The Right Stuff

With all the excitement with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon along with the National Geographic Channel making a new miniseries based on the book, which they plan to release in 2020. It was time to read the book, I’ve seen the movie before and have been a fan of outer space since I was a kid. So Tom Wolfe’s book on the beginnings of the American Space Program focusing on the Mercury Program.

Tom Wolfe begins the book with the test pilots at Pax River and Muroc, later Edwards and Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. Next the Soviets send up Sputnik and that kick starts the whole space race with the formation of NASA and selection of the Mercury 7. It’s a fun read as it covers all the ins and outs of the training and missions

Apollo 11 (2019)

Another big Documentary Film this year is Apollo 11, it takes the raw footage of the launch and mission from NASA itself and creates the documentary. In this film from CNN we watch as the mission goes up into space and it is pretty unique that I think that NASA and CNN could do this with all the other missions. If you are a fan of Outer Space pick up this film at least once and if you don’t want to go out and find it CNN will be airing it on June 23 and again on July 20. Will this be the film that wins Best Documentary in the upcoming Oscars, that seems possible yet we are only halfway through the year and there are bound to be other documentaries released before the end of eligibility for the year.

Go Space out and watch it. It’s a cool movie and since July 16 marks the 50th anniversary of liftoff what better time to watch it. I am sure that various places will be showing this film this summer from the local museums to maybe an outdoor movie showing under the stars.

This post has been updated fixing a previous error and adding another date on which CNN will be broadcasting it.

Solaris (1972)

Solaris or Солярис is the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky which is adapted from the novel Solaris by Stanisław Lem, this was remade by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney in 2002. Tarkovky’s film is often considered to be one of the greatest science fiction films ever made and is considered to be one of few sci-fi films that doesn’t seem anachronistic today.  Many critics point to this film being the like the 2001: A Space Odyssey in the Soviet bloc nations. Tarkovsky is/was a director from Russia I’ve watched a couple of his other films Mirror and Andrei Rublev and these along with Stalker are are all considered as some of the greatest films ever made. Solaris is also one of those film that many current directors are influenced by. To begin my biggest problem with the film is the pacing, it is a slow moving film, although this is nod to the novel which itself is complex and slow paced. Spoilers to follow.

The film begins with Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) visiting his parents before going up to the space station orbiting Solaris, an ocean planet. While at his parent’s his Dad’s friend Henri Berton (Vladislav Dvorzhetsky) a disgraced pilot who was on the station before he was removed after he claimed he saw a four-meter-tall child on the surface of the planet, this was though of as hallucination. However as the years have passed the other scientist began seeing things as well and Kris, a psychologist, is being sent up to bring everyone back home. The station only has a skeleton crew of three members however before Kris can arrive his friend Dr. Gibarian (Sos Sargsyan) kills himself, when Kris arrives there is not welcoming committee but he stumbles upon Dr. Snaut (Jüri Järvet)and Dr. Sartorius (Anatoli Solonitsyn). They don’t want to tell him much of anything telling him to rest the night and return afterwards. Yet Kris seems to be seeing other people on board the station in the corner of his eyes as well . While in Dr. Gibarian’s room Kris finds a message from the doctor which warns him about the station.  Kris is still confused and retires for the evening upon waking Kris finds his wife, Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk), in his room with him having no idea how she got there or where here is, this is troubling as Kris’s wife we learn died a decade ago. This first visitor Kris tricks into a escape pod and jettisons it out. Snaut is ready to talk and tells Kris that the visitors have been coming after they sent a strong X-ray beam onto the surface in a vain attempt to try to learn about the planet.

That evening Hari returns and Kris welcomes her with open arms. Hari starts to “feel more human” Snaut proposes that they beam Kris’s brainwave pattern to Solaris in hopes that it will understand the humans. The film has a wonderful philosophical debate/discussion on humankind. I find this to be the core of the film. Here is where the bulk of my favorite quotes come from. Dr. Snaut say “We don’t want to conquer space at all. We want to expand Earth endlessly. We don’t want other worlds; we want a mirror. We seek contact and will never achieve it. We are in the foolish position of a man striving for a goal he fears and doesn’t want. Man needs man! ” Another piece of dialogue that sticks out is when Dr. Snaut says ‘We’ve wasted time arguing. We’re losing our dignity and human character.” and Hari responds with “No. You’re human, each in your own way. That’s why you argue.” Finally, there is one when Kris says “The salvation of humanity is in its shame!”

