Cunningham was key to the success of the Apollo missions, and after his tenure as an Astronaut, went on to support myriad technology and space-related ventures and was a prominent supporter of NASA and Houstonian.
Tuesday, January 3, 2023
Sunday, April 4, 2021
Watch Party Watch: They Came From Beyond Space (1967)
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Director: Freddie Francis
Meteors fall to Earth, specifically Britain. Scientists are dispatched to check them out - minus an American who just happens to mention having a silver plate in his skull. I *think* the story is that alien brain waves were living inside the rocks? Anyway, the alien psychic waves transfer over to the brains of the science team and build a little fort from which they begin shuttling people to the moon to make more brain transfers with more aliens. And there's a plague?
I fell asleep for part of this movie, but not much, and it's been a week, but I can't really piece it all back together. I do know the heroes wind up wearing goofy helmets and going to the moon where a badly made-up Michael Gough awaits them (wearing a robe, because: alien).
I can't recommend the movie as "good", I can recommend it as "this is whackadoodle". It's Jenifer's selection from last week, so here's her words on the topic.
I will say - the poster promises something the movie absolutely refuses to deliver upon, but I have heard Amicus and Hammer both made the posters first to get financing, and then made the movies. And, somewhere along the way, whatever they had in their heads about folks with sleek helmets, catsuits and space ray flamethrowers got turned into this.
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Watch Party Watch: Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965)
Format: Amazon Watch Party
Decade: 1960's (and how!)
Director: Robert Gaffney
Jenifer picked this particular gem for our Tuesday screening, and it was a g-d delight.
For reasons that are never explained, NASA creates a sort of synthetic man they want to launch into space in place of an astronaut (we are all fine with automation in our space probes, and I'm not sure why the ruse is necessary). He doesn't actually work very well, but they go ahead with the plan.
Meanwhile, aliens from a distant world that has experienced a wave of self-destruction via nuclear exchange have come to Earth in a space ship roughly the size of a small house, with plans to steal our women - because they have none. Except for their leader, a sort of imperious-but-fun Space Queen (Marilyn Hanold) in a heck of a pant-suit and head dress.
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Forgot to Post Watch: Catwomen of the Moon (1953)
Format: Watch Party
Director: Arthur Hilton
This is a very, very silly movie, but it stars Marie Windsor, so it can't be all wrong.
They aren't women who are cats, they are women in cat suits. Cat women. You know.
Thursday, July 16, 2020
PODCAST: "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" - Avengers Countdown 15 w/ Jamie and Ryan!
Viewing: Third or Fourth
Director: James Gunn
For more ways to listen
It's Family Issues in Spaaaaaace! Join Jamie and Ryan as we consider the second installment in the unlikeliest of the Marvel movie sub-franchises! After a ragtag bunch of misfits comes together, what's next? And what makes this series different from other Marvel films? It's all here! Check it out!
The Signal Watch PodCast · 111: "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" Avengers Countdown 15 w/ Jamie & Ryan
Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) - Looking Glass
Father and Son - Cat Stevens
Sunday, July 28, 2019
Apollo 11 - 50th Anniversary and PBS's "American Experience: Chasing the Moon"
The past couple of weeks marked the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, thanks to the crew of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Plus, the might of NASA, contractors to NASA, government bureaucrats, politicians and, us, the voting and tax-paying public.
From July 16th to July 24th, 1969, three brave people hurled through the void of space, two walked the face of an alien landscape, and then all returned, safely, to Earth. All of this just sixty-six years after the Kitty Hawk Flyer took to the sky and 27 years after the first V2 rocket. The scope of progress and achievement during this window was unprecedented in human history as two nations threw down the gauntlet to see who could place a boot onto lunar soil.
Monday, July 22, 2019
NASA Legend Christopher Kraft Merges With The Infinite
If you ever get a chance, read up on the amazing history of NASA. It's fascinating today to see some of the unknown stories of the agency's history come to the fore in recent years, bringing to the fore luminaries like Margaret Hamilton and Katherine Johnson. One name we did grow up with was Christopher Kraft.
Truly, no one was more "there at the beginning" than Kraft, who had been a NACA employee before the creation of NASA, and who helped build and shape NASA from the inside up.
