The film has a calm and quiet approach, simply trying to let us feel the vast distances traveled by the crew. The sets and visual effects hover between beautiful and unconvincing. But they work and are often effective. It’s really a pretentious art film in space. If you like Eastern Bloc science fiction and Stanislaw Lem’s peculiar writing, this is a must see.

NASA Captures Images of Apollo Astronaut Moon Tracks

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured images of astronaut tracks, lunar landers, and left behind equipment from the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 moon missions. These are the sharpest images ever taken of the moon and should give fake moon landing conspiracy nuts a whole new bag of clues to play with.  We can’t rebuild what we once understood and get ourselves back to the moon, but we can take pictures of our past glory.

NASA Begins its End

The final landing of a NASA space shuttle yesterday, though hailed as the final act of a great technical achievement over the past 30 years, actually represents a complete failure on the part of the United States to build upon the work of scientists and technicians from the 1960s and 70s. It should shock most of the world that the leading superpower, with the world’s most advanced space exploration systems, could not figure out a way to even build a second version of the space shuttle. I’ve never seen a product of technology that stays with version 1.0 for thirty years. There is no viable plan in existence for launching human beings off the earth by the United States. There’s a lot of vaporware and talk. There are models of crew capsules that will maybe one day launch people toward an asteroid or even to Mars. Maybe. None of it works. None of it even has a working toilet. There are no rockets being designed that could even launch the miraculous capsule into orbit. And that crew capsule? If you’ve seen it you then realize that NASA is simply building the Apollo system all over again with extra bunks for three more astronauts. But they can’t build the thing. It doesn’t exist.

There are no longer any means available to the United States for getting people to the International Space Station. There are no means available for getting any equipment up there. The U.S. must rely on rides hitched aboard Russian spacecraft for an indefinite period of time that many NASA experts are now saying could extend to 10 years.

Russia has a more advanced and reliable space exploration system than the United States.

In the mid 1990s I went to a boring Hollywood party and wandered around with a drink in my hand for about half an hour before running into an older couple sitting alone. They seemed uncomfortable and out of place. So I said hello and sat down next to them. The man turned out to be a retired engineer who worked on the design for the Lunar Landing Module during the Apollo years. I asked him why NASA had been unable to return to the moon. His answer was: ‘Because they can’t.’

He explained that NASA had been been decimated by enormous loss of technical knowledge due to retirement. He said that the agency had not properly stored its accumulation of knowledge. He said that if engineers wanted to build a rocket, command module and lander to get back to the moon, they would be completely unable to do so and would be forced to relearn almost everything that had been learned during Apollo. He then said that this would become very clear to the nation sometime within the next 15 to 20 years as existing technology wore out and could not be replaced. I told him that he seemed very depressed about it. He nodded and said the situation was much worse than he could explain. He said that technical notes from engineers hadn’t even been saved. The knowledge was just totally lost.

I think that guy was right. I don’t think NASA could build a new shuttle even if it tried.

NASA’s insistence on transferring launch responsibilities over to private space companies would perhaps make some sense if we had seen it being phased in alongside the existing shuttle technology.  But to shut down our only means of space transport and hope for the best with future private launches is simply begging for disaster.  How tested will this new private space launch technology be?  Why would an astronaut climb into a rocket built by some company run by PayPal’s founder?  It’s insane and stupid.  What if the first private launch vehicle with astronauts explodes on liftoff?  What happens then?  Is there even a backup plan?