Review: Apollo’s Outcasts

Review: Apollo’s Outcasts

“Apollo’s Outcasts” by Allen Steele. Published in 2012 by Pyr/Prometheus it weighs in at 311 pages all-in. A handful of spelling and editing errors noted throughout. Currently available in the Teen Adventure section of your local bookstore.

The year is 2097. Jamey Barlowe is your average kid-in-a-wheelchair, the result of a happenstance birth on the Moon. He enjoys swimming, but will never walk on Earth, the only home he’s ever known. His dad works for the International Space Consortium (ISC), responsible for the extraction of He3 on the Moon for use in fusion reactors on Earth. His Dad took a Moon post and his wife went along. She found out that she was pregnant too late to return to Earth, and so carried Jamey to term on the Moon. Shortly thereafter she was killed in a tragic accident, and his widowed father returned to Earth with the remains of the family.

For his 16th birthday, Jamey is awoken at oh-dark-thirty and hustled with his two sisters into the family van for a late night run to Wallops Island. Turns out the President was dead and the VP was executing a palace coup, and rounding up the dangerous independent thinkers like those at ISC. The Barlowes arrive with several other families, and Jamey and the other kids quickly learn they are being sent, by themselves, to refuge on the Moon until the situation settles down. And not a moment too soon, as one of the passengers proves particularly valuable, so much so that they’re better off dead than at-large in the eyes of the new government. With good reason.

And so begins Jamey’s odyssey to the Moon. As with other space juveniles, Jamey has a variety of traditional challenges through which to work, after which he will understand himself better as an individual. There’s the girl he likes whose affections are for another, the girl who likes him but doesn’t evoke a like sentiment, the bully with his number, the awkwardness of a new body, and so forth, all set in a hostile and dangerous Lunar environment.

To prove himself, Jamey strives to be one of the Lunar Search & Rescue team, or Rangers as they call themselves. A combination of survival Scouts, local militia, paramedics and peacekeepers, the Rangers are the best of the best, because on the Moon they need to be. As events on Earth continue to spiral out of control, Jamey is increasingly forced to tap his leadership capabilities, but when Earth takes the fight to the Moon, will he have the courage to confront the terrestrial threat?

Author Allen Steele has a significant oeuvre of near-Earth/near-Future stories, many of which merit reconsideration given recent changes in the space industry. Given this background, his presentation of Jamey in the new environments of microgravity during the trip to the Moon and 1/6th gravity once there is consistently accurate from a science perspective. As has often been the case in Lunar literature, the setting of the Moon base is a chance for a compare-n-contrast of an idealized Lunar culture with the slovenly mess of Earth’s cultures.

Here, everyone does civic service. It might be sweeping pathways and collecting litter. It might be tending plants in the gardens and parks. It might be processing bio-waste. Everyone works; no one quits. Only by working and living together will they be able to survive on the Moon.

The pacing is tight, keeping things moving from challenge to challenge as Jamey grows in his individual identity. Opportunities abound to explain various aspects of life in space and on the Moon, and the author’s been doing this long enough to get most all the details right. The near future setting makes the technology recognizable, and the political situation is not too far removed from where we are now.

A fun read, perfect for any Spring Break trips coming up, “Apollo’s Outcasts” gets a waxing three-quarter Moon rating.

If you’re looking for other Juvenile space fiction of recent vintage (<5 years old) you should check out:

For Younger Readers-
“Choose Your Own Adventure #26: Moon Quest” – Anson Montgomery
“Cosmic” – Frank Cottrell Boyce
“Crater” – Homer Hickam
“Laddertop” – Orson Scott & Emily Janice Card
“Lunar Pioneers” – Robert Black
“Space” – Roger Reid
“Thea Stilton and the Star Castaways” – Geronimo Stilton
‘Tumbler” – Brand Gamblin

For Older Readers -
“Back to the Moon” – Travis S. Taylor & Les Johnson (Rescue mission to the Moon)
“Doctor Who: Apollo 23″ – Justin Richards (Dr. Who vs. Talerians on Moon)
“The Highest Frontier” – Joan Slonczewski (L-5 colony is locus of strange new technologies)
“The Moon Maze Game” – Larry Niven & Steven Barnes (LARPing on the Moon)
“The Next Continent” – Issui Ogawa (Industrialist’s daughter builds tourist site on Moon)
“Pax Britannia: Dark Side” – Jonathan Green (Steampunk Moon)
“Rocket Girls” – Housuke Nojiri (High School student becomes commercial astronaut)
“Spin the Sky” – Katy Stauber (‘The Odyssey’ retold in cislunar space)
“Up Against It” – M.J. Locke (Asteroid miners fight The Man)
“172 Hours on the Moon” – Johan Harstad (Reality show becomes existentialist horror-fest on Moon)

…And we’re back

Several WordPress version upgrades later, and we’re finally up to date. Things look a little different, and are likely subject to change, but that’s the beauty of the upgrade – a lot more things become possible.

