Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December Sunset in New Mexico

I wanted to share this photo of one of our fabulous sunsets in New Mexico.

David took this shot on his way home to El Paso last week.

Enjoy your holidays.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Received in an Email

...and worth passing along.

Arlington National Cemetary

Know the line has held, your job is done.

Rest easy, sleep well.

Others have taken up where you fell, the line has held.

Peace, peace, and farewell...

You may be interested to know that these wreaths--some 5,000--are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington , Maine. The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He's done this since 1992.

Most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In the Cold...but not the Dark

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." --Charles Dickens

Yup, that pretty much sums up 2008 for me.

On the worst of times side of the equation, my mother was hospitalized in January and passed away in early February. It was a very difficult time for me and my family. Our water well went out this spring, something we've been struggling with (and applying liberal amounts of paycheck to) ever since. That event was followed by a nearly two-day power failure (tosses most of her refrigerator and freezer contents into the trash) a belly-side up hot water heater, then refrigerator (experiences deja vu and tosses most of her refrigerator and freezer contents out again)...and the latest, right in the middle of a winter snow storm....the furnace dies! Brrrr! The repairman was here and has been off on a six hour quest to find parts. *bites nails* But I'm trying to look at the bright side. At least we have electricity-- *knocks on wood*--and I have time to type up a post. Hello!

On the bright side of 2008, I completed and started marketing my first SFR novel this spring, and have since been working on my next two. The current downturn in the industry has convinced me that this is a good time to focus on finishing them. Then when the industry is back on the upswing, I plan to blitz all three.

Two of my IPs (Barbara Elsborg and Dawn Jackson) had a remarkable year. Barbara has now had nine of her novels accepted, three e-published to date, and published a short story as well. Dawn just had two shorts published in December. Arlene and I are still plugging away, but the successes of our peers has been a real motivater.

So that's my 2008 in a nutshell. Or is it an Eight Ball? Hmmm... How was your year?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Friday Five (2008 Top Five Reads)

Yes, a little late, but for my Friday Five (last week's) I'm posting my 2008 Five--my five top reads during 2008 (all SFR except for one stand-out Fantasy I couldn't leave off the list).

And here they are, in order of appearance. (Remember, Christmas is coming. Support the industry by buying some of these great books for your friends.)

1. THE OUTBACK STARS by Sandra McDonald. A fascinating blend of compelling characters, fantastic world building, intrigue, suspense, Australian mythology and an alien-constructed mystery. The author is a former officer in the US Navy and her experiences lend true realism to the culture of a really big ship. Inspiring and with characters I bonded with and related to. The Romeo and Juliet-esque romance made me root for this couple to overcome the impossible obstacles confronting them. Terry Myell is one of my all-time favorite SFR heroes. This book was a Compton Crook nominee and selected for the top spot of Spacefreighters Lounge Dom Perignon (all time great SFR) list.

2. ARMED & MAGICAL by Lisa Shearin. Yes, there it is. The non-SFR on my Top Five SFR list comes in at number 2. Fantasies don't tend to intrigue me, but book 2 in the Raine Benares series is addicting. The characters, situations and world building are fabulously fun, and the steamy-but-unresolved (so far) love triangle is spellbinding. This very non-typical Fantasy is fresh and full of surprises. This recommended read comes with one qualifier--read book one first! (MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND).

3. SHADES OF DARK by Linnea Sinclair. The continuing saga of Chaz and Sully did not disappoint, and though there was plenty of action and tense battle scenes, it was the psychological journey and interaction between the two main characters that really hooked me. The love scenes--as much mental as physical--were particularly well done, and the obstacles the couple are forced to confront are monumental and life-changing. The author takes moral dilemma to a whole new level in this sequel to GABRIEL'S GHOST. She also managed to make me a big fan of a character I didn't care for in the first book, Admiral Philip Guthrie (Chaz's ex-husband) who plays a pivotal role in this novel and will be the main character in the next in the series, HOPE'S FOLLY which will be released in 2009.

4. BARRAYARAN by Lois McMaster Bujold. I'm embarrassed to admit that prior to 2008, I had never read a book by this iconic SFR author. This certainly won't be the last. BARRAYARAN's gutsy and intimidation-immune main characters are faced with political schemes, assassination attempts, ominous threats and physical jeopardy in a society in turmoil after the death of their emperor. Cordelia, the heroine, never waivers from her goal of saving something very precious to her, though she knows it could cost her her life or her marriage to regent Aral Vorkosigan. The world building is remarkable, and the science fiction elements are worked into the human saga in a seamless and believable way. This book is now available as Part II of CORDELIA'S HONOR, which includes the first book in the series, SHARDS OF HONOR. I hope to read many more books in the continuing Vorkosigan series. BARRAYARAN is a Hugo Award winner.

5. CONTACT by Susan Grant. A satisfying tale of a woman who must assume the role of leader in a crisis, in a future where she may be one of the last survivors of humankind. The author draws on her knowledge as a 747 pilot in this "what if..." tale of alien abduction and first contact with an alien culture. The slow build to boiling point of attraction and trust between the two main characters was particularly well done.

All of these books come with my hearty recommendations as great reads, even if you're not a Science Fiction Romance fan. Click the titles above for links to Amazon to read more or order, with the exception of BARRAYARAN which is linked through CORDELIA'S HONOR.

I'm looking forward with great anticipation to some of the upcoming releases for 2009. I'll try to do a separate post on my much anticipated TBR additions in the near future.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Space Savvy

Gemini 5: When Space Gives You Lemons...

Not all Gemini missions are a resounding success. Gemini 5 launches on August 21, 1965 after an aborted countdown on August 19, and splashes down a week later on August 29. It is the first mission to last more than a week in space. The motto Cooper wants on the mission patch is "Eight Days or Bust" but his request is denied because of concerns the mission might fall short of its goal. The flight duration is 7 Days, 22 hours, 55 min, 14 seconds and with it, Gemini 5 takes the flight time record from the Soviet Union.

Astronauts Charles Conrad, Jr. (pilot) and C. Gordon "Gordo" Cooper (commander) make up the crew. Gemini 5 completes 120 orbits with objectives to tests fuel cells for electrical power and evaluate guidance and navigation systems to set the stage for future missions involving rendezvous and docking. In addition, 17 experiments are undertaken. An accident involving freeze-dried shrimp results in the cabin being filled with small, floating pink objects.

Gemini 5 fails to meet its objective to rendezvous with a rendezvous evaluation pod (REP) when problems develop with the fuel cell that preclude the attempt due to a decision to power down the cells. An experiment to photograph a nearby object can't be carried out after the REP rendezvous is canceled. The astronauts now must endure extreme boredom in order to achieve the flight time duration record.

A secondary objective to demonstrate controlled reentry guidance is not achieved when incorrect navigation coordinates transmit to the spacecraft computer from the ground. As a result, the craft overshoots its landing zone by 89 miles.

Maybe Gemini 5's motto should have been "Murphy On Board."

Right: Charles Conrad on board the Gemini 5. NASA photo credits.

[Series to be continued...]

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dom Perignon Selections

I'm about to launch my Dom Perignon side bar for the Spacefreighters Lounge Best SFR of all time.

What does Dom Perignon have to do with great SFR? Here's my earlier article to explain:


Tuesday, September 30, 2008
In Search of Dom Perignon

This is for all the Science Fiction Romance aficionados, and I’m addressing both writers and readers. We’re the mavericks of publishing world, brewers and consumers of a fiction hybrid that’s neither science fiction per se nor romance by definition. It’s both. It’s neither. And it’s something above and beyond.

You could think about it this way. Fine wine is blended from grapes and a few select ingredients. When it becomes wine it becomes something new. Something different. Something more sophisticated. The blending of elements turns it into a thing apart and removed from its origins. It has variety. It can be light, dark, subtle, bold, sweet, surprising.

Thus, my analogy: SciFiRom is a blend that takes romance to new heights and grounds science fiction in the dynamics of human emotion.

