TIME space

The Other Giant Leap: What Happened to the First Man to Walk in Space

The spacesuit worn by Alexei Leonov on the first-ever spacewalk on March 18, 1965.
Marco Grob for TIME The spacesuit worn by Alexei Leonov on the first-ever spacewalk on March 18, 1965. The suit was photographed at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow on March 16, 2015.

Half a century ago, Russian legend Alexei Leonov took a perilous step into the void

No one knows what the first words of the almost-first man on the moon would have been. They surely would have been contemplated well in advance. No such landmark moment was left to chance back in the days of the great lunar steeplechase. And they would surely have been in Russian.

Half a century ago, when the space race was raging, no truly objective, truly honest observer gave the Americans much of a shot. The Soviet Union simply had too big a lead, having launched the first satellite (Sputnik), the first space dog (Laika), the first human being (Yuri Gagarin), the first woman (Valentina Tereshkova) and the first two- and three-person spacecraft. And 50 years ago this week, on March 18, 1965, they seemed to have sealed the deal, when Alexei Leonov, then just 30 years old, became the first human being to walk in space. Had things gone as planned, he would have been first on the moon too.

Marco Grob for TIMEAlexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, photographed at the age of 80 in his office in Moscow on March 12, 2015.

Leonov, whom TIME photographer Marco Grob visited for a portrait session earlier this month, was the stuff of Soviet legend from the very beginning. Born in a coal-mining region in Siberia, he was the son of a woman who earned the country’s coveted Order of Maternal Glory, in recognition of what was seen as the greatest service a Soviet woman could perform for the Soviet state: having a great many babies—in her case nine. Leonov joined the Young Communist League, went on to flying school—where he made 115 parachute jumps—and was selected in the very first astronaut class.

There was little way to overstate the risks Leonov faced on his first mission, when he ventured outside his Voskhod spacecraft—a sturdy, tank-like vehicle that was the Soviet designers’ specialty—and drifted into space protected only by what amounted to a far-frailer fabric and rubber spacecraft. But TIME, in its March 26, 1965 cover story about the mission, tried. “As air escaped from the [spacecraft’s air lock], the vacuum of space reached into it like a monster’s claw,” TIME wrote. “Though it must have been rehearsed on earth over and over again, this was surely a moment of hideous crisis.”

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty ImagesThe astonaut Alexei Leonov floating in space during his first spacewalk on March 18, 1965.

Leonov, however, felt no such apprehension. Like so many astronauts and cosmonauts, he describes the spacewalk experience as one of great peace. “I don’t remember anything as well as I remember the sound—this remarkable silence,” he told Grob. “You can hear your heart beat and you can hear yourself breathe. Nothing else can accurately represent what it sounds like when a human being is in the middle of this abyss.”

Like other spacewalkers too, he powerfully recalls the view. “I close my eyes and I see the entire Black Sea, the Crimean Peninsula. This is not a map, it’s what I saw. I can take a pencil now and draw it, because I remembered it for the rest of my life. I looked up and there was the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Kaliningrad. I spent my adolescence at the Gulf of Kaliningrad. It was so unusual.”

Keystone-France/Getty ImagesAlexei Leonov, c. 1960s.

TIME’s coverage of the mission gave Leonov and the Soviets their deserved applause—acknowledging the triumph of the spacewalk, as well their program’s commanding advantage in booster power and technology, especially compared to NASA’s puny, two-man Gemini ship, which was set for its first launch just a few days after Leonov’s flight. The historic spacewalk and the bruising Voskhod, TIME conceded, hung over the Gemini hoopla like an “embarrassing shadow.”

But TIME’s story was grudging too—sniffing at the images the Soviets released of Leonov’s walk as “dim and probably purposely fuzzy,” while selecting perhaps the dimmest and fuzziest of all for the cover and passing over the far crisper ones. Soviet party chief Leonid Brezhnev “did his leaden best” in congratulating the crew, TIME wrote, and the country’s official announcement of the spacewalk was “as formal as if carved in stone.”

