Junior Meets the Astronaut

Me and Junior just got home from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. First we were shown the portrait collection and the main meeting room where a lot of Nobel prizes have been decided. Then, under the joint auspices of the Academy and the Swedish Skeptics Society, we heard an hour’s lecture by one of the Society’s long-time members: astronaut Christer Fuglesang.

It was a good talk in plain Swedish, ranging from abstruse physics to everyday practicalities of life in space. (If you lose something small inside a space station, just wait a day or two and then look for it near the intake of the air circulation system.) Fuglesang argued that we shouldn’t choose between manned and unmanned spaceflight: we should use each where most appropriate. He did concede without prompting that many of the situations where you need an astronaut arise because of this very astronaut’s needs. But he feels, in a touchingly non-cynical and enthusiastic way, that human space travel is a valid goal in itself. Junior liked the talk a lot, and was proud that he understood almost all of it. He does feel now that he probably needs some training in physics.

Afterwards, we went up to Fuglesang and said hi to him, and he signed Junior’s book. “Hey, I’ve got this book too”, he said. It’s a used 80s paperback that I ordered recently for my kid. He’s read a few chapters and he loves it. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, by Robert A. Heinlein.


  1. #1 Marcus
    May 30, 2008

    It was a great speech he made. I got very impressed.

    “But he feels, in a touchingly non-cynical and enthusiastic way, that human space travel is a valid goal in itself.”

    I also interpreted his speech as arguing that spacetravel is a way to contribute to (world)peace trough joint ventures. I like that idea.

  2. #2 Tor
    May 30, 2008

    I’m with Fuglesang on this one. Manned space flight is one of those things — other examples being art, science, and backflips — that are worth doing, not as a means to something else, but just because they’re so cool. The fact that people have travelled to the moon and back still thrills me even though I’ve been aware of it all my life.

  3. #3 Martin R
    May 31, 2008

    Oh certainly, it is very cool. But in practice, we have to choose what to put finite space money into. Just think of the number of robot probes we could send for the price of a single manned Mars mission. Just think, one rover on every large rocky body in the solar system!

  4. #4 OriGuy
    June 2, 2008

    Have Spacesuit, Will Travel was the first Science Fiction book I ever read. I got it from the library and later got a set of Heinlein’s juveniles. I wore those books out.

  5. #5 Niklas R
    June 2, 2008

    Such a bummer I had to miss Fuglesang’s lecture. When the info from VoF about it arrived I *so* wanted to go. Alas, taking the time for a trip to Stockholm from Gothenburg on a weekday isn’t always practical and it certainly wasn’t this time due to work and other obligations.

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