So taking my analogy a step further, today I begin my search for the Dom Perignon--the finest champagne--of Science Fiction Romance. I’m looking for novels that represents a perfect blend of sparkling technology, delicious world building and/or captivating human emotions. I have a couple of nominees in mind already, but I’d like to get recommendations from other SciFiRom fans.

So send me your nominations for the best Science Fiction Romance novels in the comments below or email Lgreen2162 AT aol DOT com. (Sorry for the encryption, but I’m on a crusade against spammers.) I’ll start building my Dom Perignon wine cellar of SciFiRom excellence soon.

To qualify, the stories must incorporate realistic scientific details along with imaginative world building and a wonderful romantic tale. These novels are recommended reading for anyone with a love of the genre as well as those who are new to it.

My first three nominees to the Spacefreighters Lounge Dom Perignon Wine Cellar are:

THE OUTBACK STARS by Sandra McDonald
Compton Award finalist
A fascinating blend of military culture, realistic world-building, Australian mythology and characters in turmoil. Sergeant Terry Myell and Lieutenant JoDenny Scott are two battered survivors of their troubled pasts who meet aboard the Aral Sea, a massive ship that travels the mysterious Alcheringa system to other colonized planets. Doomed by the strict codes of military non-fraternization their attraction seems hopeless, until they step into an ancient alien artifact and trigger a transport system that will change the future of mankind.

GAMES OF COMMAND by Linnea Sinclair
2007 PEARL Award Winner and RITA Award finalist
Captain Tasha "Sass" Sebastian and human-cyborg Admiral Brandon Kel-Paten were once enemies and officers in rival fleets. They have crossed paths as adversaries many times before, but now are forced to serve together as part of a new and very fragile alliance. Sass fears for her career if the hardened and disapproving admiral discovers her secret past, but is shaken when she learns Kel-Paten has a secret of his own--he has overridden his emotional inhibitors and fallen in love with her.

BARRAYARAN by Lois McMaster Bujold
Hugo Award winner
Former Captain Cordelia Naismith set the market as a strong but very female heroine who has abandoned her world to become Lady Vorkosigan to a man from an enemy civilization who was once her captor. When her spouse is chosen as Regent to the next emperor, events take a hellish turn that will propell Cordelia on a dangerous quest against vicious enemies and that could threaten her life and the bonds of her marriage. (Also available as part of CORDELIA'S HONOR, which combines the beginning of Cordelia and Aral Vorkosigan's story in SHARDS OF HONOR with BARRAYAR in one book.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Top Science Fiction Films?

Moviefone has posted their picks of the top 25 Science Fiction films of all time. Here's their list:

25. 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (1977)
24. 'Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan' (1982)
23. 'It Came From Outer Space' (1953)
22. 'Galaxy Quest' (1999)
21. 'Robocop' (1982)
20. 'Tron' (1982)
19. '12 Monkeys' (1995)
18. 'Soylent Green' (1973)
17. 'Brazil' (1985)
16. '2001: Space Odyssey' (1968)
15. 'Planet of the Apes' (1968)
14. 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' (1978)
13. 'E.T.' (1982)
12. 'Metropolis' (1927)
11. 'Terminator' (1984)
10. 'Forbidden Planet' (1956)
9. 'Alien' (1979)
8. 'The Thing' (1982)
7. 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day' (1991)
6. 'The Matrix' (1999)
5. 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' (1951)
4. 'Star Wars - A New Hope' (1977)
3. 'Aliens' (1986)
2. 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back' (1980)
1. 'Blade Runner' (1982)

Being a SciFi afficianado, I'm baffled at both the order and some of the picks. It Came From Outer Space before Wrath of Kahn? And that's the only showing for any of the many Star Trek films. A Voyage Home, et al getting bumped by the likes of Soylent Green and Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Puhlease! Blade Runner in the top spot? What was the basis for that? Added points for dark depressing futuristic noir films? (Yeah, I'm on a rant. Can you tell?) Well, at least they didn't include Plan 9 from Outer Space.

2001 was an excellent film right up until the acid trip what-the-hell-is-this-supposed-to-mean ending. But 2010? Awesome, sound science and a great story. (If you haven't seen it, run, don't walk to your nearest video rental store and grab a copy. Really has it all--science, politics, human emotion, a heart-stopping flaming slingshot maneuver around Jupiter and the ending-- though it might seem far-fetched is based on Jupiter's elemental makeup. This actually could have happened under certain circumstances. (No spoilers, but I'm tempted.)

I must confess I haven't seen Metropolis, which they describe as an early icon [*makes note to rent this one someday*] or Brazil, which sounds like Sci Fi in all its glorious weirdness. But 12 Monkeys I have seen and didn't care for the anticlimatic ending or the minimal sci fi elements.

And hello...where's Serenity? Somebody really missed the boat here...okay, the ship. The Firefly feature length film certainly was better than about twenty-one (not that I'm counting) of the these so-called "Top 25."

The Abyss? Another great that was completely overlooked. Not only did it have wonderful SF elements, it took place on an underwater deep sea oil rig and included a terrifying nuclear sub crash and absolutely wondrous underwater footage.

And Contact? Destined to be a classic. Not just because Carl Sagan wrote it, but because it dealt with some truly astronomical questions vs. the human political machine and the satirical spin on the aliens-among-us extremists. Not to mention gorgeous visuals and through-provoking questions about what we believe.

Not one of my favorites, but it seems Starship Troopers at least deserves a spot somewhere on that list.

What do you think? Did they get it right? Did they have it all wrong? Any other classics that were missed?

What does my list look like? I'll only pick my top fifteen, since I haven't seen all of these (just most of them).

15. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
14. E.T.
13. Star Trek: The Voyage Home
12. Star Trek: Wrath of Khan
11. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
10. Contact
9. Original Star Wars (A New Hope)
8. The Abyss
7. Terminator
6. Alien
5. Serenity (Firefly movie)
4. Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back
3. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
2. 2010: Space Odyssey Two
1. Aliens

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Space Saavy

Gemini 4: America's First Sky Walker

The next space flights will push the envelope on what is possible in space. NASA wants a man to walk in space--outside the protective bounds of his spacecraft. Rookie astronaut Ed White is selected to make the first attempt at an EVA or Extra Vehicular Activity. His partner will be Jim McDivitt. The two men are friends and have known each other since attending University of Michigan and test pilot school together. They are known as the Gemini Twins.

Before the EVA can be attempted, astronauts have to learn what effects weightlessness will have on the human body. Since weightless conditions are difficult to simulate, a specially adapted aircraft, nicknamed The Vomit Comet, allows the astronauts to experience up to thirty seconds of weightlessness. During repeated flights, they test movement, carry out tasks and find ways to get from place-to-place under zero G conditions.

The next question that must be answered: How will the human body react to free-floating in space traveling at 17,500 in Earth orbit? No one knows. Can a man mentally and physically function in zero gravity? No one knows that either. The astronaut's suit will be the difference between life and death in a place where the temperature can fluctuate from +250 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun to -250 degrees in the shade. The greatest concern of all is the vacuum in outer space. If a suit fails, rips or tears, the differences in pressure will kill an astronaut in seconds when liquids within his body vaporize. The suit has to have systems that will keep the astronaut alive in these conditions. The risks are, quite literally, astronomical.

In the Discovery documentary When We Left Earth, astronaut Jim McDivitt says, "The suit was designed to keep us alive. It was risky and we accepted the risk. We didn't become astronauts to play it safe." The EVA is originally planned for the Gemini 6 mission.

But NASA is stunned to learn the Soviet space program has just achieved an EVA ahead of the Americans. This ups the stakes for NASA and a decision is made for Gemini 4 to perform the EVA. If White's EVA is successful, it will move the space program much closer to its goal of reaching the Moon and help the USA keep up with the Russians.

