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A Hero's Journey Through Science Fiction

Archive for the category “Space Exploration”

Behold the Earth and Moon – as seen from Saturn

Behold the Earth and Moon – as seen from Saturn

“Earth is the bright, starburst-looking flash of light at the middle of the photo, our moon the speck just down and to the left. From Saturn, our planet is hardly distinguishable as the orb we know and love.” — io9.com

“Perhaps the same could said for ourselves and those whom we love, as the distance between the two grows over time.” — Ed.

Alternate Timeline: The Apollo 11 Disaster

“On July 18 of 1969, as the world waited anxiously for Apollo 11 to land safely on the surface of the Moon, speechwriter William Safire imagined the worst case scenario as he expertly wrote the following somber memo to President Nixon’s Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman. Its contents: a contingency plan, in the form of a speech to be read out by Nixon should astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become stranded on the Moon, never to return, followed by some brief instructions relating to its broadcast. Luckily for all those involved, the memo was never needed.”

Letters of Note (One of my favorite websites!)

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“Can we really build the Star Ship Enterprise?”

Only Hillbillies Live In the Outer Rim

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“Science fiction often assumes that civilizations which exist on a galaxy’s outer rim will be backwards in nature. It’s a understandable reaction – the “centre” is more sophisticated while the “outlands” are more primitive. For example, in Star Wars, the Outer Rim Territories were sparsely settled and relatively unexplored. In Isaac Asimov’s original Foundation books, the focus of the Galactic Empire is on Trantor at the galactic centre, whilst the Foundation itself is located on the remote planet Terminus at the rim, where other planets are not so scientifically advanced.

But a galactic centre can be a dangerous place. As in our own galaxy, there may be a super-massive black hole to suck matter in. There are more stars in the vicinity, some of which might start throwing out unpleasant things, or even go supernova. Obviously an advanced civilization would know this, and could move away if something goes wrong, but then again why should it? Human beings can live near volcanoes, in earthquake zones, or on flood plains; but if they have a choice they tend to prefer to live somewhere safer in the first instance. Advanced aliens are probably no different.”

Mark Stewart, bis-space.com

The First Woman In Space Was Soviet. до свидания America.

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“To this: On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova rocketed into history aboard Vostok 6, the first woman in space—an achievement now marking its 50th anniversary. So how did she do it? How did a small town girl with little formal education beat out a slew of more qualified candidates to help the Soviets achieve yet another milestone in the race for space?”

The question has a remarkable answer in Christopher DeFilippis’s podcast at DeFlip Side. Science. Fiction And Beyond... We’re recommending it. Happy Father’s Day.

TERESHKOVA

Wagon Train to the Stars

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From Slate’s Michael Chorost @ Future Tense:

“Eighty thousand people recently applied for a trip to Mars, an excursion that will allegedly be funded by selling reality-TV show rights for the voyage. The company running this curious venture, Mars One, estimates that the price tag for an expedition of four astronauts—currently slotted for 2023—would be $6 billion. But the ticket’s one-way: There is no budget for bringing them back.

It wouldn’t be a suicide mission, though. The travelers would be going as homesteaders, intending to make Mars their permanent home. If you’re going to have permanent colonies, say boosters of the idea, you might as well do it from the start.

…Mars itself will be fantastically dangerous. The surface is bathed in solar and cosmic radiation. The temperature rarely gets above freezing. There’s omnipresent dust with toxic chemicals in it. There’s a total lack of breathable air. And if you have a serious medical problem, the nearest emergency room will be at least 34 million miles away.

But there’s another, more subtle hazard of Martian homesteading that people have barely begun to think about: the lack of soil. It may be hard to keep people healthy in the long term on Mars without Earth-made soil. Lots of it.”

Okay, so, are you up for the challenge of interplanetary colonization? Maybe not now, but imagine a future where tens or hundreds of thousands of people are clamoring for a seat on the wagon train to Mars. My question is, “What terrible misfortune is unfolding on our planet to make you want to endure the horrible conditions of colony life on Mars?” (Check out the extended earth scenes in James Cameron’s Avatar for what a taste of what I’m laying down.) Mass-exoduses of many varieties come to mind. In the mid-1800s, gingivitis, dysentery, rickets and amputations were the fate of many, yet, thousands of Americans still bolted from the eastern states for richer digs in the western frontiers through events such as the Oklahoma land rush. (Ungrateful swines!) Technology followed (not the other way around) with the telegraph, the railroad, the gatling gun and the innate human ability to transmit disease faster than a fevered three-year old at a church social. Who or what kicked off this rampage for a “better way of life”?

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Hm. Right now I’m thinking of a certain two military explorers commissioned by their commander in chief to go west and to explore and map “the newly acquired [Louisiana Purchase] territory, find a practical route across the Western half of the continent, and establish an American presence in this territory before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it.” (Thanks Wiki!) It was called the Corps of Discovery Expedition and it lent a hand in the great exodus that ensued in the preceding decades as men, followed by women and children, pursued their American Dreams across the frontiers in caravans of covered wagons. (What did they call these? Hm…)

The exploration for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, as defined by Thomas Jefferson, (Lewis and Clark’s commander-in-chief), remained at the core of the western genre. This ideal persisted as a main staple of entertainment throughout the 1940s and 50s in cinema, television and literature. The domination of westerns on television also inspired writer, Gene Roddenberry, to re-imagine those wagon trains trekking across the plains as starships following stars routes, all in the spirit of exploration, colonization and adventure.

So let’s all raise our glasses and toast a big hearty thank you to Lewis & Clark, and to you too Thomas Jefferson, for without you, we would never have Star Trek.

It’s all your fault.

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