SpaceDiscs. (video discs) (evaluation) John J. Anderson.
Why can I so clearly recall long evenings with nothing on the tube but reruns and car chases--and reruns of car chases? Perhaps the memory is vivid owing to the chronic nature of the condition. Lamenting, I rhetorically and ritualistically ask myself the same questions. What about the moon shots? What about Voyager? Why don't they ever show that stuff?
Well maybe Laverne and Shirley get higher ratings around your place, but my idea of entertainment is imagining how it might have felt to use a seven iron on the Sea of Tranquility. Show me views of the earth as seen from the Shuttle. Give me some background on the incredible efforts that resulted in the Apollo and Voyager programs. Remind me of the raw awe I felt before I and the rest of this jaded country grew so blase about the whole thing.
With the exception of a rare program on public TV, those views have remained a pipe dream, until quite recently. Now with a home VCR, you can look at the moon shots whenever you want.
But can you review stills of Cape Cod as viewed from orbit? Can you freeze the frame clearly whenever you want to? Can you scan thousands of computer-eye views of Saturn for details the scientists have missed? Can you look at nearly every shot in every magazine of film shot during a mission? Now, with a laserdisc player, you can. "Right in the privacy of your own home,' as they say. Whenever and however you want to.
Prepared by the Center for Aerospace Education at Drew University, SpaceDiscs are a collection of six laser video discs that chronicle the space age in painstaking detail, thanks to the archives of NASA Cape Canaveral and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. All space program buffs, all laser disc buffs, and I should think most of the average populace, will savor the contents.
The Apollo disc, as an example, contains virtually every still shot and film magazine any astronaut ever clicked off during the Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 missions. I well remembered that we landed on the moon, but had not clearly recalled that we did so six times.
Where were you the night Neil Armstrong bounced down the ladder of the lunar module and pressed the first human footprints into the lunar dust? The Apollo Space Disc will jog your memory. Remember the lunar rover? Motion pictures taken from its front bumper constitute some of the most impressive shots of any mission, and some of the most amazing tracking shots ever taken.
All of these clips and photos and thousands more are present on the Apollo disc. There are segments on the design and preparation of Apollo, from initial design to astronaut training and simulation. Remember the massive, disposable Saturn V? Its sheer size was impressive.
Each disc comes with a paperback "image directory,' detailing every still and film clip on the accompanying disc. On the Shuttle disc, photographs of Earth's terrain occupy most of the stills. They are fascinating. Turn the lights out and imagine you are looking out the viewport of the Challenger. Then bring her in for a landing, with a pilot's eye view from the cockpit. Or ride in the chase plane, if you wish.
The Laserdisc As Learning Tool
This series underscores the true facility of the laserdisc player as a learning tool. Because each individual frame can be frozen as a clear, high quality still, thousands of still photographs can be reproduced for examination. Because the player can automatically access any designated frame, it can act as a random access device. And because interfaces are available, a disc player can be controlled by a microcomputer or tape recorder. The possibilities can start you thinking, eh?
With the possible exception of new disc-based video games, I have not seen any discs which better demonstrate the capabilities of laser video technology than SpaceDiscs.
The six discs currently available include the following:
missionencounters;descriptionscomprehensivedataSaturnfor successfulpreparation, onboardincludinglaunch,landing;experiments telescopicincludingPioneerJupiter/Saturn,solarsunspots,observatoriessky"moviestellar description,ofShepard,spacewalk,landing,Shuttle tectonics;andhighGemini,selected
As you can tell, the SpaceDiscs series was designed to be very comprehensive-- the most comprehensive single-medium collection of space science materials ever assembled.
There is a hitch: the discs are expensive. They are priced at $320 each or $1600 for the set, and so are geared for the educational market. It is possible that a lower cational market. It is possible that a lower be released at a future date.
If money is no object, I highly recommend the SpaceDisc series. If you are balking at the price, think of how much it might cost if a moonrock were included. For some of us, SpaceDiscs will come as close to a trip into space as we are likely to get. And compared to the cost of a ticket on the Shuttle, it is a positive steal.
For more information contact Video Vision Associates, 39 East 21st St., New York, NY 10010. (212) 777-4108.
Photo: The classic photo of planting the American flag on the moon on the Apollo I mission is one of some 10,000 frames on the Apollo SpaceDisc.
Photo: The four computer animated segments on the Voyager SpaceDisc show "close ups' of the mission of both spacecraft at both Jupiter and Saturn. It is fascinating to compare these computer-generated sequences with the actual images from the missions later ont he disc.
Photo: The Voyager SpaceDisc contains a computer animated segment that shows the flight of the two Voyager spacecraft past Jupiter and Saturn, and on to Uranus.
Products: Center for Aerospace Education, Drew University SpaceDiscs (video disc)