Will shooting the planet with Kris Kelvin’s brainwaves do anything or could this film be a circle, you’ve got to take some time and watch the film to find out what all happens at the end. What makes us human. Now the film is available quite easily today so I would recommend that everyone check it out. Tarkovsky is one of those directors that everyone needs to watch at least once in their life. Sure, take a look at this science fiction film from Tarkovsky but I might change my mind after watching Stalker

Mercury 13 (2018)

This documentary from Netflix is really interesting. First off it’s about early spaceflight which is a very interesting topic in general I am a big fan of the film The Right Stuff (about the Mercury program) and miniseries From the Earth to the Moon (about Apollo) so this one was up my alley.  This is about the women who underwent the same tests as the men did to determine if they were fit to be astronauts. The tests were developed by William Lovelace and with the influence of Jacqueline Cochran. There were several rounds of test but unfortunately it was never sanctioned by NASA and was shuttered before it really got that far. It shows how far we’ve come that in the 60s there was a Congressional hearing about women in space. This is pretty crazy as you’d think that they would really want anyone who was willing to go to space to go, just to beat the Russians but it would take some time for the US to have women in space. The old boys club was set and unwilling to budge. Thankfully it changed and Sally Ride eventually got into space followed by Eileen Collins who became the first female American to fly in space piloting the Shuttle first in 1995 and the current pool of astronauts is diverse.

If you got the chance to watch it please do to learn a little bit more about the beginnings of the Space programs.

Falcon Heavy

SpaceX is at it again, this time launching the biggest rocket currently launched it is capable of carrying 63,800 kilograms into space. Yesterday’s launch sent Elon Musk’s Tesla into a Earth-Mars elliptical orbit and will be going there around for ages. The launch went off superbly and the only hitch in the whole launch was that two of the three reusable booster landed safely, those two were on land and the one landing at sea is an insignificant loss as it wasn’t going to be reused again. Now this I though was going to be the launch vehicle for traveling to the Moon and Mars for SpaceX however on Monday I learned about the BFR or the Big Falcon Rocket or as it seems like everyone is going to call it Big F’ing Rocket 150,000 kilograms for the reusable variant, this will match or exceed the Saturn V rocket payload of 140,000 kilograms. The BFR is expected to replace both the Falcon and Falcon Heavy rockets so this is a pretty cool thing that you can watch it on youtube.

News Roundup

Elections: For all those out there saying that one vote doesn’t matter all you have to do is look in the Virginia 94th District elections. Now this is a close race as Shelly Simonds won by a single vote after a recount. This needs to be a reminder that voting is important but if only it were made a holiday or something where we could raise the voter turnout from among the worst in the world to some place better.

Beer in Space: This sounded interesting. In the most recent SpaceX transport mission to the ISS, they brought up some barley seeds to experiment on. This is a part of Anheuser-Busch’s plan to be the beer of space. The idea came from a comment at SXSW (South by Southwest) this past year. The experiments will focus on barley seed exposure and barley germination. After a month the seeds will return to Earth and be studied by scientist at Anheuser-Busch to try to learn about the effects of microgravity on barley. We will have to wait and see what happens.

Space Policy

So, we knew that Trump would have some sort of space policy and yesterday he revealed it. Space Policy Directive 1 according to Trump “marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.” This sound sort of like Newt Gingrich’s idea from back in 2012 to build a colony on the Moon.  It sort of is a tweak to Obama’s plans as we will no longer be going to an asteroid. Now NASA and science haven’t been at the forefront of the Trump Presidency with facts taking a seat behind feelings, sure the race back to the moon seems to be a common Republican goal but it would be great if they could “make NASA great again”. (#MNASAGA, anyone?)  Previous attempts to make it back to the moon from the past Republican Presidents have failed to pick up steam. It’s nice that there are some guidelines being set out but it would be a whole lot better if NASA had an Administrator and one who knows that Climate Change is a thing.

