One of my favorite science fiction books is Songs from the Stars by Norman Spinrad. This is set in the future, centuries after a cataclysmic war called The Big Smash wipes out most of human civilization.

The International Space Station (ISS) (Click image to see a larger version — Image source: NASA)

The story describes a successor civilization called Aquaria that’s based on the west coast of what was once the United States. This society is built on “White Science” and follows the “law of muscle, sun, wind and water.” Meanwhile, a group of so-called sorcerers — in reality, scientists and engineers — traffic in the “Black Sciences” of atomics, petroleum, and physics. The sorcerers are desperate to mount a mission to the long abandoned Big Ear space station because they know that mankind made contact with aliens just before The Big Smash occurred.

Whenever I see a picture of the International Space Station (ISS), it reminds me of the part of the tale when our heroes — Clear Blue Lou, perfect master of the Clear Blue Way, and Sunshine Sue, queen of the Word of Mouth communication network — reach the Big Ear space station and discover… but I can’t tell you that. All I can share is that Philip Jose Farmer said of Songs from the Stars: “Remarkable… beautiful… This is one of the most uplifting works I’ve read.”

The reason for my waffling here is that my chum Rick Curl just emailed me saying: “I thought you’d find this video to be of interest.”


This really is rather good. In addition to the construction details, I found the discussions of the two-body problem, how to handle orbital perturbations, orbital decay, and station keeping very interesting.

Rick went on to say, “This is essentially a little robot arm that just sits there and points to the International Space Station. Maybe I’m easily amused, but I wish I had one of these.” I fear that I am easily amused also, because I just emailed Rick back saying, “I want one too!” How about you?