Tag Archives: Space

Two Past Visions of the Future


Two things this week made me think about the how people in the past looked at the future, particularly regarding space exploration. The first was a movie, and the second was an article on Brickset.com’s site about certain space LEGO kits from the past.

The movie, Forbidden Planet, is one of my favorite movies. It was my favorite movie when I first watched it at the age of 12, and has been since. My appreciation of this movie is so high and obvious, my wife gifted me with the DVD anniversary edition of the movie many years ago. We watched it again last night.

It had been a long time since I last watched the show, and I must admit before watching it last night, I was afraid I wouldn’t like it as much as I had before. Thankfully, my appreciation of the story and special effects in the movie have not diminished, but grown. There are some issues, such as the men’s treatment of the female character, Altaira, but on the whole, it’s story still holds up.

I won’t get into the story itself, which is fun and thought-provoking. I just don’t think my description actually will ever be able to do Forbidden Planet’s storyline any kind of justice. I will say the story involves a ship’s captain (any “Airplane!” and “Naked Gun” aficionados might appreciate him), a mysterious professor, an awesome robot, an alien planet, a beautiful woman, and a deadly monster. You could read summaries about the movie on various sites, but most won’t give readers an accurate “feel” of the story either.

I do urge you to watch it–the movie’s special effects, art, costumes, and models come together as an interesting snapshot of the future of space and technology in the 1950’s.

While the special effects are “quaint” by the standards of today’s blockbusters, they were probably top of the line back in the 1950’s (I don’t know for sure, I wasn’t there). The panoramas of the planet, the blaster fire, and the ship, are, instead of mind-blowing, now quite “pretty” per my wife. There is an art involved in the effects, because there were artists involved with the effects back then–apparently drawing them on the celluloid world frame by frame.

But what I like most of all, aside from the story, are the structures. The professor’s home and office are an homage to “mid-century modern” in the architecture, the furnishings, and the decorations. That was what the future would be like, according to certain folks in the 1950’s, and you can seem some glimpses of this future in certain neighborhoods in built during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s in the United States.

The captain’s ship and appearances of technology are all part of a recipe to make a child excited about exploring the galaxy. The saucer-shape of the starship, stasis beams used during hyperdrive activity, blasters, and glass globes and equipment whose purpose aren’t quite defined, but just look “futurey” are part of the inspiration. Then there are passenger cars able to go hundreds of miles an hour and the ability for building whatever is required, using molecular technology. The future was exciting story of possibility to kids, and a few adults.


I think Walt Disney and his architects agreed with this and maybe took some elements in the movie as their inspiration for their parks. For anyone who has ever wandered Disneyland’s and Disney World’s old “Tomorrowland”(before significant teardowns and restructuring), and EPCOT Center, there were elements used in the parks that are quite similar to the structures and technology used in Forbidden Planet. I don’t think it was a case of ripping off the movie, but more of a consensus of what the future in 1950’s America was going to be.

Because I am a fan of the design and architecture of “mid-century modern,” it’s a future I certainly wouldn’t hesitate moving towards.

The other vision involves all the fun ways LEGO tried to bring their vision of space, particularly NASA’s space vehicles, to children. Brickset.com does a great job in this post going through the different kits LEGO brought out. Again, as a child, I would have been ecstatic to build my own Saturn rocket on a launch pad, not matter how janky it looked. The imagination filled in whatever shortcomings reality had.

The beauty about the LEGO kits are that kids could deviate and build slightly different versions of space vehicles and probes. It didn’t matter, so long as the child remained inspired and excited enough to continue their exploration of our history and possible future for going out in the Universe.

Whether from LEGO or from MGM, each different vision served different markets and came from different companies. But b0th contain very optimistic messages about man’s place in the galaxy. Sure, these are toys and science fiction movies we’re talking about. However, they both encompass visions that fascinate and maybe motivate a few of us. It’s definitely fun just to go back, even if only for a few hours, and explore the universe according to the 1950’s.

If you have access to Amazon, Forbidden Planet is there for you, if you’re interested. I search Netflix with no success. Or go to one of your local DVD dumping grounds–they will likely have a copy available.



A Clearancejobs.com Post Today

The inspiration for this article happened a few weeks ago.  It’s not really related to space except that it did happen to me.  Who knows, one of you might find it useful.  Job-hunting can be so frustrating, especially in specialized fields, like space.  And especially if a applicant tries to make a lateral move to something not so specialized.  So, here’s a link to the article (it’s short):  Dealing with Employment Rejection.

The Difference Between Suitability and Security Clearance

Here’s a little blurb I did for Clearancejobs.com to help people get a better understanding between the suitability for a government job and getting a government security clearance.  How does this apply to space?  Well, a lot of government space jobs require a security clearance whether you’re civilian government, military, or contractor.  Some of the commercial space companies, such as Digitalglobe, also require a clearance for interacting with their government customer.  So, definitely space related and you can read the short and hopefully clear definitions for them both, here.

Asteroid Deflection: So Easy, a 9-Year Old Understands It?

Click on picture to see Youtube Video (which Gizmodo had in an article, here).  Someone decided to take down initial link, but it’s been updated to another one.

Planetary Resources linked this Youtube video of Neil de Grasse Tyson answering a few penetrating questions about why “bumping” asteroids out of the way is so hard.  The thing is, the questions were asked by a 9-year old named Jacob.  Jacob obviously is worried about asteroids hitting the Earth.  Props to Mr. Tyson for actually trying to explain to Jacob why the problem isn’t so easy to resolve.  The video is nearly seven minutes long, and Jacob unintentionally speaks some gold, so it might be worth your while.

It’s a fun video, but I do hope the kid’s sense of humor matures as quickly as his understanding of asteroid hunting and mining.  I’ve dealt plenty with “those guys” in my career.  The problem is, “those guys” won’t even understand what I’m talking about, but everyone who has ever worked around them will.  Ah, well…

A Chinese Direct Ascent GEO AntiSatellite Test in 2013?

China asat

Brian Weeden, from The Space Review, has written up a fairly well thought-out and long story about the May 2013 launch of a “sounding rocket” (according to the Chinese) from Xichang Satellite Launch Center.  The story, posted on 17 March 2014, gives some pretty good reasons to suspect that perhaps the Chinese were not telling the truth about their launch last year.  Perhaps it was the launch of a “new” kind of antisatellite (ASAT) weapon–one that might be able to target and destroy satellites in higher orbits, such as the geosynchronous and highly elliptically orbiting satellites.

The post isn’t all about the Chinese ASAT launch, though.  There’s a good history of ASAT technology, starting with the American programs, then going on to the Soviet ones.  Some of the Chinese Operationally Responsive Space has also been brought up, as well as how that might play out in a combat scenario.  There’s also the question of just how effective the Chinese ASAT threat is, and the author explores that question a bit.

The Chinese have been accomplishing some interesting things in space, including robotic grappling satellites that may be able to take out nearby satellites, training space operators for poorer countries, and their capstone of last year, the moon shot and activation of Jade Rabbit.  Brian Weeden’s post about China’s ASAT activities is a nice, thoughtful piece.  More of his asking the “whys” of the scenarios and not crying “space wolf” as others have done.  Worth a read, if only to learn some of the ASAT history.