The astronauts train for the EVA in secrecy, often at night and in isolated conditions. Only a handful of people realize what America is about to attempt. NASA announces the space walk will be part of the mission just a few days before the launch. Many, including some of the astronauts, wonder if NASA is moving too fast and putting the astronauts lives in jeopardy. A problem during the EVA could set back the space program and end all chance at reaching the Moon before 1970.

Gemini 4 will be the longest spaceflight to date and the EVA the most dangerous fete ever attempted by the space program. A tracking station verifies all safety criteria were being met and NASA gives Ed White the go ahead to begin his spacewalk. After the astronauts get the hatch open, Ed White leaves his seat and exits the open hatch of the Gemini 4 capsule into space, attached to the capsule via a lifeline. He is now traveling free of the craft, 200 miles above the Earth at over 17,000 mph. Both astonauts know if the suit or the lifeline fails, White will be lost. There is no procedure in place to retrieve him if something goes wrong. As if to demonstrate the danger, a glove floats out of the capsule and drifts away.

Ed White walks in space for 36 minutes. During the experience he says, "This is the greatest experience. It's just tremendous." White is so overwhelmed by his experience he is reluctant to return to the capsule and has to be ordered to return by mission control and McDivitt. As night approaches, they are concerned about the extremes in temperature change on his suit. He makes it back before nightfall.

This first space walk undertaken by Ed White of Gemini 4 becomes a major highlight of the space program and pushes the American space program even closer to its goal of reaching the Moon.

Right: Actual photo of Ed White during Gemini 4 EVA. Photo credit NASA.

[Series to be continued...]

Monday, December 1, 2008

Space Savvy

The Gemini Program Begins with a Bang

Soon after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, Eric Sevareid, a CBS news reporter said that his legacy was his attitude and contagious spirit that all things are possible for Americans if only we have the vision and will. In a speech at Rice University on September 12, 1962, President Kennedy sets a goal to put a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade. At this point in time, the USA has a total of 20 minutes of spaceflight experience. This nearly inconceivable challenge is considered courageous and historic by some, arrogant and fool-hardy by others.

But NASA and the nation takes JFK's words to heart. The next step after the Mercury program is to graduate to the Gemini program and two-man capsules. The Mercury missions proved spaceflight was possible for human beings. Gemini will teach man how to fly to the Moon.
On September 17, 1962, a second group of astronauts arrive, four from the Air Force, two from the Navy, and two civilians. They are called The New Nine and several will become famous: Jim Lovell, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin among them. Rivalry between the astronauts is intense. Each wants to be first to step on the surface of the Moon.

John Young, one of the New Nine, and Gus Grissom of the original Mercury Seven are the first two astronauts paired for a Gemini mission. Their comaraderie and enthusiasm gives them a reputation among their peers of being a sort of 'dynamic duo.'

But there's a problem...

A more powerful rocket is needed to launch a two man capsule into space. The Air Force is developing the new Titan missiles but having difficulties adapting missile rockets to a manned Gemini vehicle. The Titans are initially a disaster (see YouTube video). One out of every five fails catastrophically. Astronauts watch as the rockets explode on the launchpad again and again. The odds aren't good enough to risk propelling a manned mission into space.

Engineers attack the problems and create safeguards and backup systems to make the rockets safer. Finally NASA launches two rockets in a row that don't explode with the unmanned Gemini 1 and Gemini 2 capsules. John Young and Gus Grissom will ride the next into space aboard Gemini 3. Their primary goal? Test the brand new rocket and capsule and return...alive. If anything goes wrong with the launch, Young and Grissom will be killed on live television with millions watching.

In a moment of optimism, Grissom names the Gemini 3 capsule The Molly Brown after the Broadway hit "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." He hopes the name will bring good luck and, if the voyage is successful, won't end with the same fate as his Liberty Bell 7 Mercury capsule which sank before recovery. The Molly Brown was the last NASA vehicle to be named by an astronaut.

The launch aboard the converted ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) goes flawlessly. The rocket stages fall away and the Gemini 3 capsule reaches orbit. Grissom and Young become the first Americans to fly in space together. They make three successful orbits of the earth testing important maneuvers and altitude changes that are essential first steps in reaching the Moon.

With the exception of a contraband corned beef sandwich smuggled aboard by John White (for which the crew was later reprimanded because the crumbs could have played major havoc with the instrumentation onboard), a couple of minor failed experiements and a glitch with the orbital manuevering system thrusters (that would manifest itself again in Gemini 8 as a much larger issue) the flight was without significant problems.

But re-entry is not so perfect. Back on Earth, the recovery task force of 27 ships and 126 aircraft wait while things go amiss. In an interview for the Discovery Channel documentary When We Left Earth, John Young states, "We screwed up on re-entry. When we fired the retro-rockets, we forgot the Earth rotated under us. We forgot to put the rotation of the Earth into the equation."

When the parachutes engaged, the sudden change in orientation in the capsule causes Gus Grissom to crack the plexiglas faceplate of his helmet on a control panel. The Gemini capsule is coming down about 190 miles short of the targeted recovery area. Grissom is able to make up much of this distance during assent, but Gemini 3 still lands about sixty miles off target. The men decide to deviate from standard landing procedures by not opening their capsule's hatch, and by keeping their helmets on for some time after splashdown due to smoke that was present from the thrusters. As the astronauts drift in the Atlantic waiting for rescue, Grissom gets seasick, but both men are recovered safely after an uncomfortable thirty minutes or so.

A large crowd turns out for a ticker tape parade in the cold rain of lower Manhattan to welcome the returning heroes home. The first Gemini flight has been a success and has laid the groundwork for more ambitious missions to come.

Each Gemini mission going forward will involve huge risks and giant leaps in achieving the goal set by President Kennedy. The next Gemini mission will involve another historic first for spaceflight. One of the astronauts will conduct an EVA or Extra Vehicular Activity. For the first time, man will walk in space.

[Series to be continued]

Related Links:

John W. Young, American and International Hero

The Molly Brown (Gemini 3) is on display at Spring Mill Park near Gus Grissom's hometown of Mitchell, Indiana.

More details on Gemini 3 including flight transcripts and chronology.

Official NASA Account of the Mission from On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini, by Barton C. Hacker and Charles C. Alexander is available at the link above. Published as NASA Special Publication-4203 in the NASA History Series, 1977.

Article for, June 17, 2000: Gus Grissom Didn't Sink the Libery Bell 7

Liberty Bell 7 is recovered 38 years after it sank (, July 20, 1999)

The Final Countdown: Rocket Explosions

This is a companion to Gemini 3: The Gemini Program Begins with a Bang.

Our space program wasn't always a glowing success. This YouTube video is a compellation of many of the early catastrophic rocket failures set to the tune of "The Final Countdown." I think it illustrates the extraordinary courage and optimism it required to be an astronaut in our early space program, and still today.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Welcome Home Endeavor and Crew

The space shuttle Endeavor performed a perfect, text book landing today after being rerouted from Florida to Edwards Air Force Base in California, due to inclement weather. Commander Christopher Ferguson landed the craft with her crew of seven astronaust at approximately 4:25 pm EST. Endeavor will be piggy-backed atop a special 747 jumbo jet for the return trip to Kennedy Space Center.

The STS-126 mission launched on November 14 with eight astronauts on board and objectives to improve the International Space Station with a new bathroom, sleeping quarters, and urine recycling system. The crew also was able to clear metal shavings from a jammed solar wing joint.

Some facts about Endeavor you may not know:

Endeavor (OV-105) was the fifth shuttle authorized for construction by Congress on August 1, 1987, as a replacement for Challenger. Endeavor is named for the first ship captained by 18th century British explorer James Cook. Cook was an amateur astronomer who also championed the idea of including scientists on exploratory expeditions.

Endeavor arrived at Kennedy Space Center on the back of a NASA Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (747) on May 7, 1991 and flew her maiden flight (STS-49) a year later on May 7, 1992 after a flawless lift off. Endeavor was the first shuttle to use a drag chute during landing, and other upgrades included the avionics system, nose wheel steering, and an external airlock giving the craft the ability to dock with the International Space Station.

