Why Stephen Kuusisto Will Let Stephen Hawking Blast into Space First



Stephen Hawking's recent experience of weightlessness provided news writers with plenty of opportunity to dredge up a slurry of imagery associated with the pitiable state of someone "confined" to his wheelchair. Stephen Kuusisto, over at Blind Planet, offers a brief analysis of this archetype-invoking event.

The Virgin Galactic is scheduled to take near space commercial flights starting in 2009. Watch for continued media enthusiasm and eventually marketing hype involving words like "crippled" and "handicapped" in close proximity to words like "liberation" and "freedom" to describe space travel as desireable for people with disabilities.

Of interest to me is the unintended irony of the BBC News' statement, "The flight, which took off and landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, also was intended to test if Hawking has the "right stuff" for a suborbital spaceflight."

At stake here, for the temporarily able-bodied, is nothing less than the entire "right stuff" mythology of space and future. Who can predict the cultural fallout of someone as visibly and severely disabled as Hawking penetrating the sanctum of space travel machismo. Brokenback Space Cowboys on DVD?

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