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Gravity Takes Your Breath Away On The Day Sputnik Launched: Today In Science & Science Fiction

GravityIt seems like we’ve been waiting forever to see Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, but today it’s finally here. Even better, the movie is receiving damn near universal praise, currently sitting at a ridiculous 98% Fresh over at Rotten Tomatoes. James Cameron called it “the best space film ever,” and that’s high praise from a director so focused on pushing forward the technology of filmmaking. I’ve heard some complaints that the story itself isn’t amazing, but the visual splendor more than makes up for it. This is one you’ll definitely want to see on the biggest screen. And remember, in space, no one can hear you scream. But the people next to you in the theater can, so try and control yourself.

SPUTNIK LAUNCHES THE SPACE RACE

And speaking of space exploration, we can give at least some of the credit for the accomplishments of the so-called “Space Race” to one of the events that set it off. On this day in 1957, Sputnik 1 was launched into the heavens, becoming Earth’s first artificial satellite. Sputnik put Russia’s stamp on the cosmos and spurred a bit of back-and-forth competition that eventually took us to the moon. Thanks, Cold War paranoia!

Sputnik

THE TWILIGHT ZONE’S ROBOTIC KNOCK-OUT PUNCH

And speaking of cold, unfeeling, metallic creations, October 4, 1963 saw the first broadcast of the Twilight Zone episode “Steel,” starring Lee Marvin. Based on Richard Matheson’s short story of the same name, “Steel” is set in a future where robotic boxing between androids has become all the rage, leaving normal human boxers out of a job and their participation in fights illegal. Veteran boxer Steel Kelly and his partner are having no luck using their outdated fighting ‘bot named Maxo to dig out of their financial hole, so Kelly decides to impersonate Maxo and step into the ring himself, squaring off against a robotic opponent that can’t feel pain. Matheson’s story was later adapted again, this time into the 2011 Hugh Jackman movie Real Steel. You can watch “Steel” in full below, via Hulu.

ON TV TONIGHT

Beneath (Chiller, 9/8c)
The boob tube is pretty bare tonight, but if you’re in the mood for some monster antics, this flick premiering on Chiller tonight pits six high school students trapped in a rowboat, surrounded by killer fish. This is heavy.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHARLTON HESTON

“Get your hands off my guns, you damn dirty ape!” Actor and firearm festishist Charlton Heston was born on this day in 1923. Known for iconic roles such as Moses in The Ten Commandments, Heston also appeared in three science fiction films that became classics of the genre: The Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, and The Omega Man. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 84.

Heston

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