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

 

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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.



As above, so below.

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From Chapter 1:

Jon spoke. “That’s typical. Sidwell is a bit of an old coot. He’s about 80, close as anyone can get him to admit. He has been at the forefront of exploration all along, having started with the Israeli colonies on the Moon, and was one of the first prospectors to establish himself on Titan.”

* * * * * * *

NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy

The secretive government agency that flies spy satellites has made a stunning gift to NASA: two exquisite telescopes as big and powerful as the Hubble Space Telescope. They’ve never left the ground and are in storage in Rochester, N.Y.

* * *

The telescopes were built by private contractors for the National Reconnaissance Office, one of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. The telescopes have 2.4-meter (7.9-foot) mirrors, just like the Hubble, but they have 100 times the field of view. Their structure is shorter and squatter.

* * *

The announcement Monday raised the obvious question of why the intelligence agency would no longer want, or need, two Hubble-class telescopes. A spokeswoman, Loretta DeSio, provided information sparingly.

“They no longer possessed intelligence-collection uses,” she said of the telescopes.

* * * * * * *

“The Israeli colonies on the Moon?” When did that happen?

Now.

One of the plot points for St. Cybi’s Well all along has been that Darnell Sidwell had been a shuttle pilot for a secret operation by Israel (with the tacit support of most of the governments of the major world powers) to establish permanent colonies on the far side of the Moon. That effort was well along by 2012, which is when the novel is set.

Remember, the timeline for Communion of Dreams isn’t exactly our timeline. It is very, very similar to ours, but there are some divergences.

The biggest worry I have had for some time was how to say that such a space program could exist without people knowing about it. In fact, earlier work on St. Cybi’s Well revolved around this very point as an espionage/counter-espionage sub-plot. I was concerned that it might be *too* outlandish an idea for readers to be able to suspend their disbelief.

So much for that concern; we’ve just found out that what we thought was at the limits of our technology is so obsolete that it can be handed off as so much surplus junk. And the implication is that while NASA is currently without the means to launch and service something like Hubble, that there are plenty other agencies within our government which are not so inconvenienced.

* * * * * * *

Ex-Spy Telescope May Get New Identity as a Space Investigator

The phone call came like a bolt out of the blue, so to speak, in January 2011. On the other end of the line was someone from the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the nation’s fleet of spy satellites. They had some spare, unused “hardware” to get rid of. Was NASA interested?

* * *

The telescope’s short length means its camera could have the wide field of view necessary to inspect large areas of the sky for supernovae.

Even bigger advantages come, astronomers say, from the fact that the telescope’s diameter, 94 inches, is twice as big as that contemplated for Wfirst, giving it four times the light-gathering power, from which a whole host of savings cascade.

* * * * * * *

From Sir Isaac Newton’s translation of the Emerald Tablet:

Tis true without lying, certain most true.

That which is below is like that which is above that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.

And as all things have been arose from one by the mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.

The Sun is its father, the moon its mother, the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth its nurse.

The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.

Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
– Separate thou the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross sweetly with great industry.

It ascends from the earth to the heaven again it descends to the earth and receives the force of things superior and inferior.

And yes, that is a hint about another part of what’s to come in St. Cybi’s Well.

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Enjoy today’s Transit. As above, so below.

Jim Downey