“Live From Space” to Premier Friday Night

It’s difficult to say exactly why this confluence of events occurred, but space exploration’s really good media week continues Friday evening at 8 p.m. EDT with the global premier of National Geographic’s “Live from Space” broadcast event.  Over the course of the two hour show, which will include video from a single 90 minute orbit, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Japan’s Koichi Wakata will give viewers a guided tour of the International Space Station, complimented by videos of spacewalks, as well as a look into NASA’s mission control. 

Unless there is a problem. the space station rarely seems to draw much in the way of media attention, and in this sense the program comes at a most unusual time, only two days before a growing rift between station parters Russia and the U.S. is almost certain to be widened by the highly controversial secession vote in Crimea.  At the same time, viewers may be more prone to tune in due to the publicity generated by two recent events, one real and one imaginary, the former being a leaking spacesuit and the latter the complete destruction of the station along with nearly everything else in orbit depicted in the movie Gravity.

Coming on the heels of the newly rebooted COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey, which kicked off Sunday evening to excellent reviews and sound ratings, drawing 8.5 million viewers, both space exploration and space science are enjoying a rare moment of public spotlight in the post Shuttle world. Hopefully both will help to sway the all too common perception that space exploration ended when Atlantis rolled to wheel stop in 2011. Regarding the role of ISS, it will be interesting to see if Live from Space,  in which NASA was obviously heavily involved, does a better job than the agency typically does in placing the role of the station in the context of future exploration.

Back on Earth, it will also be interesting to see if the publicity carries into coverage of Sunday morning’s launch of the SpaceX-3 mission to ISS, and accompanying attempt to recover the Falcon 9 first stage via powered descent and soft ocean landing.  If the latter is successful, what is already a good week in the media’s presentation of space could become something much more.    

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