The two other surviving orbiter shuttles are Atlantis and Discovery.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Research: Mass Extinction Events

More research for my current WIP, which has underlying environmental themes at the heart of the story, resulted in more interesting facts to share. (Researching a novel results in so much self-education it should come with its own diploma!)

Over the course of history, there are believed to be five major mass extinction events--those ending the Ordivician (440-450mya), Devonian (360-375 mya), Permian (251 mya), Triassic (205 mya) and Cretaceous (65 mya) periods.

In addition, the Cambrian mass extinction also saw considerable loss of species and could be considered a sixth.

It may be time to add number seven. The Holocene Extinction Event. In other words, right now. No cataclysmic gamma ray burst or asteroid impact triggered this event. We have met the enemy and they is us.

According to a survey in 1998 by the American Museum of Natural History, up to seventy percent of biologists believe 50% of all species could disappear in the next 100 years, making this among the most destructive and fastest extinction events on record. Some scientists believe, however, there isn't enough data available to compare current trends with the mass extinctions apparent in fossil evidence of the past.

Even so, I think it becomes apparent why environmental issues are at the forefront of so many Near Future, Futuristic, and Science Fiction stories. The environment is a major concern of our times that may profoundly effect the future of our governments, cultures and economies. (I know what you're thinking. What'dya mean, future?)

Friday, November 28, 2008

More Space Exploration YouTubes

NASA New Spacecraft and Rockets including the CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle)

Animated simulations of things to come. Interesting, but narration on what you are viewing would have been more educational.

Plasma Rocket Prototype

Again, narration would have been helpful. I use plasma technology (with a good dose of imagination) in two of my SciFiRom projects.

Supposed NASA Video of a UFO

The management of Spacefreighters Lounge does not support or deny the claims of alien activity within Earth proximity. This video attempts a neutral stand but seems to support evidence of the UFO theory.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Have a very
Spacefreighters Lounge

Recap of the Mercury Program

Continuing my Space Savvy series, here's a recap of my former posts on the Mercury Program, America's first venture into space. I posted this first round of articles several weeks ago. Articles on the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs will come later.

Mercury 7 Astronaut and Mission Recap

Alan Shepard - Freedom 7 - launched May 5, 1961, suborbital flight. Lieutenant Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. of the US Navy was the first American in space, but not the first or the first human in space. His historic flight was preceded by a Russian dog, an American chimp and a Russian cosmonaut. After several delays he demanded of Mission Control, "Let's light this candle!" They did, and he reached an altitude of 116 miles on a flight that lasted 20 minutes. 45 million Americans watched. Shepard's flight answered critical questions about if human's would be able to breathe or swallow and perform basic tasks in orbit. No one knew the answer until he proved it could be done.

Gus Grissom - Liberty Bell 7 - launched July 21, 1961 after two weather delays, and completed a suborbital flight. Gus Grissom was a combat fighter in Korea who finished over one hundred missions, naming his aircraft "Scotty" after his son. He earned both the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. In the early days of the Mercury program, Lieuteant Colonel Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom championed the explosive bolts used on the capsule hatches to allow for quick exit. Ironically, the bolts on his capsule spontaneously blew, resulting in the craft taking on water and the ultimate loss of his capsule with all its invaluable data, despite the best efforts by a helicopter crew to retrieve it. It was the only craft Grissom ever lost. Gus Grissom was slated as one of the first Apollo astronauts, but died tragically with two fellow astronauts when a fire broke out on the ground during training in Apollo 1.

John Glenn - Friendship 7 - launched February 20, 1962, first orbital flight, 3 orbits. Lieutenant Colonel John Herschel Glenn, Jr., a US Marine Corp pilot during the Korean war had three aircraft nearly shot out from under him but managed to land them safely. He was perhaps America's most famous astronaut. John Glenn was the first man to achieve orbit, considered to be the greatest adventure of the 21st century and helped the US catch up to the Russian's in the space race. He described the view as "tremendous" and said nothing could compare to seeing the curvature of the Earth or entire nations at a glance. He described mysterious fireflies outside his ship that raised concerns of the possibility of life in space. Those questions were later answered during Scott Carpenter's flight. Mission Control had grave concerns Glenn's Friendship 7 would burn up upon re-entry into the atmosphere when insruments showed the heat shield was loose. The straps to his retro pack were left in place in hopes this would hold the shield in place, but the extreme heat burned through the straps. Glenn splashed down safely. After recovery, NASA learned faulty instrumentation had resulted in a false alarm on the heat shield. John Glenn later became a politician and is one of only two surviving asronauts of the Mercury program.

Scott Carpenter - Aurora 7 - launched May 24, 1962, second orbital flight, 3 orbits. Lieutenant Malcolm Scott Carpenter, US Navy, was the second American to orbit the Earth. His flight lasted five hours and he achieved a maximum altitude of 164 miles and a velocity of 17,532 mph. He also identified the mysterious fireflies seen by John Glenn as frozen particles that he nicknamed "frostflies." After using up large amounts of fuel (varying stories claim sightseeing by the astronaut or a stuck valve as the cause), Mission Control was not sure he had enough fuel remaining to return to Earth safely. He was out of contact with Houston for over 40 minutes, and NASA was on the verge of declaring the first man lost in the space program when his capsule was found 250 miles beyond the recovery zone. Carpenter was fine. After a motorcycle accident that injured his arm, Carpenter resigned from NASA in 1967 and became the director of the Aquanautic Operations for the SeaLab III.

Walter Schirra - Sigma 7 - launched October 3, 1962, 6 orbits. Lieutenant Commander Walter Marty Schirra, Jr., US Navy, had a mission that lasted five hours, 15 minutes. He later filled the pilot command seat for both Gemini 6 and Apollo 7, participating in a total of three of NASA's programs.

Gordon Cooper - Faith 7 - launched May 15, 1963, 22 orbits. Captain Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr., US Air Force, was the last astronaut to fly solo in space and flew a distance of 546,147 statute miles. His flight lasted 34 hours, 20 minutes, and he was the first astronaut to sleep in space. He later participated in Gemini flights and held the record for the largest number of man hours logged in space with 225, 15 minutes.

Captain Donald Kent Slayton, U.S. Air Force, the remaining member of the original Mercury Seven astronauts did not fly a Mercury mission due to the detection of a heart condition in August of 1959. He was later medically cleared of the heart condition and flew with the crew of the joint Apollo-Soyez Test Project in 1975. The successful test of a universal docking system paved the way for international cooperation in future missions. Slayton logged 217 hours and 28 minutes in his first space flight.

Note the short spans of time between some of these missions. When President John F. Kennedy set a goal for NASA to land a man on the moon and bring him home safely by the year 1970--only about seven years in the future at that time--his words were taken to heart. These six flights accomplished major leaps forward in the space program in an unbelievably short span of time. But Mercury was just the start of America's venture into space. The Gemini and Apollo missions to come would lay the groundwork to reach the moon, and to get us there and back again.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


In doing my ongoing research on the NASA space program, I rediscovered this amazing moment in time. One of our first images of the Earth rising over the Moon. Some of you may remember the first introduction to an Earthrise in the old Tang commercial? The first view of Earthrise was seen from Apollo 8. The image pictured above is from NASA archive footage of Apollo 11. The quote below originated from an astronaut with the Apollo 14 mission.

The sense of wonder and achievement we once had in the space program has been lost, but for me, this sight rekindled that giddy feeling of discovery, of seeing the universe from brand new perspectives for the very first time.

The eloquent quote featured on this poster is by Astronaut Edgar Mitchell of Apollo 14:

"Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth . . . home."

Our venture into space over the last four decades has forever changed our destiny and our understanding of the universe. Going forward, as part of my Put the Science Back in Science Fiction Romance campaign, I'll be continuing my Space Savvy series of articles focusing on the NASA missions.