A Dragon Spreads its Wings

Congratulations to SpaceX on a spectacular launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon capsule for the COTS-2/3 cargo delivery demonstration mission. Dragon is safely in orbit, its solar array wings are deployed, and, right this minute there is a Dragon flying around the world, headed toward a rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Of course, now the really hard work begins as SpaceX and NASA put the new spacecraft through its paces. This is a test flight, so there’s no expectation that everything will go perfectly, but fingers crossed that the mission goals are met.

Not This Time

Well, the Falcon 9 countdown went down to zero, the engine ignition sequence started, but was aborted by the computer controlling the launch because of a sensor reading that the chamber pressure on number five engine was abnormally high.

The Falcon launch sequence is designed to hold the rocket on the launch pad with its engines firing until the computer confirms that all engines are operating normally.

Unfortunately, the constraints of a launch to the International Space Station mean that there cannot be another launch attempt today. The next attempt will most likely be made on Tuesday morning at 3:44 am Eastern.

SpaceX and Falcon have had last minute aborts like this before, and it usually comes down to a tolerance setting being too restrictive. Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, mentioned at the pre-launch press conference that they have in fact never had a test engine firing or launch happen on the first attempt. They will need that if they are to launch at the exact moment that puts Dragon on a trajectory for rendezvous with the space station.

Well, this is only the third Falcon launch, so the reality is that it is a test of the rocket as well as of the capsule. SpaceX will do a scrub turn-around and be ready to attempt a launch again on Tuesday. If not for the constraints of launching to ISS, they could probably have another attempt in a couple of hours – they have demonstrated many times now an ability to go from abort to turn-around to launch in that time frame, something that no other rocket can do.

Here’s hoping the Falcon finally soars on its next launch attempt, but I have to say I’ve waited a long time for this, and a little bit longer won’t be the end of the world.

T Minus 10 Minutes to the SpaceX COTS 2/3 Dragon Launch

Rob here – been a loooong time since I have posted at Out of the Cradle – but today I couldn’t stay away.

In the very early days of OotC I live-blogged several of the first launch attempts of Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon One rocket.

SpaceX have come a long way since then. They have:

  1. Developed a new, much bigger rocket, the Falcon 9.
  2. Successfully flown Falcon 9 to orbit.
  3. Won a space act agreement with NASA to develop the Dragon space capsule to deliver cargo to and return cargo from the International Space Station, as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program.
  4. Launched Falcon 9 a second time, this time testing the first Dragon capsule on a flight that orbited the Earth twice, and then re-entered the atmosphere to parachute to a landing in the sea off the coast of California, making SpaceX the first non-governmental entity in the world to launch a spacecraft into orbit and then recover it back to Earth.

And they now stand on the verge of launching the third Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the second Dragon capsule which, all going well, will rendezvous with the International Space Station, test its ability to perform ISS proximity operations, and possibly even be captured by the ISS robot arm and berthed to one of the station’s Common Berthing Mechanism ports. Barring problems (and this is a test flight, problems are to be expected, and in fact welcomed – that’s what test flights are for, after all) this little robot capsule could become the first non-governmental flight to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station.

So what is it about this flight that has brought me out of my (rather extended) posting hiatus?

This flight is a big deal. If it succeeds (and there are no guarantees, it’s a test flight after all) the next Dragon flight will be the first operational, commercial cargo run to the space station, and we will have a real NewSpace company making money (hauling the mail, as it were) in space. SpaceX has a 1.6 billion dollar contract with NASA to do exactly that, over the course of the next several years. A NewSpace company is going to be making money supporting a manned spaceflight operation (in the form of the International Space Station) and it’s going to be doing it much cheaper than NASA could alone, and with a great deal more innovation. The Dragon capsule flying to the Station today lacks only seats, a control panel, and a launch escape system needed to carry crew.

Back when I started Out of the Cradle, I tried to express in the ‘about’ section where I thought the future of our journey into space was headed – a long slow climb to space being a profitable industry that brings us benefits down here on Earth (yes, I’m an unrepentant Technological Optimist). Here’s what I said back then:

One day, one of the many entrepreneurial space companies out there is going to climb to the top of the vast pile of failed predecessors, make it to space, and find a way to make money there. It could take a hundred years to happen – or it could be happening right now. When it happens, everything changes.

