So, in case you live under a rock you know that The Martian movie came out a few weeks ago. Obviously, the permanent staff here at This Orbital Life loved it. Since we’re clearly incapable of giving an unbiased review of the flick, we thought it best to bring in a guest author.
TOL’s good friend Mike took his son Andy to see the movie and he graciously agreed to write a review for us. So, with no further adieu, here is our guest author reviewing The Martian:
Hi, my name is Andy. I am 10 years old. I think the movie “The Martian” was pretty good. It was very educational, scientific, and lots more. Here are some reasons why…
It was educational. You learned a lot about space and gravity. You also learned how to create water. That is how Mark grew potatoes to survive. Mark Watney is the main character.
This is what the movie is about. It is about an astronaut that gets stranded on Mars. He has to figure out how to grow food, and ration it to survive. He also has to figure out how to communicate with NASA.
It was scientific. Mark has to use the poop from the waste bin to fertilize the soil he created to grow the potatoes that he found in the food supply bin in the base. That’s how he survived. He also had to create water with hydrogen and oxygen to grow the potatoes.
It was very exciting, but I don’t want to give away the whole movie. These are only some of the reasons why I liked “The Martian”. What do you think it would take to travel to Mars for real?
Thanks for the review Andy! We hope you can come back and review Star Wars when it comes out this Christmas.
It’s been a week since This Orbital Life watched Mad Max: Fury Road. I left the theater in a daze.
The movie was…disorienting. But not necessarily in a bad way. The special effects were incredible – one can really believe that the post-apocalyptic wasteland depicted in the movie is real. That there is some benighted lost continent somewhere filled with radiation-blasted mutants and drugged-up syncophants driving highly-modified tractor trailers and souped-up 50’s cruisers. That ‘war parties’ of crazed violent men hyped up on heavy metal and paint-huffing are chasing nubile female ‘breeders,’ and an armless Charlize Theron across a desert filled with dudes on stilts and quasi-Tusken Raiders. If that sentence confuses and frightens you then you kinda get the idea what Mad Max is like.
Despite the intense, unsettling action Mad Max: Fury Road has some redeeming qualities. It is one of the rare films where the hero is actually a heroine. Charlize Theron’s character is, quite simply, a bad-ass. She is assisted by Tom Hardy’s character (one of only two male characters depicted as being even remotely civil – the rest are vicious scumbags) and a gang of tough-as-nails lady bikers. The theme of female empowerment is not subtle – it basically whacks you over the head with it. But it was nice to see a movie where the females give it just as hard, even harder, than the guys.
Our recommendation: go see it. But be prepared to take Dramamine and a nap after you do.
The Wachoskis made a pretty good flick, if you can tolerate the terrible acting. But honestly who watches a movie with Channing Tatum for the acting? No one smart, that’s who.
No, the reason you need to see Jupiter Ascending is for the special effects, plain and simple. It’s a classic universe-sized space opera with laser-filled dogfights, enormous battle cruisers, orbit-spanning space stations and lots of leather pants. They even figured out a way to squeeze a bunch of talking CGI dinosaurs into this movie. And it kinda works.
The plot is just good enough to keep you interested between apocalyptic space battles (spoiler alert: downtown Chicago gets riddled by blaster fire) and speeches by villains with British accents.
Bottom line, this is a great Friday night popcorn movie and well worth renting or buying on Amazon. Spring for the HD and watch it on a big screen if you can. Enjoy!
Star-Crossed was a television show set in the near-future in 2024. The series follows a romance between a human girl and an alien boy when he and six others of his kind are integrated into a suburban high school. This Orbital Life watched the pilot episode.
It was awful. The executives at the CW network should be tarred and feathered for continuing this travesty for 13 episodes. Luckily they came to their senses and cancelled the show in May 2014. Here are four reasons why:
1. Pretty much every human being in the show is a jerk. Trigger-happy soldiers try to start an interplanetary war, racist protesters shout at the aliens to go back to their planet, high school bullies manhandle pretty alien girls in the halls. It appears that the aliens managed to crash-land in a city that has only three decent people. Watching this show will completely destroy any shred of faith you may still have in humanity. It’s depressing.