For anyone interested in purchasing the poster, try a search on Google, Amazon or other sites for Earthrise. I don't want to endorse a product I haven't yet seen but I've placed an order for the poster shown above from the Tranquility Posters site.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Ten (or so) Chapter Hamster Wheel

I've developed this annoying little quirk in my writing. Well, actually, it's more than annoying and a lot more than a little quirk. After about the first ten (to thirteen) chapters in a WIP, I get bogged down. Or maybe a better analogy is fired up. It's not writer's block, it's just the opposite. My muse goes into overdrive and starts working simultaneously on ways to make earlier chapters better, more interesting, more suspenseful, ramp up the suspense in the middle, while it's chomping at the bit to get to the dynamic end. The result. Hamster Wheel. The wheels turn and turn and turn, but I don't get anywhere.

I've now reached the Ten Chapter Hamster Wheel (TCHW) on two successive novels. I know I'll jump off the wheel and get back on track, but meanwhile the muse is in hypersonic "monkey brain" mode and it's very difficult to focus and move ahead when it's flying off in forty directions.

Ah, the joy of an over-active imagination. I think this is where left brain is supposed to kick in and get right brain back with the flight program.

"See here, now, Right Brain. Start focusing all that creative rocket power into forward motion or you're just going to keep spinning in big circles in the sky," Left Brain says.

And Right Brain replies, "Wheeeeeeeeee. Oh, shiny!"

Sometimes I just have to let right brain get to the end of its amusement ride before I achieve creative control. Meanwhile, if you can't beat 'em...

*fastens seat belt and throws hands in the air*

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Best of "Hey, Shipwreck": Episode 12

Episode 12
FRED takes a Call from Home (my subtitle)
Thresher and Sea Wolf trash vessel series names, logos and long, boring watches.
This is the final installment I'll post for now.

The series (a first and second season) are available on YouTube and were created by Patrick Hrabe, a member of the US Navy, and Tube Daze Productions, music by John Sequin. If you want to see more type in "Hey, Shipwreck" in the YouTube search box or go directly to Tube Daze Productions site. They are also available on CD if you get hooked.

A Thought for the Holidays...

Support the industry.
Buy books as gifts.
This is a tough time for writers and the publishing industry. The down turn in the economy has resulted in layoffs, the closure of independent presses and fewer books being published or sold. If you're a writer or if you love to read, you can do your part by buying books as gifts this holiday season. Or anytime.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Best of "Hey, Shipwreck": Episode 11

Episode 11
Roving Wars
(I made up the subtitle, but I think it fits. *smirk*)

The series (a first and second season) are available on YouTube and were created by Patrick Hrabe, a member of the US Navy, and Tube Daze Productions, music by John Sequin. If you want to see more type in "Hey, Shipwreck" in the YouTube search box or go directly to Tube Daze Productions site. They are also available on CD if you get hooked.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Best of "Hey, Shipwreck!": Episode 7

"Hey, Shipwreck"
Episode 7
My Subtitle:
Disgruntled Sailors, Diggits and Lifers

More from the addictive Sub in Space series.

The series (a first and second season) are available on YouTube and were created by Patrick Hrabe, a member of the US Navy, and Tube Daze Productions, music by John Sequin. If you want to see more type in "Hey, Shipwreck" in the YouTube search box or go directly to Tube Daze Productions site. They are also available on CD if you get hooked.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Best of "Hey, Shipwreck": Episode 5

"Hey, Shipwreck!"
Episode 5
All about FRED and SCAT, more on the swearing cessation program, the definition of term "Hey, Shipwreck" and subtitles for your viewing entertainment. *smirk*

Warning: Bathroom humor (literally). But in this case, I guess it's called Head Humor.

The series (a first and second season) are available on YouTube and were created by Patrick Hrabe, a member of the US Navy, and Tube Daze Productions, music by John Sequin. If you want to see more type in "Hey, Shipwreck" in the YouTube search box or go directly to Tube Daze Productions site. They are also available on CD if you get hooked.

Best of Hey Shipwreck: Episode 4

"Hey, Shipwreck"
Episode Four
HS IV takes potshots at NUBs, roommates, recruiting, the Army, Star name it. A classic!

The series (a first and second season) are available on YouTube and were created by Patrick Hrabe, a member of the US Navy, and Tube Daze Productions, music by John Sequin. If you want to see more type in "Hey, Shipwreck" in the YouTube search box or go directly to Tube Daze Productions site. They are also available on CD if you get hooked.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Best of Hey Shipwreck: Episode 2

"Hey, Shipwreck!"
Episode 2
Hey Shipwreck 101 (My subtitle)

Another in the "Hey, Shipwreck" animated sub in space series. This one introduces and pokes fun at NUBs, training procedures, diggits, introduces the "swearing cessation program" and outlines the basis of Roving Wars in a future episode (more on that later).

As before, adult content advised, but most questionable langage is bleeped (sort of).

The series (a first and second season) are available on YouTube and were created by Patrick Hrabe, a member of the US Navy, and Tube Daze Productions, music by John Sequin. If you want to see more type in "Hey, Shipwreck" in the YouTube search box or go directly to Tube Daze Productions site. They are also available on CD if you get hooked.

I'm on a Campaign

Have you noticed?

My campaign is called "Putting the Science Back in Science Fiction Romance" and I've been posting articles about the space program and ship environments for several weeks now. Most of these articles involve undergoing research for my WIP in progress with the working title "Planets." I've discovered some valuable knowledge of the challenges of life in space, and I thought my blog would make a great venue to share the wealth.

Although hard science in SFR is not my thing and never will be, I believe using realistic details in my story, or imaginative details with a basis in science, is crucial. After all, science is Science Fiction Romance's first name. If it doesn't involve a scientific basis (with liberal doses of imagination applied, of course) then it's really futuristic fantasy or my favorite term FoaP (Fantasy on Another Planet).

Both of my earlier works pushed the envelope on the SFR a bit toward the fantasy and futuristic fantasy realms, but "Planets" by its very nature must incorporate a more--excuse the ironic term--grounded basis in scientific fact.

I hope sharing these links and insights with fellow Science Fiction Romance fans will help inspire your imagination as much as it has mine.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sub in Space: The Best of "Hey, Shipwreck"

It seems I'm not alone in my "sub/space" analogy. While doing internet research, I discovered a series of animated comics that take place on the USS Idaho, a fictional, future Naval sub in space. The episodes center on a disgruntled Navy technician with the call name Thresher and his watch buddy/nemesis Sea Wolf along with a cast of various NUBs, nukes, cones, superiors and diggits. For the most part, any foul language is bleeped by their com's "swearing cessation program" but the content should be considered adult.

The military lingo and situations may not appeal to everyone, but as one who has worked for the military for almost fourteen years, I found most episodes highly amusing and a few of the scenarios literally--I do mean literally--had me rolling on the floor, the couch, or the nearest available flat surface.

The series (a first and second season) are available on YouTube and were created by Patrick Hrabe, a member of the US Navy, and Tube Daze Productions, music by John Sequin. If you want to see more type in "Hey, Shipwreck" in the YouTube search box or go directly to Tube Daze Productions site. They are also available on CD if you get hooked. (Guilty.)

Here's my first in a series of Best Of "Hey, Shipwreck". This is one of the newer episodes from June 2008 that actually shows Thresher's--aka Keane's--face instead of just his helmet and spacesuit/uniform. I couldn't resist, since the password situation is *ahem* entirely too familiar. This is also one of the shorter episodes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What's It Like in Space?

While doing more research for "Planets" I turned up this YouTube video of NASA Astronaut Jeff Hoffman's eyewitness account of his mission aboard the space shuttle which included repairs of the Hubble Space Telescope. This video is a valuable "from the source" account and includes some fabulous photography and fascinating details about life in space.

