This past weekend, The Martian debuted in theaters to much fanfare, and the Cliff’s Notes version of this is: it’s not undeserved. The film adaptation of Andy Weir’s runaway bestselling novel tells the harrowing tale of one man’s endurance, ingenuity and determination to survive as a lone astronaut accidentally left for dead on the surface of Mars. With limited food and supplies and no way to reach Earth, astronaut Mark Watney must make equipment meant to last only 30 days keep him alive for over a year until the next crew can reach him, using only his wits. It’s a tale of survival against impossible odds, like Apollo 13— or, for that matter, the Firefly episode “Out of Gas.” Coincidentally, one of the NASA managers tasked with coordinating the interplanetary rescue effort is played by Chewitel Ejiofor, better known to fans of Serenity as The Operative.
Here’s the rare instance where you’d actually WANT that “warship in deep orbit”…
The film itself has been pretty well hyped by 21st-Century FOX and eagerly awaited by the novel’s many fans. The good news is, it essentially lived up to said hype. Being an avid reader myself, comparisons to the book are inevitable. In this case, though, we have one of the rare instances where a film adaptation may not necessarily improve on its source material, but does an excellent job of bringing it to life and telling it in a way that novels often can’t.
If someone offered you a free ride into space, would you go?
Like a lot of people who enthusiastically support manned spaceflight, I was a bit dismayed by the results of a recent survey conducted by Monmouth University, in which 1,000 adults were asked at random in a telephone interview whether or not they’d take a free ride into space if it were offered to them. I was shocked to read that just 28% of Americans surveyed (roughly 1 in 4) said they’d want to take that free ride on a rocket ship.
As a high school teacher who teaches Advanced Placement German courses to juniors and seniors, I’m always looking for thought-provoking essay topics to assign for students’ journals, and this seemed to me like a good opportunity to assign an essay that would challenge my students to develop and express their own opinions (in German) about this very timely and interesting topic, while at the same time conducting my own little survey to gauge their interest in going into the black.
So, I asked my 20 Advanced Placement German students, 11 high school seniors and nine high school juniors, all ages 16-18, the following question (translated from German): “If someone gave you the chance to travel into space on a rocket free of charge, would you go? Why or why not?” Though it was not part of the prompt for the essay, I explained to the students that this would not be a one-way trip like Mars One, but rather an opportunity to visit space and return to tell the tale, provided that everything about the trip remained nominal from launch to recovery. Students were required to explain their position on the topic in an essay of two pages or more, which they wrote in their essay journals. Once again, I would be surprised by the results, though this time for a very different reason. Continue Reading