Friday, December 08, 2006

Destination Moon

I recently saw George Pal’s 1950 science fiction classic Destination Moon. Unlike many sci-fi movies of the era, Destination Moon paid a lot of attention to getting the scientific details right. Back in 1950 human spaceflight was still 10 years in the future, so the science of a lunar expedition was pretty much guesswork.

One of the interesting things about the movie is the rocket ship. Pictures of 1950’s rockets have a sleek pleasing shape, with big fins, and often sport an attractive checkerboard design. Most of these designs are based on the V2 rocket built by the German s in 1942 during World War II.

These early visions of rocketry all accepted that spaceflight would be a lot like exploring the sea. Men would board ‘space ships’, and go on long journeys to far away places. The ships themselves would be sleek and reusable. It’s a romantic notion, as old as the sailing ship, but the harsh burden of gravity makes it impractical.

In 1968, when Apollo 11 made its journey to the moon, the reality of spaceflight was far different from that envisioned twenty years earlier. The moon mission used a massive Saturn V rocket, immensely larger than the ship in Destination Moon. The Saturn V stood 363 feet tall and weighed 6 million pounds fully fueled. It wasn’t a spaceship at all, but an expendable launch vehicle. Only the topmost 10 feet of the vehicle made it back to earth. The rest of the rocket was discarded, stage-by-stage along the journey.

Looking back, the closest we ever got to building the spaceship in Destination Moon was the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado.

Back from my November hiatus.

During the month of November I participated in National Novel Writing Month. The insane objective of NaNoWriMo is to produce a 50000 word novel in 30 days. Alas, I could not complete the mission. I got almost half-way there (24000) before running into irreconcilable plot problems. Everyone knows that great art can't be rushed. Maybe next year.
© 2008 Raoul Rubin