But never mind. There was no denying the huge step that a human being—even if it wasn’t an American human being—had just taken in space, and its impact has endured. “Now all astronauts who are preparing for [a mission] undergo full training in order to be able to work in open space,” says Leonov. “This isn’t even up for debate. If you can’t work, you don’t belong in the program.”

Leonov himself would get only one more flight. He was tapped by the Soviets to command the first circumlunar mission in 1969 and all but certainly would have been chosen for the first moon-landing mission that would follow. History notes that those flights never happened, that the U.S. overcame the huge Soviet lead and eventually won the race to the moon. Leonov did not take to space again until 1975, when he commanded the Soviet half of the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission, a flight that marked the formal end of the space race, celebrated the age of détente and led, decades later, to the multinational cooperation of the International Space Station.

Keystone-France/Getty ImagesPeople celebrating the success of the mission Voskhod II in Moscow in 1965.

As Grob’s elegant photos show, Leonov still wears his medals and his dignity well. He has outlived legends—Ed White, who became America’s first spacewalker, in June of 1965; Neil Armstrong, who kicked up the lunar dust Leonov was supposed to be first to stir; Gagarin, who was considered too great a national prize ever to endanger by sending to space again and who died instead in a routine training run of a MiG-15 jet in 1968. It was Leonov who identified his friend’s remains by a birthmark on his neck.

The half a century since Leonov’s walk is a lot of time in human history, nothing at all in cosmic history. That dual kind of timekeeping is something the species only truly began practicing after men like Leonov went aloft—changing our terrestrial perspective forever.

Read next: Mars Probably Had More Water Than the Arctic Ocean, Study Says

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TIME ebola

Why West Africa Might Soon Have 100,000 More Measles Cases

Now more than ever: Measles vaccinations have dramatically cut disease rates in Africa
Spencer Platt; Getty Images Now more than ever: Measles vaccinations have dramatically cut disease rates in Africa

One lethal epidemic could give rise to another

Correction appended, March 12

There’s not a war college in the world that couldn’t learn a thing or two from the way viruses operate. They’re stealthy, they’re territorial, they seek and destroy and know just where to hit. And, just when you think you’ve got them beat, they forge an alliance with another of your enemies. That, according to a new paper published Thursday in Science, is what’s poised to happen with Ebola and measles—and it’s the babies and children of Africa who will overwhelmingly pay the price.

The Ebola epidemic is by no means over, but it is being contained and controlled. With nearly 24,000 cases and more than 9,800 fatalities so far—mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia—the epidemic is still claiming new victims, though more slowly. The crisis, however, has disrupted health-care delivery across the entire affected region, preventing children from receiving badly needed measles vaccines. That, the new study reports, could result in an additional 100,000 measles cases over the next 18 months, leading to an additional 2,000 to 16,000 deaths. Rates of vaccination against other diseases—particularly polio and tuberculosis—have fallen too. But measles’ ease of transmission makes it especially worrisome.

“When there’s a disruption of medical services, measles is always one of the first ones in the door,” says Justin Lessler, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a co-author of the paper. “The Ebola epidemic significantly increases the likelihood of a major measles outbreak occurring.”

Lessler and his co-authors arrived at their numbers painstakingly. First, they used health data to map and estimate the share of vaccinated and unvaccinated children in 5 km by 5 km (3.1 mi. by 3.1 mi.) squares across the three affected countries. They then estimated a 75% reduction in vaccination rates during the epidemic and projected forward by 6, 12 and 18 months. They factored in the transmissability of the virus within each region and estimated the likely number of deaths using what’s known as a Case Fatality Ratio—a mathematical tool that, as its name suggests, estimates lethality for any particular disease under any particular set of circumstances.

The final numbers—especially the potential 16,000 deaths—rightly alarmed the researchers, though lessler does admit that they are by no means a certainty. “The 75% decrease in vaccinations is a little too pessimistic,” he concedes. But the critical word in that admission is “little,” and the investigators did consider 25%, 50% and 100% rates too, before settling on 75% as at least the most plausible. No matter what, the odds are still high of a five figure death rate and a five to six figure additional case rate—and the Ebola epidemic, which led to the problem in the first place, has not even fully abated.

