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April 12, 2011

Fifty years up
Posted by Patrick at 09:04 AM * 45 comments

Today, as you have almost certainly heard by now, is the fiftieth anniversary of the (unbelievably dangerous—Yuri Gagarin was an amazing badass) first human space flight. There are a zillion commemorations and web pages happening, including the inevitable Google logo, but I love this one, simply because it’s so gratuitous.

A live flute duet between an astronaut aboard the ISS and the now-elderly Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull? While Anderson is on tour in the Russian city of Perm? That’s the sort of event no committee could have dreamed up; it happened simply because human beings are quirky. Colonel Grace “Cady” Coleman is a crazy Jethro Tull fan and Ian Anderson, it turns out, thinks people who risk their lives to fly around in space are pretty fucking cool.

Pre-acknowledged: arguments against human space flight as a logistical and economic priority; American space program as implement of imperialist hegemony; Jethro Tull as superannuated rock dinosaurs. Whatevs, dudes. Astronaut and Ian Anderson perform flute duo between Earth and orbit: cool.

Comments on Fifty years up:
#1 ::: Martin Haywood ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 10:00 AM:

Restores faith in humanity.

#2 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 10:07 AM:

I don't know which is cooler:

1. Going into space

2. Playing a duet with someone on earth while you're in orbit, or

3. Playing a duet with Ian Anderson omg eleventy!!1!

Have sent this to my daughter the astronaut-wannabe.

#3 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 10:47 AM:

Yeah, arguments in re priorities and imperialism granted, but Dude!

I don't really care that someone might think of Jethro Tull as dinosaurs. They made the *FLUTE* a rock instrument!

(and Anderson plays a mean flute!)

(I also laughed at the Colonel playing zero-G tricks with her flute, and the obligatory "Hi mom!" wave at the end)

But, yeah, cool

#4 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 10:53 AM:

Yes, yes, all those arguments against are valid. But. Astro/Cosmonauts: they let math geeks strap them to ICBMs and launch them into space, just to see if they could do it. That's my bar for heroism.

Yuri Gagarin is the closest thing to a Saint in my book.

#5 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 11:37 AM:


#6 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 11:43 AM:

You know, this is the sort of thing I thought the future was about when I started reading SF. I still do, for that matter.

Damn, that was cool.

#7 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 11:45 AM:

Excuse me, having trouble seeing the screen because my eyes have something in them...

I love the happy twinkle in her eyes...

#8 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 12:03 PM:

We are the chorus, and we agree. Thanks -- I'm sharing that.

#9 ::: Trevin M ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 12:49 PM:

Carrie V at #7

My eyes too. I can't believe the emotional impact that two minutes had on me. Wow.

#10 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 12:52 PM:

I can't stop grinning. Thanks for sharing this.

#11 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 01:12 PM:

That was so damned cool. I cannot stop smiling.

#12 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 01:14 PM:

The sheer childlike joy of Col. Coleman is contagious. Is she more excited about being able to play with Ian Anderson, or with being able to play on a space station? Who cares? :-D

#13 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 01:19 PM:

Incidentally, this video solves the problem of (male) Centauri hairstyles: they're obviously designed to allow the wearer to broadcast video without giving away whether or not the artificial gravity is still working aboard their ship.

#14 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 01:21 PM:

Yeah, I've heard the arguments against; I don't think much of them. (Particularly the musical dinosaur one; those dinosaurs produced songs and licks that the current crop of musicians are still using, much as the original dinosaurs became the petroleum we're going to run out of.)

I seem to recall that there is a very slight lag in transmission, so I was impressed by the duet portion.

Just watching the flute float made my day.

#15 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 01:27 PM:

D. Potter @ 14: Much as I hate pulling back the curtain on the wizard like this, I am given to understand that the two parts were recorded separately - Col. Coleman on Thursday night and Ian Anderson over the weekend. This does very little to diminish the coolth of the whole thing, IMHO.

#16 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 02:29 PM:

I keep watching it... the opening "drop" to the end of the music..., and I'm a bleary-eyed, giggling wreck.

Thanks, I needed this.

#17 ::: DaveMB ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 02:30 PM:

Col. Coleman, when not in orbit, lives in Shelburne Falls MA with her husband Josh Simpson, a glass artist famous for his "inhabited planets". Some years ago Simpson made the balls for an orrery, which was displayed during a performance of Holst's _The Planets_ by a local orchestra, along with pictures she took from orbit.

#18 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 02:45 PM:

Mark, #15: Ah, thank you; I was wondering about the transmission lag as well. But as you say, still cool.

DabeMB, #17: You tease! Josh Simpson's glass planets.

#19 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 02:46 PM:

... aaand it's the ohnosecond! My apologies to DaveMB for the typo not caught.

#20 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 03:06 PM:

I'll have to watch the video when I get home, but it seems cool beyond belief.

Has anyone else noticed (I'm sure they have, over the past 50 years) that Gagarin's flight took place 100 years to the day after the firing on Fort Sumter?

#21 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 03:09 PM:

*lump in throat* *sniffle* *incoherent happy babbling*

Sometimes I really, really love living in the future, y'know?

