In space, communications have always served two purposes. One is to convey important mission information (Houston, we have a problem). The other is to transmit the experiences of the weightless few to the earthbound millions (This is Major Tom to Ground Control).
This most recent comm—a collection of point of view videos from astronauts hanging out on the International Space Station—falls into the second category. It’s a simple capture: just the slow motions of a space walk, with nary a sound to be heard (almost, at least—the buzzing in the background is likely the fan running in the spacesuit, vibrating the platform on which the GoPro is mounted). But it’s part of a long, rich history of messages sent from the brink of the unknown, just for the heck of it.
Just trace their lineage back to the earliest travel communiques. From Marco Polo’s travels to Edmund Hillary’s views from the summit; from Neil Armstrong’s small step to Chris Hadfield’s David Bowie impression. The early accounts may be padded with giant birds or veiled braggadocio, but the most fantastic thing about any of these transmissions is simply where they came from.
Citizens of the world love space. Space photos, space videos, space anniversaries, space robots, space politics, and even space trash. Without space, there’s nothing special about Armstrong stumbling down a ladder. Twenty-five million people wouldn’t have tuned in to watch Hadfield play guitar if he wasn’t floating around like a little Canadian elf at the same time.
These GoPro videos show an astronaut clanking around outside the ISS. Basically, doing chores. But because those chores are in space, they give us a sense of wonderment—they let us imagine ourselves away from earthly troubles. They also give us barstool conversations, special, shared moments with friends and loved ones. They are payback for the meager contributions we all make to NASA’s roughly $18 billion dollar annual budget. And is the fact that we love them so much some an expression of some universal desire to spread our species across the cosmos? Who knows. Click.