Lessler and his colleagues are not waiting until it does to sound the alarm, urging global health groups to mobilize a vaccination campaign now so it can be ready to launch in the affected areas the moment the Ebola all-clear sounds. The new push would first target children who were born during the Ebola epidemic since they would have likely received almost no medical attention at all up until that point, and then expand to all children in the most measles-susceptible age group—about 6 months to 5 years.

“The best time to start the campaign would be as soon as it’s logistically feasible,” says Lessler. “For every month no campaign begins, the risk of an outbreak occurring and the impact of such an outbreak worsens.”

The happy news, Lessler believes, is that done right, the campaign could not only prevent the measles epidemic from beginning, but could actually put West Africa in a better position than it was before Ebola, with vaccine coverage for measles and other diseases exceeding the pre-outbreak rates. “Previous campaigns have reached coverage in excess of 90%,” he says.

Victory in the battle against Ebola—to say nothing of the battle against measles—is by no means yet assured. But, again as the war colleges would teach, with the right cooperation and the right deployment, the good guys can win.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is Justin Lessler.

TIME space

A Commute Home—From Space

The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft as it lands with Expedition 42 commander Barry Wilmore of NASA, Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Elena Serova of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on March 12, 2015.
Bill Ingalls—NASA The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft as it lands with Expedition 42 commander Barry Wilmore of NASA, Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Elena Serova of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on March 12, 2015.

Three astronauts endure a wild ride

Looks peaceful, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled. A descent in a Soyuz spacecraft like the one that just brought astronaut Barry Wilmore and cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova home after nearly six months aboard the International Space Station has been likened by astronaut Scott Kelly to “going over Niagara Falls in a barrel—while you’re on fire.” In this case, the planned thump-down on the plains of Kazakhstan was more harrowing than usual, with heavy fog concealing the reassuring sight of the spacecraft under its parachute until the last minute. But above the clouds, the scene was serene and not long after the picture was taken, the crew was on the ground—rattled but safe.

TIME Family

Ground Zero in the Clutter Wars: My House

A stock photo of a messy room
Getty Images

It's not easy being a purger in a house of hoarders. Here's how I coped

I do not get along terribly well with clutter — and I frankly have no interest in improving our relationship. I believe shelves, closets and drawers were invented for a reason — so they can remain completely empty. My feeling is, if Ikea’s display of its stylish new Framstå system can do it, why can’t I?

But I don’t live alone. I live with a wife and two daughters — ages 14 and 12 — and they take a less antiseptic view of things. Our home, which was originally advertised as a “sun-drenched two-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s fashionable Upper East Side,” has instead become something of a longitudinal study in the second law of thermodynamics, which, if you’re like me, is your least favorite law of thermodynamics, since it’s the one that states that all closed systems move inevitably toward entropy.

By closed systems, I don’t mean such who-cares stuff as the environment or the planet or the cosmos. I mean my personal space. And by entropy, I don’t mean molecules or thermal gradients. I mean schoolbooks and empty glasses. I mean shoes and clothes, dropped mid-floor, real-time, in such perfect simulation of the body that shed them that they look less like a mess than like a preteen parade float waiting to be inflated. I mean flyers for Memorial Day sales at stores that closed in 2006, subscription cards for magazines that ceased publishing when our children were in pre-K, discount offers for a first generation TiVo.

More and more, our home is developing what can only be described as geological strata: here are the crayon traces of the preschool epoch, which lie below the glitter of the Princess epoch, which itself was buried by the fabric-and-plastic sediment of the American Girl epoch. A thick layer of Tiger Beat precipitate is now fluttering down atop that, which, given enough heat, pressure and millennia, might at least compress itself into a useful fossil fuel.

