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In space, no one can hear you scream

Which is probably just as well.

You'll be aware that the two-man crew of the ISS (International Space Station) were recently subjected to a brutal aural assault/enjoyed a unique and entertaining experience*, when Sir Paul McCartney and his band performed two songs over a special live, über-wireless, spacetastic broadband link.

*delete as appropriate

Now, I'm sure it was a huge honour to be serenaded by Macca – and when your working day consists of sitting in a metal box eating reconstituted beans with a stranger, a 13-minute version of the Frog Song would probably represent time well spent – but it did disturb me to learn that one of the two songs performed was from the ex-Beatle's latest release.

Brilliant. The only fun you're gonna have all day, and it's taken from the difficult 32nd album.

I mean, I know he's got to promote it, but it's not really fair, is it? They could hardly turn over and watch the other side. Playing to a space station pretty much defines the phrase 'captive audience' and at best he was gonna get two CD sales out of it anyway. He should have played a couple of classics, such as Pipes of peace and Hope of deliverance. Ahem.

But I digress.

What exactly is the ISS for? Nasa's dedicated site spends a lot of time describing what the crew had for Thanksgiving dinner, but tends to suggest that most of their tasks involve receiving supplies and testing equipment. Or what my Mum calls 'busywork'. Nasa should send them on a spacewalk to ask a Martian for a 'long stand'.

I remember being told at school that the real benefit of the space race was all the by-products. That without the US pumping the GDP of several continents into chucking monkeys into space, there'd be no tupperware, aluminium or long trousers. And we'd all travel to work on crowded underground trains instead of hoverboards.

Which is fair enough, I suppose – necessity is the mother of invention and all that. But the guys in space must get bored. They're up there for six months waiting to require a new kind of milk carton just so someone else can invent it.

They are, however, allowed what Nasa rather frighteningly refers to as 'scheduled downtime'. This week, according to the Beeb, they harnessed another link up with the mother planet to watch the latest Harry Potter movie.

Now the shakedown benefits of watching films in space are obvious. I suspect it's an expensive business (but so is watching a film at a high-street cinema) and tubes of moist popcorn are unlikely to catch on. But anyone who has endured a film through a shower of teenage sweet wrappers while listening to Kevin explain plot twists to Sharon and the kids will appreciate the potential for splendid isolation. And if, like me, you live in London, you'll probably enjoy improved transport links.

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