This film clip, shot during the separation of two stages of a Saturn rocket, is an astonishing piece of cinema, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Kubrick and Lucas both consciously quoted from it. I can see the flight path of the Pan Am space plane in 2001 about halfway in, and the launch of the escape pod in Star Wars right here at the beginning. The appearance of the Earth at the end of this clip has as much beauty and eventfulness as in 2001.
When was the last time Holywood made a major motion picture about an actual space flight? Apollo 13 (1995)? Last summer the Japanese released Hayabusa, a drama based on the journey of a Japanese unmanned probe to the asteroid Itokawa. Does the male leader look like Ethan Phillips? I think so. Is another actor in the trailer the spitting image of DeForrest Kelly? Yes. There are actually two other Hayabusa films in the works, one of them starring Ken Watanabe. How about an Apollo 11 movie, Hollywood? How about a Soyuz T-15 movie?
The Darvaza Gas Crater in Turkmenistan is a sinkhole on top of a natural gas deposit. It was opened accidentally in 1971 during gas exploration, and set alight in the hope that the gas would be exhausted in a few days, but it has continued to burn ever since. I've categorized this under Space because although it looks like something from another planet, it could only have happened on ours, with its oxygen, natural gas deposits, and meddlesome humans. Watch this French documentary to see how the local bird life has adapted. The photo comes from here. D
Today is the 36th anniversary of the final splashdown of an Apollo capsule. The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was a one of a kind orbital mission that featured the first docking between spacecraft from different countries, presaging the comings and goings at the International Space Station today. The docking module that Apollo brought into orbit was basically an Apollo-Soyuz adapter, with incompatible docking systems at the two ends. The one at the Soyuz end became the model for all later docking systems, and the Americans, Russians, Chinese, Japanese and European Space Agency all use versions of it today. This mission was the one and only space flight for Deke Slayton, the last of the Mercury Seven astronauts to make it into space, his career bookending the first phase of the US space program.
After ASTP the Americans did not put an astronaut into orbit for six years, including the entire Carter administration. The space shuttle launched in 1981, and the final shuttle mission landed just the other day, closing the second phase of the US space program. It will be several years before Falcon/Dragon, or Atlas/Orion, or some other American combination starts hauling astronauts into orbit. In the meantime, though, and unlike the late Seventies, US astronauts will continue to get into orbit aboard the good old reliable Russian Soyuz.
Robert McCall painted the Apollo-Soyuz image above. He is perhaps best known for his 2001: A Space Odyssey posters.
Minor planet 5277 Brisbane is shown here against its namesake Brisbane, Queensland. (Brisbane Times.) The city of Brisbane is named after colonial administrator and astronomer SIr Thomas Brisbane, who was born near Largs, Scotland, a connection that recently drew Mark Rigby, curator of the Brisbane Planetarium, to Largs for an interview with the Wee Paper.
An orrery is a clockwork model of the solar system. Kepler is a space observatory searching for exoplanets in the region of Cygnus. So far it has done better than expected, finding 1235 possible planets around 997 stars. The Kepler orrery by Daniel Fabrycky is an animation of those newly discovered systems. Follow the link to make the planets spin round.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of JFK's announcement to Congress that the US intended to put a man on the moon. This was an expensive and dangerous proposition, and the Americans didn't see the point of it until September 12,1962, when in his prepared speech to Rice University in Houston he pencilled in, "Why does Rice play Texas?" This won over the overheated crowd, and he went on to deliver the more famous line, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard."