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Cheers - AE

Friday, 17 July 2009

An anniversary.

This coming Monday is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing (or if your head is so heavily shrouded in tinfoil that you can read this without wanting to stab the editor of The Telegraph in the face for letting the paper slide into red top territory*, possibly the 40th anniversary of the faking of the Apollo 11 moon landing). I'll be marking the occasion by watching The Dish for the umpteenth time, and if some light Aussie comedy loosely based on real history appeals get yourself down to the video rental shop and see if they've got a copy. Doesn't have the special effects of Apollo 13 (also a personal favourite) and isn't as bollock rupturingly funny as Star Wars: The Phantom Menses and the other prequels, but a nice way to kill an hour and forty minutes all the same.

On on the subject of the final frontier I notice via the cat counters of Zanzibar that another spacey milestone has happened this week, a commercial satellite launch by a private company. Somehow it seems appropriate that just shy of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing NASA and ESA etc suddenly find themselves with a real competitor. I can't help but feel that NASA's glory days may be behind it and the next phase of the space age will involve private companies and private individuals and private investment. The bearded wonder of the aviation industry has already begun with Virgin Galactic, which is possibly the most fucking grandiloquent thing ever said in the history of human language given that the first vehicle only went 112 KM straight up and then came down again** and the planned replacement for fare paying space tourists will only go a little further. Memo to Richard Branson: "Virgin Orbital" (or even sub-orbital for the pedants) would still be pretty impressive and would at least do more or less what it said on the tin rocket. Still, I have greater faith in the ability of a private company that knows how to run a decent airline (though apparently has a blind spot when it comes to trains) in making advances both in the technical aspects of space travel and in making it possible for less money than the government funded mobs, simply because the private companies can't do what NASA, ESA etc do and ask for more taxpayers' money and so will be fucked if they can't make it a commercial success. And while it would be pretty good to go into space even if only the short sub-orbital trips being talked about at the moment I suspect for the companies involved it's a bit of a side show to the altogether more serious business of launching satellites. If so then SpaceX's successful first launch could well be as noteworthy in a generation's time as Apollo is today***. Good luck to both Virgin Galactic and SpaceX.

*I'll grant that they followed up with a debunking of the conspiracy arguments, but only after being torn apart in the comments of the original article.
**It's now in a museum going absolutely nowhere.
***And I can't see any tin foil hatted conspiracy theorists coming up with a good reason why both SpaceX and the client who paid them to launch the satellite would have faked it ;-)

1 comment:

JuliaM said...

Ahhh, 'The Dish'! I picked this up for a fiver in a DVD sale a couple of months ago, and haven't got around to watching it yet.

Must dig it out...

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