Space exploration

Book Review: Deke!

Deke! U.S. Manned Space: From Mercury to the Shuttle
by Donald K. “Deke” Slayton with Michael Cassut
New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1994.

“America’s Chief Astronaut Speaks Out at Last!” The publisher isn’t exaggerating with that tagline. This autobiography reads like it came straight from Deke Slayton’s mouth, complete with copious usage of his favorite expletive “goddamned.” I’m sure some of it has been smoothed over by the cowriter, but it still reads like practically a transcript of the taped conversations. The language is short and punchy, just like the way Deke spoke. [...]

Explorations: Landing on the Moon


Microsoft Flight Simulator virtually buckles you in the pilot seat without having to shell out $100 an hour to rent a Cessna.  Orbiter has taken the trail blazed by the long-since discontinued Microsoft Space Simulator (1994), and paved it into a multi-lane expressway.  With Orbiter and its add-ons, you can (virtually) strap yourself into the astronaut's couch for $20 million less than it costs to fly along on a Soyuz mission to the International Space Station.  In some ways, it's better.  You can get a flying license and actually control a plane, but even the billionaire space tourists are mostly just sightseeing.  This is truly a geeky thrill that will not be available for decades to come.


Such is the power of Moore's Law.  In Apollo 13, Tom Hanks proudly describes a computer that fits in a single room and has a megabyte of memory.  Film critic Roger Ebert remarked that he was typing his review on a more powerful computer than the one that guided a spacecraft to the moon.  Well, now, we have so much computer power that we can calculate trajectories, render realistic 1280x1024 images of the spacecraft at over 25 fps, and emulate every hardware function of the Apollo Guidance Computer, fast enough for the original software to run in real time.  That's progress.


Film Review: Woman in the Moon (1929)

Frau im Mond (1929)
(Woman in the Moon)

directed by Fritz Lang
Frames in this review are taken from the Kino DVD which is © 1929 Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung, renewed by Notice of Intent to enforce a Copyright 1996 under the Uruguay Round Agreement Act by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung successor of UFA, English Translation © 2004 Kino International Corp, Licensed from Transit Films GMBH on behalf of the F. W. Murnau Foundation, Wiesbaden

To catch misspellings in web searches: Frau im Monde


Watching Woman in the Moon will send shivers up the spine of the space enthusiast.  The science depicted in the film has an impressive pedigree — the technical sections are attributed to Dr. Hermann Oberth, the father of German rocketry and mentor of Dr. Werner von Braun, creator of the V-2 ballistic missile and later head of the Saturn rocket program.


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