Wednesday, February 28, 2018

AI (part 4) - Spaceman / Starman

The Cold War and Space

As a baby boomer, I grew up during the Cold War. Part of that battle for superiority in the minds of the world was the US/USSR Space Race to the moon. And the battleground spread to children's television. Remember Rocky and Bullwinkle? Classic Cold War politics.

On the space theme, my favorite Saturday morning show back then was the SciFi - Fireball XL5 (1962-1963).

Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol commanded the spaceship--you guessed it--Fireball XL5. (Wikipedia explains its name was inspired by a brand of motor oil--Castor XL--with the "5" added for some jazz.)

Other crew: The glamorous Dr. Venus with an exotic accent, a blonde doctor of space medicine and Steve's romantic interest. Robert, their co-pilot, a transparent robot with a synthesized voice, kind of like Dr. Stephen Hawking. Professor Matic whose looks and voice are reminiscent of Walter Brennan of The Real McCoys. And others assigned to Space City on mission to patrol Sector 25 of Interstellar Space.

The actors were puppets, animated via the latest in Supermarionation.  And through my black and white TV, snowy reception from our aerial antenna, and resolution of a cathode ray picture tube, it looked wonderful to my young eyes. As would Star Trek when it came along in four more years.

Below is the start and the end of each episode:

I thought Venus was really, really cool as she rode her levitating bike into the spaceship, then rocketed about the universe with Steve. She was my role model. And infused me with the love of space and science.

This show encouraged children in STEM -- Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. Long before we thought it was a problem in our education system.

And the ending song, "I wish I was a spaceman" (lyrics here) has the sweet innocence of the 1950s love songs. Not to mention the term - "spaceman" would not be considered politically correct these not so innocent days.

Fifty years later

STEM follows SciFi.

Elon Musk, visionary, genius, businessman, pioneer in hi tech, has created a version of Fireball XL5 through his commercial space company SpaceX. Their rockets are reusable. Though they don't launch from a mono-rail, but shoot straight up and land back to earth. Vertically. Amazing.
(For an extended biography of Elon Musk and his accomplishments, check out this video: Elon Musk Biography: Shaping All Our Futures  )

The latest, the Falcon Heavy,  successfully launched February 6, 2018.
(Reference NYT article: Falcon Heavy, in a Roar of Thunder, Carries SpaceX’s Ambition Into Orbit )

An edited timeline from launch to orbit to Mars and beyond is shown below:

Its payload was a red Tesla Roadster with a mannequin in a spacesuit. He's called Starman. And now, though the modern marvels of technology, we can check up on Starman.  Live:

But it was pursuing the American dream. A culture based on capitalism. Freedom. That may have attracted South African Elon Musk to immigrate to Canada, then to America.

He pushed the envelop of private launches into space after our government seemed to give up after the Apollo missions and retiring the Space Shurttle.

From the SciFi Fireball XL5 to the real rocket science of the Falcon Heavy.

From Spaceman to Starman.

That's AI -
American Ingenuity.


Previous posts in his series:

AI (part 1) - American Ingenuity  (2012)

AI (part 2) - How Curiosity got our groove back (2012)


Photo:  Apollo6/