Rocket Launch

VLA: Very Large Array

One of my favorite photo-walks was in May, 2011 to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array near Socorro, New Mexico. I was working in Albuquerque and decided to head out there before the visitor center closed so I could get pictures at sunset. It’s a pretty long drive out of town out into the desert. Once you pass Socorro, you still have nearly another hour drive to get there. I stopped in the small town of Magdalena (population 938) for dinner. The VLA is in a bowl of mountains. Signs tell you to turn off all devices with radios in them. Forget about cell coverage or Wi-Fi. The VLA is a collection of 27 satellite dishes on railroad tracks in a giant “Y” on the desert floor. Each dish is 82 feet in diameter. They move these 230 ton dishes with a pair of train tracks so they can reconfigure the array or bring a dish in for repair. The individual dishes can move to track deep space objects or can be moved in unison to create a virtual dish 22 miles in diameter. Continue reading “VLA: Very Large Array”


The new movie Interstellar starring Matthew McConaughey and directed by Christopher Nolan is destined to become a science fiction classic like 2001 but I don’t think it will be appreciated in our time. At three hours long I think some audiences will have a hard time staying engaged. The cast and story may make it a contender for the Oscars even without commercial success. Continue reading “Interstellar”

When Worlds Collide

I’ve seen the 1951 Rudolph Maté movie adaptation of When Worlds Collide. It is near the top of classic 1950’s Science Fiction movies. I never gave its source material much thought. The movie won an Oscar that year for its special effects which involved the use of miniatures to convey the large scale of the story. The 1951 movie is also interesting in their views on how interplanetary space flight could be made possible if the scientific community decided to accomplish the task. Reading the book is increases that interest because it was written two decades earlier. Continue reading “When Worlds Collide”

Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission

I had the opportunity to attend the world premier of an independent documentary called Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission while at SXSW this year. All I knew about this films going in to it was that it was about the son of an astronaut who go to go into space. Right there you’ve got me hooked. I’ve followed the US Space program since before the first Space Shuttle launch. Richard Garriott is an interesting character. The movie starts with his father Owen Garriott who was a Skylab 3 and Shuttle STS-9 astronaut. Richard wrote a little game for the Apple ][ called Akalabeth which he self published with an investment in ziploc bags and floppy disks. He later went on to create the Ultima series. I remember selling his games years later when he was known as Lord British. That name may mean something for anyone who played computer games in the 80’s. He was also an SCA member at t.u.Richard took his earnings from the young online gaming industry and has invested them in life experiences. The movie showcases his joie de vivre. It was a natural extension of him to spend $30 million dollars for a 12 day excursion into orbit. As one of the first space tourists he is cutting a path for future explorers. Continue reading “Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission”

In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)

Fifty years ago Sputnik flew and the Space Race began as an energetic competition of the cold war. In just a few short years man was in space and anything seemed possible. Kennedy set this nation off on the task of putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth before the end of the 1960’s decade. It was an impossible task. The men who took up the challenged have been immortalized by Tom Wolfe and Tom Hanks. They are the subject of countless Discovery Channel specials. Is there really anything more that can be said on the subject? Is there really an new perspective on these men? Continue reading “In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)”