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5th September 2014

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5 billion years from now

Around 5 billion years from now, give or take, the sun will expand into a red giant, absorbing all the inner planets back into its fiery womb. At that point, water ice will thaw on Saturn’s moon Titan, where the temperature is currently 290°F, and some interesting things may eventually crawl out of its methane lakes. One of them, pawing through organic silt, might come across the Huygens probe that parachuted there from the Cassini space mission in January, 2005, which, during its descent, and for 90 minutes before its batteries died, sent us pictures of steambed-like channels cutting down from orange, pebbled highlands to Titan’s sand-dune seas.

Sadly, whatever finds Huygens won’t have any clue where it came from, or that we once existed. Bickering among project directors at NASA nixed a plan to include a graphic explanation that Jon Lomberg designed, this time encased in a diamond that would preserve a shred of our story at least 5 billion years – long enough for evolution to provide another audience.

Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (2007)

Tagged: futurefuturismbooksspaceSaturnCassinievolutionlifespace explorationAlan Weisman

29th December 2013

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Apollo 8 meets the Moon

As with subsequent flights, Apollo 8 bowled along sideways, like a silver rolling pin, spinning slowly to distribute the sun’s intense heat. From the craft’s angle of approach the Moon was in darkness, so for the first two days the astronauts saw only the Earth shrinking behind them and a coy black void ahead, bereft of stars and growing, until finally they were drifting engine-first around the far side, preparing for the ‘burn’ that would slow them into lunar orbit. Still they saw nothing — until suddenly and without warning an immense arc of sun-drenched lunar surface appeared in their windows and the three men got the shocks of their lives, as the ethereal disc they and the rest of humanity had known up to then revealed itself as an awesome globe, cool and remote, without sound or motion, magisterial but issuing no invitation whatsoever. So shocked were the crew that Commander Borman was forced to rein in their excitement for the sake of the burn, and while the astronauts have forgotten much about the journeys they took, none has any trouble recalling this dramatic moment: indeed, those who are temperamentally disposed to acknowledging fear will tell you that it was an eerie and intimidating sight, which the crew of Apollo 8 seemed haunted by. Upon their return, they described a forbidding and inhospitable world. It was the Earth that sang to them from afar.

Andrew Smith, Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth

Tagged: spacemoonbookstravelexplorationastronomysciencespace explorationapollo 8Andrew SmithMoondust

10th June 2013

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The wanderers of night

Even as the planets reveal themselves to scientific investigation, and repeat themselves across the universe, they retain the emotional weight of their long influence on our lives, and all that they have ever signified in Earth’s skies. Gods of old, and demons, too, they were once — they still are — the sources of an inspiring light, the wanderers of night, the far horizon of the landscape of home.

Dava Sobel, The Planets (2005)

Tagged: booksplanetsastronomysciencespacespace explorationmythology

20th November 2012

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The Stuff (1985), directed by Larry Cohen

The Stuff (1985), directed by Larry Cohen

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5th June 2012

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The food of thy soul is light and space; feed it then on light and space.
— Herman Melville

Tagged: Herman Melvillelightspacepsychologyhappiness

8th January 2012

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Buster Keaton’s use of space

[Buster] Keaton is never so great as when he manages to organise (to seize simply) the countryside into his overall design, giving, in a flashing surge of beauty, his personal vibration to the secret modulation of its lines, to its concrete harmony…

Jean-Patrick Lebel, Buster Keaton, English edition 1967

Keaton is probably the only comic who, apart from the classic race-chase, really knows how to use space, to give wind to the gag, to burst the bonds of the ‘inside gag’ by blowing a great wind into it, filling it with countryside and endless vistas, finally organising the universe into an immense gag in itself.

Philippe Demun, “Espace Vital”, in Contre-Champ, no. 3, May 1962, review of Steamboat Bill Jr. and Battling Butler

Tagged: Buster Keatoncomedyfilmsmoviesspacesilent film