For a follow up article, see Confessions of an Astronaut from NewScientist magazine (Space section). I also highly recommend this magazine as a great source of research of all things space and science related and I'm adding to the list of resource sites at the right.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Of Subs and Spaceships

During my recent trip to San Diego, I had the opportunity to tour the B-39, an old Russian Foxtrot submarine that was once involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Actually, my admission to the San Diego Maritime Museum allowed me access to the HMS Surprise, the sailing vessel used in the movie Master and Commander: Far Side of the World (with Russell Crowe), the Berkeley a large and very impressive ferry, the Medea, a luxury steam sailing yacht, and the Star of India, another tall ship with a long history as the world's oldest active ship.

But I made a B-line for B-39, leaving poor David in my wake. My military officer/police chief spouse likes to read everything--all the plaques, commemorations, signs and notices. I'm more of a visual learner. I scan signs at points of interest, but I pretty much go for the hands-on experience. And I couldn't wait to get my hands on--and feet into--that sub.

I scoured the old diesel Foxtrot from bow-to-stern, examining hatches, instrumentation, torpedo tubes, the wardroom/medical clinic (nothing like eating dinner from a table used for operations, eh?), the radio room, officers and captains quarters (which were very miniscule and spartan), the sleeping berths or racks (well-named, since they were racks of cots four high, four end-to-end set into every available space along the bulkheads, behind machinery, or in the torpedo rooms), the emergency hatch, and the three heads (toilets) which were beyond basic. I paid special attention to how the boat was laid out and how space was used.

Why the fascination? Subs and starships have a lot in common. They are both closed-environment vessels surrounded by elements that are hostile to human life. There are similar priorities with pressure differences, keeping water or a vacuum out, or traveling through them, that have parallels. In my research for "Planets" (my current work in progress) I am studying the culture on large Naval vessels, inspired in part by Sandra McDonald, a former Naval officer and author of the Science Fiction Romance THE OUTBACK STARS. It's apparent the author drew a lot of material from her shipboard experiences and applied a dose of imagination to create the huge futuristic ships in TOS.

But I realized my starship is much closer to a submarine than say a destroyer or aircraft carrier. First of all, the crews on these big ships don't generally have to worry about running out of oxygen in case of accident or mechanical failure. A submarine crew is also closer in size to the crew on my research vessel (though granted, my ship is much larger than the largest sub). Shortly after I made this connection, I became aware of and "adopted" the Virginia class nuclear fast attack Naval submarine USS New Mexico, still in construction. The New Mexico has become one of my favorite research subjects.

My goal is to create in "Planets" an authentic feel for the dangers and hardships faced in space along with the romance and adventure. I hope my experience prowling the decks of a real submarine will give me some great material to contribute to that end.

Foxtrot submarine

Saturday, November 15, 2008

37 Million Horsepower

Space Shuttle Endeavor's Friday Night Launch

So many of our space launches these days go almost unnoticed. This is a YouTube video of Endeavor's launch on November 14th designated as flight STS-126. While the launch went according to plan, there is concern over debris seen falling during the launch, and the crew has begun examining the outside of the craft for possible damage.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Skiffy Rommer's Roundup

I'm back, and posting today from sunny San Diego. My WIP "Planets" is keeping me beyond busy of late, but I wanted to pop in to post links to some great articles from elsewhere (mostly io9).

First of all, here's one that's a follow-up to my Proto-Dog article of a few weeks ago. Our understanding of evolution is encountering a major paradigm shifts, and any SciFiRom writer worth their DNA should be aware of the possibilities this new information presents:

Another Skiffy Rommers must read from io9: Selected excerpts from Science Fiction Romance.

Read a review of the Science Fiction Romance HEARTFAST from Texas Authors of Romance Fiction.

Here's a discussion on Dear Author entitled If You Like Lois McMaster Bujold

That's it for today. Just wanted to let you all know I'm still alive and kicking...and editing...endlessly editing. *sigh*

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Five: Best of Online Pumpkin Carving

Since this particular Friday is Halloween, I did an Online Pumpkin Carving Contrest and these are my top five choices.

Loved the Ghouls. Awesome! That one wins the Most Creepy Crown. (See the note at the bottom of this post.)

The Creature From the Black Lagoon wins the Most Commercial Award.

Brain-eeeee!-ACK wins the Carving Genious Award.

The Headless Horseman wins the Traditional Theme Award.

And, last but not least, The Death Star wins our most prestigious award for The Best Use of Science Fiction on a Pumpkin.

Enjoy your Halloween!!!!

BTW, the ghouls pumpkin came from this website, and I hate to sound like a fangurl but this site has some freakin' awesome photography. Check it out!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hubble Transmission a Perfect 10

A glitch with the Hubble Space Telescope has been corrected, and the transmitted photo of the aftermath of two galaxies colliding to form what looks like a "Perfect 10."

The Hubble was brought back online two days ago and aimed its primary camera--the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2)--at these colliding galaxies named Arp 17.

Scientists hope the Hubble will now be in operation through 2013.

Scariest Science Fiction Movies of All Time

Over on the Toasted Scimitar, there's a countdown of the top eight (ssemed like fitting number) Scariest Science Fiction Movies of All Time with links to trailers.

Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Love Your Blog Award

Frances of Frances Writes blog recently endowed Spacefreighters Lounge with an I Love Your Blog Award. I'm so honored. Now, it's time to give back to others.

The rules for this Award are:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog

2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you

3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs

4) Add links to those blogs on your blog

5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!

I'll be reviewing my list of favorites so I can post my nominees as soon as possible. :)

Space Savvy

The Mercury Program Part 2

A continuing series on the history of the NASA program.

Scott Carpenter was the second American to orbit the Earth and the fourth American in space. He is also one of the two surviving Mercury Seven along with John Glenn. He may be lucky to be alive at all.

After the Freedom 7, Liberty Bell 7 and Friendship 7 came Scott Carpenter's spacecraft named _______________.

1. Rainbow 7
2. Jupiter 7
3. Venus 7
4. Aurora 7
5. Pluto 7

The answer is 4. Aurora 7 on May 24, 1962. His flight lasted five hours and his craft attained a maximum altitude of 164 miles and an orbital velocity of 17,532 miles per hour. He identified the mysterious fireflies reported by astronaut John Glenn as small particles of frozen liquid which he nicknamed "frostflies."

Scott Carpenter's flight was very controversial. Some reports claim he was so taken with the view that he used up much of his fuel moving his craft around to sightsee. As a result, it was unknown if he had enough fuel available for re-entry. For the first time, conflicts developed between Mission Control and the astronaut. Carpenter had to manually turn the capsule and fire the retrorockets to enter the atmosphere. While mission control waited in tense silence, Scott Carpenter entered radio blackout and lost contact with Mission Control for:

1. 4 minutes

2. 6 minutes

3. 10 minutes

4. 20 minutes

5. 4o minutes

Scott Carpenter was out of contact for 40 minutes. Mission Control feared his craft had entered at the wrong angle and burned up. They were on the verge of declaring the first astronaut had been lost in the space program when he was located in good health. Because of his manual reentry, he splashed down about 250 miles beyond the recovery area. He floated in the Atlantic for three hours awaiting recovery.

Some accounts claim Carpenter's craft had a pitch horizon scanner that malfunctioned, resulting in the overconsumption of fuel and the loss of fuel was not due to his efforts to see the sights.

Carpenter took a leave of absence from the program in late 1963 to train as:

1. a photographer

2. a member of the Sealab

3. a racecar driver

4. an actor

5. an airline pilot

Carpenter trained for the Navy's Sealab program. After injurying his left arm in a motorbike accident, he failed to regain mobility in his arm after two surgeries in 1964 and 1967. He was then ruled ineligible for spaceflight and resigned from NASA in August 1967. He then became the director of Aquanaut Operations for Sealab III.

Walter Schirra was the next astronaut in space. How many orbits did he fly?

1. Six

2. Four

3. Two

4. One

5. He never made orbit

Walter Schirra's Sigma 7 Mercury flight lasted 9 hours, 15 minutes and he completed six orbits of the Earth. Schirra was later in the pilot command seat for both the Gemini 6 and Apollo VII missions.