2. The lead actress is supposed to be 16 but looks like she’s 30. It was distracting how old she looked in some scenes. And the slow-motion jogging scene was so cheesy it made me want to puke.
3. They deleted “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance scene. The show is set in Louisiana. Does anyone really believe a public high school in Baton Rouge would delete the God part of the Pledge of Allegiance? The lack of credibility was distracting.
4. The best joke, the one where the hunky alien dude mentions he has two hearts, was dumb. (“One of my hearts stopped beating for a few minutes. Luckily I had a backup.” der der.
Star-Crossed had a lot of potential to be a crazy mash-up of Romeo and Juliet meets District 9. At the end of the day, though, it was just too dreary, too little attention was paid to the details and the plot was just too pedestrian for the show to be watchable. Apparently the viewers of CW agreed and they crossed Star-Crossed off their lists. Good riddance.
This Orbital Life recently watched The Right Stuff. It was good, and anyone curious about the history of the American space program really should watch it. But it could have been so much better. Here are four ways The Right Stuff could have become The Perfect Stuff:
1. Make it shorter. The movie was three hours long. Exhausting, although the end was worth waiting for.
2. Better acting in the supporting roles. Some of the characters were just way over the top, which may have been the point. John Glenn was portrayed as a gee golly shucks robot Boy Scout while all the astronaut’s wives were portrayed as tittering, nervous wrecks (but not Glamorous Glennis, Chuck Yeager’s wife). Don’t even get me started on Lyndon Johnson and the NASA public relations guy – they were almost cartoonish in their behavior. I get that the movie was trying to caricature the state of American culture at the time, but these characters were so absurd it was distracting and almost hard to watch.
3. Cut out the superstitious crap. The movie discusses how pilots were scared of breaking the sound barrier because it would anger the “demons” in the sky. Later in the film, Australian Aborigine campfires were juxtaposed with ice crystals coming off of John Glenn’s capsule in space. Eye-rollingly cheesy. I get that the movie maker was trying to insert some sort of metaphysical aspect to the movie to increase tension or something but in the end it all just fell flat.
4. Stick to the main idea. When I sat down to watch the movie, I made the mistake of thinking it would be a movie about astronauts and spaceflight. But what it’s really about is men with incredible, titanic, reckless courage. Literally legendary levels of courage. Flying an experimental aircraft with a broken rib to the edge of space or sitting in a tin-can on top of hundreds of tons of high explosives designed by guys who were very recently Nazis takes a lot of balls. And that’s what this movie is about – guys who had guts. I think all the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo and supporting role nonsense took away from that. Perhaps a re-make is needed?
It was a very productive show. I explained March Storm and the current status of follow up efforts. We had several callers asking interesting questions about how this legislation will interface with U.N. treaties, how it might affect future orbital space stations, lunar development and exploration beyond Earth Orbit. Sarah Preston, a fellow March Stormer, called with some interesting feedback – be sure not to miss that.
The host, David Livingston, was very gracious and near the end of the show gave a rousing defense of citizen engagement at both the state and Federal levels. We here at This Orbital Life look forward to returning to the Space Show in the future to update the audience on March Storm progress.
Dr. Bruce Damer was interviewed on Tuesday on the Space Show describing a novel asteroid mining technique. Called SHEPHERD, it uses gas to manipulate and exploit small icy planetesimals. Specifically, the spacecraft encloses the asteroid in a fabric bag, and pumps xenon gas into the bag. The gas is used as a medium to despin the asteroid. The bag can be rotated to face the sun, causing volatiles to cook out for retrieval and storage. There was also a discussion of using the Mond method to extract metals from the asteroid.
Dr. Damer said a more extensive media campaign will begin on April 24, 2015 so we’ll be hearing more of this soon. I suspect NASA may be interested, especially as the Asteroid Redirect Mission ramps up – or down, depending on its support in Congress. Whatever happens, it’s encouraging to see continuing and increased innovation in the new space sector.
Space News recently published an op-ed implying that $1.5 trillion is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a manned Mars program. That’s one point five trillion dollars, with a T.