I rage, rage against the rubbish — and do what I can to reduce it. I move about the apartment, gathering things up in what feels to me like an efficient stride-and-sweep pincer movement, but which even I realize is increasingly resembling a bustle. I collect dropped belongings and put them away in any handy drawer or armoire, a behavior I call helpful and my family members — along with most trained clinicians — call passive-aggressive. And when I’ve put something somewhere its owner doesn’t want it and therefore can’t find it, my refrain is always the same:

“There is one way to ensure that things are where you want them, and that’s to put them away yourself.” This argument has the twin qualities of both unassailable logic and a perfect, 0% success rate in changing anyone’s behavior.

One answer to our family impasse is an open dialogue, a frank exchange of feelings and a willingness for collective compromise. The other answer is the one that actually works: money.

Not long ago, my wife mentioned that she’s had her eye on a new platform bed. A platform bed, of course, would go in our bedroom — a room that on any given day is just one copy of Oprah away from needing its own Chernobyl-style containment dome.

So I made a deal: we would get the bed — and two new dressers, and two new night tables, and an upright chest, and a vanity, and discard all of the existing furniture if all of the clutter went. I would also surrender our entire walk-in dressing area to my wife and confine my clothes to my new drawers. It was the marital equivalent of land for peace.

My wife, to my delight, took me up on the deal. The clutter is now slowly being peeled back and thrown away, and the furniture delivery has been scheduled. My daughters, with the gimlet eyes of bazaar merchants recognizing a sucker with a Fodor’s guide and a wad of American money, requested the same arrangement and I agreed.

I am now buying them a new bedroom set too. In return, they promised two things: to keep the room neat and — much more important — to let me think I won.

Read next: Minimalist Living: When a Lot Less Is More

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TIME psychology

Why Men Are More Narcissistic Than Women

Men sitting on bench wearing colourful socks
Noel Hendrickson—Getty Images

Narcissism has long afflicted more men than women — but that could be changing

If there’s one thing you can say for craziness, it’s that it’s not sexist. Across entire populations, males and females face a pretty equal lifetime risk of coming unhinged. Within conditions, however, there may be differences. Women are twice as likely as men, for example, to develop depression. Anxiety disorders such as OCD and phobias also hit women a bit harder.

Narcissism, however, goes the other way. Research has long suggested that if you’re looking for someone who’s preening, strutting, self-absorbed, arrogant, exhibitionistic, conceited, insensitive and entitled, you’ll find more of them in the boys’ camp than you will in the girls’. So it comes as, well, almost no news at all that a new study — hold your applause till the end, please — found exactly that!

The research, in fairness, was sweeping: a meta-analysis of 355 journal articles and other studies going back 31 years. In the behavioral sciences, which lack the tidy, 1+1=2 certainty of fields like chemistry and physics and math, meta-analyses are often the best way to lock down a hypothesis. The paper did that, but it did more too — not just establishing the gender disparity but explaining why it exists.

In my 2014 book, The Narcissist Next Door, I wrestled with the question of narcissism and gender, and came to the conclusion that our still patriarchal society is far likelier to tolerate — even encourage — narcissistic swagger and aggressiveness in men than it is in women. It was hardly a theory I developed de novo, but rather is one many researchers had voiced — thought not yet proved. The researchers in the new study — led by Emily Grijalva, an assistant professor of organization and human resources at the University of Buffalo School of Management — broke down their metadata in ways that highlighted three of the multiple categories of narcissistic behavior: grandiosity and exhibitionism; leadership and authority; and entitlement.

Men ran away with the entitlement category (we’re looking at you, John Edwards, Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen), and led by a narrower gap in the leadership and authority category. “Compared with women,” Grijalva said in a statement that accompanied the study, “men exhibit more assertiveness and desire for power.” That too is consistent with a culture in which men don’t merely hold more positions in government and high finance, but seek those positions more as well.

But when it comes to exhibitionism — the basic table stakes for boys and girls dreaming of growing up to achieve their true full narcissistic potential — the sexes start off pretty much equally. As happens so often in a sexist world, however, that potential — O.K., pathological potential — is squelched in girls while it’s encouraged in boys.

