A Garmin for the Space Traveler

Star Trek GPSYou know it is interesting sometimes how things work out.  Earlier today I was thinking about how science fiction, is simply not at the forefront of people’s consciousness these days.  I am specifically referring to science fiction that focuses on space, and how there appears, to me, a lack of interest in it, and a lack of new stories that capture people’s, particularly children’s interests.  I made an elementary conclusion that the reason for this is because there really isn’t any true and real inspirational stories being made right now.  What I mean by that is back when there was a vast interest in space, and space related science fiction, was during the “Space Race,” between the USA, and USSR, which culminated with NASA’s manned missions to the moon.  That era inspired many TV shows and movies, and I decided that the original Star Trek TV show (1966)  is at the inspirational root of almost all modern outer space Sci-Fi; even my beloved, original, Star Wars (1977).  Of course my observation is debatable and not definitive.  If your really stop to think about it though, once the moon missions ceased, and their glory lost to memory, so too did any mass interest in almost any new space Sci-Fi film, or TV show.  Sure, the Star Wars, and Star Trek franchises live on, but few, if any shows or movies have been able re-inspire people, and again, particularly children, in going “where no one has gone before,” be it for real, or in a book, TV show, or movie.

So, that’s what I was thinking about earlier today, and then I come across this article about German scientists who are working on using pulsar stars as a means to aid in navigating among the stars, using principles similar to Earthly GPS.  Sadly, even though this article  is 9 months old, the audio/video was not able to be embedded here; I guess the BBC doesn’t believe in sharing.  Anyway, the gist is this, pulsars emit X-rays at precise intervals, so by a similar triangulation process as used by global positioning satellites, a space craft can use pulsars to locate itself among the stars to within 5 kilometers – when you think about how big space is, 5 km is pretty damn precise!

Of course I don’t expect this nine month old story to reignite a child’s imagination of soaring among the stars, nor do I think this nine month old article will inspire a rash of space related books, movies, or TV shows.  What we need is an actual inspirational human space mission to somewhere, even it is “simply” back to the moon, to recapture the consciousness, and imagination of another generation, or two; and maybe even new space oriented Sci-Fi movies, TV, and books.

Now, let’s watch some space vid’s:

Here’s what one Pulsar actually sounds like (almost like a drum machine):

How about the rocket that inspired an entire planet about the possibility of manned interstellar travel:

Finally the inspirational opening to the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film, “2001: A Space Odyssey:”

We missed that date, 2001, by 12 years, and its sequel, 2010, by 3 years; but who’s counting…

2 Responses to A Garmin for the Space Traveler
  1. Henré Botha

    I think some selection bias is apparent here. Mass Effect 3 is a video game that topped many critics’ lists for 2012 – but calling it a video game is like calling the Moon landing a science experiment. The new Star Trek film is coming out this year and it will be absolutely mind-blowing. We got Prometheus last year too. And John Carter. The latter two weren’t the best, but they were there.

    • Tim

      Good to hear from you again Henre’, I agree with you 100% about everything that you said, hell I even rather enjoyed John Carter, which by the way is based on Henry Rice Burroughs’ 1912 novel; and while Prometheus was disappointing from a story stand point, it was visually stunning; however I think I failed miserably though in what my point was. My point was not that the outer space Sci-Fi genre is dead, or dying, because as you have shown, it is alive and well. My point instead is that there seems to be a lack in film, and TV shows that are geared towards inspiring kids to want to look up to the stars and dream of going up there; as the original Star Trek, which was inspired by the space faring dreams of an entire world due to the Saturn V moon missions.
      A couple of my favorite space Sci-Fi movies are Alien, and Aliens; but I don’t think a kid would watch either and dream of outer space exploration – more than likely they’d have nightmares. You mentioned the new Star Trek film that is coming out, and I am absolutely sure that it will be fantastic. However JJ Abrams has, for better, or for worse, turned it into more of an action movie, and less about the wondrous expanse that is outer space. That was more my point, that outer space has lost much of the “go where no one has gone before” aspect, and has become just a setting to blow crap up, and/or scare the beegeesus out of people. As a child during the very end of the Apollo missions, I would look up at the stars and almost beg to one day explore them, and even now as an adult, on a clear night, I cannot help but look up at the stars and wonder. It just doesn’t seem to me that outer space has that sort of grip on kids any more; though I could be wrong.

      Thanks Again for the Comment,
      Tim