The op-ed was written by O. Glenn Smith, a former manager of the Space Shuttle program. Because of his experience at NASA, we can safely assume he knows what he’s talking about and his estimates are sound. Which is part of the problem: expecting Congress to spend $1.5 trillion on a manned Mars program is unrealistic. It’s worse than unrealistic, it’s bananas. It will never, ever happen.
Expecting Congress to spend $1.5 trillion on an Apollo-like Mars program is, quite simply, bananas.
The author writes that NASA’s annual budget will have to increase to $54 billion per year, up from $18 billion per year. A 300% increase for at least twenty years. There are only a few scenarios where Congress might be persuaded to spend that kind of money on the civilian human space program:
1. Sentient alien life is found on Mars. Like, ya know, little green men with ray guns.
3. Tens of millions of heretofore unknown American voters are discovered living in a hidden space colony on Mars.
But let’s be serious. Despite the shortcomings in the article, the author should be commended for having the courage to put a number on a Mars program. There are a lot of unrealistic expectations about Mars and this will hopefully put a lot of them to bed. Which is good: it will help the space community focus on what is achievable rather than tilting at Martian windmills.
Establishing self-sufficient, self-replicating human communities in space should be the first step in any Mars program.
Since the end of the Apollo missions, various members of the space community have debated how to turn humanity into a spacefaring civilization. NASA officials, politicians, and plain ol’ space enthusiasts advocated for differing positions. Some said we should return to the Moon, others argued for Mars. We should build a huge expendable rocket, we should build a reusable spaceplane. People within the space community took these various positions and vociferously argued for their own pet projects. Meanwhile, time marched on. Shuttle was proven to be too expensive and dangerous; it was eventually cancelled. The ISS was built but the keys were handed over to the Russians. The Moon and Mars slipped further and further away. For forty years the space community fought with itself while progress in space policy languished.
Then, suddenly, all that changed. The infighting stopped. Miraculously, consensus was achieved. What happened?
The space community agreed that space settlement should be the goal of the U.S. space program.
Last week a “diverse group of over 100 space leaders from academia, government and industry came together” at a big meeting in Washington DC to hash out a space policy they could all agree on. They knew something had to change. The Pioneering Space Summit, as it was called (and from where the above quote comes from), was, apparently, a huge success. These formerly parochial, space geek know-it-alls got together, swallowed their pride and acted like adults. They agreed on the following statement:
The long term goal of the human spaceflight and exploration program of the United States is to expand permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit in a way that will enable human settlement and a thriving space economy. This will be best achieved through public-private partnerships and international collaboration.
Alleluia! This is remarkable in several ways. Not only did dozens of people holding divergent opinions agree on a single policy (Congress, take note please!), but that policy included the phrase ‘settlement.’ Previous to this, space settlement had been, I’m sorry to say, a fringe idea. However, this statement is a recognition that space settlement will enable exploration and provide benefits to people back here on Earth. In short, adopting a space settlement strategy results in more bang for the NASA buck.
These groups will lobby Congress with one voice to put this new space settlement policy into law.
So what’s next? Eleven space advocacy groups have banded together under the banner of the Alliance for Space Development to put the aforementioned policy into law. Specifically, the Alliance will lobby Congress for the following items:
A 3.5 billion dollar prize for the first organization to successfully demonstrate a reusable space plane. A reusable space plane will cause launch costs to plummet, enabling all sorts of useful space businesses to take off. The prize money will be paid out only when the goal is achieved. It’s a little complex but these guys have really throught it through. The incentives are structured in such a way to build a reusable spaceplane industry rather than just a one-time stunt.
Continue the current regulatory regime for space commerce. In other words, don’t increase regulations because the current system is working pretty well.
Continue and increase funding for current space commercialization efforts i.e. Commercial Crew and Cargo trips to the ISS.
I think it’s important to note that this Alliance has a track record of success. The core of this group was the same crowd that helped pass the Commercial Space Act in 1998. That was the law which laid the groundwork for the current flourishing of space commerce we see today. Now these people are ready to kick the space economy into a higher gear and accelerate space settlement at the same time.
In short, it was a very exciting meeting (at least for a space geek know-it-all like me). Here are some pictures from today’s Congressional briefing today in the Rayburn House office building in Washington DC.
