The space of the year is sexy again

It was hard to avoid thinking about space in 2021. We have entered a new era of star trekking, with the much-promised era of space tourism finally upon us – at least for those who are extremely well. funded. The rest of us earthly plebs were content with video clips and telescopes, watching the six-hour partial lunar eclipse last month, the longest since the Medici days.

Conspiracyists and alien enthusiasts alike rejoiced to read headlines about UFOs in reputable media such as the New York Times. Thinking about the infinite cosmos also provided psychological release from the grinding pandemic, when “space” tended to be measured in square feet.

Here are some highlights.

Space has become a retreat for more exclusive plutocrats than Bohemian Grove this year, as two billionaire earthlings – Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson – made their first trips as space tourists and made the term ‘masters of the sky’. universe ”a little more literal.

In this space race, Mr. Branson went first on July 11, soaring 50 miles over the New Mexico desert aboard the VSS unit, which strangely resembled a hood ornament of a 1956 Chevrolet.

But the $ 200 billion Amazon man refused to give in. Nine days later, Mr. Bezos climbed 65 miles above Texas wearing a flyboy-meets-cowboy ensemble not seen in aerospace circles since. Thin picks in “Dr. Strangelove”, and took the victory, noting that he had in fact crossed a border known as the Kármán Line 62 miles above sea level in so-called “real” space.

Yes, a rocket is a phallic symbol. But does it have to be so blatant, like something Carrie Bradshaw could have picked up at the Pleasure Chest?

Mr Bezos had barely taken off on his maiden 10-minute trip to space when social media burst in with X-rated memes. One porn site even created a sex toy line called the Billionaire Flesh Rocket Series.

After the sneer subsided, engineers pointed out that the rocket’s bulbous tip and spacious shaft made it possible maximum occupancy and, also, stability at the start of the school year. No jokes, please.

UFO sightings no longer occupy the same cultural space as Bigfoot or Jim Morrison sightings at Burger King.

In June, the federal government declassified an intelligence report in which it admitted there was no ground – or, at least, governmental – explanation for more than 120 reports of “objects in the skyAs former President Barack Obama said in “The Late Late Show With James Corden”.

Of course, that mysterious Kubrickian metal plaque in Utah’s Red Canyons was probably a work of art or a hoax, not an alien. And a strange radio signal from the management of Proxima Centauri was, alas, probably right human radio frequency interference. Considering the state of the world, however, you can’t fault people for hoping to find intelligent life somewhere in the universe.

When the United States Space Force unveiled its uniforms in September, it was hard not to make jokes on “Star Trek” or the Netflix show “Space Force,” starring Steve Carell, who parodies the sixth and final branch. of the Army.

The asymmetrical dark blue coat with gray pants looked to many observers as if it had been designed by sci-fi nerds. “The US space force will wear Battlestar Galactica uniforms,” a headline said on Giant monster robot, an entertainment site.

The rivalry between the United States and China extended far beyond national borders. In February, NASA Perseverance rover landed on Mars and achieved a “Wright Brothers moment” by launching the first powered flight to another planet (a small robotic helicopter named Ingenuity).

Then in May, China landed a rover called Zhurong in a huge basin known as the Utopia Planitia, which was not only its first exploratory trip to Mars, but also ushered in a new era of space competition, as it showed its ability to compete in a space race long dominated by Americans and Russians. The Chinese rover even planted a wireless camera on the red earth and took a picture of himself. How 2021. What’s the point of traveling if you don’t get the selfie?

Films about space travel are as old as the cinema itself, thanks to Georges Méliès’ flagship film in 1902, “A trip to the Moon”. In 2021, however, a Russian film crew spent 12 days aboard the International Space Station, filming scenes from “The Challenge,” the first dramatic feature film to contain scenes shot in space.

Time will tell if the film, about a surgeon rushing into space to save a sick cosmonaut, will ever become a science fiction classic. If nothing else, however, the filmmakers have beaten the Americans to the fist. (Plans for a Tom Cruise action-adventure film set in space were announced last year.)

First Sputnik, now this. At least the Americans got that gold medal in hockey.

In July, Oliver Daemen, 18, the son of a Dutch private equity executive, became the youngest person to travel to space when a possible Blue Origin passenger, who had paid $ 28 million for the privilege, had to give up for a schedule. conflict. There had to be a conflict.

Humans being humans, we leave a mess everywhere we go. In May, a 10-story, 23-ton piece of a Chinese rocket crashed into Earth on an uncontrolled path, causing some to wonder if it would fall on their heads. Fortunately, he landed safely in the Indian Ocean.

In November, the Russians created another mess when they tested an anti-satellite weapon on a dead spy satellite, creating a huge cloud of debris that forced astronauts aboard the International Space Station to close the hatches.

Some fear that all of this space junk will make space travel difficult, if not impossible in the future. But maybe there is hope. In March, a Japanese company launched a space vacuum in a way to suck up some of the 3,000 inactive satellites orbiting the Earth. If only we could recycle them.

William Shatner, the actor who made space travel safe for Beatles favorites and boots half a century ago, broke the record for the oldest person to travel in space in October , accompanying Mr. Bezos on a Blue Origin trip.

It was fair to wonder if Mr. Bezos was just using his billions to indulge in a childhood fantasy. Mr. Bezos, after all, is a confirmed Trekkie who once competed against his fourth-year classmates for the right to play Kirk. “We would have little cardboard phasers and cardboard tricorders, you know,” he said at an event for The Washington Post in 2016.

Mr. Shatner appeared to be a fanboy himself. “Yes that’s right; I’m going to be a ‘rocket man!’” He tweeted Before the journey. He even promised to Write a song on experience. Pity “The strangeness of space” is taken.

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