by Chris Tobias
Okay, I’m going to admit something that might cause some folk to insist that I should resign my commission as a bona fide geek– I still haven’t seen Star Wars Episode VII: the Force Awakens. Now, before you start questioning my “geekhood,” I’m going to make it clear that I have plans to take my family to see it this Sunday after the Christmas shindigs have all come and gone. So far though it just hasn’t been possible, what with all the holiday preparations, work and my son’s various athletic events. But believe me when I say it hasn’t been for lack of interest.
My friends have all been very kind in that they’ve been extra careful not to spoil anything for me. Okay, maybe it’s because I threatened to visit violence upon anyone who so much as uttered a spoiler from very early on, but whatever the reason, I’ve managed to stay spoiler free. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been getting general assessments of the movie, however. My favorite was the following e-mail, which I got from Take Back the Sky co-founder and fellow blogger Jeff:
HOLY MOTHER OF DUCKLINGS AND ALL HER WACKY NEPHEWS IN A SIXTEEN-PIECE BUCKET YOU NEED TO SEE STAR WARS!
Like, really. As in, misbehave if you have to. It’s not just “not bad,” not just “better than the prequels”, not just “good,” it’s REALLY FRIGGIN’ GOOD. As in, my wife, who loves the originals, actually places it ahead of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. We can’t stop talking about how awesome it was on so many, many thematic levels, and can’t wait to go back (we only saw the prequels in the theater once, and like everyone else, had no desire to see them again). Let me count just a few ways it’s awesome:
- It’s like the original trilogy, but with good, deep writing.
- It’s Star Wars with good acting and character development.
- It’s Star Wars with dialogue that real people would say in real life.
- It’s Star Wars with relatable human emotions. There’s just so many wonderful, deeply poignant and emotional moments peppered throughout. THE FEELS ARE STRONG WITH THIS ONE.
- It’s no spoiler to say this, but…have you ever tried to get someone to watch Firefly for the first time by saying “It’s better than [popular sci-fi franchise]” half-seriously just to get their attention? I know this sounds equally hard to believe, but I’m dead serious when I say that Kylo Ren… is a more intimidating and downright terrifying villain than Darth Vader, possibly one of the baddest villains of all time.
We’ll just have to accept that this is all that anyone’s going to be talking about until at least January. When you see it for yourself, you won’t find it in you to blame them. After seeing JJ Abrams effectively save Star Wars, the title of The Force Awakens makes sense: It hasn’t just “woken up,” Star Wars is truly alive in a way it never has been before, better than ever!
After an endorsement like that, how could I not want to see this film? (As if I didn’t already before, right?)
Like a launch in reverse, the Falcon 9 hits the spot, touching down at LZ-1 at Cape Canaveral (image courtesy of Space News).
If you think about it, though, the last sentence of Jeff’s “review” could also apply to SpaceX. No, seriously. This past Monday night we might very well have witnessed the accomplishment with which Elon Musk’s private rocket company effectively saved the American space industry. When the first stage of the Falcon 9 touched down like a downy feather on fire at Cape Canaveral, it didn’t just “wake up” the collective consciousness of the American public to the prospect of future space travel, it made the space industry seem “truly alive” in a way we haven’t felt since the very first launch of Space Shuttle Columbia.
Like hundreds of thousands of others, I watched the historic recovery of the Falcon 9’s first stage on my computer, and I literally cheered along with SpaceX personnel from my dining room table when I heard the words “the Falcon has landed.” Then I watched #SpaceX blow past #MissUniverse as a trending hashtag on Twitter. The successful launch and recovery of the Falcon 9 effectively “broke the internet” for a couple of hours in the wake of the OG2 mission, and I have to say it was very refreshing to see it happen because of a rocket launch as opposed to a picture of Kim Kardashian’s naked posterior or the public’s outrage over something that happened on Game of Thrones that people would have already known about if they’d ever actually bothered to crack open one of George RR Martin’s books!
The next day I spent a few minutes before each of my classes showing the video of the landing
to my students, and was pleased to see looks of genuine awe on more than a few faces. We talked briefly (in a mixture of English and German) about what the vertical recovery of the Falcon 9 could mean for their generation and for their children’s generation. We discussed how the ability to reuse rockets would someday make taking a trip into Low Earth Orbit, or even to the Moon, as commonplace as flying from Pittsburgh to Berlin, and speculated that it could even make it possible for someone in the class to go into space in his or her lifetime, even if that person doesn’t pursue a career as an astronaut. I couldn’t resist contrasting that scenario with America’s current need to pay Russia upwards of $80 million per seat to send NASA astronauts to the ISS on Soyuz flights. When viewed from that perspective, I don’t think applying Jeff’s words would be hyperbole at all– the landing of the Falcon means Commercial Space is “truly alive in a way it never has been before– better than ever.”
And of course, SpaceX has an even bigger accomplishment on the horizon, because in 2017 they are scheduled to return American astronauts to space from American soil in their Crew Dragon. If this landing was able to dominate the internet and the local and national television news feeds, just imagine what that flight will do! I reckon it will capture the fancy of the American public once more, and in a way that will make spaceflight more than just popular– it will be downright sexy. Astronauts Boe, Behnken, Hurley and Williams had better be ready to become instant celebrities!
And what about the ship? Well, we think the Crew Dragon could have a place in the limelight too, especially if she’s named after a ship from a hip science-fiction series like Firefly
that already has cult status. I can’t think of a better time to send a card or letter to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and president Gwynne Shotwell
, congratulating them and their hard-working employees on their recent success and asking them to name that first Crew Dragon after Serenity.
And if you haven’t already, you could also sign our latest online petition
, which asks them to announce the name at San Diego Comic-Con in 2016. We already know their booster will land like a downy feather. Now all we need to do is convince them to give their Crew Dragon a name that will let her soar like a leaf on the wind
On behalf of Jeff and the rest of our motley crew here at Take Back the Sky, I’d like to wish everyone in the ‘verse a very shiny holiday season and a New Year filled with peace, prosperity… and of course Serenity.
Peace, love and rockets…