Does it take a movie to make us care about space?
Gravity, stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as NASA astronauts who become untethered from their damaged space shuttle. Clooney provides levity in a situation that seems doomed. The views are stunning; the shots of space are considered as authentic as ever produced.
It’s billed as a science fiction thriller though there are no signs of any extraterrestrial life. Watching, (or hiding my eyes), I almost wished some sort of alien would appear.
I contrast this film with others about space that were based on true stories; The Right Stuff (also a fantastic book), and Apollo 13 come to mind. As star-studded as Gravity, these brought the world of space travel to life.
Growing up in the 1960’s the space program dominated the news. I watched rockets launching into space on our small black and white television. I followed the astronauts in orbit, mesmerized at the feat, awed by their courage. Space travel, landing on the moon, the lives of the astronauts captivated my imagination and kindled my passion for news. I wrote to NASA and received packets of information and photographs—all for free.
I worry that we’ve become so jaded about space exploration we need a movie, and a fictitious thriller at that, to turn our attention skyward. The previous space films inspired me, perhaps not to become an astronaut, (or even consider for a second going as a tourist). They not only reminded me of the what I’d loved as a child but believe as an adult. Those steps on the moon, walks into space, experiments conducted in space stations are for the benefit of humankind.
I remember a news story this past July about Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano. His space suit filled with water while he was working outside the space shuttle not too unlike Clooney and Bullock. Parmitano is in the midst of a six -month mission.
The story was buried in my newspaper’s middle pages and received little notice on the television and radio news. The bravery of these astronauts, the dangers they face in the name of science seem to have become ho-hum.
This month marks the 56th anniversary of the beginning of the Space Age when the Soviet Union sent Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite into orbit.
Perhaps it’s time to re-examine whether sending people into space is worth the money and the risks. Drones and robots seem capable of all sorts of feats; surely we can rely on them to accurately accumulate data and repair faulty equipment.
There’s much to learn about space; hopefully science that can help fix problems here on Earth.
What’s your memory of the Space Program?