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Beyonce Slammed for Sampling Shuttle Tragedy on New Album, ABC

"Retired NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson told ABC News, "For the words to be used in the video is simply insensitive, at the very least." Anderson knows NASA tragedy firsthand. In 2003, he was assisting shuttle Columbia family members the moment news came that all seven had died when the craft disintegrated re-entering Earth's atmosphere. But Anderson, who flew twice on the space shuttle and lived on the International Space Station for five months, seemed to give Beyonce and her team the benefit of the doubt. "What we do in space just isn't as important to young people today," Anderson said."

Statement by Dr. June Scobee Rodgers Regarding Beyonce Audio Clip of Challenger Accident

"We were disappointed to learn that an audio clip from the day we lost our heroic Challenger crew was used in the song 'XO'. The moment included in this song is an emotionally difficult one for the Challenger families, colleagues and friends. We have always chosen to focus not on how our loved ones were lost, but rather on how they lived and how their legacy lives on today. Their dedication to education and exploration resulted in the creation of Challenger Center for Space Science Education and because of this we have been able to educate millions of students across America and beyond. We hope everyone remembers the crew for the inspirational legacy they left in the hearts of so many."

Keith's update: NASA Public Affairs issued the following statement in response to audio from the Challenger shuttle tragedy being used in the song 'XO' by Beyonce:

"The Challenger accident is an important part of our history; a tragic reminder that space exploration is risky and should never be trivialized. NASA works everyday to honor the legacy of our fallen astronauts as we carry out our mission to reach for new heights and explore the universe."

Keith's original note: Recording artist Beyoncé's new song 'XO' begins with a sampled audio clip of NASA's Steve Nesbitt during the first moments of the last flight flight Space Shuttle Challenger. The clip contains Nesbitt saying "Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction." These words were uttered as the crew and their disintegrating vehicle were still falling into the sea.

These words are forever etched into the psyche of everyone who was watching that day and still echo across the years for the generation that followed.

The song that follows these words about Challenger is certainly catchy - but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Challenger and the sacrifice that their crew made that morning in January 1986. Instead, the song has to do with the trivial life event of a girl breaking up with her boyfriend. The music video shows them playing at an amusement park. Having this audio included in such a song serves to mock the severity of the events and loss that these final words represent.

This choice of historic and solemn audio is inappropriate in the extreme. The choice is little different than taking Walter Chronkite's words to viewers announcing the death of President Kennedy or 911 calls from the World Trade Center attack and using them for shock value in a pop tune.

If this was done with full knowledge of the origin of these words then this is simply repugnant. If this was done without due diligence as to the source of the words being sampled, then this is ignorance. Either way Beyoncé owes the families of the crew of Challenger an apology.

I know the families of the Challenger crew very well. If you ask they will tell you with quiet dignity and purpose that they chose to focus not on how their loved ones died but rather upon how they lived - and how their legacy continues through the educational organization, Challenger Center, that they formed in their memory.

Beyoncé was a little girl living in Houston in 1986 when her astronaut neighbors (including a school teacher) died on their way to work in outer space. She needs to apologize for using this audio clip and remove it from the song. Its absence won't affect the song at all.

Beyoncé could do something more to make things right - by doing what she does so well: create a song that speaks to the sacrifices (big and small) that explorers and teachers make every day as they seek to enrich us all.

An Astronaut Fact-checks Gravity, Vulture

"Former U.S. astronaut Scott Parazynski has done seven space walks, including the time he spent seven hours dangling from a robotic arm at the International Space Station, repairing a solar panel array that could have electrocuted him at any time. He had to watch that very solar panel get slashed to bits during Gravity, but aside from that moment, Parazynski loved the film. Vulture had a long, spoiler-filled conversation with the astronaut about space debris, jet packs, tears in space, and Sandra Bullock's underwear."

Keith's note: Clearly Dr. Tyson is unaware of the cross training and multiple skills possessed by NASA astronauts. Astronaut Scott Parazynski did a solar array repair on STS-120. He's an MD. John Grunsfeld did a number of arduous Hubble EVAs involving hardware repairs - no astronomy. He's an astronomer. Sally Ride (a physicist) was a robotic arm expert as was elementary school teacher Barbara Morgan. Rick Linnehan is a veterinarian and did a Hubble repair EVA (with Grunsfled the astronomer). With one exception, every human who has walked on the Moon doing geology was not a geologist. And so on. There are endless examples of people in the astronaut office trained in one area becoming experts in others. That's why they were selected in the first place. But Tyson did not bother to do even superficial research before Tweeting. So much for accuracy.

If you read Tyson's tweets you'll see that he clearly did not like "Gravity" - a movie that is breaking box office records (a movie that actual astronauts seem to really like). This is rather odd for someone (Tyson) who complains about the way that space exploration is portrayed to the public. The public is speaking with their wallets. He's not listening.

