Communion Of Dreams


Rocket to Venus.

This is a delightful article: Space Oddity

I knew that there were various ‘societies’ (basically, clubs) focused on rocketry early last century, but I hadn’t heard of Robert Condit, who in the 1920s gained national attention for his idea of rocketing into space.

Was he serious? A grifter? Someone who took a little popular science knowledge and had some fun with it? (Gee, I can’t imagine that someone might do something like that.)

Who knows? But Condit knew more about getting to space than you might think. Two excerpts from the article indicate he wasn’t just a dreamer or con artist. Here’s the first:

Condit dreamed the rocket, and the Uhler brothers helped build it. They used angle iron ribs, perhaps supplied by the same mill that contributed to the Capitol. They wrapped the rocket in sailcloth from another mill and shellacked it in varnish to create a hard shell. An air compressor was installed to spray liquid fuel into eight steel pipes that they had outfitted with a spark plug and a battery to ignite the gas. There was room inside for one man, with access through the removable nose of the rocket. They lined the interior with 1½-inch pipes meant to supply water for the journey and to help insulate Condit from the black chill of space. There were two glass portholes to see out. Condit had everything he believed he needed: flashlight, first aid kit, and a bow and arrows, which would come in handy for “procuring small game for food,” he wrote in notes uncovered by the filmmakers.

And:

Condit did get a few matters right, though. He understood the need for a liquid fuel. He understood the Coriolis effect — that launching from Miami Beach, closer to the equator than Baltimore, would take advantage of Earth’s spin to help get him into space. This was 35 years before NASA established its launch operations at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Something else about the era and Condit’s project resonates for us now: the desire to quit the current reality, even if only in our fantasies for a little while. Again, from the article:

They also found letters from scientists and space enthusiasts, from children and adults, men and women alike, and from as far away as Czechoslovakia, all wanting to know more about his pending trip. Some had experienced the horrors of the First World War, and the idea of escaping to Venus sounded pretty great.

“They had lost a leg or had been injured and they were like: I’m willing to donate my life to go along and accompany you on this mission because I’m no longer any good to society in this way, but I could serve the furtherment of humanity and science by doing this,” Carey told me. “There were a lot of those types of letters.” (Goddard got letters like this, too, after he wrote about a rocket to the moon.) The letters contained the same basic message: Please take me with you.

Yeah, I think just about now a lot of us can empathize.

Jim Downey

PS: Next Saturday, as on the first of every month, anyone can get free downloads of my books. If you’re read any of them — particularly St Cybi’s Well*please* do me a favor and go review/rate it. It really does help with the search algorithms and browser response. Thanks.



“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

 



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.

* * * * * * *

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.

* * * * * * *

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

Jim Downey