Thursday, July 21, 2011

Space . . .

With the landing of the final space shuttle flight this week at Cape Canaveral, Florida, about all I could think of was this:

(Yeah, the music doesn’t track with the film as it does in the real thing. The real thing is here, I’m just not able to embed it.)

If I could go back in time, I might very well pick the mid-1960s. Not necessarily for the race riots, the inequality, the Vietnam War, or any of the other terrible things going on. But for the optimism that still remained in a lot of people when it came to that thing called “human progress.” We have gobs of it now, but it is lost in the noise. And perhaps I would find that same phenomenon back then; perhaps I’m better off looking through the noise of now to find the optimism that still remains here and now.

But at least back then, we had movies like this to help us, once in a while, find that optimism. This goes back to what I wrote earlier this week on the hooptedoodle of the “Pink Elephants” segment from “Dumbo.” They just don’t do things like this any more. I can’t think of any modern film that would allow for a sequence like Kubrick’s “Blue Danube” sequence from “2001.” Five and a half minutes with no dialogue, just some models, a little special effect, and some really crusty old music. But put together in a way that helped the optimism ooze out. That feeling that if we could get the rest of our crap pulled together – you know, the racism, the wars, et cetera – and put our money and time and effort and thought into something like this, we just might enjoy a more peaceful and productive future. A future that involved travel in outer space becoming commonplace.

As it is, we’re down to this.

Jeffrey Kluger writes this for Time:
If the shuttles were business class and the old Apollos were coach, the Soyuz is a little like hiding in the wheel well for a coast-to-coast flight, even if it's a wheel well with an impeccable safety record — at least recently. . .

With the Soyuz, things are a little sportier. After the spacecraft decouples from the ISS, the commander fires the reentry engines and then jettisons the docking module that's attached to one end of the crew compartment and the engine module that's connected to the other. The little pod that remains plunges into the atmosphere, encountering the first air resistance at about 400,000 ft. — or 75 mi. It falls at a brisk 492 mph until its small drogue parachutes pop out at about the cruising altitude of an airliner. The main parachute is deployed shortly after that, and at just 3 ft. above the surface, three small engines fire to brake the landing slightly. That landing, incidentally, is a thumpdown on the ground, not a splashdown in the ocean. And did we mention that through most of the reentry the spacecraft is spinning in order to maintain stability?
I’m never going to travel in space. Only this way.

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