Space. The final frontier. So vast, so contemplated, so unknown. The mysteries of our solar system, beyond the earth’s atmosphere, have intrigued man since the dawn of time. Just as our constellations are infinite, so are the different categories of Space Enthusiasts. Their relentless curiosity about everything from the milky way to the earth’s atmosphere, from dark matter to supernovas, from light pollution to space camp, helps expand how the rest of us mere mortals view the universe.
Whether you have a passion for all things Elon Musk and SpaceX rocket launches, or you just dropped four G’s on the latest telescope and aspire to run your own department of astronomy…whether you fantasize about being kidnapped by a sexy alien and having lid blowing wink wink nudge nudge with them, or you dream of having intergalactic battles in the U.S. Space Force using futuristic astronomical objects, being a Space Enthusiast means different things to different people. But this group of enthusiasts all have one thing in common: they love going down the black hole of Space.
In light of all of the free access to information available to the larger, earthly universe (free access to the internet at libraries, free access to many planetariums), the real questions are, “how could you not be curious about what lies above earth’s atmosphere?”. “How you not be a Space Enthusiast?” With that in mind, check out the list of categories below to determine your category. The list isn’t exhaustive, but hey, we only have so much…Space. The truth is, there are as many classifications of Space Enthusiasts as there are other life forms in our solar system. Yeah, we said it, they exist.
Deep Cut Space Movie Aficionado
You consider yourself a sci-fi film fan. And, in the time of Covid-19, you have even more time on your hands to watch movies. You’re into 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the STAR WARS movies, the STAR TREK franchise, ET, Sandra Bullock’s GRAVITY, and Matt Damon’s solo venture in THE MARTIAN.
But here’s the thing. Apologies to Ben Stiller’s STAR TREK collection (which definitely gave us a different image of him – he’s not just a comedian) but movie franchises like that one, while in the zeitgeist, don’t shed much light on true space fandom. In fact, they barely scratch the lunar surface.
The “Deep Cut Space Movie Aficionado” loves not only the obvious Space movies, they love the weird ones, the ones that delve deep into dark matter and supernova study, the ones that truly explore the plight of modern humans attempting to deal with the existential question of whether there’s life beyond the earth’s atmosphere. The space flicks that are off the beaten path. Movies like the satire GALAXY QUEST with Alan Rickman, the amazing yet unknown Swedish film ANIARA, about a massive Space station headed into a dark future, and THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION, the best titled movie ever, even if its relative weirdness did have a negative impact on its box office. If you not only remember lines like Yoda’s “do or do not, there is no try,” but you can also quote from BUCKAROO BANZAI, then you belong in this category.
These films, in some ways, are better educators, than any professor. They’re definitely more fun.
Many of us weren’t alive when the U.S. was battling the Soviet Union for supremacy in the race to dominate above the earth’s atmosphere in the 50’s and 60’s. The Ruskies beat us to it when they launched the satellite Sputnik 1 in 1957. They also landed the first probe on the Moon and Russian Yuri Gagarin was the first man to fly in Space. But in 1969, America vaulted ahead when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to land on the moon. However, we should point out that the Russians did have Mir, their own international space station.
You’re a “Space Historian” if you not only knew all of that, but were also aware that, 410 years ago, astronomy giant Galileo discovered Jupiter’s Moons using his newly improved 20-power homemade telescope. He realized that they weren’t stars orbiting Jupiter, as everyone previously thought. It was quite the consequential finding that influenced the field forever. Which begs the question, what have you done with your life besides wondering if you could somehow get free access to HBO?
Armchair astronomers casually study the cosmos once in a while. The casual fan reads articles online as well as books and magazines and might take a trip to a planetarium from time to time to scratch their itch to learn about what’s above the earth’s atmosphere. They may even own a telescope that gives them a gorgeous view of a featured panorama of starts, but they don’t study the sight’s above earth’s atmosphere every night because of pesky things like “having a family” and “having a job.”
Then there are more active fans. They keep a list of notable events and own more advanced telescope equipment. They may even look for “dark sky” observing sites to satisfy their urges.
But the “Astronomy Freak” is someone who’s seriously obsessed. They have advanced telescopes and accessories and sometimes even make the parts themselves. These superfans travel to national parks just to stargaze in a gorgeous, scenic setting. People in this category can completely lose themselves in their passion, carving mountains out of mashed potatoes and leaving their families behind to pursue their dreams of making contact with aliens. Oh wait, the mashed potato thing was what Richard Dreyfuss did in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. But the rest applies.