Getting into space is complicated. It’s expensive. It’s risky. So what’s the average, run-of-the-mill space enthusiast to do? You know, the type of person who isn’t an actual rocket scientist or astronaut? Sure you can watch the launches, go to the museums and defend NASA at cocktail parties but that won’t get you or your stuff into space. If you’re the type of person that longs to go into space, that scribbled rocketships in the margins of your notebooks in school, that watches Firefly and thinks space pirate should be an actual career option, well, have I got the project for you.
This is not a model. It is the design of a real spacecraft that the National Space Society intends to build, launch and recover. It will be packed with experiments, one of which could be yours.
Now, some reality checks are in order. It will only be eight feet long so it won’t carry people, or even one person. And the NSS needs to raise a whopping $40 million to fund the entire project. They say they have a number of deep-pocketed corporate sponsors but 40 million is, needless to say, an ambitious fundraising goal. We shall see.
But they picked a great name: this project is called the Enterprise in Space. It will be the first (non-fictional) object with the name Enterprise to fly in space. How cool is that? We here at This Orbital Life salute the NSS for giving all of us a chance to be involved in the construction of a real spaceship.
With the U.S. Presidential election now underway, it’s a good time to start thinking about how to improve our national space policy. The existing space policy covers a lot of ground in various areas. This post will focus on the sexy stuff: civilian human space flight. In other words, how to get astronauts into space and figuring out what they should do once they’re up there.
The next President should instruct NASA to pursue three goals in sequence: first, expand the permanent human presence in orbit. Second, establish an intermittent presence on the Moon. Third, a ‘sprint’ to Mars.
Three goals: humans in orbit, an outpost on the Moon, and a sprint to Mars (and back).
Why three goals? The first two steps are needed to properly achieve the third. Sending humans to Mars is a good and worthy goal. Learning once and for all whether or not life evolved on a separate planet could change our species. Furthermore, learning if Mars can once again support life (like, say, human life!) will change the world again. Also, a mission to Mars is an inspiring event, especially if it is an international collaboration, as we here at TOL think it ought to be.
But current policy makes a human to Mars mission unlikely. It’s too expensive, too bureaucratic and it won’t happen for decades (assuming Congress funds it all). Worse, once it’s done, there will be little infrastructure left in space to do it again. In other words, the current strategy will spend tens of billions of dollars to get flags and footprints on Mars. After that, all the rockets and technology developed for the project will be put into mothballs. It’s happened before and we’re on the path to make the same mistake again.
The alternative policy proposed here will provide a more enduring human presence in space. A key component of the strategy is to engage the private sector to lower costs and allow NASA to focus on exploration versus transportation. First, the U.S. government should establish a public-private partnership to replace the International Space Station with a commercial venture. Rather than spending billions to build a new space station (once the current one is retired in 2028), the U.S. government can rent space from a private space station operator to perform experiments related to advancing technology needed to go to Mars. Similar public-private ventures can be used to supply the space station with fuel, water and oxygen derived from asteroids and comets. A partnership already exists to get astronauts into orbit on private spacecraft. A similar one should be established to get astronauts to lunar orbit.
It would be foolish to go all the way to Mars before testing how certain machines operate in a dusty, low-gravity environment. Do it on the Moon first.
Once in lunar orbit, NASA should establish intermittent missions down to the lunar surface. Such missions are needed to test techniques and processes that might be used on Mars. It would be foolish to go all the way to Mars before testing how certain machines operate in a dusty, low-gravity environment. Do it on the moon first before going all the way to Mars. This lunar outpost could be partially built and operated by another public-private partnership, like the ones described above.
What does this get us? A network of privately-managed space stations, fuel depots and workshops in orbit. A small but permanent lunar outpost. NASA will be a prime tenant for these facilities but by no means the only one: space tourism and research facilities will also be big players in this new commercial economy in space.
Private-sector activity in space will make a Mars mission easier, safer and more likely to succeed.
Just as important: kick-starting a commercial human presence in space via competitively awarded partnerships will make a Mars mission easier, safer and more likely to succeed. Astronauts going to Mars can take advantage of the fuel and supply depots in orbit and, if necessary, be that much easier to rescue should something go wrong.
