Space and the singer

Watching the retirement of the space shuttle program is a bitter pill for many in the science community who saw it as a symbol for mankind’s thirst for knowledge and pushing the envelope of exploration.

So today’s announcement that singer Sarah Brightman is buying her way to the International Space Station probably won’t assuage the sense that it’s a worthy indicator of the seriousness of space science.

Still, you’ve got to give Brightman credit for trying to have her appointment as an astronaut — or cosmonaut, whatever — make sense.

“My music has always been inspired by space,” Brightman said. “It was because of seeing the first man on the moon back in the ’60s that actually inspired me and gave me the courage to go into the career that I had. At moments when I’m feeling nervous onstage or I’m feeling unsure I actually look to the stars and the planets and space and it gives me courage and inspiration.”

We’re standing by and monitoring Twitter closely for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reaction.

  • John P.

    Sarah sounds like a natural space cadet. If the space program can help further it’s goals by giving an extremely un-free ride to a few wealthy individuals, I say go for it.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Why not David Bowie or even Elton John?

  • Bob Collins

    // can help further it’s goals

    I think the concern is that there aren’t any goals.

  • essjayok

    There are goals:

    “Brightman will be working with UNESCO as an Artist for Peace ambassador to use her spaceflight as a tool to inspire people, especially girls and women, to pursue education in science and technology, and to communicate the need for environmental protection…”

    Whose they are is the interesting part.

    Also, that’s a lot of money!

  • Bob Collins

    When I was a kid — I grew up at the dawn of space flight — we were inspired by the likes of Alan Shepherd and John Glenn and we were told that someday we might be able to go in space as astronauts or scientists or mission specialists. We’d need good grades and education, of course.

    for a time, I had a plan to become an astronaut, go to the Air Force Academy, become a hotshot pilot and get into NASA via the military. Then bad eyesight did me in and the radio thing took over.

    But at least I was inspired by the possibilities and could identify a pathway.

    Fast forward 50 years when — if I read all of this correctly — a young person who wants to go into space will be inspired to sing better, make scads of money, and buy your way there.

    Somehow, I don’t see this a great breakthrough for any gender.

    I would also say it’s arrogant — although highly accurate — to suggest that Ms.Brightman could do what Sunita Lyn Williams apparently could not.


    Tomorrow night at 8:10 pm — if you’re in Saint Paul — look 10 degrees above the southwest horizon to 54 degrees above the SSW. You’ll see a little dot going overhead.

    She’s in it.

  • essjayok

    You’re right, Bob. And I agreed the moment I read those goals and the arrogance behind them.

    Thank you for getting me to learn more about Sunita Lyn Williams. She inspires me far more than a rich woman who can pay her way to the stars.

  • Jim Shapiro

    The reality is that the values of our culture dictate that the wealthy artist Brightman has more of an opportunity – and perhaps better tools – to broadly communicate her experience and inspire than does Williams the scientist.

    Kudos to them both.

  • Bob Collins

    Well, by “tools” you mean *our* attention. We can change that anytime we want. We’re not helpless.

  • BJ

    I think the ‘tools’ Jim is referring to is a PR network. – He had mentioned ‘values of our culture dictate’, she has, “more of an opportunity”.

    The scientific community isn’t know for self promotion.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob: Well said. BJ: Well interpreted.

  • Chris N.

    Sarah Brightman may draw more attention to space flight, but for those who are inspired by the dream of becoming an astronaut, she’s not going to be their hero and icon. People like Cpt. Williams, and the more famous people from the Mercury, Apollo, and Space Shuttle eras will be.

    For anyone who takes notice because a famous musician goes up for one flight, but isn’t inspired to become part of the effort to explore space, at least the attention may make them receptive to the idea that funding NASA isn’t just a waste.

    We certainly have come to a pretty humbling spot after so much progress over the last 50 years, but I’m not ready to call Sarah Brightman a nail in the coffin. Maybe I’m just still stuck in the optimistic afterglow from watching us land an SUV-sized rover with a rocket-powered sky crane on Mars.