Alas, it will be interesting to see what nitpicking is done when the reboot of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" comes out - with Tyson as the host. I am certain he'll have music and sound effects during scenes depicting events that occur in space - i.e. sound in a vacuum - even though its totally inaccurate from a technical perspective.

Keith's note: Around 1:00 am EDT Tyson tweeted: "My Tweets hardly ever convey opinion. Mostly perspectives on the world. But if you must know, I enjoyed #Gravity very much." Contrary to his claim, his tweets regularly contain opinion. Usually, that is why his tweets are interesting - unless he's wrong, that is.


'Gravity': Panel of astro-experts on the science behind the film, Entertainment Weekly

"Would she, a medical doctor, have been needed for a spacewalk in the first place?

Leroy Chiao: It's certainly plausible. It's not at all uncommon for medical doctors of different backgrounds to be trained for a spacewalk, because if you show an aptitude for that, then it doesn't matter what your background is, whether you're an engineer like me or a medical doctor like some of my colleagues. You would be trained to do spacewalks."

Gravity Review: In Space, Everyone Can Hear You Dream

"I saw "Gravity" yesterday - in all its glory - in 3-D on a monster screen. I did so in the middle of the day so as to get the perfect seat. As it happens, any seat in the theater would have been perfect - with or without 3-D - this movie is that good. In watching the film I immediately felt myself pulled into the world that this film created. Only two other films have ever managed to do that to me: "Avatar" and "2001: A Space Odyssey". When I first saw "2001" during its initial run, I was lucky enough to see it in Cinerama - the IMAX of the day. I was already interested in space, but that experience left me changed forever. I can imagine how "Gravity" could have a similar effect on young people today."

Gravity Fact Check: What the Season's Big Movie Gets Wrong, Jeff Kluger, Time

"... the physics of moving about in space--thrusts requiring counterthrusts, spins requiring counterspins, the hideous reality that if you do go spiraling off into the void your rotation never, never stops--are all simulated beautifully, scarily and accurately."

NASA expert explains what the Gravity trailer gets wrong, Michael A. Interbartolo III, Blastr

"I am all for an entertaining movie, but when I go into a Michael Bay Armageddon movie I know to turn the brain off. This one tries to pass itself off as something more than that, but to me, it is the same flash and sizzle with a pretty lax understanding of orbital mechanics and spaceflight operations."

Keith's note: Michael Interbartolo actually does this space stuff for a living.

NASA expert explains what the Gravity trailer gets wrong, Michael Interbartolo, DVICE

"I usually try not to nitpick space movies, because they are entertainment, not documentaries, but when folks start heaping praise on a movie as the best space movie or most realistic, I feel the need to chime in."

Trailer for Cosmos the TV Series [Watch], SpaceRef

"At Comic-Con in San Diego this past weekend Neil deGrasse Tyson introduced the first trailer for the Cosmos, a 13 part miniseries he'll be hosting on Fox next year made in conjunction with National Geographic.

The series is a remake of the immensely popular 1980's series when Carl Sagan was host and which aired on PBS in September 1980 through December that year."

Marc's note: A reader points out that the official trailer from Fox is out where you can hear Sagan and Tyson talking. I've updated the video link.

NASA and Star Trek

The Ames Exchange Council: Star Trek Into Darkness

"Boldly go where no one has gone before! The Ames Exchange has bought out an entire theater for the NASA Ames workforce to view the new Star Trek Into Darkness film at AMC Mercado 20 at 4:30 PM on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Hard-badged employees may pick up their complimentary ticket at the Beyond Galileo gift shop starting this Thursday, May 16, 2013, but hurry, tickets are limited and on a first-come, first-served basis."

NASA Google Hangout Connects Space Station and Star Trek Crews (video)

NASA's Google+ Hangout Connects Space Station, "Star Trek Into Darkness" Crews

"The director, a writer and some actors in the film "Star Trek Into Darkness" will join NASA as it hosts a Google+ Hangout from noon to 12:45 p.m. EDT, May 16, about how work aboard the International Space Station is turning science fiction into reality. Google+ Hangouts allow as many as 10 people or groups to chat face-to-face, while thousands more can tune in to watch the conversation live on Google+ or YouTube. The hangout also will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

As Star Trek: The Next Generation Cast Reunites - Overcrowding Mars Event, SpaceRef (With video)

"There were times this past Saturday when the weekend-long Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo more resembled a mosh pit than a gathering of fans seeking interaction with their favourite celebrities, which included the entire main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

SpaceRef saw corridors choked to a standstill with attendees leaving star discussion panels, or trying to get in. Rows of fans waiting for autographs from movie stars and comic illustrators spilled into the aisles, leaving confusion as lineups blended into one another."


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