They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

HBO 4 -- Armageddon -- Apollo 13

Fourth Session: Armageddon (conclusion)
After about another 45 minutes, Michael Bay must've said, "I haven't blown up a city in a while, better take out Paris." Given the percentage of the Earth's surface is covered with major landmarks in big cities, those asteroid chunks sure have unerring aim.

We pick up with the flight crews getting ready to do a near simultaneous launch of two super duper X-71 extra special super whizzbang space shuttles. And... we get to my first REALLY BIG throw me out of the story moment. The astronauts ride an elevator up a gantry, then are instructed to go left or right for shuttles Freedom or Independence. Scri-iiiitch? Wait. The two launch towers are SO close you can walk along a gantry arm in a spacesuit to both shuttles? Think about this very hard from a launch safety point of view. And launching them within seconds... within the turbulence and shockwaves and flame fronts of each other... Really? Do you really want to fly in that second shuttle. Hell, they have bigger delays and separations between 747 takeoffs.

They fly these shuttles like fighter jets, bobbing and weaving and undergoing dynamic air flight EVEN in vacuum. And don't get me started with a Russian space station, aged and falling apart, with a spin gravity system that you only engage JUST BEFORE you dock TWO shuttles!

To list the Physics mistakes in this film would take too long. So instead, I shall describe where they got the Physics right.

Okay, now that that's done, one can still enjoy this formulaic, Central Casting movie as a lark. Look, you know it's gonna go down to the last possible moment, that one shuttle will crash but the survivors will miraculously appear in the nick of time, that the boy will get the girl, the father will be a hero, and all the political interference will be ignored in the end which will be happily ever after for those left. Whew.

I did enjoy the moment where Steve Buschemi explains why landing in the wrong place is a bad idea. Just as I hated the multiple times where Steve Buschemi does really stupid stuff rather than help.

I can deal with the rah-rah patriotism, practically Dust Bowl rural American sights and unnecessary slow-mo, flags and small children... but an asteroid the size of Texas will be split in half AND diverted with a single relatively small yield nuclear weapon planted just 800 feet below the surface... anyone else got a problem with that?

Someday spaceflight will be routine enough to contemplate an 18 day timeframe for a double launch of a new class of space vehicle. Martin Caidin's Marooned handles this aspect far better, but then we're just rescuing three Apollo astronauts, not every living and future human being.

Apollo 13
Okay, so this is not a science fiction film, though given what people know about space travel and this inspiration to a generation of kids this film engendered, I think it technically is SF. But here space is done so well, it takes the taste of Armageddon out of my mouth -- which is a very odd phrase to type if you think about it.

And Ron Howard does get his Michael Bay moment early on, with Marilyn Lovell's nightmare of everything that could go wrong. But our steely eyed missilemen are made of better stuff -- training and knowledge. This glimpse into the Apollo era space program, even if not 100% accurate, is a huge achievement in cinema and should be required viewing for students. (grin)

I love the scene where they've gathered at the Lovells to watch Neil Armstrong step on the Moon, and Pete Conrad asks if Neil can still abort. And Navy aviator Lovell tells Navy aviator Conrad that no, he can still abort. He just needs someone to wave him off -- and these two guys are trying to wave off the landing... Marilyn suggesting she doesn't feel like cleaning up after the party and so they should just sell the house. Jim agrees. The red Corvette stalling. Great stuff.

And of course, the movie begins with an Apollo 1 moment, a recurrent theme here in hyperbaric oxygen chamber land.

Got up to the crew talking to their families across a road, the night before the launch. The fireworks begin tomorrow.

They might get a new patient tomorrow, so maybe I'll see another tank in use, as all the morning slots are full.

I asked if the tanks have names. They do, but it's just A, B and C. B has another name, after the guy who used it the longest. I'm set for 30-40 treatments, so I asked how long to get into naming territory. You don't want to go there -- it's over 200 dives.

Today one of the guys from HBO met me right at the front door. He thought I might be due. Yesterday the valet parking put the Blazer on the circle in front. Today it was underground across the street. So I sat outside in the wheelchair. But it was a gorgeous day for it. The drive home was bright sun, blue skies with a wisp of high cloud, window open and no heat or AC.

Still good to be home.

Dr. Phil

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