Michael Benson

Nota: Este archivo abarca los artículos publicados por el autor desde el 1 de agosto de 2007. Para fechas anteriores realice una búsqueda entrecomillando su nombre.

A closer view of Australia’s smoke plume on Jan. 6. Partially hidden by clouds, New Zealand is visible below the plume’s center. Credit Michael Benson/Japanese Meteorological Agency

I have a pastime, one that used to give me considerable pleasure, but lately it has morphed into a source of anxiety, even horror: earth-watching.

Let me explain.

The earth from space is an incomparably lovely sight. I mean the whole planet, pole to pole, waxing and waning and rotating in that time-generating way it has, and not the views from the International Space Station, which is in a low orbit about 200 miles up and gives us only part of the whole.

My earth-watching, made possible by NOAA and Colorado State University websites, originates in three geostationary weather satellites parked in exceedingly high orbits above the Equator.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una escena de la película de 1929 “La mujer en la Luna" ["Frau im Mond"] de Fritz Lang Credit Kino Lorber

La mayoría de las grandes hazañas, ya sean personales o colectivas, suceden luego de varios ensayos. Algunas ocurren cuando se le da rienda suelta a la imaginación. El 50 aniversario del alunizaje del Apolo 11 ofrece una grandiosa oportunidad para examinar cómo es que una rama entera de la ficción especulativa —novelas, cuentos cortos y también largometrajes— se encuentra detrás de las primeras huellas humanas en otro mundo.

Las obras de ficción no son particularmente conocidas por haber influido en eventos históricos. Sin embargo, algo de la ciencia espacial básica y rudimentaria, implícita en lo profundo de la historia del desarrollo del Saturno V —el imponente cohete de cinco etapas que transportó a Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin y Michael Collins a la Luna hace cincuenta años— se financió con el presupuesto de la primera película de ciencia ficción que plasmó dicha travesía en términos realistas.…  Seguir leyendo »

NASA’s newest marvel, a one-ton rover named Curiosity, has been set down with all the delicacy of a carton of eggs on the surface of Mars. The perfect landing came after a complex series of automated maneuvers that had been tagged the “seven minutes of terror,” but that in the end were executed so flawlessly as to render the mission’s Earthly handlers speechless with relief. There wasn’t even a single error to report.

On such evidence it could easily seem that planetary exploration is in the full bloom of vigorous good health under American leadership, thank you very much. There’s little doubt that during the last decade the genre of robotic space exploration has reached an apex of achievement.…  Seguir leyendo »

Fifty years ago Tuesday, an obscure Soviet Air Force lieutenant named Yuri Gagarin climbed onboard an eminently conventional form of transport — a converted city bus — and headed toward another order of vehicle altogether: a towering rocket, on top of which was mounted a gleaming spherical Vostok capsule encased in a pointed fairing.

According to Soviet media, upon exiting at the launch pad Gagarin made a spontaneous speech stuffed with patriotic fervor. Except it didn’t happen: His ghost-written oration had been taped in Moscow weeks earlier and only broadcast later that day. What he really did was order the driver to stop on its way to the pad, exit, and relieve himself on the rear tire.…  Seguir leyendo »