This SpaceX test flight, whether it succeeds or fails, takes us much further down the road toward that future, and I’m excited by that.

Good luck to SpaceX, and Godspeed – Go Falcon! Go Dragon!


Review: Crater

“Crater” by Homer Hickam. Published in 2012 by Thomas Nelson, Inc., it weighs in at 302 pages, plus a two-page Reading Group Guide. Reviewer is particularly pleased that no editing errors were noted.

Crater Trueblood is an orphan on the Moon, raised in a Lunar company town that mines Helium-3 in the Vallis Alpes north of Mare Imbrium. His only souvenir of his long-lost parents is a quasi(?)-sentient slime mold known as a ‘gillie’, a ‘biological machine’ that serves as a sort of personal organizer, and which was outlawed years ago, as folks keep reminding Crater.

It’s hard and dangerous work, people die, and the need for warm bodies to do the work means that those willing to brave the dangerous work and help make the Moon a part of the human story will usually have their previous lives ignored. Crater is a complexly simple character. His forthright honesty is something out of the Boy Scouts, or a Marshall Will Kane from High Noon, making him a bit of a stranger in a strange land. Some might even call him a bit of an Aspie. He has gifts, and those gifts help make his story adventurous.

Part one is set in Moontown, and sets up the background. Crater’s roommate at the Dust Palace Bachelor’s Hotel is Petro, a card sharp and ostensibly of royal descent, and son of the proprietress, Q-Bess. It’s a tough Lunar frontier town, hewn from the ground to house the workers and their families, and run by Colonel John High Eagle Medaris, descendant of the protagonist in the author’s earlier fiction work “Back to the Moon”.

Early on, Crater’s driving skills are put to the test in a race that evokes images from the game Lunar Racing Championship:

(Gotta love the physics of 1/6th gravity!) After the race he meets the love interest of the book, the Colonel’s grand-daughter Maria, named after the seas of the Moon, and experiences the sharp tangs of jealousy when Petro (who was supposed to be the driver) starts muscling in.

Having demonstrated his merit through a variety of challenges, Crater is chosen for a secret mission, one that will shape the future of the Moon if he succeeds, or perhaps plunge it into war with terrestrial interests if he fails. The stakes are high as he sets out on his first real challenge – accompanying the Helium-3 convoy all the way to Armstrong City down at the southern end of Mare Tranquilitatis. Nefarious forces conspire to deny Crater his objective, and his life is in significant peril for most of the trip as the convoy hopscotches from outpost to outpost.

Just when things seem at their worst, Crater finds an unusual ally, as well as his courage, and he is able to make it to Armstrong City with most of the convoy, a trail of bad-guy destruction in the convoy’s wake. From there the mission gets deadlier, as he ferries to the Earth-Moon Cycler to retrieve his objective. Can he succeed in his mission? Will he win the girl’s heart? Will the bad guys triumph in the climactic showdown?

You’ll just have to read it to find out.

The book definitely evokes the spirit of earlier juvenile works by Heinlein, and the rough-n-tumble Moontown has a certain “Moon is a Harsh Mistress” feel to it. The bad guys, wielded by as yet unrevealed dark forces, are conveniently transhuman genetic monsters, making them easy to dislike in their implacable malevolence. Crater’s natural engineering aptitude serves him well throughout the book, making him a good-role model for young readers to emulate. Crater is also a thoroughly honest, forthright and earnest individual, exhibiting the kinds of personal and civic virtues that we seem to have forgotten in our current troubled times, but which are absolutely essential on the Moon in order to not die. I love the help he finds in his desperate hours, so much so I won’t reveal the surprise. After initial incredulity, the idea is rather fun.

It’s a brisk 300 pages, engaging from the opening scene which thoroughly sets itself up for life-threatening danger, to the denouement which is really just an interlude/set-up for the next book in the series due out in 2013. Well edited with no errors noted (truly a joy these days when most publishers seem to have laid off all their proofreaders), although the explanation of the Lunar elevator is a bit cludgy. Geosynchronous orbit for the Moon can be calculated as being at Earth distance, with the overlap of the Earth’s and Moon’s gravitational spheres of influence making things messy. I think the author meant to reference the Earth-Moon L-1 Lagrange point, but that’s an even harder concept to grasp, so I understand sidestepping the issue. Also, the orbit that’s fixed over a single point is a geostationary orbit. Geosynchronous orbit is in time with the parent body, but in the case of the Earth (geo), unless aligned with the equatorial plane, will seem to bob up and down in the sky. Those in the equatorial plane will appear stationary, hence geostationary.

