Need Some Space?

An eager 10-year old girl marched off to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida for Space Camp. That's right, Space Camp. That little nerd was me, and it was the start of my career as an astronaut and I was going to join the ranks of Sally Ride, Kathy Sullivan, and Susan Helms! I got to be the captain of my own space shuttle in the high-tech flight simulators and have my dad in the co-pilot seat with me. I defied gravity and scaled up walls with the slight nudge of my fingers. I was whipped around the High-G training centrifuge to experience 3G and somehow didn't puke from sitting in a giant gyroscope. This place was pure happiness. 

Despite knowing my unfortunate fate as a spectacle-wielding child, my parents encouraged me in my love for space. They gave me all the books a little girl could hope for, my favorite being the pop-up book with a Saturn V rocket that was taller than me. We went to empty fields and shot rockets and hunted for the surviving capsule by following the plummeting little parachute. As I've grown up, my hope for going to space has waned, but my love for the subject has stayed strong. Today I'll share with you some of my favorite galactic-themed entertainment: a podcast, some music, a movie, and some books for some light (or weightless?) reading. 

"Space exploration is a force of nature unto itself that no other force in society can rival.” 

― Neil DeGrasse Tyson

The Habitat

Much like us, scientists want to know what it's like having six strangers living together on Mars, and they've simulated it in the HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) IV mission. The lucky people chosen were Carmel Johnston (USA), Christiane Heinicke (Germany), Dr. Sheyna Gifford (USA), Andrzej Stewart (USA/UK), Cyprien Verseux (France), and Tristan Bassingthwaighte (USA) and they agreed to live together in a garage-sized habitat on top of a volcano in Hawaii for an entire year. A WHOLE YEAR! Over the course of 7 episodes, you get to hear about the trials and tribulations of these fab six. 

HI-SEAS | Photo by NASA

HI-SEAS | Photo by NASA

It may sound a bit banal to hear about six people complaining about each other in a crowded space, but producer, Lynn Levy, dives deeper into the exciting bits of their lives such as funny habits, romance, and 'space' walks. You become attached to these characters int he way you would your actual roommates, and it's easy to fly through these half-hour episodes and before you know it, the year is over and they're "coming back to earth." 

The Space Project

The Voyager 1 and 2 space probes were sent out in 1977 just 16 days apart from each other to study our solar system and eventually interstellar space. They've been sending back data ever since, and the sounds of "electromagnetic radiation fluctuations in the magnetosphere of the planets, moons, and large asteroids,” have inspired a whole album of ethereal music by some of today's most popular artists (Youth Lagoon, Beach House, the Antlers for starters). As you listen to the mostly somber tunes, it's easy to reflect on the vastness of our universe and feel the crushing sense of your small existence. If you click on the album cover above, you can hear the entire soundtrack on youtube. I've included some links to my favorites below, and finally, Spotify has them available to add to your playlists.

The Right Stuff.jpg

The Right Stuff

I remember sitting on the couch and my father saying something along the lines of, "these men right here are some of the bravest and most badass men in history."  The seven incredible men he was talking about were Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom (USAF), Gordon Cooper (USAF), John Glenn (USMC), Alan Shepard (USN), Chuck Yeager (USAF), Walter "Wally" Schirra (USN), and Donald K. "Deke" Slayton (USAF), collectively known today as the Mercury Seven. They were all military test pilots that were selected for Project Mercury which entailed the United State's first ever manned space flight. At the height of the space race, their roles, aside from being astronauts, was to serve as publicity for the US at the height of the 'Space Race' era. Collectively, their achievements include breaking the sound barrier, becoming the first Americans into space, walking on the moon, and breaking records for time in space. 

The movie itself has landed itself into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and it won four Oscar Awards despite it's box-office failure. There were times that director, Philip Kaufman, took some artistic license, but it was relatively close to historical fact. I highly recommend this film to anyone vaguley interested in the history of space exploration, as this was the beginning of it all (aside from Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin of course). 

The Sky Below

There are a few astronaut autobiographies out there now, but this one is the first I read and influenced me to read more. Scott Parazynski is a man of many talents, being a doctor is just the beginning. He's summited mountains, plummeted down icy slopes, and of course, gone to space. It's an easy read and his writing style is casual to the point that it feels like he's talking directly to you. He talks about his wife and kids and the consequences of what time in space brings to families. There are ups and downs throughout his memoir and you can't help but keep reading to see what this unique super-human is up to next. If you're up for some laughs and some first-hand experience of space (and Everest...and the 1992 Winter Olympics) this one is for you. Visit his website or buy it on Amazon. I've included a few more below.