“Astronomy Freaks” are obsessed with the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the greatest developments of the last 100 years for studying what’s beyond the earth’s atmosphere. How else could you learn the intricacies of a supernova? The Hubble is a basic reflector with a mirror and a long cylinder open to receiving light at one end. Its mirrors gather infrared and ultraviolet light that floods into it from across the universe and directs it where its “eyes” are located, enabling it to get some of the clearest and best images of the universe. But hey, if you’re an “Astronomy Freak,” you already knew all of that.
People can be split into two camps. Those who believe that aliens live among us (or at least above the earth’s atmosphere) and those who don’t. If you’re not a believer, we suggest that you jump on that bandwagon pronto or if you don’t want to have a negative impact on your psyche when the aliens show up, because 2019 was a banner year for UFO news. That’s right, the team @ TheTUNDRA is going on the record and saying they’re out there.
Last year, the Pentagon was finally forced to admit that it actively investigates UFOs after Navy pilots claimed to have recorded them during training exercises in 2004 and 2015, which was huge news. At first, the pilots thought they were simply astronomical objects, but in the end, they just couldn’t deny that that wasn’t the answer. In 2019, there were 194 UFO sightings. Yes, 194. And that was just in the state of Washington! This was even bigger news. To top it all off, Helen Sharman, Britain’s first astronaut, said that aliens exist. She visited the Russian Mir international space station, so she’s not some conspiracy nut, she’s got cred. She theorized that aliens may take different forms of existence, perhaps not being made of carbon and nitrogen. “It’s possible they’re here right now and we simply can’t see them,” she told The Observer newspaper. Yes, a legit astronaut, someone England trusted enough to send into Space, said that aliens may already be here. Hold on, we think we see something…is that an…seriously…oh my God…get away from us…noooooooo!
Ok, we’re back. Before we move on, we’d like to point out that among “Believers,” there’s a subset called “Alien Lovers,” but this is a family site so we won’t elaborate.
Although this is a lesser known category of Space Enthusiast, there are tons of “Space Fashionistas” floating around. You know, fans who not only think about Space, they dress like they’re thinking about it too. What’s so hip and fashionable about bulky, white Spacesuits? Nothing, but the Spacesuits of yesteryear are no more. There are new, sleek designs that are perfect not only for Space travel among supernovas but for hanging out at home. Well, not really, but these designs are pretty damn cool for the next time you hit Space.
Dava Newman’s Biosuit is a futuristic, form-fitting suit with a subtle design and a lightweight, small mass. The SpaceX Suit is black and white and less clunky than traditional NASA outfits. Finally, the Virgin Galactic Y-3 suit has a mock neck style, a zipper in front and leather boots, naturally. After all, it’s a Virgin design. Virgin’s Space flights, perfect for the ultimate fan, start up this year. We’ve already booked our tickets and, check this, they only cost $250,000 each. It was either get tickets or buy a house in the ‘burbs. Easy decision.
This category isn’t just for galactic travelers. NASA-inspired gear has started to pop up everywhere. From NASA’s collab with shoe giant Vans, to closet NASA fan Stella McCartney’s recent collection of tie-dye navy blue Space-inspired jumpsuits, fashion fans the world over want a piece of the most famous, iconic Space exploration agency known to man…and alien.
No, this isn’t a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 3%. It’s a rapidly growing category of Space Enthusiast. There really will be galactic soldiers soon, duking it out above the earth’s atmosphere. America’s Space Force is happening. Before you say, “that’s a crazy idea,” you should know that Russia, China, the EU and others are working on their own Space forces. Plus, academics in astronomy departments the world over claim that it may be necessary to colonize Space to guarantee the survival of humanity. So there’s that.
The Space Force will most likely be a division of the Air Force. There will be approximately 30,000 openings available. The majority will be taken from existing military services, but there will be around 5,000 open spots for all you “Galactic Soldiers” out there. So, if you love combat, set your phaser to stun, because you may actually get to use it.
Even if you constantly dream of floating in Space above the earth’s atmosphere, it wouldn’t be enough to be a member of this Space Enthusiast category. But, if you’ve taken the next step and attended Space camp, then congrats, you’re in.
If you think you’re not enough of an nerd for Space camp, or you think you’re too old, don’t despair. Space camps have changed. They’re not just for kids and teens anymore, adults can take part too. And dare we say it, Space camps have a cool factor. There’s nothing stopping anyone from experiencing weightlessness, upping their robotics skills and learning how to survive on Mars. The Camp Kennedy Space Center, the Space Camp at the U.S. Rocket And Space Center in Alabama and the Virginia Space Flight Academy are just a few of the available camps to help you access your inner astronaut.