A good introduction to the Lunar elevator concept can be found in the archives of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts: “The Lunar Space Elevator” by Jerome Pearson. (pdf)

A good overview of what would be involved with Helium-3 mining can be found in Dr. Harrison Schmitt’s book “Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space“.

Looking for more juvenile Moon fiction? Try these titles:

Moon Quest (Choose Your Own Adventure #26) – Anson Montgomery
Cosmic – Frank Cottrell Boyce
Earthlight Volume 1 (manga) – Stuart Moore
Growing Up Weightless – John M. Ford
Lunar Pioneers – Robert A. Black
Maurice on the Moon – Daniel Barth
MOONWAKE: The Lunar Frontier – Anne Spudis (Top notch, highly recommended)
Shanghaied to the Moon – Michael J. Daley
This Place Has No Atmosphere – Paula Danziger
Waters of the Moon series – Gregory Urbach (think Tarzan on the Moon)

Lunar Library Youth Moon Fiction section

In closing, a solid addition to the oeuvre of juveniles on the Moon. Another high-quality offering from Mr. Hickam, and well worth a Full Moon rating.

Bonus: The publisher put together a preview!

Double Bonus!: Mr. Hickam informs me that there’s also an interactive website from the publisher that gives more background and helps set the stage for the next book in the Helium-3 series:

Moon Moods

Howdy everyone!

Just taking a break here from various projects to point out some consumer culture items helping to set a Moon mood this week.

First up, is Apollo 18. Billed as “found footage” from a secret government mission to the Moon in 1974, it opens Friday around the country:

Looks like I’ll be at the theater this weekend for the first time in ages. As far as ‘found footage’ movies go, I did rather enjoy Troll Hunter, and Cloverfield is still fun…


Fresh out is a new sci-fi novel from Larry Niven & Steven Barnes that is set on the Moon. The year is 2085 and humanity is spreading into the Solar system. On the Moon, Heinlein Crater has been given over to the creation of a gaming environment for the creation of the ultimate live-action role-playing (LARP) adventure ever broadcast.

For those unfamiliar with LARPing, it’s role-playing gaming in a ‘real-world’ (i.e. non-virtual) setting. We’ve come a long way from Mazes & Monsters, and while role-playing still carries a strong geek factor, it is more accepted than it used to be. Still, we’re not as far along as ‘Dream Park‘ (an earlier novel in this series) or ‘Futureworld‘. Holography is still not here in the form everyone wants (although I’d rather use holography for useful things like 3D air traffic control before entertainment), and RPGing still isn’t a spectator sport. FPS shooters seem to be though; more on that anon.

I’m about halfway through the book for an upcoming review, so stay tuned for that in the not-too-distant future.


Also forthcoming is another EVA Interview. Not here at OotC, unfortunately, but rather in the new magazine that the folks over at NASAWatch/SpaceRef are putting together, Space Quarterly. The first issue is scheduled for release on September 1st, and therein you will find her interview with Jeff Greason. Jeff is emerging as a strong spokesperson for the commercial development of cislunar space, couched in terms of ultimately settling off-world in new colonies. Cislunar space is our sandbox for learning how to do things further out. It’s a new marketplace awaiting exploitation, something I hope is highlighted in one of the articles in the first issue: “The Philosophy of Lunar Commercialization and Economic Development”.



Speaking of commercial product, if you haven’t been to your local Hallmark store in a while, you might want to stop in and grab a “The Sky’s the Limit” Snoopy-on-the-Moon figure. Hallmark has been dribbling out a number of astronaut Snoopy items over the last few years, from holiday tree ornaments to figurines to plush toys (a number of which mysteriously turned up in the annual NSS of North Texas Santa Space Toy Drive collection…). I’ve been a big fan of astronaut Snoopy for a while, enough so that when I was interning at Boeing in Huntington Beach during my ISU studies I made a field trip to the Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park specifically to look for whatever astronaut Snoopy stuff I could find. This was of course the precursor to the Astronaut Snoopy Medal still given out to Yuri’s Night volunteers, although the Snoopy isn’t dancing anymore, and is in a white outfit, not blue. More akin to the Silver Snoopy Award given out to team members that went above-and-beyond to assure mission success in the Shuttle program. I was pleased to see a number of Yuri’s Night folks wearing their medals at the party I threw on behalf of The Moon Society at this year’s ISDC in Huntsville.