Kraft served as Flight Director at NASA during Mercury and Gemini and as a manager of flight operations during Apollo. Kraft's attention to detail and leadership were key to keeping all the moving parts together before, during and after each mission, keeping people alive as they hurled through space in experimental machines strapped to ballistic missiles.
He would go on to run the Manned Spacecraft Center into the early 80's, when he retired from NASA. In the 1990's, he participated in a review of the shuttle program and published an autobiography in 2001.
Mr. Kraft passed this week at the age of 95, having pushed humanity higher, further and farther than anyone ever dreamed. He deserves to be remembered alongside the astronauts and heroes who, themselves, went into space and those new legends of engineering, math and science. The role he took on wasn't the one with the personal glory (although his name did become quite well known), but without the Christopher Krafts out there, you don't get the Apollo missions, either.
A statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Kraft's passing.
Friday, June 28, 2019
PODCAST! Teens in Space! "Space Camp" (1986) & "Last Starfighter" (1984) w/ Maxwell, Mrshl and Ryan
Watched: 06/17 and 06/20/2019
Viewing: Second and unknown
Format: DVD and BluRay
It's "Teens in Space"! We get far out with one kinda-grounded adventure featuring some kids on an unscheduled voyage and then find trouble in Rylos City as playing video games actually DOES turn out to be a life skill (if you want to murder anonymous aliens). Join MRSHL, Maxwell and Ryan as we keep our feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.
Last Starfighter Fanfare - Craig Safan, Last Starfighter OST
In Orbit - John Williams, Space Camp OST
High School Movies Playlist
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Doc Watch: Apollo 11 (2019)
Format: Alamo South Lamar
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 spaceflight, during which Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins reached the moon and during which Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to ever walk the surface of our satellite.
This evening, JuanD, Jamie and I hit the local cinema to take in the spectacle that is Apollo 11 (2019), and if you can tear yourself away from whatever new shows got dumped on Hulu and Netflix on Friday, I'm going to go ahead and recommend you give this movie a go.
Sunday, November 4, 2018
NASA Watch: First Man (2018)
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Falcon Heavy Launch - Holy Cats, Y'all
Man. I... am just in awe at this feat of vision, ingenuity and engineering.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Sam Shepard Merges With the Infinite
Actor, Playwright, Director and pretty-cool-guy Sam Shepard has passed at the age of 73. He had been dealing with ALS for some time.
Shepard appeared in one of my favorite films, The Right Stuff, as real-life hero and pilot Chuck Yeager. It's one of those roles and performances I imprinted on at a young age, and I still marvel at each time I watch the movie.
He'll be missed.
Monday, January 16, 2017
Astronaut Eugene Cernan Merges With The Infinite
Eugene "Gene" Cernan has passed at the age of 82.
His early career included time as a Naval Aviator, and he earned degrees as an undergraduate from Purdue and a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.
An astronaut of the Gemini and Apollo era, Cernan was pilot of Apollo 10 and Commander of Apollo 17. As was widely remarked in the press today, Cernan was the last human to have stepped foot on the lunar surface.
Cernan also pulled the "Snoopy" landing module out of a deadly spin during the Apollo 10 descent - which was never intended to land, just see how all that would work on Apollo 11 when someone finally did touch down.
Somehow Cernan's name has been better known than many other astronauts, at least in my mind, and that may be due to his continuing participation and advocacy for the space program and his frequent appearances on television.
Buddy JuanD has alerted me to a documentary about Cernan, Last Man on the Moon, which we hope to watch very soon.
Here's to an American hero.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
NASA Watch: Hidden Figures (2016)
I'd only become aware of the existence of Katherine Johnson and the "computers" at NASA in the early days of the US side of the space-race within the last four or five years. The internet is pretty terrific when it comes to sharing the sort of information that used to get buried in footnotes or left out of the common narratives shared of our history.
I was pleased to find out that our noon-time showing of the movie on a Sunday was sold-out, so at least the folks in my neck of the woods seem interested in hearing what the movie had to say. You never really know how a docu-drama is going to play, but it was interesting how many families had come out to see the movie. And, honestly, it's a good one for the kids to see.