“Individuals tend to observe and learn gender roles from a young age, and may face backlash for deviating from society’s expectations,” Grijalva said. “In particular, women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative, which creates pressure for [them] to suppress displays of narcissistic behavior.”

Gender equality, of course, is a surpassing good, and the arc of history is inevitably bending its way. It will, alas, almost certainly mean narcissistic equality too. Let’s hope that the growing ranks of female narcissists conduct themselves better than the boys have.

TIME sexuality

No Ben Carson, Homosexuality Is Not a Choice

Pointing the wrong way: Carson is just plain wrong on the science
Richard Ellis; Getty Images Pointing the wrong way: Carson is just plain wrong on the science

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

A presidential hopeful (and a doctor) gets the science all wrong—and makes things worse when he tries to explain himself

If you’re a candidate dreaming of the White House with virtually no chance of actually winding up there, it sometimes helps to say something ridiculous—if only to get your name-recognition numbers up. That is the very best and most charitable explanation for comments by Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, on CNN, arguing that homosexuality is “absolutely” a choice. His evidence? Prison.

“A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay,” he said. “So did something happen while they were in there?”

Prison, of course, is the worst of all possible examples Carson could have chosen—conflating sexuality with circumstance. Men confined together for years without women remain sexual beings and may take whatever outlet is available to them. Something similar was true in a less enlightened era of gay men and women who were forced to marry people of the opposite sex, and who dutifully produced children and tried to satisfy their partners despite the fact that they were getting little satisfaction themselves.

Carson, who was blowtorched in both social and mainstream media for his remarks, quickly walked them back, issuing a statement that, in some ways, only made things worse. “I’m a doctor trained in multiple fields of medicine, who was blessed to work at perhaps the finest institution of medical knowledge in the world,” he wrote. “Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality.”

That statement could indeed have the virtue of being true—provided it was issued in 1990. But since then, there’s been a steady accumulation of evidence that sexuality—like eye color, nose size, blood type and more—is baked in long before birth. The first great breakthrough was the 1991 study by neuroscientist Simon LeVay finding that a region in the hypothalamus related to sexuality known as INAH3 is smaller in gay men and women than it is in straight men. The following year, investigators at UCLA found that another brain region associated with sexuality, the midsagittal plane of the anterior commissure, is 18% larger in gay men than in straight women and 34% larger than in straight men.

One cause of the differences could be genetic. In 1993, one small study suggested a connection between sexual orientation and a section on the X chromosome called Xq28, which could predispose men toward homosexuality. The small size of the study—only 38 pairs of gay brothers—made it less than entirely reliable. But a study released just last year expanded the sample group to 409 pairs of brothers and reached similar conclusions.

Genes are not the only biological roots for homosexuality. Womb environment is thought to play a significant role too, since part of what determines development of a fetus is the level and mix of hormones to which it is exposed during gestation. In 2006, psychologist Anthony Bogaert of Brock University in Canada looked into the never-explained phenomenon of birth order appearing to shape sexuality, with gay males tending to have more older brothers than straight males. Working with a sample group of 944 homosexual and heterosexual males, Bogaert found that indeed, a first born male has about a 3% chance of being gay, a number that goes up 1% at a time for each subsequent boy until it doubles to 6% for a fourth son.

The explanation likely involves the mother’s immune system. Any baby, male or female, is initially treated as an invader by the mother’s body, but multiple mechanisms engage to prevent her system from rejecting the fetus. Male babies, with their male proteins, are perceived as slightly more alien than females, so the mother’s body produces more gender-specific antibodies against them. Over multiple pregnancies with male babies, the womb becomes more “feminized,” and that can shape sexuality.

A range of other physical differences among gay men and lesbians also argue against Carson’s thinking—finger length for instance. In heterosexual men, the index finger is significantly shorter than the ring finger. In straight women, the index and ring fingers are close to the same length. Lesbian finger length is often more similar to that of straight males. This, too, had been informally observed for a long time, but in 2000 a study at the University of California, Berkeley, seemed to validate it.

