Communion Of Dreams


“We are on a marble, floating in the middle of … nothing.”

Via BoingBoing, this completely delightful short video about the scale of our solar system:

That does a better job of getting the real sense of scale than just about anything else I’ve seen. Wonderful.

 

Jim Downey

 



“Wouldn’t you?”

Man, Chris Hadfield is such a treasure:

And you can pee upside down, which I did, just for fun. Wouldn’t you?

Great little list about the reality of spaceflight at this point in time. Perfect perspective for this weekend, since he manages to capture and convey the wonder and excitement so many of us felt from the Apollo era. It’s so easy to lose your vision, your enthusiasm, in the grim plodding of day-to-day life.

* * *

Thanks to all who helped make the recent anniversary promotion of Her Final Year a success! Worldwide there were about 150 downloads – not a huge number, but it is progress. I hope the book can help those who downloaded it.

* * *

Progress continues on St Cybi’s Well. Hope to wrap up Chapter 9 in the next couple of days.

 

Jim Downey



Welcome to the paleo-future.

I grew up reading stuff like this:

R is for rocket.jpg

And even had a really cool metal rocket based on the images from Destination Moon which one of my relatives made and gave me. For the longest time those sleek rockets landing and taking off again (what NASA calls ‘Direct Ascent‘) defined what space travel meant, and I loved watching early launches which hinted at Things To Come.

Then space technology advanced, and I got a little older. Rockets were no longer cool. With all the wisdom and knowledge of a 14 year old, I dismissed the idea that anyone would want to use them for anything other than lobbing other things into orbit, and even at that they would be soon surpassed by more efficient and reusable shuttles and aerospace vehicles.

I’m glad not everyone was so easily distracted:

Welcome back to the future of my youth.

 

Jim Downey



Proof of concept.

Interesting:

Imagine three astronauts, 125 million miles from the Earth, talking to Mission Control with a four-minute time lag. They have seen nothing out their windows but stars in the blackness of space for the last 150 days. With a carefully timed burn, they slow into orbit around Venus, and as they loop around the planet, they get their first look at its thick cloud layer just 7,000 miles below.

It might sound like the plot of a science fiction movie, but in the late 1960s, NASA investigated missions that would send humans to Venus and Mars using Apollo-era technology. These missions would fly in the 1970s and 1980s to capitalize on what many expected would be a surge of interest in manned spaceflight after the Apollo lunar landings. They would be daring missions, but they would also be feasible with what was on hand.

 

Somewhat surprisingly, I don’t remember this at all. Though of course these were just “proof of concept” studies which were put together for NASA.  Still, they were fairly well thought-out, as the article on ars technica demonstrates. As is often the case, technological limitations are less of an absolute factor in accomplishing something than economic/political limitations are. To borrow from a favorite old movie: “You wouldn’t believe what we did. It’s possible. It’s just hard work.”

What isn’t hard work? Getting entered into the drawing for a leather-bound copy of Communion of Dreams. Full details here. Yesterday’s Kindle promotion pushed us over 500 copies of the electronic version given away this month, and that puts the total number of copies out there somewhere in the neighborhood of 26,000. There are already 65 reviews posted to Amazon. Yet so far only 9 people have entered the drawing. You have until midnight this coming Saturday.

 

Jim Downey

Via BoingBoing.



A matter of perspective.

It all depends on your point-of-view:

 

Jim Downey



That don’t seem right.

Pearl Harbor” was 71 years ago today.

The launch of Apollo 17 was 40 years ago today.

That means that there was less time between the start of WWII (well, our involvement in it) and the end of humankind’s time on the Moon than there is between now and when Apollo 17 left the Taurus-Littrow valley.

That don’t seem right.

Yeah, sure, there’s a company saying that they want to send commercial flights back to the Moon.

Somehow, I doubt that it’s quite that easy.

 

Jim Downey



“This is the LEAST crazy one anyone has come up with.”
September 19, 2012, 9:52 am
Filed under: Apollo program, Art, Comics | Tags: , , , , ,

The man is a genius:

If you’d like a zoomable version that’s much easier on the mouse/trackpad, here’s about the best one I’ve seen.

Thanks, Randall.

Jim Downey



Admiration.

Yesterday I got a note from someone who I had just met and spent some time with recently. Following that experience, they had gotten and read Communion of Dreams, and they wrote to tell me this:

I’ve finished Communion of Dreams. Sir, had I read it before I met you I feel certain that I’d have behaved differently in your presence.

* * * * * * *

I remember July 20, 1969. As I’ve noted before:

I was at a Boy Scout camp outside of St. Louis when it happened. That night, we all sat around a big firepit, and tried to watch a small black and white portable television with bad reception as Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) E. Aldrin, Jr. made the first human steps onto the Lunar surface and spoke these words (links to audio file on Wikipedia):

“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

And the world was changed forever.

* * * * * * *

Death wins. We all know this. They knew it during the early years of our space program, and there were even contingency plans in the event of the death of the crew on the Apollo 11 mission. Neil Armstrong himself thought there was only about a 90% chance of his returning from that mission, as well as only a 50/50 chance that they would successfully land on the Moon (which he always considered the most important aspect of the mission).

But it is a risk which is worth taking.

* * * * * * *

Yesterday I got a note from someone who I had just met and spent some time with recently. Following that experience, they had gotten and read Communion of Dreams, and they wrote to tell me this:

I’ve finished Communion of Dreams. Sir, had I read it before I met you I feel certain that I’d have behaved differently in your presence.

Yesterday, after finding out about Neil Armstrong’s death, I spent the rest of the day thinking about the man, reading about him.

Probably the most telling thing is how he lived his life after retiring from NASA. As has been often cited (even by me – and again I recommend the very rare interview he gave last year ), the man was remarkably self-effacing. He didn’t take credit for being the first man to set foot on the Moon. He didn’t exploit the fame which had come to him unwanted. He could have easily cashed-in on his status, reaping riches for endorsements, becoming a permanent celebrity.

Instead, he joined a small university program as a professor of Aerospace Engineering.

Endorsements (of a very limited sort) and serving on the Board of Directors for several large corporations came later. But he still kept a very low profile, trying to live his life as much like a ‘normal’ person as he could.

Can you imagine how difficult that must have been? In a world where celebrity distorts everything — where even my modest accomplishment with one self-published novel would prompt someone to react differently to me — Neil Armstrong managed to live and die without it completely warping who he was.

I honor his place in history as the first man to step foot on the Moon. But I admire him much more for who he really was. That depth of character is what made him a hero.

Godspeed, commander.

Jim Downey



Only nine left.

As something of a follow-up to yesterday’s post, first a quote:

The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there’s no good reason to go into space — each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.

That’s the “roll over” text of this xkcd cartoon:

Can you name the nine who are left?*

And related to that, here is an excellent hour-long item you really should check out when you get a chance:

An Audience with Neil Armstrong

It’s in four parts, so you can watch them in chunks. And it really is very good. Armstrong has given very few interviews over the years, and has always been remarkably self-effacing. This is an informal discussion with the man, and it provides some wonderful insight into the whole NASA program in addition to the mindset which led to the Apollo 11 mission.

Jim Downey