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Foolish Earthling

Spider's Online Diary

7 November, 2002--Rocket Science--really!

What follows is a copy of a letter I sent to a whole whack of friends a few weeks ago, concerning a 13-part documentary series presently running on the Discovery Channel, called ROCKET SCIENCE. In the weeks since, my admiration and respect for the series has continued to increase. And not just because every so often I show up in an episode and speak a few sentences. There are also frequent appearances by people like Hans Bethe, Wally Schirra, Arthur C Clarke, Gene Kranz, etc etc etc.

So far every single show has taught me something both fascinating and important about a subject I've studied as a hobby all my life. Last week, for instance, we were given empirical proof, hard evidence, that Gus Grissom didn't screw the pooch! (From Wally Schirra.)

Check it out while you can. Then watch for re-runs. And if you don't get Discovery channel, badger your local cable science or science fiction channel to air ROCKET SCIENCE.

© 2002 by Spider Robinson; all rights reserved.

Did you know that Werner von Braun was a baron? I didn't. Just learned it last (Wednesday) night, in a SUPERB program that runs here at 6 and 11 PM Pacific Standard Time Wednesday nights (and on Thursday morning at 7) on the Discovery Channel (42 in the Shaw Cable universe). It literally IS "Rocket Science," and it covers the early days of space with awesome depth, thoroughness, and thoughtfulness.

This was episode 2, and it lived up to the terrific pilot last week. I thought I knew all about Yeager and Pancho's Happy Bottom Riding Club and the X-1 and all that. BEEP—wrong! Turns out I knew the Classic Comics or Cliff's Notes version.

I mean, you probably know my interest: I know a little something about the period in question, having been there and been fascinated at the time...and what with having spent the intervening decades as a science fiction writer, until I saw this show I'd have said I knew a LOT about it. Wrong, Boy Wonder.

(I'm unclear on whether or when it runs in the US; I'm sure I was told but I've forgotten. But if you CAN'T find it in your TV guide, harass your cable-company's science & technology or sci-fi channel until they order it. It's worth the trouble.)

The show is done by three folks named Michael Lennick, Shirley-Ann Gulliford, and Michel Plaxton ("FoolishEarthling Productions"), whom Jeanne and I met recently at IdeaCity, and who…well, let's just say it's been a long time since I hit it off so well so fast with two strangers. Instant karass. Unsurprisingly they turn out to be worldclass at what they do. And they love space and space travel like I love Jeanne. Amazing show. Never saw movie footage of Tsiolkovski before, peering out past all that beard. Or Goddard, opening up one of his early rockets and showing you the guts, piece by piece, wiggling the deflectors to show you how much play there is…. I don't know about you: I was in hog heaven.

Tell your friends.