Lesbians also seem to have differences in the inner ear—of all unlikely places. In all people, sound not only enters the ear but leaves it, in the form of what are known as otoacoustic emissions—vibrations that are produced by the interaction of the cochlea and eardrum and can be detected by instruments. Heterosexual women tend to have higher frequency otoacoustic emissions than men, but gay women don’t. Still other studies have explored a link between homosexuality and handedness (with gays having a greater likelihood of being left-handed or ambidextrous) as well as hair whorl (with the hair at the crown of gay men’s heads tending to grow counterclockwise), though there are differing views on these last two.

Clearly, none of us choose our genetics or finger length or birth order or ear structure, and none of us choose our sexuality either. As with so many cases of politicians saying scientifically block-headed things, Carson either doesn’t know any of this (and as a doctor, he certainly should) or he does know it and is pretending he doesn’t. Neither answer reflects well on his fitness for political office.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME space

Why Leonard Nimoy Mattered

The meaning of Spock

If you cared a fig for space travel, it was easy not to care when the first episode of Star Trek aired on Sept. 8, 1966. Just four days later, Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon would be lifting off for their Gemini 11 mission, which would orbit the earth 44 times in just under three days and set a then unheard-of manned-altitude record of 739 nautical miles (1,369 km). There was still one more Gemini flight to go before NASA could even think of test-flying its Apollo lunar ships—and only a little more than three years left if the U.S. was going to meet President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon before 1970.

Against that, a group of actors on a pasteboard set pretending to fly in space was pretty small beer. And as for one with the blunt-cut bangs and pointy rubber ears? Please.

But the space geeks and critics and TV execs—so many of whom sniffed at Star Trek during the brief three years it ran—were too smart and too cute by half. And the loss of Leonard Nimoy—who more than any other character captured the romance, the rocket science and the extraordinary wit of the series—is cause again to consider why the show was what it was.

Star Trek’s production values—with its wobbly doors and painted rocks and lizard-like antagonist with, as a friend of mine once put it, bicycle reflectors for eyes—were entirely beside the point. It was the largeness of the stories Star Trek sought to tell that mattered, and never mind the idea that fever dreams about dilithium crystals and warp drive seemed all wrong for an era in which metal rockets and flesh-and-blood men were actually flying, the timing of the series was perfect.

I was one of those Gemini junkies when Star Trek premiered—a 12-year-old American boy who built model rockets and learned the names of astronauts and whose very first memory was standing on the front lawn looking for Sputnik when I was only 3 years old. I breathed rocket fuel almost from birth.

And yes, I was too distracted by the real space program to pay a lot of attention to Star Trek in its original run, but as with so many others, I soon tumbled for it hard. The space program, I came to know and appreciate, was the stuff of increments, of inches (literally when Gemini 6 and Gemini 7 became the first manned American spacecraft to rendezvous in orbit). It was a thing of fixed speeds—17,500 m.p.h. (28,200 km/h) to orbit the earth and 25,000 m.p.h. (32,000 km/h) to escape its gravity. It was a thing of teeth-rattling liftoffs and bone-thumping landings and a dependence on fire—fire!, the fuel of the primitives—to get anywhere at all. And, as well, it was a thing of very real and very terrible deaths—as when some of that fire claimed three of those flesh-and-blood astronauts, or when two astronauts, who had trained hard and competed hard and made the cut and were chosen to fly, died before they ever got the chance, in a routine airplane accident.

Stanley Kubrick, with his huge, brooding 2001: A Space Odyssey, released eight months before human beings even orbited the moon, tried to combine the technology of the what-is with the wonder of what-could-be, and so gave us eternal slo-mos of thrusters firing and counter-thrusters responding and astronauts floating and space pods creeping, creeping, creeping toward mother ships. And only then, when you couldn’t take the glacial pace anymore, he blew the whole thing up in a lot of flashing lights and hallucinogenic images about, well, birth or life or death or who knew what and who, after a running time of 160 minutes, cared anymore?

