Sunday, July 17, 2011

SpaceCamp (the '80s Movie)

Heres a movie that was truly a product of its time . . . that time being the 1980s. Spacecamp . . . the 1986 movie by that name, that is . . . represented a hybrid of two '80s phenomena. Spacecamp came out as the Shuttle era was ascendant. It also came out at a time when spacey sci-fi movies were big at the box office, an effect of the popularity of such movies that perhaps really started way back in 1977 with Star Wars, but which was revived with the 1982 Spielberg classic, E.T.

Spacecamp is about a group of kids at, yes, space camp, who get the opportunity to get on board an actual space shuttle. An accidental launch puts them in space, where they have to link up with a space station to survive, and somehow make it back to earth. An unlikely tale, to be sure, but one which represented many a young geeky kid's dreams of going into space, and showed the penchant for flights of fancy that were common in '80s movies.

The movie featured a robot named Jinx, aptly so named because it was responsible for the "accident" that put the space campers into orbit.

The movie was intended to be released in 1985, but was delayed to early 1986. It was then delayed even further when the Challenger tragedy occurred on January 28, 1986. After finally being released, it had mixed reviewed and was not a favorite of the box office. But I remember it as being representative of some of the particularly spacey trends of the '80s, both in terms of real life events, and of sci-fi. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Father and Son See Shuttle Era Begin and End

Heres a wonderful set of pictures that has been circulating on the web.
Back in 1981, young Chris Bray and his father watched the first Space Shuttle take off from Capa Canaveral, and a picture was taken of the event. All these years later, they were at the same spot to see the last Shuttle mission go up. Another pic was taken. Bray posted both side by side on Flickr, and its gone viral.

I think this is a wonderful capture of a memory . . . two memories really. Theres the memory of a young man watching the shuttle go up with his father. The shuttle then just first going up, a memory many of us have from back in the '80s, when we too were younger. And now the memory, as it soon will be, of the Shuttle era drawing to a close.

And to add another shuttle connection: the elder Mr. Bray was then present to watch the shuttle because he had been commissioned to create a series of pins for the first shuttle mission.

Thank you, both, Mr. Bray, junior and senior, for the beautiful memory.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ground Control To Major Tom

"Standing there alone, the ship is waiting
All systems are go, "Are you sure?"
Control is not convinced but the computer
Has the evidence, no need to abort
The countdown starts
Watching in a trance, the crew is certain
Nothing left to chance, all is working
Trying to relax up in the capsule
"Send me up a drink", jokes Major Tom
The count goes on
Four, three, two, one
Earth below us drifting, falling
Floating weightless, calling, calling home
Second stage is cut, we're now in orbit
Stabilizers up, running perfect
Starting to collect, requested data
"What will it affect when all is done?""

-"Major Tom" by Peter Schilling (1983)

Returning back to our regularly scheduled decade, the '80s, and continuing my efforts to provide tributes to the closing of the space shuttle era, heres another space-related toast to the last shuttle . . .

"Major Tom" was a 1983 hit by German musicial Peter Schilling. It was a song in the synth-pop New Wave style so popular in that year, and it became an international hit.  There is also, according to Wikipedia, a connection to the space shuttle:

        Its release, coincidentally, occurred in the same year that West
       Germany sent its first astronaut, Ulf Merbold, into space on
        American NASA Space Shuttle mission STS-9, as part of the
        European Space Agency's Spacelab program.

As a nerdy, space-loving early teen in 1983, I immediately loved the song upon hearing it. I was then, as still am, an afficionado of all things related to the space program, and exploration of space. (Yeah, I love sci-fi too.)

The character of Major Tom, however dates back to 1969, with its first appearance in the song "Space Oddity" by David Bowie. The title of the song, of course, is a play on the title of the 1968 Stanley Kubrick movie classic "2001: A Space Odyssey." The Bowie song was released the same year as the first moon landing by the crew of Appollo 11, in July 11, 1969. It became the first big hit for Bowie on a long and creative career.

Bowie, as usual, was an innovator, and produced a video-clip for the song. Heres the original 1969 clip, actually part of a promotional short film called "Love You Till Tuesday":

"This is ground control to major Tom, you've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare

This is major Tom to ground control, I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
Here am I floatin' 'round my tin can far above the world
Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do"
"Space Oddity" by David Bowie (1969) 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Interplanet Janet

Following up on the last two posts, heres one more Schoolhouse Rock segment, in tribute to the last shuttle mission. One of the catchier ones, and one of my faves.

Note that this was back when Pluto (little Pluto) actually was still a planet.

(Thanks to for this youtube vid.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Back to the '70s: Schoolhouse Rock

I'm a bit late with this, but the 4th of July weekend brought to mind some memories of growing up in the '70s. Particularly of those Saturday morning educational segments called Schoolhouse Rock. They were animated musical segments dealing with some topic, such as science, history, language, etc.

Heres the segment that came to mind amidst the July 4th fireworks and festivities. Called "fireworks," it was a wonderful way to inform kids about U.S. History, and the music made it all the more memorable.

Heres my favorite Schoolhouse rock segment. I still think its an excellent way to teach about the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

I think these historical Schoolhouse Rock cartoons showed a rather positive view of the U.S., at a time (i.e. the '70s) when America was still reeling from the effects of Vietnam, Watergate, racial strife, gas lines, and the like. Perhaps these wonderful features helped to remind people of the good in America, amidst all the doubt. It did so for kids, at least.

For those who are reading this blog in the U.S., a belated Happy 4th !!