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*