John Glenn receives from President Barack Obama the Presidential Medal of Freedom (Photo NASA/BILL INGALLS)

Yesterday John Glenn, the first American to make an orbital flight, passed away. He was hospitalized more than a week ago but no information about his health problems were provided. However, a source linked to his family revealed that his condition was grave and his relatives joined him in the hospital.

On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to make an orbital flight on the Friendship 7 spacecraft. Instantly, he became a national hero and was honored with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, which he was given directly by the then US President John F. Kennedy.

When he was still a senator, John Glenn went into space again as part of the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery, launched on October 29, 1998 for the STS-95 9-day mission. Glenn established the record as the oldest human being to have traveled in space as at the time he was 77. During and after the mission, he underwent a series of tests for a geriatric study on the reactions of an elderly person to a space mission.

The novel “The Dirdir” by Jack Vance was published for the first time in 1969. It’s the third novel in the Tschai tetralogy, also known with the global title “Planet of Adventure”, and follows “Servants of the Wankh”.

Adam Reith’s attempts to find a starship to return to Earth and leave the planet Tschai have attracted the attention of the Dirdir, one of the species that inhabits Tschai. Along with his companions, he manages to kill the first group sent to capture him and kill him but he knows that others will follow.

Reactint to threats and other events isnot enough so Adam Reith decides it’s time to turn the tables. On Tschai there are technologies to build a new starship but they really need a lot of money to do it. To obtain the money, the Earthling robs the Dirdir.

Anthony Hopkins in 2010

On December 4 the first season of the show “Westworld” ended.

The TV show is inspired by the 1973 movie “Westworld”, written and directed by Michael Crichton. The story was based on the theme that was already a classic of the machine that rebels to humans, in this case in a futuristic amusement park.

Meanwhile, “Blade Runner” was released and it changed completely this kind of story making the boundary between human and artificial beings much more blurred. Today it would be unthinkable to propose a plot like that of the 1973 movie and already in the past decade the new version of “Battlestar Galactica” assimilated the lesson of “Blade Runner”.

The Longest Way Home by Robert Silverberg (Italian edition)

The novel “The Longest Way Home” by Robert Silverberg was published for the first time in 2002.

Joseph Keilloran is a teenager heir of a Great House of the Masters who rule Homeworld but everything changes for him while he’s the guest of another Great House, thousands of kilometers from his home. One night, a rebellion of the Folk overthrows the government of Masters and Joseph can barely escape.

After some failed attempts to communicate with the outside, Joseph can only flee to avoid being killed. He doesn’t know how widespread is the rebellion and could be forced to travel thousands of kilometers to get back to his home. His only hope is that his relatives are still alive and must rely on help from the Indigenes and other species native to Homeworld such as the strange Noctambulos.

Dan Tamayo (Photo courtesy Ken Jones)

An article published in “The Astrophysical Journal Letters” describes the development and the application of machine learning algorithms to verify the stability of planetary systems. A team of researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough led by Dan Tamayo experimented this new approach to this type of astronomical research by creating a method a thousand times faster than conventional ones.