NASA has released a free app for the iPhone that offers dynamically updated information, images, and video from many of its ongoing missions. NASA seems to be suffering through a confused decade in which it wonders what vehicle should replace its aging shuttle fleet, whether to dump the International Space Station into the ocean to save money, whether to go back to the moon, or whether Mars might be a suitable destination for a manned visit.
I think it’s probably safe to say that NASA is learning an enormous amount through its telescopes, satellites and rovers. I suspect that very little is really learned from sending three or four humans to the moon other than how to keep three or four humans alive on the moon for a few weeks. Perhaps NASA should just relax a little and stop worrying about making people interested in what it’s doing. Perhaps they should just worry about collecting information.
Today is the 107th anniversary of the first science fiction film ever made, A Trip to the Moon. It was directed in France by Georges Méliès who had been inspired by the novels From Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne, and by The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells. This is the film with the famous image of the spaceship landing in the eye of the moon’s face.
Forty years ago today, on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed humans on the moon. Amazing. We should really go back… if we still know how.
Yesterday I posted about the JFK Presidential Library’s interactive recreation of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing mission. The mission has now reached stage 6 with the command module at a distance of 22,000 nautical miles from earth. The site is doing an absolutely marvelous job of making you feel as if you are riding along with the historic Apollo 11 mission. They have all the real-time radio communications between the astronauts and Mission Control. So you can listen to exactly what was happening through every second of the entire mission! They also have video clips that fit the current point you are watching in the mission.
This was an excellent web idea and it is extremely well executed. I can’t wait until they reach the part with the Lunar LEM trying to find its landing spot on the moon! Go see the We Choose the Moon site right away!
At 8:02 am Pacific Time, Thursday July 16, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s We Choose the Moon project recreates the launch of the Apollo 11 moon rocket. The interactive site will recreate the entire mission to the moon down to the minute, complete with status reports, images, 3D animations and even Twitter updates. The site is very slick and recreates the anticipation before a launch at the space center quite well. You even hear the seagulls flying around the launchpad as you watch the rocket on waiting for liftoff.
This is about as close to the moon as we’re likely to get for quite some time since the national ‘let’s go to the moon again’ quagmire persists in spite of the fact that Nasa has no more spaceships to fly once the shuttle heads for the junkyard. The International Space Station is quite possibly going to be dumped into the ocean in 2016 due to lack of interest. But a space agency that can run radio-controlled cars on the surface of Mars is at least doing something with its money.
Moon is a new science fiction film directed by Duncan Jones. It stars Sam Rockwell as a man administering a lonely moon base for a shift that lasts several years. The trailer looks pretty good, but I’m not sold on it. I do like to see a serious science fiction film getting projected in theaters after the horrific damage that’s been done to the genre by clever little men like George Lucas. In fact, I blame Lucas more than Tolkien for the fact that every bookstore loads its science fiction shelves with sword fantasy books. As soon as the idiotic Obi Wan Kenobi pulled out a lightsaber, the sci-fi film genre was doomed. But this thing looks from its trailer to be a mashup of homages to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running and Solaris. I just don’t get into ‘homage’ movies. A little subtle homage is fine. But this trailer is just packed to the gills with barely altered rips right out of these classic films. No serious science fiction director makes a movie that’s an homage to other movies. Stanley Kubrick would have choked on a chess piece if someone had suggested such a thing to him. So, I’m sure I’ll give this movie a chance and go see it, but I fear that it will be exactly the movie it appears to be in its trailer. The effects do have that wonderful super-reality quality to them that 2001 and television show Space 1999 had.