Once this network is up and running, NASA will be ready for it’s ‘sprint’ to Mars. Using advanced propulsion technology developed in orbit, an international crew of astronauts will fly to Mars in three months or less, spend a week or so on the surface, and then scoot back to the relative safety of Earth orbit. Using a combination of fast engines and the infrastructure provided by the new orbital economy, there should be no need for a years-long journey to Mars costing tens of billions of dollars (as is currently planned).
What might all this cost? Unfortunately, it won’t cost less than the current policy. In fact, it will probably cost more. But not that much more due to the extensive use of competitively-bid private sector partnerships. Sounds too good to be true? We’re already doing it.
Furthermore, it delivers not just Mars but also a moon base and an enduring human presence in Earth orbit. Basically, three for (almost) the price of one.
The private sector has proven itself ready and willing to join NASA in exploring the universe. The next President should instruct NASA to engage these partners to build an enduring, self-sustaining commercial human presence in space, a lunar outpost and finally fulfill humanity’s long-term goal of sending humans to Mars.
To comment, please use the link at the top of the post.
On December 19 Mason Peck, former chief technologist for NASA, and general space tech bad-ass, was interviewed on SciFri. The title of the podcast was Making Space a More Democratic Place. Mason is an outstanding speaker and advocate for space technology and space industrialization. But don’t take my word for it, check out these killer quotes:
Turns out you can build a spacecraft out of commercial parts…and they work quite well
– talking about the Sprites nanosat concept, but applicable to lots of other areas of space development as well!
All the mass we need to explore the Solar System is already in space.
– discussing ‘massless exploration’ i.e. the concept of using asteroidal, lunar and martian resources to build and supply space exploration missions.
Whenever we take on an extraordinary problem like exploring Mars…innovation is necessary.
In the longer term those innovations create jobs, save lives and create revenue..here on Earth.
– explaining how space exploration and spending on NASA benefits life on Earth. He says the payback ratio varies from two to seven times i.e. the economic benefits of NASA technology is at least twice as much as the cost, and often much more.
Preach on brother! Great stuff. Check out the podcast.
On the November 9th edition of the Space Show (I just listened to the podcast today), Dr. Livingstone and his guest Mark Whittington discussed media coverage of the recent Virgin Galactic and Antares mishaps. They agreed the media coverage had implied that commercial space travel is too dangerous for private tourists and thrill-seekers. The doctor and Mr. Whittington went on to list several risky activities – such as skydiving, scuba diving, and even driving – that cause many deaths every year, none of which get nearly the kind of media coverage the recent space tragedies received. They felt this was unfair to space. This is incorrect: their reasoning is flawed because they both inhabit the space policy echo chamber.
Now, before we go on, two things need to be made very clear. First, what happened to Virgin Galactic, particularly the test pilot Michael Albury, was a bona fide tragedy. Anything written here is not meant to diminish that event or hurt those affected by it. Nor is anyone suggesting that the Space Show is diminishing the tragedy. Second, This Orbital Life enthusiastically supports the Space Show and salutes Dr. Livingstone for maintaining what has become a critical venue of discussion regarding space commercialization. Any disagreement described here is not intended to be confrontational and is offered in the spirit of a collegial debate.
Back to my original point. The two gentlemen essentially argued that space travel garners an unfair amount of media attention when there is a disaster. They said things like “24 people died skydiving last year but that wasn’t in the news!” But the point is not how many people died but rather how many people did it safely. Space travel accidents get lots of media attention because safe, uneventful trips to space are still relatively rare!In 2013, the United States Parachute Association recorded 24 fatal skydiving accidents in the U.S. out of roughly 3.2 million jumps. If the media continues to focus their attention on space accidents when there are 3.2 million tourist visits to space, then space enthusiasts will have a valid complaint. But until civilian space travel is commonplace it is absolutely fair for the media to highlight space tragedies when there are only a few dozen launches per year. More importantly, we have to realize that because space travel is so limited, it can appear downright scary to the general public!
Rather than focusing on unfair media attention we in the space advocacy community need to remember that not everyone is sold on the promise of space, in fact quite the opposite. Therefore, in order to counter media attention that focuses exclusively on the perils of space – we need to work extra hard to get the word out to the general public about the promise of space. That will have the double benefit of raising awareness of space and reducing anxiety towards it as well.