Way on the other end of the wholesomeness spectrum. I say way, way over there well removed from anything approaching wholesome family entertainment with strong christian overtones (shout out to Robot Chicken), is a new first-person-shooter add-on pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops. Your friendly Lunar Librarian doesn’t normally play FPS games, being more of a Civ-type game player where one tries to build an enduring civilization, one of strong culture and secure borders. But if you’re into shoot-’em-ups (and who isn’t every now and then?), you might want to check out this latest horror. There have been Werewolves on the Moon. There have been Vampires on the Moon. There have been Mummies on the Moon. (I know this because they’re all in the ‘Comics in Space’ art show I have hanging at Frontiers of Flight Museum – you should definitely check it out) Now, it is time for…

Zombies on the Moon!

What can I say – new physics to play with, as when the projectile gun launches the wielder into the air (so to speak). Hopefully the PC version will be on a CD so I can add a physical copy to the Lunar Library.

And since we’re on the topic of Nazi’s on the Moon, there’s an updated trailer from Iron Sky, the forthcoming independent movie currently scheduled to hit theatres on April 4th, 2012.

Speaking of Lunar Library, and art shows, and scary things…as I noted previously I’ve already started on the art show for next year’s Moon Day on July 21st. My medium will be space-themed LP covers. My initial goal is to have 150 LP covers. Each will be mounted in a frame. Each column will have 5 frames, meaning 30 columns in all. Groupings of columns will allow for the telling of stories, but the general progression will be early days, astronauts and rockets and satellites (cislunar space), our Moon, the planets, and our Cosmos. Willie Nelson gets the final frame with ‘Stardust’.

Don’t think you can guess the covers, though. My DITC (that’s Diggin’ In The Crates) is turning up some amazingly unusual items. I promised scary things, and here from the satellites section of the show is one that I find particularly unsettling, even more so than zombies, like something from a SPECTRE crime boss line-up. Whoever said there was no money to be made in space? See if you can guess the year of the LP from the cut of his suit…


Review: Blogging the Moon

[Note: This review is reprinted from the May 2011 issue of Moon Miner's Manifesto]

“Blogging the Moon” by Paul D. Spudis. Published in 2011 by Apogee Prime, it weighs in at 328 pages, plus a DVD of his talk “Luna Nova” and a slideshow of his personal Moon quest over the past three decades. Well edited, with the only noted errors in the included commentary.

It might seem counterintuitive to publish a print book of web content, but it’s not new in the space community. The first notable example of web content collected into book form would likely have to be the PERMANENT book, drawn from the website which addresses Projects to Employ the Resources of the Moon and Asteroids Near-Earth, Near-Term. Which sounds an awful lot like what Dr. Spudis is talking about.

The book opens with a brief preface describing how the author came to have a blog at Air & Space Magazine online entitled The Once & Future Moon, which name is taken from his 1996 book, its title an homage to the T.H. White book that all future leaders should read as a young lad. As so often happens with blogging of substance, the frequency of the blog posts may not have been what management expected, the posts themselves were usually worthy of their episodic (rather than periodic) nature. (Paul has admitted that blogging is a lot more involved than he had anticipated. Amen to that)

The original offer was to have Dr. Spudis “live-blog” the launch of India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe, which carried Dr. Spudis’ Mini-SAR instrument to the Moon, recounted here as “India Aims for the Moon”. The story continues with “Hitting a Bull’s-Eye on the Moon”, where he recounts the thoroughly modern story of sitting in his hotel room at 4am, having just gotten images from Chandrayaan’s Moon Impact Probe (MIP) that evening, and live-streaming the upcoming Endeavour launch and seeing a full Moon slowly rising above the horizon in the Florida twilight, from Bangalore. This is also the first post to include the article’s comments.

Readers want constant novelty (for free!) and so there is a constant pressure on bloggers to generate new posts to try to get the traffic numbers up. This leads to Dr. Spudis posting on a variety of topics, in many cases policy-related, but also regarding legal issues, Lunar water, myriad reports on space issues, and a host of other things, for a total of 65 chapters dating from October 21st, 2008 to July 23rd, 2010.

Over that timeframe, NASA “bombed” the Moon with LCROSS, and the President released a new prescription for NASA, one involving less work on a custom new launch vehicle system (that was apparently too expensive to actually do anything with once built) and more work on moving the technologies useful for doing things in space, like fuel depots, rendezvous & docking, on-orbit assembly, radiation shielding, many-restart rocket motors, and so on. Which technologies can be used by the private sector to serve not only their own ends, but also those of NASA.

