A movie for every day of the year – a good one
Nasa finds “significant” water on the Moon, 2009
On this day in 2009, Nasa reported that it had found “significant” amounts of water on the Moon. The word “significant” is significant, since scientists had already discovered water on the Moon, but it seemed to be locked in mineral grains – so-called magmatic water, which comes from deep within the Moon’s interior. The 13 November announcement reported the findings of an experiment which crashed a 2,200kg rocket stage, followed by a probe containing a near-infrared spectrometer, into a crater at the Moon’s south pole, where it was hoped ice would be kicked up. This is exactly what happened, but it was the amount of water vapour and ice that scientists saw that surprised them – “a dozen two-gallon buckets”. Anthony Colprete, Nasa’s chief scientist for the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission elaborated – “We didn’t just find a little bit; we found a significant amount”. It’s an important find because the water can act as a resource for future astronauts, providing drinking water, breathable air (once it’s been broken down) and the components oxygen and hydrogen – “potent rocket fuel”, as Mike Wargo, Nasa’s chief lunar scientist for exploration systems described it.
Moon (2009, dir: Duncan Jones)
People these days rarely mention that Duncan Jones is David Bowie’s son. When Moon came out Jones, largely an unknown quantity, seemed to be perilously close to treading in dad’s footprints – Bowie’s breakthrough song Space Oddity being all about an isolated spaceman singing about how distant Earth looks and how helpless he feels – “planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do”. Moon, too, is about an isolated spaceman, played by Sam Rockwell, whose long lonely stint on a moonbase is about to come to an end, so he thinks, when a freak accident wakes from the chiller a Sam clone that the original Sam knew nothing about. But is Original Sam even the original Sam? Into this fascinating, twist-driven plot is added the “character” of Sam’s only companion up there, an affectless computer, voiced with full cognisance of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL by Kevin Spacey – in space no one can hear you sneer. The reason why the “he’s Bowie’s son” mentions stopped very shortly after Moon came out is because it’s so good, achieves so much with so little. Jones had clearly watched the Clooney/Soderbergh Solaris and thought “nah, I could do better than that.” And he has – Moon is a lean and sleek piece of elemental, cerebral sci-fi that wears its 2001 looks on its sleeve. And let’s not forget the often slightly underrated Stockwell, who brilliantly differentiates between the different Sams by offering us different grades of human box-freshness (OK, the beard helps too). Like the film itself, beautifully, elegantly done.
- A two-hander sci-fi, one of the hands being just a voice
- A sci-fi movie loved by sci-fi writers
- The Bowie-Eno-esque soundtrack by Clint Mansell, formerly of Pop Will Eat Itself
- Futuristic sci-fi for retro sci-fi fans
© Steve Morrissey 2013