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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Oh Sweet NASA

NASA does it right. Okay, maybe not, but for those of you interested in how space travel really looks right now you should watch this video of spaceflight STS-122 doing a pitch maneuver. The interesting thing about this is that space travel isn't all flying around and shooting off like we see in the movies. You remember Armageddon? The Bruce Willis flick that attempted to do what Deep Impact did right, but was more successful because it gave us a more flashy, exciting picture with oddball characters (albeit an unrealistic picture).
Well, in that film we saw the two ships, which aren't that much different from what we see in the space shuttles today, take off at wild speeds, swooshing and zipping around as if they were in the air. While it was certainly beautiful to watch (who doesn't want to see spaceships going back and forth like we'd expect to see on Earth?) it was entirely unrealistic and, well, ridiculous. The space shuttles we have today are actually very cautious and there's no such thing as a simple maneuver. Sure, that maneuver in the video looks simple, but it's precisely calculated because if you screw up you spin more than you really want to, and then you either have to do it all over again or you really screw yourself and crash. Maneuvers are calculated pretty much down to the wire on purpose so that there aren't any accidents (yes, we do see accidents, but they are exceedingly rare).
There's just something to be said about being realistic over being completely unrealistic. Certainly in the far future we can expect space travel to be a little more, well, interesting, but as it stands right now, it's not very interesting to folk that aren't necessarily interested in what NASA is up to anyway. I might find that little maneuver rather fascinating, but it's not the most thrilling video. There are no aliens, no flashy moves, no blasting of engines. It's just a simple pitch maneuver in space using nothing more than a little momentum. Exciting? Is to me. I like it. Granted I wouldn't watch it all the time, but it's worth a peek. That's the point, though, and perhaps the public is a little misled to think that space travel is, right at the moment, super flashy and all Star Wars/Star Trek-ish. It's not folks. In fact, as space debris gets more and more of an issue, space travel might become even more dangerous.
So, think on that for a while. Give it a few hundred years and maybe we'll fly ships around in space like we see in the movies. But don't count on it. There's no gravity or air pressure up there. Talk about a blank slate, eh?

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1 comment:

  1. How the heck do you keep posting this stuff?! I know you haven't been near blogspot in the last 14 hours!

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