Podcast of the Week: Moonstruck

Thomas González Roberts’s stories of outer space ignite the wonder of the stars

To boldly go: the Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first space walker

To boldly go: the Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first space walker

 

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 Gargarin’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.

Sputnik 2 and Laika

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

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