Gordon Cooper was the final astronaut to fly a Mercury spacecraft in Faith 7. He completed twenty two orbits over the course of 34 hours and 20 minutes, traveled 546,167 statute miles, was the last man to fly solo in Earth orbit and was the first to do what in space?

1. play cards

2. read a book

3. sleep

4. see Venus

5. eat dinner

Gordon Cooper was the first astronaut to sleep in space. Cooper later participated in Gemini flights and captured the top number of man-hours in space by accumulating a total of 225 hours and 15 minutes.

Recap of the Mercury Program Flights:

Alan Shepard - Freedom 7 - launched May 5, 1961, suborbital flight

Gus Grissom - Liberty Bell 7 - launched July 21, 1961, suborbital flight

John Glenn - Friendship 7 - launched February 20, 1962, first orbital flight, 3 orbits

Scott Carpenter - Aurora 7 - launched May 24, 1962, second orbital flight, 3 orbits

Walter Schirra - Sigma 7 - launched October 3, 1962, 6 orbits

Gordon Cooper - Faith 7 - launched May 15, 1963, 22 orbits

Full Names, Ranks and Branch of Service of the Mercury 7:

Lieutenant Malcolm Scott Carpenter, U.S. Navy

Captain LeRoy Gordon Cooper, Jr., U.S. Air Force

Lieutenant Colonel John Herschel Glenn, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps

Lieutenant Commander Walter Marty Schirra, Jr., U.S. Navy

Lieutenant Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., U.S. Navy

Captain Donald Kent Slayton, U.S. Air Force

Next Post in the Series: The Gemini Program

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Surprising Find

NASA astronomers using the Spitzer Telescope have found a triple-ringed star, an asteroid belt and a gas giant like Jupiter in orbits similar to that of our own solar system. In fact, research suggests that the solar system might be a twin to our own.

In a strange case of life possibly imitating art the star is Epsilon Eridani, which was the Vulcan sun in the popular Star Trek series. Epsilon Eridani is only a fifth the age of our own sun at about 850 million years old. It is about 62 trillion miles away, and has the closest known solar system.

Being smaller, dimmer and younger than the sun, Epsilon Eridani's "habitable zone" for Earth-like planets would be closer to the star.

Space Savvy: YouTubes

A few YouTube videos of historic moments in space and the Mercury Program related to my last post. Browse YouTube and you can find many more on any subject that interests you.

John Glenn's Friendship 7

Godspeed, John Glenn

Alan Shepard discusses Yuri Gagarin and "The Race"

1962 Mercury Atlas 6 and John Glenn

Mercury Freedom 7 (Over nine minutes of detail on training and flight preparation.)

Yuri Gagarin: First Speech from Space

The Redstone Rocket

Laika: Space Dog

Space Race: Russian Viewpoint

And purely for entertainment value,

What the Star Trek Enterprise Theme Should Have Been

Monday, October 27, 2008

Space Savvy

As part of my ongoing research for a current SciFiRom project, I've been studying the early space program. What I've uncovered is a wealth of valuable information and fascinating trivia. This fundamental and historical knowledge is important to my project, but it's also a great foundation for anyone writing science fiction or futuristic stories.

It occured to me this is something I could share on my blog. That's my inspiration for this week's series of articles: Space Savvy.

The Mercury Program: In The Beginning

The X-15, a rocket plane, played an integral part in research for the space program. It had enough power to take a pilot to the fringes of Earth's atmosphere where they could experience brief moments of weightlessness and look out into the blackness of space. Even so, a vehicle was needed to fly four times its top speed to put a man into orbit. How much horsepower did the X-15 have?

1. 30,000 hp
2. 400,00 hp
3. 6o0,000 hp
4. 900,000 hp
5. 1,000,000 hp

Answer: 3. 600,000 hp, but only rockets had enough speed--over 17,000 mph--and power to boost a space vehicle into orbit, so military rockets were converted for the early space program. These missions were very dangerous because the rockets had been designed to deliver warheads to a target--not human beings into space.

Because of the risks, even stunt men were considered as recruits for the first astronauts. President Eisenhower wanted test pilots. How many of the military's top pilots qualified for positions as the first astronauts?

1. 7
2. 57
3. 110
4. 307
5. 502

Answer: 3. A bit of a trick question--110 qualified, but only seven were selected. There were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Alan Shepard, Walter Schirra, and Deke Slayton. Each brought specific qualities and experience to the program and they became instant celebrities with the media. Scott Carpenter, first scientist astronaut. Gordon Cooper, an exceptional pilot, often considered "the best." John Glenn, a popular Marine pilot. Gus Grissom, contributed engineering savvy and quiet intellect. Alan Shepard was extremely bright. Walter Schirra was very detail-oriented Naval pilot. Deke Slayton, an Air Force pilot "nobody messed with." They were known as the Mercury Seven.

Most of the early mission control crew came from aircraft flight desks, scientists and engineers who knew nothing about rockets or the challenges of launching a man into space. No man had ever survived a vertical blastoff on top of a rocket.

The Mercury Program was extremely challenging because familiar tools and equipment had to be invented or adapted, and all procedures rewritten or invented. Many concepts associated with space travel were foreign, such as:

1. Gravity and G-forces
2. Trajectory and retro-rockets
3. Yaw and pitch
4. G-forces and centrifugal force
5. Ignition and separation

Answer: 2. Trajectory and retrorockets. These concepts are unique to space flight and were new concepts to be grasped in order for experts to plan early missions. Gene Krantz (popular figure from the Apollo 13 movie) developed many of the early mission control procedures.

The first capsule replaced a nuclear warhead on top of a:

1. Redstone missile
2. Titan missile
3. Gemini rocket
4. Mercury booster
5. Solid fuel boosters

Answer: 1. Redstone missiles, which were developed by the Army (not the Navy). Many of the earlier test rockets blew up, flew out of control or had to be destroyed before they could fly or fall back to Earth and cause damage, injuries or death upon impact. The Redstone, known as the Army's "Old Reliable" was the rocket for the first American manned mission into space, and a forerunner for the more powerful Jupiter missile used in later flights.

Who was the first in space?

1. John Glenn
2. Ham
3. Alan Shepard
4. Yuri Gagarin
5. Laika

Answer(s): It depends on your criteria of first what? 5. Laika, a female dog who was sent aboard Sputnik II was the first living being in space, but didn't survive. The first to return alive was 2. Ham, a chimpanzee on an American mission. If you selected 3. Alan Shepard, as the first human in space, sorry, but you're wrong. It was 4. Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who beat Shepard by 20 days. Alan Shepard was the first American in space on May 5, 1961, however his flight only lasted about 20 minutes and reached a sub-orbital height of 116 miles over Earth. 1. John Glenn was the first man to achieve orbit during the next Mercury mission.

How many Americans watched the first launch of Shepard's spacecraft and what was the craft called?

1. 4 million and Friendship 1
2. 15 million and Freedom 1
3. 45 million and Freedom 7
4. 100 million and Friendship 2
5. No one had television back then and Gemini 1

Answer: 3. 45 million and Freedom 7.

What was Alan Shepard's aggravated demand to launch, after several countdown holds?

1. "Drop your coffee and press that ignition button."
2. "Light a fire, boys, and send me up!"
3. "Belay that delay and let's go!"
4. "What's it going to be? Up...or down?"
5. "Let's light this candle!"

Answer: 5. "Let's light this candle!" which was a popular phrase among pilots and flight crew at the time. (It was also prophetic, since rocket fuel developed from candle wax was a later development--see link above.) Alan Shepard's flight answered the question if people would be able to do basic things like swallow or breathe during weightless conditions, and proved man could perform almost any task in space. The excitement of the Freedom 7 flight has never been matched as Alan Shepard answered questions that were complete unknowns at the time.

