I mentioned briefly at the end of the previous post that our interview with Gravity’s Science Advisor Kevin Grazier was shot at the studios of HD Video Podcast SpaceVidCast.
SpaceVidCast is hosted by husband and wife team, Benjamin and Cariann Higginbotham. The show’s mission is to “get all of planet Earth excited about space flight and living amongst the stars.”
Ben and Cariann are in incredible force for space outreach and we were privileged to be able to interview them. We were completely blown away by what they have accomplished with the show. Ben and Cariann eat, sleep and breathe space. They produce, edit, and host the show in addition to working within the space industry itself. They have incredible insight into the space technology currently in development and the political and economic arena of our current space exploration efforts.
Ben and Cariann are true examples of the show’s tagline “For the space geek in all of us.” They were the first interviewees we met whose variety of geeky T-shirts rivaled our own. Ben greeted us in the parking lot for their apartment building wearing a set of pair of Google Glass(es) where we were introduced to the team’s studio which they designed themselves. From there the team introduces the show’s viewers, through 45 minute monthly programs, and 5 minute “SpacePods”, to a range of topics from launch coverage and updates to the feasibility of initiatives like Mars ONE, promoting cool space-based Kickstarters like Planetary Resources’ ARKYD Telescope or upcoming video game Lacuna Passage, and debates on Science Fiction vs Science Fact. The team also posts videos from out-of-studio adventures to space craft launches as well as from space-related conferences and events.
43 years ago yesterday, on July 20th of 1969, humanity set foot for the first time on another world.
1 year ago today, July 21st, Atlantis’ mission, STS135, came to a close with the Shuttle’s safe return to Earth and subsequent finale of the Shuttle Program.
During our presentation at Fantasy and Sci-Fi Convention Polaris in Toronto earlier this month, we had the opportunity to meet several individuals who recalled being woken up by their parents in the early hours of the morning to watch as Neil Armstrong stepped off of the Lunar Lander. This moment in history would go on to be known when the whole world “looked up.” As we talked about Chasing Atlantis, the conversations at Polaris shifted to an expression of disappointment. Since Apollo, we have yet to visit other worlds. After watching the Moon Landing at age 10, one audience member relayed, it seemed reasonable that over 40 years later we’d have planted foot prints on other planets, asteroids, or moons at least within our own solar system.
At the Kennedy Space Center it is clear that the Apollo era is still dominant in how NASA brands itself. One of the largest displays is a Saturn V rocket. Tour guides, many of whom are retired NASA staff who worked during Apollo, recall how NASA’s share of the American GDP was close to 5% during the Space Race. NASA’s budget is now 1/10th that figure. Why? Some would argue politics. The Space Race was about beating the Russians to the Moon. When that was accomplished, there was no further impetus for pouring tax dollars into missions beyond the confines of Low Earth Orbit.
What’s next? Asteroid Mining with Planetary Resources? Mars? Whatever the mission, its success will demand public engagement. Lack of public support for NASA was what many of our interviewees cited as a reason why public funding has waned considerably. Why fund something if it won’t bring in votes? So the debate continues surrounding private entrepreneurship and whether the private entry into space exploration, with the advent of companies like Space X, and Planetary Resources, and space tourism companies such as Virgin Galactic, will bring a new push against the final frontier. Public engagement was a key focus of our documentary. We were excited to connect with both the Apollo generation as well as the current generation of sci-fi and space enthusiasts at Polaris to talk about shuttle; an icon that we realized was not as well recognized by today’s youth as by the previous generation. Perhaps that lack of resonance is partly due to the stagnation of space exploration over the last decades; something we continue to explore in our interviews.
Looking ahead, I am personally hopeful for a future where the next 4 decades see more giant leaps for humankind. The journey outward is about more than the curiosity of what’s beyond our planet, but also seeking a better understanding of ourselves in the process.
Off the coast of California today, the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule plunged into the Pacific Ocean following its decent from the International Space Station and ending the first commercial journey to the ISS.
The mission was designed to not only deliver fresh supplies to astronaut crews on the space station, which has facilitated continuous human presence in space for 12 years, but to demonstrate that commercial cargo transport to space is possible. The success of the mission will catalyze future discussion leading toward the inevitable attempt by a commercial space company to send a human space flight into low earth orbit or dock with the ISS. The Dragon capsule itself can serve as a human transport vehicle though the use of the capsule for human space flight has yet to be attempted.
Last week did not bode well for SpaceX’s first attempt at launching dragon. Aborted launches at 4am are not fun for viewers (I’m on the West Coast) never mind for the engineers that had to build, test and attempt to put the craft into space.
However, with a successful launch this past Tuesday, Dragon has now officially docked with the ISS to become the first commercial vehicle to do so. If deemed a success, this mission will secure a resupply contract for SpaceX to run similar missions in the future. The flight will also determine the capsule’s fitness for future human space missions.
And I also learned today that James Doohan (Scotty from Star Trek) ashes were also brought to space along with the capsule! May you continue to boldly go!