The movie follows the stories of three women who were pioneers in a world that was breaking boundaries as mankind sought to escape the bonds of earth and reach space. And, while no doubt how the realities are framed will be debated, the overriding drama of the film is how these women pushed back against the racism and cultural norms of 1960's America that very much could have stood in their way.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
Astronaut and Senator John Glenn Merges With The Infinite
Astronaut and United States Senator John Glenn has merged with The Infinite.
Truly one of the giants of the 20th Century, John Glenn was part of the Mercury 7, America's first manned spaceflight program. He had served as a Marine in two wars and as a test pilot and would remain a Marine while working with NASA. He would become one of the most famous names in space exploration before continuing in public service as a US Senator, elected in 1974. He would leave the Senate in 1999.
As an astronaut, Glenn was the first American to orbit the planet, orbiting the Earth 3 times before plunking down in the Atlantic, proving Americans were on a par with the astounding Russian space program, and setting the stage for the Gemini and Apollo missions.
As a kid, thanks in part to the film The Right Stuff, we spoke the names John Glenn and Chuck Yeager with reverence. These were the guys who lived the lives we dreamed of but didn't even aspire to. Even in college when I'd hear Glenn was associated with some political decisions I didn't agree with, you still said "well, man, he's John Glenn. I assume he knows what he's doing."
How the man was not elected President, I will never know. Bad timing in the Reagan-era, I guess.
In the Fall of 1998, I was recently graduated from college and running a distance learning broadcast studio at the University of Texas. News came down that NASA was sending Glenn back into space to test the rigors of space flight against the physiology of older adults. Whatever the excuse, man, it was amazing to see Glenn back in the suit, showing America how it could be done. I talked the instructor who was teaching at the time of the launch to let me pipe in a broadcast of the take-off, mostly because I wanted to see it, but he must have wanted to see it, too, because I watched it on my monitors while the space shuttle took off on the screens up in the classroom. No one said a word until they were safely out of the atmosphere.
Glenn lived to the age of 95. We will not see his like again in my lifetime.
Godspeed, good sir.
From the outstanding film The Right Stuff, played here by the always excellent Ed Harris:
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Signal Watch Reads: Failure Is Not An Option - by Gene Kranz (2000, audiobook)
If you've seen Apollo 13, you've seen Ed Harris as the vest-wearing Flight Director Eugene F. Kranz. Kranz served with NASA from the Mercury missions straight through into the mid-90's. Truly the case of The Right Person in the Right Place for the Right Job, Kranz is famous for his post Apollo 1 disaster speech at NASA where he defined the "tough and competent" mantra of NASA's Mission Control Center. He was, as evidenced by Ed Harris playing him in the film, also one of the Flight Directors on Apollo 13 who helped pull together the plan to bring the astronauts safely back to Earth.
But Kranz was there during Gemini, working out procedures and flight plans, debating the wisdom of rushing our first EVA to catch up with the Russians, and he was there for Apollo 11, landing Aldrin and Armstrong.
As you can imagine, the history alone is worth the read, and I'll be picking up some more memoirs and. or histories of the race from Mercury to Apollo 17 and beyond (I mean, my earliest solid memories are around the Space Shuttle, and so a history of the development of the Shuttle Columbia would be more than welcome). But Kranz's personal take is as absolutely fascinating as it is inspiring.
The view from the Flight Commander's Control Console takes us to the point of teeth-gritting responsibility. While thousands have contributed to building the rockets and space-craft, and many, many others have been involved all along the line, it's the MCC that makes the decisions to abort, must know their systems, the craft, the management of the astronauts, etc.. well enough to make moment by moment calls and respond to each challenge as it surfaces. Each decision impacts lives of the astronauts, and every choice could be the one that leads to disaster.
And, the Flight Director is, ultimately, the person who is leading his or her control team and responsible for the calls that manage the Flight during their shift. Anyway, my job suddenly seemed a lot easier.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Movie Trailer - "Hidden Figures"
As the space race passes into history (but the all-new Space Era is on! Thanks, Elon Musk!), and computers have long since become ubiquitous, this movie couldn't be coming at a better time. For me. Maybe you.
With all the thousands of people who were part of the race into orbit and then to the moon, there are so many stories, and some of them reveal corners of history that our broad-stroke approach to history does not always capture, especially in movies.