The astronauts worked in specialty areas as the spacecraft were developed and redesigned. John Glenn worked on control panel design. Gus Grissom championed the explosive bolts that would quickly open the hatch. Ironically, the bolts caused problems later on his flight when they malfunctioned and his space capsule, Liberty Bell 7 with a lot of invaluable data, was sunk and lost. Grissom almost drowned, but was successfully rescued. It was the only craft Grissom ever lost prior to his death in the Apollo program.

After Freedom 7 and Liberty Bell 7, what was the next capsule, named by astronaut John Glenn?

1. Endeavor 3
2. Historic 1
3. Freedom 8
4. Intrepid 8
5. Friendship 7

Answer: 5. Friendship 7. John Glenn was a fighter pilot during the Korean war who had three aircraft nearly shot out from under him, but managed to get them back safely. A lot of confidence was put in his talent as a cool-headed pilot to get his craft home safely from the first orbital flight. His Friendship 7 spacecraft was launched by the larger Atlas rocket and his historic orbital flight was considered the greatest adventure of the 21st century, and helped America catch up in race with Russia.

John Glenn said "the view is tremendous" and nothing could compare to seeing the curvature of the Earth or entire nations at a glance. He also proved swallowing and breathing would not present a problem during extended Zero G (weightless) conditions. Mission Control dealt with its first possible crisis in space when indicators reported his heat shield was loose and his capsule might burn up in re-entry. They recommended he leave his retrorocket pack in place during re-entry hoping the straps would hold the heat shield in place, however the straps burned off during firing of the retros. Glenn wasn't informed of the possible condition of his craft, because there was nothing he could do about it. The heat shield, however, was not loose and it was later learned the micro-switch indicator reporting the problem was defective. His mission was a resounding success.

What causes radio blackout during re-entry?

1. Excessive heat
2. Extreme velocity
3. The sound barrier
4. Ionized plasma
5. Flames

Answer: 4. Ionized plasma generated by the velocity of the craft during re-entry builds up around the craft which causes the blackout of communications.

President Kennedy was a major supporter of the space program and reaching the Moon. What words completed his quote regarding the space program? "We have a long way to go in the space race...but this is _____________."

1. the most important goal...
2. the new ocean...
3. the future of America...
4. the next great challenge...
5. not worth the cost...

Answer: 2. President Kennedy described the exploration of space as "the new ocean." In a speech in 1962, he said, "We have a long way to go in the space race. We started late. But this is the new ocean, and I believe the United States must sail on it and be in a position second to none."

It was also President Kennedy who set the monumental goal to have an American walk on the Moon before the end of the decade--1970, only eight years in the future. The goal seemed an impossibility at the time that was--to the astonishment of many including those involved in the program--achieved in July 1969. President Kennedy was set on winning the space race.

Next post: More on the Mercury Program

Friday, October 17, 2008

Add This Site to Your Research Links

An Atlas of the Universe. What a find! Every once in awhile I come across a site I just have to share with others interested in all things astronomical.

Take some time to explore the near and far neighborhoods of space from the closest stars and galaxies out to the fringes of the visible universe. Click on each distance section to see more star maps, information on the big bang, cosmic microwaves, classfication of stars, distance scale, etc.

And what a super resource for any Science Fiction writer (or teachers, parents, inquiring minds, et al). Create your own polyhedron skyglobe of the visible universe. It prints out on three standard sheets with instructions on how to cut and fold. You can even select from a choice of light, dark or monochrome.

A truly great resource for any Science Fiction Romance writer who takes their science seriously. Amazing. Enjoy your trip.

An Atlas to the Universe link has been added to our SCI-FI 101 resource list in the sidebar to the right.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Floating Silently...

Sorry for my weekend disappearance. I was under the influence of the dentist on Friday so didn't get to my usual Friday Five post done, and then we were without power most of the weekend because of a rather nasty tornado that wrecked havoc upon the local grid.

Up and running again...knock on wood.

Here's a couple of notes for the week.

Don't miss the post on The Galaxy Express entitled 7 Reasons Men Should Read Science Fiction Romance, and be sure to see all the insightful follow-up comments.

I completed GRIMSPACE by Ann Aguirre and I'll be working on a review for later this week.

I may have some puppy pics to post, too.

More later...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I've been anxious to get to this one for quite awhile. First impression? Love it.

Instant connect with the female MC and her plight. Intro of what I assume to be the male MC is action-packed both physically and mentally.

The female MC is jaded—not too kickbutt, not too hardened, not too snarky—just jaded. She's genetically enabled to jump a ship through grimspace, a talent that comes with a short longevity on sanity. Her last ship crashed—killing her pilot/lover, Kai—and she was blamed and incarcerated. The powers that be are trying to break her mentally for reasons unknown. When a stranger shows up and attempts to rescue her she's distrustful, but figures dying outside of her cell—and a slim chance of escape—is better than dying inside it. Her rescuer is a pilot, and she is resistant to bonding with him for the jump with Kai so fresh in her memory, but she must to survive.

Love the set up, love the premise. Minor characters are well drawn and nicely fleshed out.

Now to see how it all plays out.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Proto-Dog and Human Subspecies

I just saw a fascinating documentary on Nova that dealt with the evolution of the domestic dog. To summarize, there’s now a theory with some convincing genetic evidence that wolves were not domesticated and bred by man to become dogs over thousands of years, but that they self-evolved almost instantly. That flies in the face of generally accepted theories on evolution, and raises some very interesting questions and premises for Science Fiction.

The documentary offered evidence that all modern dogs are descended from a new species that evolved about 15,000 years ago in Eastern Asia, called Proto-Dog. The new species for all practical purposes “popped” into existence when humans began living in large enough groups to create garbage dumps. Wolves would gather to forage in these garbage dumps and among those wolves were most likely a few that were less afraid of humans and allowed themselves to be approached and captured, or their pups taken and raised. These domesticated wolves became dogs, but it didn’t happen over thousands of years as many believed, it may have happened in just a few generations—perhaps in one human lifetime? How? How did a new species of canine evolve in the mere blink of an eye on the evolutionary scale? The research holds some surprises.

Studies led to research on a group of silver foxes raised for their pelts in Russia in the 1950s. In order to raise foxes that were easier to manage, Russian scientist Dmitri Belyaev conducted experiments where a gloved handler reached into the cages to test the animal’s response. Those foxes that cowered or bit were not selected for breeding. Those that were accepting of the humans were bred. The results? Within a few generations not only was a more docile breed of fox created, but the foxes began exhibiting dog-like appearance, and even their coat colors changed to black and white coat patterns—like some breeds of dogs--instead of the solid dark or smokey coat of this particular breed of fox. They also began behaving very much like a domestic dog and socializing with humans. The hypothesis is that there are genetics links between so-called docile genes and other traits in the DNA and these were expressed when the selected foxes were bred, resulting in almost instantaneous evolution into the dog-foxes, or quite possibly, a new subspecies.

Going back to the spontaneous evolution of wolves, they theorize that once certain wolves were captured and domesticated, then crossed with other “docile gene” mates and producing pup-cubs, the other linked genes began to express themselves in physical change. These docile genes worked like genetic preprogramming. Once conditions were right for domestication, the wolves very rapidly evolved or adapted into a new species better suited to co-exist and co-rely on humans. They also no longer needed to hunt in packs to survive, so physical changes to teeth, jaws, and brains also began occurring at a slower rate along with the docile gene influences. In only a few generations, a breed that was probably very different from wolves existed. Voila. Spontaneous evolution.

In P2PC, my world building involves many different subspecies of humans who evolved with physical differences because of the environments of the planets they settled. I had concerns with this idea because this takes place only 1500 years in our future, and according to accepted theories of evolution, physical changes would require tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years. Now it appears very likely that this would be entirely possible as unknown genetic links come into play in specific gene pools that could cause much faster, more drastic changes. A thousand years to evolve into several subspecies now seems very much within the realm of “suspension of disbelief.”

Want to read more? Check out this link.
How Stuff Works: How Dogs Work--The Evolution of Dogs