#22 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 04:04 PM:

Streaming video is blocked at work, so I'll have to watch the duet tonight.

I've Soviet-era capsules in museums. They are . . . really basic. I'd be afraid to close the door on one that's solidly attached to the ground.

Flying in one . . . that took balls.

#23 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 05:26 PM:

Since nobody has commented on it yet, equally wonderful is that 50 years after Yuri Gagarin's flight, we consider it perfectly unremarkable that an astronaut is a woman. That also helps me feel a little bit more faith and hope. (I only took notice because I was reading Cady as a male nickname.)

#24 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 06:54 PM:

I am reminded of this:

#25 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 06:56 PM:

Speaking of orrerys, I hear that somebody built one but got the balance wrong, so that when all the planets are in alignment, the machine will be off balance and fall over. But that won't happen for another hundred and fifty years.

Consequently, it's a long wait to tip an orrery.

#26 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 07:26 PM:

While this is very very cool, it's not entirely unprecedented for a musician on the ground and an astronaut to perform a duet. Or, at least, it was supposed to have been preceded... c.f Ronald McNair and Jean Michel Jarre and their piece Last Rendez-Vous, which was to have been performed at Rendez-Vous Houston in 1986.

Sadly, McNair was unable to record his part for the concert, and it had to be played by a stand-in.

#27 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 07:30 PM:

The obligatory YouTube link for the Jean Michel Jarre and Ron McNair piece is probably this one:

#28 ::: Jo MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 07:35 PM:

Erik "Goodbye Piccadilly, farewell Leicester Square" Nelson at 25: *tips hat to you, groaningly, then goes back to lurking*

#29 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 08:22 PM:

Now, that is truly amazing. So was Gagarin's flight.

#30 ::: Geri Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 10:14 PM:

#17: Thanks, DaveMB! I knew Josh Simpson's wife is an astronaut, and that she was up on the ISS when Josh was Artist GoH at Arisia this past January, but didn't connect that with the video. Small World Win.

I love Shelburne Falls. Glacial Potholes! And the Bridge of Flowers, too. Not to mention the artist's co-op where I picked up my silk flamingo whatsit.

#31 ::: JamesK ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2011, 12:00 AM:

My husband comments: "That makes me proud and happy to be a human being."

I can't put it any better then that.

#32 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2011, 12:05 AM:

Sometimes I'm glad we're living in the future.

Erik Nelson @ 25:

I'm not sure if applause or groans are more warranted, but you can have both.

#33 ::: Mark Richards ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2011, 02:04 AM:

Gagarin was, indeed, an amazing badass.

And now this.


I smiled. I cried. Damn.

#34 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2011, 04:13 AM:

Wow. That was wonderful. (And I now have a sudden urge to pull out one of my old Jethro Tull albums.)

#35 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2011, 02:30 PM:

This, in my opinion, hits fairly close to the theoretical upper limit of awesome.

#36 ::: Branko Collin ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2011, 04:40 PM:

@23, in two years we will be celebrating it's been 50 years since the first woman in space, and with any luck she'll still be around to celebrate it with us.

#37 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2011, 04:54 PM:

@23, @36

Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is a photo of Tereshkova and Coleman at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, taken last December.

#38 ::: Pete Wright ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2011, 03:38 AM:

That certainly brought a smile to my face. Very cool indeed.

#39 ::: robert pearce ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2011, 08:41 AM:

as a long time fan of both the space program and the ongoing career of ian anderson this vidy and the very concept of the tribute is something that spoke to me in a good way.thank you both for this tribute to the first hero of the space age.

#40 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2011, 12:39 PM:

Joining the ranks of the grinning and misty-eyed. That just made my day - and I've a lot of day left in today, so there you go.

#41 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2011, 04:52 PM:

What Glinda @21 said!

*sigh* It is, indeed!

#42 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2011, 09:40 PM:

Yargh. I still haven't been able to watch it. My MacBook's logic board died, and my iBook says "I can't deal!"

Hmph. Technology is so cool. Especially when it works.

#43 ::: Mel ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2011, 01:48 AM:

Now I remember why I liked the flute. That is beautiful music, and some kick-ass people playing it. It's not surprising that an astronaut plays her chosen instrument very, very well.

#44 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2011, 04:39 PM:

I went to the SOFA Expo this afternoon and saw two glass space globes by Josh Simpson (Col. Coleman's husband). They were beautiful. They have spirals moving into the middle of glass globe with different colors and effects. Really beautiful.
(Mentioned by DaveMB #17 and Lee #18.)

And I've played the video again. I keep coming back here and playing it.

#45 ::: Kieran ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 05:43 PM:

Also a little misty eyed. :)

Anyone else notice the resemblance between Col Coleman and Jewel Staite's character Kaylee in Firefly?

Here's another impishly cheerful photo of Coleman in space.

Of course, at another level, I was wondering how they were handling latency issues between the two flutes, and just how live this really was. I would suspect that they synced them up a little (just the few ms or so they were out) in post-processing, but it does look like they were reacting to each other to some extent...

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