Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rocket Ship Galileo - Apollo 11 40th Anniversary


Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed -- 20 July 1969

The 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing has been getting quite a bit of coverage, but the coolest initiative has got to be the addition of the Moon in Google Earth.

Quite coincidentally, I just read Robert A. Heinlein's "Rocket Ship Galileo" (well, actually listened to the audio version brilliantly narrated by Spider Robinson ).



Heinlein packs this atomic moonshot adventure with just about every Boy's Own plot twist possible and tells a rollicking ripping yarn. What's amazing is the detail of the hard science throughout the book - especially given the fact it was written in 1947.

All the shucks, gee willikins is quaintly pre-baby boom, while the embracing of atomic power with such wild abandon is frightening in retrospect. Altogether, it's a great - if dated - story; a true testament to Heinlein's genius and imagination.

On atomics: it is possible the tide of opinion may be swinging back to nuclear. The ABC Science show just featured a story on the safer and cheaper generations of reactors coming online (transcript, audio). Today's generation III reactors, and the generation IV on the horizon offer even cheaper, safer and cleaner power (literally eating the waste products of earlier designs). All well and good, but it would be a concern if "new atomics" became the quick and easy fix that sabotages the head of steam building up behind the true clean, green renewables (like solar nanopillars).

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