Monday, 9 March 2009

Crisis in Orbit

Real life sometimes holds its own against science fiction. The events of the Apollo 13 flight matched any sci-fi action film for excitement and Ron Howard's Apollo 13, does a good job of telling this story and portraying the tension and action; while sticking meticulously to the facts there is also good use of cinematic technique and symbolism (the moment when the flight plan is literally torn up to make part of an oxygen filter is a good example of this).

More recently (although not that recently - in the days before the International Space Station) were the weeks when the Mir space station was in crisis, after a collision with a Progress freighter left it damaged and spinning out of control; as with Apollo 13 there were no casualties and the day was saved by heroic efforts and out-of-the-box thinking by the station crew and ground control teams. "British-born astronaut" Michael Foale was one of the key figures in the solution. To find out more, read Dragonfly: NASA and the crisis aboard Mir, an account that includes all the tensions between American and Russian teams as the crisis unfolded.

For a more general insight into the Mir programme, as well as a touching and beautiful film and more great sci-fi that just happens to be true, watch Out of the Present, a documentary made by cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev during one of his record-breaking stays on Mir - he left in the Communist era and returned to Earth to find Russia an emerging democracy.

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