In the Words of Neo: Whoa.

In a very unique setting over Earth’s colorful horizon, the silhouette of the space shuttle Endeavour is featured in this photo by an Expedition 22 crew member on board the International Space Station, as the shuttle approached for its docking on Feb. 9 during the STS-130 mission.

It’s nice to live now sometimes.

Larger versions here.

38 Comments on “In the Words of Neo: Whoa.”

  1. On a vaguely related topic, what is your reaction to President Obama cancelling the new moon and mars programme?

  2. How like a dart pointed towards the ground, about to strike deep into the soil of a dawn shrouded world. Bearing with it life from another place, another time, another hope. It is the Earth we see below the dart, or a different world, an alien world? Is it the dream made empty, or the dream we remembered from before? Is it the dream of journey and discovery?

    How like an arrow pointed towards distant lands, rousing desires for new places, new adventures, new opportunities. Where now people have turned their backs on what could be, let us remember how once we dreamt, once we hoped, once we strived to be more than we were; were once our lives were more than they could have been.

    We have gone on too long wallowing in a spite and despair, it is time we once again thought beyond ourselves, beyond our small and demeaning hatreds. Let us again see the universe, and our world within it, as places of possibility. As places for dreams.

    For I have slipped the bonds of the Earth and reached for the shores of the sky.

  3. Too bad Obama is gutting NASA. I can understand cutting the return to the moon due to cost, but he is eliminating all man space flight and making the US rely on other countries or the non-existent private sector.

    We won’t see shots like this for long.

  4. I wonder if there really might really be shades of “uniqueness”… Can two things both be unique and yet one be *more* unique than the other?

    Language purists will say no, but common usage would suggest otherwise. (That said, anybody who uses “very unique” will probably also use “irregardless,” and should be banished from the English-speaking world.)

  5. I believe in this instance ‘very unique’ is forgivable in that it was discussing the locations uniqueness. There are many unique locations in this world, like there are many unique pieces of art. However, space for most people is much more unique than, say, being on top of a mountain.

    The Eiffel Tower was, at the time, meant to be a temporary piece of structural art. I believe it outmatches any other piece of art in the world. It was considered temporary and it’s outlasted countless pieces of art. That’s beyond just unique. The Mona Lisa is unique, but I don’t see anything Da Vinci made being a thousand-foot structure.

    Uniqueness can vary. A 3-leaf clover isn’t, a 4-leaf is considered lucky because it’s unique. So what about the 21-leaf clover? Either the 4-leaf isn’t unique anymore, or the 21-leaf is very unique or beyond unique.

    The English language has many falling points, and our often used descriptive words tend to be the bottomless pits. Amazing suffers similar problems of over use and suffers modification as a result. However, this is a problem of uniqueness and thus amazing-ness decreasing with exposure. Fireworks used to be unique and amazing, now they’re used at every opportunity people get. So now you’ve got the choice of using a 500-lb fuel-air bomb mixed with magnesium and other firework materials to make a firework so large you can call it amazing again, or fireworks are simply not amazing anymore.

  6. thank you for sharing such a beautiful picture.
    i’ve been snarking all morning because of lack of sleep and a 7:30 a.m. phone call reminding me, in part, to pick up the kids.

    i don’t have kids

    beautiful things make turtles happy. :)

  7. Oh, and for anyone who isn’t getting the fact that cutting the Constellation project killed a millstone around NASA’s neck needs to read up over at the Bad Astronomy and Space Politics blogs. Those are real space scientists, not Alabama Republicans who’re hunting for a way to attack Obama.

    If we look deeper into the budget, you’ll notice that there’s research money being given for things like in-orbit refueling and expansion of heavy lift capability, which is what’s needed for manned deep space exploration. And that’s pretty awesome.

    I’d rather we spent 5 years getting ready to go to another planet rather than blow that chance on going somewhere we’ve been already. Mars beckons.

  8. it sucks to live now sometimes. were to advanced to have awesome sword fights and not advanced enough to have laser pistols ;(.

  9. I hope somewhere Captain James Cook is watching his first command’s namesake strutting its space stuff and nodding approvingly.

  10. Bob – NASA got a proposed $6 billion increase. It’s just that the Constellation project would have eaten that, and a good chunk of NASA’s remaining budget without blinking.

  11. Uniqueness can vary.

    No. No it can’t. Unique = one-of-a-kind. This is a binary proposition. Either a thing is the only one of its kind or it is not.

  12. I’m so envious of the astronauts. I would love to go up and look back at the Earth. I’m not sure that general space flight for the average human will occur during my lifetime. If I had $20M to spare….