Star Trek didn’t take itself nearly so seriously. It was about warp drive because regular physics is just too strict; it was about beaming up and down, because why shouldn’t the molecules that make you up be infinitely scramble-able and unscramble-able? It was about planet after planet with just the right air and just the right temperature because what’s the point of hiring good-looking actors if you can’t see them for the space helmets? And it was—pitilessly, riotously—about the lieutenant in the red shirt who was inevitably going to die on one of those planets before the first commercial because that was just plain good for the story.

MORE: How Leonard Nimoy Almost Wasn’t Spock

The genius of Star Trek was that it saw the high stakes and high price and punishingly hard science of a real space program and forgave us all that. It let us quit the real while still keeping it in sight, to live in a world in which it takes six years to fly from here to Pluto and glimpse a world in which it takes six seconds to reach Alastria, a Delta Quadrant planet that you can get to only with the help of a spatial trajector—whatever that was.

And it was Nimoy as Mr. Spock—half-human and half-Vulcan, part-brain and part-savage—who was the literal embodiment of that duality. Spock’s mind would have had no truck with the liberties the Star Trek series took. But his heart would have loved them.

We’re better, dreamier, more hopeful spacefarers for having spent time with Star Trek. And we’re better too for having had the wise corrective of Nimoy’s Spock to keep us honest while letting us dream.

TIME climate

Senator Throws Snowball! Climate Change Disproven!

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Is Sen. James Inhofe really the person we want chairing the Senate's environment committee?

What’s all this talk about global hunger? I don’t know about you, but I just tucked into a burrito and there are plenty more where that one came from. But that doesn’t mean the nation’s soaring obesity rates are anything more than a rumor. Most of the people I work with look pretty darn good, so QED right?

Something similar is true of climate change—at least if you’re Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and a man tasked with knowing a thing or two about, um, the environment and public works. The Senator, who has made something of a cottage industry out of arguing that climate change is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” at last has drop-dead, case-closed proof that he’s been right all along. The evidence: a snowball. And not just any snowball, one right there in Washington, DC!

Inhofe brought his snowball onto the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday and declared that “we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record.” Yet in a plastic bag, right on his desk, he had the evidence to demolish that claim. “I ask the chair, you know what this is?” he said. “It’s a snowball, and that’s just from outside here, so it’s very, very cold out, very unseasonable.” Then he tossed the unexpected snowball to the unsuspecting chair and returned to his prepared text with self-satisfied, “Mm-hmm.”

Inhofe is completely correct, of course: It was very, very cold on Thursday—unseasonably so. And it was also very, very hot in Opa Loca Florida, where the temperature was 87º F (30º C)—awfully sweltering even for that part of the country, at least at this time of year. Presumably, Opa Loca’s unseasonable steam bath is equally compelling proof that climate change is real.

Look, it’s easy to take shots at Inhofe, which is why everyone is doing it today—here and here and here and here just for starters. But the implications are real. Either he really doesn’t understand that weather isn’t climate, that long-term trends are different from short-term bumps, that what happens at your house or in your town really, truly isn’t what’s happening everywhere else on the planet, or he does know and he’s pretending he doesn’t. Either way, it’s hard to argue that he’s the man you’d want as the Senate’s leading voice on climate policy.

Here’s hoping, if nothing else, that Inhofe has an easy commute home tonight. It’ll be long-awaited proof that the U.S. highway system has at last solved the problem of traffic.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Quiz: Is Your Dog Crazy?

Take this quiz and find out

A dog’s brain and your brain have very similar chemistry and many similar structures. It stands to reason they work in more or less the same way—and break down the same way too. More and more, behavioral veterinarians are diagnosing problems as diverse as depression, anger, dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder in dogs. As with humans, treatment involves behavioral therapy and sometimes even drugs. But first you have to know if a problem exists at all. Here are some of the symptoms veterinarians consider in making a diagnosis.

 

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