Sunday, March 11, 2007

Last night I spent far too long for my own good watching footage of spaceships on Stumblevideo. Not pretend spaceships from TV shows and movies (I'm not that sad) but real spaceships - loads of NASA footage of the shuttle taking off and people doing Saturday morning science in The International Space Station (OK, I am...).

A couple of the films really stood out for me, not because of what they showed but because of the voices on the soundtrack. What they showed was pretty spectacular. In both cases they were films of unmanned rockets blowing up moments after takeoff. In the first movie a US military rocket blows up just as it clears the tower. There is a massive explosion. A gazzillion tons of rocket fuel and several billion dollars worth of hi-tec stuff just explode in a HUGE Hollywood style mid-air fireball. Enormous chunks of burning crap fall, hit the ground, and explode again. There is a moment's silence before the cool, dispassionate female voice of Mission Control comes on "...we have an anomaly on the launch pad."

"An anomaly"... that's one way to describe it.

At the other end of the scale was the amateur footage from a field somewhere in Russia. It's night, there's a cloudy sky and in the distance a Soyuz launcher sits on a pad. There's a flare of orange light and the rocket slowly takes off, a glowing plume of light reaching into the air then - WHAM! the whole sky lights up. A gazzillion tons of Russian rocket fuel and several billion Rubles worth of probably slightly less hi-tec stuff just explode in a HUGE Hollywood style mid-air fireball.

Up till this point the amateur cameraman had been chatting to other people standing around in the field in what? Russian? Hungarian? Polish? I don't know, some intensely Slavonic language.

"Dobri-slonski whatsiti whatsiti do-dahski Do-dahski!"

The Rocket takes off...

(Excitedly) "Dobri-Dobri-slonski!"

And up...

(Awed) "Dooo-Daahski!"


"Fooky - nell!" (pause) "Fooky-nell! Fooky-nell!"

English is truly the international language. When ships at sea, whatever their nationality, get in trouble they send out a Mayday distress signal, I have no idea what 'Mayday' means* but everyone yells for help in English. It now seems that everyone reverts to English when faced with imminent catastophe of any kind.


New cartoon

*actually it's French (M'aider is the infinitive form of the reflexive verb "help me") but I'm not going to let mere facts get in the way of a cheap joke.

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