  13. Obama is proposing MORE funding for NASA. He is killing ‘Meat On Mars’. For the last 3 decades manned spaceflight’s sole achievement was wasting money needed by unmanned projects doing real science.

  14. I envy my mother for being able to watch the moon landing on TV. That was a day to be alive. I don’t envy her deep disappointment at how eagerly we’ve turned our backs on the space effort. NASA is more known for corruption and scandal than for its space effort. And Roscosmos is too busy selling tourist trips to a decrepit space station. Our current space efforts feel like they have more in common with “Red Star, Winter Orbit” than they do with anything out of Heinlein, Asimov, or Doc Smith …

  15. Oh, and for fans of future worthwhile manned spaceflight, Obama is proposing more research on heavy lifters, drive systems, and closed ecosystems. Things actual exploration, or settlement, would need.

  16. @warren et al…. Research is great. Maybe that will pay off. Maybe. But it’s useless if we don’t have the will to move back into space. I’m all for science being done, but what got me enthused as a kid and made me a huge supporter of space science wasn’t collecting rocks off an asteroid it was seeing the Gemini and Apollo astronauts go up there. Why do you think people anthropomorphize Spirit and Oppy? Because we project ourselves out there. Seeing people go explore the unknown has a value that doesn’t easily show on the bottom line of some accountant’s report but it inspires people in a way that unmanned probes don’t.

    Without a plan to use them, the research into heavy lifters etc is just a sop – does anyone care about the research if we don’t move back into space (meaning the moon, Mars and beyond) for another 50 or 100 years? I saw the moon landing when I was 11. That was 40 years ago – and we’re now being told that we still need to do more research? I’m all for knowledge and doing things safely, but I’m also for DOING things, not just talking about doing them.

    We need to do manned exploration AND do space science – it shouldn’t be a choice, but even if it is, sometimes the exploration should win. Note, *exploration* not sending people up to do some experiments. As for not having the money… Give me a red pen – I can cut quite a lot out of the budget.

  17. I’m personally rather glad that Obama is cancelling the manned moon and Mars shots. Because in the current economic climate it’d be done on a shoestring, and I don’t think you can do it on a shoestring. Not and expect to get your astronauts back at the other end. I’d rather that the second manned Mars mission didn’t have to save return payload mass to pack the freeze-dried corpses of the first manned Mars mission.

  18. Rick,
    1) Obama hasn’t suggested cuts from NASA.
    2) I doubt you could cut a lot from the budget if everyone got a voice (ie Congress).
    3) What do you want astronauts to DO other than embody your hopes?

  19. I am such a wimp.

    I actually shed a tear over the comic strip about the mechanical mars explorer being abandoned.

    We never meant to get him back, but he thinks we did.He thought we would come to get him if he did his job really, really well.

    And he did, and we didn’t.

  20. A beautiful shot! By the way Mr. Scalzi, I just did an interview with SF author Michael Marks. When I asked him for authors that had influenced him he cited your Old Man’s War trilogy as an inspiration. Thought you might want to know. The interview is on

  21. @warren – all the robots and imagery and probes we can send will never tell what space is like, they can just tell us numbers. Having had the luck to hear several Apollo astronauts speak, quietly and passionately, about the moon, and a cosmonaut talk about life on Mir, not to mention a number of Shuttle astronauts speak – they told me what space was like. I heard from the what it is out there, why it matters, and why we should go out into the universe.

    It’s not just a matter of needing heroes, although, dear lord, do we. Humans explore – it’s what we do. Robots go first, but only to tell us what to pack – teh best sensor for viewing a new land will always be eyeballs mark one.

  22. @22 and @23 Arrrg! Hehe.
    What Stevie said @30

    My grandmother also lived in a good time. From first powered manned flight when she was a kid to the first man on the moon! Wow.
    I wouldn’t trade with her, great depression two world wars, duck and cover, but still.

  23. the non-existent private sector

    Non existent because NASA crowds out people from trying, and devoting billions of dollars to whoever has the best lobbyists, and for the past 15 years has invested in one failed idea after another.

    It is a huge oversimplification to think we are not trying to put people in space anymore. Is it the government getting “out of” space? or getting out of our way?

    Check out for quite a different take on the issues.

    As usual, it’s not black or white.

  24. Plutosdad – and for the past 15 years has invested in one failed idea after another.

    You’re keeping a column in which you tally NASA’s successes and failures? OK, trot it out right this instant, we’ll all take a look at it.

    That isn’t to say that NASA hasn’t tried to put hurdles in front of civilian space exploration. They have, and they deserve criticism for that. But making them out as a huge failure is just petty spitefulness.

  25. I wonder if it’s ever wondrously entertaining to John that even a simple post of an Endeavor image can get people arguing.

    Oh Internet.

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