However, I doubt anything will be coming of this unless Congress approves some more funding for NASA, in the 2012 Neil deGrasse Tyson told the Senate Science Committee that “Right now, NASA’s annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that—a penny on a dollar—we can transform the country from a sullen, dispirited nation, weary of economic struggle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th-century birthright to dream of tomorrow.” For just a penny basically the same budget that NASA got in the 70s-90s a lot could be done and I doubt that we’d get anywhere to the 3- 4% of the Federal Budget that it got building the Apollo program. Let alone that fact that it won’t be until 2019 that the first test flight of the new Orion Spacecraft will be launched and that most likely will be unmanned and it won’t be until 2021 that we will see a manned mission. Will this policy include that new cis-lunar space station built with Roscosmos, the second International Space Station or perhaps an American space station or something else? It just want to set America as a leader in Space once again so it seem doubtful. Yet, the good news is that in 2018 the US can finally send people back up to space from its own soil with the Commercial Crew systems by SpaceX and Boeing. I guess we will have to wait and see what all happens.


In case you haven’t heard there is going to be a Solar Eclipse in the United States on Monday. It will be a cool event and everyone is going crazy about it. All the major broadcast channels are doing news specials following the Eclipse as it moves across the US. I think it is a bit ridiculous as to how much they are making of this regular phenomenon, it would be like having the news covering the Aurora Borealis. It’s great to see the news get interested in space every now and then but why not talk about it every night I mean there is an active mission going on at the ISS  and they just got ice cream. Sure an Eclipse is a special event but give us more news about Space, like how the Space Launch System is going and when the US will be able to lunch from their own soil to get to space.

Baking in Space?!

Alright when I first saw this I was intrigued, baking and space don’t seem like they would mix. However if bread, real bread not just tortillas can be made in Space. that would be the biggest thing since sliced bread. According to the article the real bread has been banned from space travel since Gemini 3 when Gus Grissom and John Young ate a corned beef sandwich which young had smuggled on to the flight. Taking bites of the sandwich there were a bunch of crumbs which wrecked havoc with electronics. Grissom and Young were reprimanded when they landed and the closest thing to bread to fly since have been tortillas. The first step is going to be bringing pre-baked bread into space to see if bread might have a different structure if baked in space, no one really know much about this. It seems like they will be using two different types of oven to make the bread during this experimental phase, but bringing a standard oven won’t work in space as the ISS oven would have to work on only 250 watts, so it would be something akin to like an old school Easy-Bake oven which worked with a 100 watt light bulb. The other oven they are talking about using is a vacuum oven where the pressure in the oven is lowered so that things can be cooked at a lower temperature. Perhaps it would be a combination of the two.  This mission won’t be happening until April 2018 so there is a bunch of time between now and then.  It sounds really cool and could lead to some interesting development not only in space but on earth as well.


The second book in the Space Trilogy by CS Lewis. This book picks up several years after the last book (Out of the Silent Planet) ends and tells of the adventure that Edwin Ransom had when he went to Perlandra (Venus). It begins with how the first book ends with Lewis coming for a visit Ransom. The first two chapters are getting Ransom ready to go to Venus in his white coffin shaped vessel as well as what happened after he returned to Earth a year later. The rest of the book is Ransom recounting to Lewis and Humphrey what took place on Venus.

Once again it is wonderful to read of how Venus was seen in the past. Perlandra is a large ocean of a world that is dotted with rafts of vegetation like where most life on Venus lives. There is another place “Fixed Land” a regular island but it is a forbidden place to stay. Perlandra’s sky is golden and opaque it is dim during the day and you can’t see the stars at night. When Ransom arrives he splashes down into the large ocean and sort of can’t do anything although eventually he get onto a raft of vegetation. Then the story can begin. Ransom first meets a dragon-like creature who and it follows him around a couple of days or so later Ransom sees someone on another island waving. Eventually the rafts get closer and they can talk and Ransom meets the Queen of the planet. The Queen tells Ransom things about Maleldil (Jesus) and we learn that she and the King are the only inhabitants of this world.

One day while Ransom and the Queen are on Fixed Land the see a craft crash into the ocean of the planet and who is inside but Dr. Weston, if you remember him from the last book he was one of the antagonist, but here he is inhabited by the bent one. Weston tries to get the Queen to sleep on Fixed Land. It’s the Adam and Eve story told on Venus but this time it’s going to work out for the best at least that is the hope of the Oyarsa of Mars. According to the cosmology in the field of Arbor the inner planet are the newer ones and as you go out further the planets get older.

This book was a surprisingly great read for the season of Lent as it deal with a struggle with the devil. If you read the first book this one continues the story but it’s not like you need to read the first book to understand what all is going on. Once again it isn’t that overly religious and deals with the idea that the legends and myths of our world are things from other worlds and/or the past. It is a rather short read like the first book and now I’ve got to read the final book in the series.