IGNITING THE WON­DER OF THE STARS

Moon­struck brings to life the hu­man sto­ries of space­flight

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - AUDIO REVIEWS -

Thomas González Roberts, the host of Moon­struck, has the warmth and en­thu­si­asm of an ex­pert who is more than will­ing – ex­cited, in fact – to share hu­man sto­ries about outer space. This new podcast’s two episodes so far each lasts 17 min­utes, so ev­ery sec­ond counts. They’re packed with com­pelling details about what it means to have left Earth’s at­mos­phere, for the peo­ple them­selves and for us, down be­low.

Mo­ments of sci­en­tific jar­gon can jar for a lis­tener not fully versed in, say, the me­chan­ics of propul­sion, but there aren’t so many that the show be­comes alien­at­ing. Roberts fo­cuses more on the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence – delv­ing in the first episode, for ex­am­ple, into the com­plex­i­ties of trans­lat­ing Yuri Ga­garin’s trans­mis­sion as the Rus­sian be­came the first hu­man to en­ter outer space.

What he said has nu­ances that could get lost in English; Roberts’s ex­plo­ration is both in­ter­est­ing and heart­en­ing. It’s a gor­geous mo­ment, in­still­ing a sense of how united we all are in our pur­suit of knowl­edge, in our cu­rios­ity. The host man­ages to in­voke a real sense of won­der, which makes for an im­mer­sive podcast.

Roberts doesn’t shy away from the sheer dan­ger of space travel, or the losses that space ex­plo­ration has led to. The sec­ond episode in­cludes a seg­ment on Laika, the dog that, in 1957, was the first live space trav­eller, aboard Sput­nik 2. Roberts is frank about Laika’s es­sen­tial role as a liv­ing sac­ri­fice. His ex­pla­na­tion of what hap­pened to her is a tough lis­ten – and draws at­ten­tion to the pro­pa­gan­dist na­ture of con­tem­po­rary ac­counts of space travel.

Nei­ther starry-eyed wor­ship­per of our ex­trater­res­trial am­bi­tion nor overly bleak sur­veyor of the his­tory of space flight, Roberts does a pow­er­ful job of bal­anc­ing light­ness and in­spi­ra­tion with sin­cer­ity and re­spect as he guides lis­ten­ers along.

Moon­struck, whose first se­ries will have eight episodes, is one of those rare podcast that bear re­peat lis­tens. The first two in­stal­ments will trans­port you some­where far, far away be­fore re­turn­ing you, safely, a lit­tle wiser. moon­struck­pod­cast.com

PHO­TO­GRAPH: KEY­STONE/GETTY IM­AGES

Cos­mo­naut Yuri Ga­garin, the first hu­man in space.

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