But, hey, one thing I've really come to realize is how weird and goofy our ideas are about how things must have come to be. We make assumptions, details get left out, and our movies are rarely researched well enough or lack the scope to include stories that took place away from the kleig lights.
About ten years ago I put the pieces together that, weirdly, the word "computers" meant "people who compute". And, in a lot of cases, when doing the math - the actual work it took to prove theorems, calculate complex equations, etc... - was done by women. And, of course, the men who put those challenges to them took the credit. This was true for a long, long time.
But, yeah, when computing became less a manual task and something done with machines, women were hugely influential in computer science before computers became the domain of basement lurking dorks in the 1980's. Read up on Grace Hopper. Woman was a boss.
I'm actually reading NASA Flight Commander Gene Krantz's book Failure is Not an Option, and - not only is it a fascinating book and I highly recommend it - but he briefly mentions the women who were not in the Control Room, but in the back spaces doing the computing by hand and then with the systems NASA put in place. I'm unsure if one of the names he drops is Katherine Johnson (I read that passage about three days before I saw the trailer above), but I'd heard of Johnson somewhere odd, like Tumblr. And, man, it just seems like this sort of story should get more attention. Like, say, a big Hollywood movie starring Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer.
What's not to like? NASA. Name actors. Science and math romanticized! Space. John Glenn! People achieving against the odds!
Sure, this is Oscar Bait, but this is the kind of Oscar Bait I actually want to see.
Sunday, March 6, 2016
This Moment in History: Astronaut Scott Kelly Returns to Earth! and the Impact of Social Media on Space
Here's one of the great things about social media: Broadcast media and the press in general have done a ludicrously poor job of covering the work of NASA. I don't know if Broadcast Journalism majors are too thick to get why this is important stuff, or space exploration and science is too unweildy for the public. But, we no longer rely on that media to get the info our eyeballs and ears. There are dozens of NASA twitter and facebook outlets. Many of them twitter and fb accounts held personally by the astronauts themselves. And its not just limited to NASA. Want to know what Canadian Astro-hero Chris Hadfield is up to? Check his twitter!
NASA - an organization that has felt the government squeeze more than any that I've seen in the past decade - has had to rethink and refocus their outreach approach. Since the 1990's, the internet has made the world more aware of the successes of both manned space flight and our rover missions to Mars. Television can't seem to be bothered with much more than a 30 second puff-piece about landing a robot on Mars or the final flight of an American space shuttle, but there are lots of us huddled around laptops or abusing our office projectors and killing a few minutes to watch a rocket launch. I don't know how SpaceX would have evolved without the internet (and it's a work stoppage at my office almost every time Musk's company has a launch or landing).
Through the various channels I follow, I became aware of the Scott Kelly story a while before the launch. I was aware that Mark Kelly, husband to Congresswoman Gabby Giffords of Arizona, was an astronaut - and vaguely aware he had a twin brother. But, yes, when I heard an American was going to follow in Russia's footsteps and place one of our own in space for a year, I got very excited. Russia does an amazing job with its Cosmonaut program, and even in years of faultering economy has remembered the national pride they can have in engineering, science and rocketry if they keep their program going.
Saturday, March 5, 2016
Space Watch: Apollo 13 (1995)
Here's the thing. I don't think Ron Howard is much of a director.
When I watch his movies, I can almost feel the focus groups and studio notes taken as wisdom. I shouldn't be able to pause in your movie and say "this scene was written this way because they think I'm a moron". But, in a Ron Howard movie, that's generally my take away. He wants to make movies that will be both semi critic-pleasing and still sell a boat load of tickets, and that's a tough balancing act, but one he's made work for years.
Friday, February 5, 2016
Edgar Mitchell, Astronaut, Merges With The Infinite
Edgar Mitchell, Apollo astronaut, has merged with The Infinite.
Born in Hereford, Texas and raised in New Mexico, Mitchell went on to become first a Naval Aviator and then an Astronaut who walked on the moon, setting moon-traversing records.
He also had his undergrad from Carnegie and his PhD from MIT.
Really, his role in this world is to remind you that playing Fallout 4 and binge-watching sitcoms may not be the most you could be making out of your life.
But Edgar Mitchell, raised near Roswell, was also a believer in the paranormal and UFOs. Our own moon-sojourning Fox Mulder.
Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)