I was going to write something about Churchmouse’s very interesting piece about an encounter with an antismoking activist, but I’m far too sleepy to do that tonight.
Instead I’ll write about spaceship interior design.
I first started thinking about this important topic a couple of weeks ago, when I’d downloaded and installed Orbiter 2010. It’s got some quite stunning graphics.
But I couldn’t figure out how to steer the spaceship provided. And I didn’t think much of its rather spartan interior.
As many of you know, I’ve got my own home-made orbital simulation model. And one of my planned projects is to build my own spaceship. And so one sunny afternoon last week, sitting outside a pub with a beer and a cigarette, I started sketching out a few ideas for my own spaceship (my all-time favourite was Dan Dare’s beautiful 1950s’ Anastasia, right).
I decided immediately on a comfortable retro look. There would be circular dials showing speed and altitude and stuff, with hands like grandfather clocks, quivering re-assuringly, all set into an 1950s’ cream enamel dashboard. Switches would all be brown bakelite. And the ship would be steered using motorbike handlebars, with a throttle grip on the right hand, and brake levers.
And the pilot’s seat would obviously have to be a well-upholstered armchair.
Well, you would want something comfortable, wouldn’t you, if you’re going to spend hours and hours behind the handlebars?
And obviously there would have to be a large ashtray set into the right arm, and a holder for a mug of tea or a pint of beer in the left arm. For on my spaceship, both drinking and smoking would not only be allowed, but would be mandatory. I’m not sure how one would use an ashtray in a weightless environment, but probably you’d soon learn how to deftly flick the ash into the ashtray after a bit of practice.
And a bookcase full of books? And a mini-bar? And William Morris wallpaper on the cabin walls?
And some floral curtains to draw over the cockpit windows at night?
And why not have the pilot’s uniform as an elegant dressing gown and slippers?
And have a nice tabby ship’s cat too?
The one thing you obviously don’t want is that barren Star Trek ascetic style.
And here’s why smoking will be mandatory:
There’s a little known, dirty story about the International Space Station (ISS): It’s filled with bacteria and fungi. A new study has found compelling evidence that microorganisms from human skin are present throughout the station, and some of the bugs could cause serious harm to astronauts.
NASA and its partner agencies go to extraordinary measures to reduce the likelihood that microbes will sneak a ride to ISS, requiring that payloads move through “clean rooms,” which are outfitted with high-powered air filtration systems and thoroughly mopped and scrubbed with disinfectants. But then ISS itself serves as a home to six microbe-filled humans who stay in orbit for as long as 6 months each and routinely shed skin cells when they exercise, comb their hair, eat, and do other activities that potentially can contaminate their isolated “built environment.”
Tobacco smoke (and in fact all wood smoke) is insecticidal, bactericidal, and fungicidal. If spaceships are filled with a decent fug of tobacco smoke, it will be a lethal environment for bacteria and fungi. And as the smoke percolates throughout the ship, even into the electronics, and is deposited on all surfaces (as third-hand smoke!) there’ll be no hiding place for any bugs.
So astronauts will have to be made of The Right Stuff.
They’ll have to be smokers.