Who knows, maybe one day, you’ll get to experience the real thing? It’s not likely though. NASA applicants, who are the best of the best, have just a 0.6% chance of being selected. The good news is, Space camp acceptance rates are out of this world.
Falling for Ryan Gosling floating high above the earth’s atmosphere in the movie FIRST MAN doesn’t earn you membership in this outer space group. We’re talking the real thing here. This is a category that we @ theTUNDRA really get. Everyone loves pilots and if you think about it, astronauts’ equipment is way more impressive.
Lisa got charged with attempted kidnapping, but let’s not dwell on that as it’s not the point. The point is, some fans have a seriously major thing for astronauts. So, if you’ve ever found yourself obsessing over John Glenn, Sally Ride or William Oefelein, this may be your category. Just remember, don’t “pull a Lisa” and break any laws. There’s a fine line between fetishizing from afar and stalking.
Do you ever find yourself questioning life and wondering if maybe it would be better living above the earth’s atmosphere and “staring into the void?” Literally, not figuratively. If so, you just might belong in the Space Enthusiast category “Void Obsessed.” Good news, it’s not just for members of a department of astronomy.
Voids are massive spaces between filaments of dark matter, the largest scale structures in the universe, which contain few or no galaxies, so obviously we’re talking about something that’s not visible in a planetarium. The observable light in voids may have been created by galaxies that went the way of the Dodo bird long ago. Another way of putting it is that they’re spaces of dark energy left behind after matter was pulled into isolated clusters throughout the Cosmic Web. Yet another, more simple description is “vast nothingness.” The Boötes Void is also known as “The Great Nothing,” which, coincidentally, is what our mom used to call us, but that’s a story for another article.
Over 60% of the universe is made up of voids. Not to get all existential on you, but that means that over half of the universe is, well, nothing. Think about all that dark matter. Actually don’t, it will just depress you.
Fun fact: the Boötes Void is the largest known void out there. Studying it helps scientists understand how the universe behaves as a whole and also enables them to put Einstein’s theory of relativity to the test.
If you can’t get enough of dark, vast, black nothingness, then you’re officially “Void Obsessed.”
Putting Space Enthusiasm Into Practice
There are so many ways to put your enthusiasm for Space into practice besides applying to an astronomy department.
If you’re a “Deep Cut Space Movie Aficionado,” the easiest thing to do is to Google tons of obscure Space movies. But if you’re really serious, go to Comic-Con in San Diego this July. Also, you may want to check out the Space And Time Film Festival and the Vidi Space Film Festival.
“Space Historians” can check out sites like www.collectSpace.com, the history division of www.nasa.org, and www.Space.com. Stargazers should go to www.astronomy.com and commit to spending even more evenings staring off into Space.
Those of you in the “Believer” category can pack a suitcase of tin foil and head to AlienCon, a weekend long exploration into the unexplained mysteries that exist between science fact and science fiction. Also, check out SETI, or the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Here’s another suggestion. Leave a trail of Reese’s Pieces on the ground, wait a few hours, and see who pops up.
If you’re a “Space Fashionista,” go to www.highsnobiety.com to read all about the evolution of Space age fashion. Or hit a fashion show in Paris. Even better, start designing your own Space clothing. How hard can it be, right? “Galactic Soldiers” looking to get a taste of intergalactic boot camp (JK, that doesn’t exist yet) should go to www.Spaceforce.mil for all of the details. But if you really want to get a head start, take a friend to a weightless chamber and fight them. That will give you a real taste. That was some space humor for you, don’t really do that. We don’t advocate violence. “Space Campers” should start by watching the 1986 movie SPACE CAMP, starring Kate Capshaw, and then apply to Space camps. There are tons to choose from.
Those with an “Astronaut Fetish” should first seek out professional help for their affliction, but if the condition persists, go to www.nasa.gov and check out the biographies of current astronauts. Why? Do the math - the bios include great photos. It’s one of the featured panoramas of the site.
For those of you who are “Void Obsessed,” check out the American Astronomical Society site, which will point you in the right direction for learning more about them. Also, www.ouruniverseforkids.com has a bunch of kid-friendly fun facts about voids. Because nothing says “responsible parenting” like talking to your children about dark, hopeless, nothingness.
Finally, remember that the phrase “we are not alone” doesn’t only apply to extraterrestrial life above the earth’s atmosphere. It also applies to Space Enthusiasts.
We are not alone. We are everywhere.