Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The all-new Space Age Archaeology

Well, I've been thinking about changing the format of Space Age Archaeology for some time now .... the blog is eight years old, and the template is so ancient that I can't play around with it - it basically can't be changed.  But I'm so used to the font and the colours that anything else looks odd to me.  And I'm pretty sure that once I abandon this template I can't go back to it.

So I guess I'm going to just take the plunge and see what emerges.  Anyone who feels strongly enough to comment is absolutely welcome to do so.  About anything - font, background, gadgets, whatever.  I may be brave enough to apply my new design tonight, I may not.  Hard to tell.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Orbit: a review of the Yuri's Night 50th anniversary film by Christopher Riley

Last night I was a guest panellist at a screening of the new film, First Orbit, created by Christopher Riley to commemorate Yuri Gagarin's historic spaceflight in 1961.

In answering questions afterwards, I came to the defence of Valentina Tereshkova and named normally unmentionable things in a room full of physicists and space geeks. But that's another story, and for the moment I just want to consider my first impressions of the film.

The music was wonderful, and it seems a shame that Yuri didn't have a nice ipod so he could have listened to it on his journey.  What sounds would he have heard?  I don't know if his attitude was continually being adjusted, so perhaps the sounds of thrusters were audible .... or perhaps it was silent except for his blood and heart, and the small mechanical tinklings of his instrumentation, until the rude voice of Korolev burst in on his solitude .... (It was very interesting to hear Korolev, whose identity was so long a secret).

As usual, despite the conceit of letting the images speak for themselves, the choices made in the film have a subtle effect.  I think the intent was to allow every person, every viewer, the sense that this could be them:  that this was a universal body, an accessible experience.  It could have been us, floating serenely along in the spacecraft.  His perspective is ours, as shaped by the camera view.

I didn't have a problem with that, but ohers among my companions last night found this more disconcerting, as if Yuri had been de-Russianised, de-personalised, by being subsumed or subverted into allowing his unique, intimate experience to be cannibalised by us.

And of course it was long.  Many people walked out of the theatre, perhaps to other engagements, perhaps just a bit bored.  For me that was part of the point, too.  Did he tire of the view?  After a while did he have a bit of a snooze, just waiting for something to happen?  Was he conscious, for every minute, that he was completing a circumnavigation of creation, dreaming this round Earth into being?  It was a mental exercise, a sort of discipline, to remain focused, and I felt that to be important:  I was not there just to be entertained, it was a sort of reenactment or perhaps just an enactment.

After his reentry, the film ended abruptly. There was no footage of Yuri back on Earth, a terrestrial being like before.  He lands, and it's all over, as if he didn't really return.  As if the person he had been was obliterated in the blackout of the descent, and the story continues in the body of another person, the one who takes a world tour and is celebrated and feted.  Dissatisfying at one level, but I didn't mind that either.  It's we who come back to Earth, in the dimness of the lecture theatre, those who stayed the distance.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight with Dr Space Junk!

 Yuri's Night
 Notice of a Free Special Screening
presented by   
the Australian Institute of Physics (SA Branch)
http://www.physics.adelaide.edu.au/aip-sa       aip-sa@physics.adelaide.edu.au
Ph: (08) 8201 2093 or (08) 8234 6112 (a.h.) or Mob: 0427 711 815  Fax:  (08) 8201 2905
Post:  AIP-SA secretary, c/o CaPS, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001


the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (Adelaide Section)

at 7.00 pm on Tuesday 12th April 2011
in the Kerr Grant Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, University of Adelaide

On the 12th April 2011 it will be 50 years to the day since Yuri Gagarin climbed into his spaceship and was launched into space. It took him just 108 minutes to orbit the Earth, and he returned as the World's very first space man. To mark his historic flight, film maker Chris Riley of In the Shadow of the Moon fame has teamed up with the European Space Agency and the Expedition 26/27 crew of the International Space Station, to create a new film of what Gagarin first witnessed fifty years ago.  By matching the orbital path of the Space Station, as closely as possible to that of Gagarin's Vostok 1 spaceship, and filming the same vistas of Earth through the new giant cupola window, astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and documentary film maker Christopher Riley, have captured a new digital high definition view of the Earth below, half a century after Gagarin first witnessed it.  Weaving these views together with historic recordings of Gagarin from the time (subtitled in English) and an original score by composer Philip Sheppard, they have created a spellbinding film to share with people aroundf the world on this historic anniversary.

The Australian Institute of Physics and the Adelaide Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics invite you to a special screening of this historic movie - celebrating 50 years of manned space flight!

Following the screening Dr Ian Tuohy (Space Systems Manager), Professor Roger Clay (Astrophysicist), Dr Alice Gorman (Lecturer in Space Archaeology) and Dr Olivia Samardzic (Co-director Centre of Australian Space Education) will be present to answer your burning space science questions.

Contact: Scott Foster         T: 7389 5979  Email: scott.foster@defence.gov.au