Dr. Spudis doesn’t quite see it that way, and spends much of the latter part of the book detailing his views on the shortcomings of the President’s directions to NASA. His argument seems to boil down to “NASA needs to have a specific target and direction before they can achieve great things”. The danger therein, however, is that NASA’s results tend to be optimized to that particular target/direction, with little cross-adaptability to any other application in space activities.

Including the comments that people leave at the blog expands the context of each post to that of a dialogue with both the author and other commenters. In some instances this aids in understanding each post, in others the thread can be drawn astray from Dr. Spudis’ intent, and has to be shepherded back on topic. Even these diversions, though, often have their own value.

Overall, the book is an interesting foray from Lunar science in India, to rocket design in the halls of Congress. It’s readily accessible to the layman, but given Dr. Spudis’ position in the forefront of Lunar science it also offers numerous insights on the advantages of the Moon for more informed readers. The book format allows for easier flipping back and forth between related blog posts, as well as the ability to jot notes in the margin to capture important points. I’ll have to be sure to get the Paul to sign the review copy in the Lunar Library at the next ISDC, where he is slated to receive the University of Luna award from The Moon Society.

A solid work in every way, this one gets a Full Moon rating.

Two Moon Conjunction

Some interesting Lunar news out this last week, about some folks out in California who came up with a computer model that implied a second Moon at some point in the distant past. It was given surprisingly broad coverage in the media:

·ABC Science
·Discovery News
·USA Today

Here’s the abstract:

“The most striking geological feature of the Moon is the terrain and elevation dichotomy between the hemispheres: the nearside is low and flat, dominated by volcanic maria, whereas the farside is mountainous and deeply cratered. Associated with this geological dichotomy is a compositional and thermal variation, with the nearside Procellarum KREEP (potassium/rare-earth element/phosphorus) Terrane and environs interpreted as having thin, compositionally evolved crust in comparison with the massive feldspathic highlands. The lunar dichotomy may have been caused by internal effects (for example spatial variations in tidal heating, asymmetric convective processes or asymmetric crystallization of the magma ocean) or external effects (such as the event that formed the South Pole/Aitken basin or asymmetric cratering). Here we consider its origin as a late carapace added by the accretion of a companion moon.

Companion moons are a common outcome of simulations of Moon formation from a protolunar disk resulting from a giant impact, and although most coplanar configurations are unstable, a ~1,200-km-diameter moon located at one of the Trojan points could be dynamically stable for tens of millions of years after the giant impact*. Most of the Moon’s magma ocean would solidify on this timescale, whereas the companion moon would evolve more quickly into a crust and a solid mantle derived from similar disk material, and would presumably have little or no core. Its likely fate would be to collide with the Moon at ~2–3 km/s, well below the speed of sound in silicates. According to our simulations, a large moon/Moon size ratio (~0.3) and a subsonic impact velocity lead to an accretionary pile rather than a crater, contributing a hemispheric layer of extent and thickness consistent with the dimensions of the farside highlands and in agreement with the degree-two crustal thickness profile. The collision furthermore displaces the KREEP-rich layer to the opposite hemisphere, explaining the observed concentration.”

Seems fairly straightforward, but there are some elements in the story that just don’t add up for me. For full disclosure I am not a Lunar scientist. We aren’t minting them anymore. There’s no school you can go to right now in the U.S. that offers a degree in Lunar science. Planetary Geology is usually your closest option. However, I have read through a fair chunk of the non-fiction section of the Lunar Library, and you can find reviews of many of them in the Book Reviews menu option over on the left.

So my questions are sincere, and not from ignorance. I do want to point out that there is a sharp elevation dichotomy, as they say. Here’s a video of LRO data:

And here is a scan of a postcard I got from the JAXA folks at an LPSC a couple of years ago. You can note that it is not quite as sensitive elevation-wise as LRO in the Mare Orientale region.



The one on the bottom is a gravity map, which highlights that while the far side has generally higher elevations, that doesn’t translate much to heavier when compared with those mascons on the near side.

One thing to be very careful of here is the Aitken Basin. It’s not just a big blue-purple bruise on the far side, it is an enormous chunk that has been taken out of the rear end of the Moon. The movie above is a bit deceiving, as the data is draped onto a sphere, just like you would see in a classroom. If you want to see what the Moon -really- looks like, feed the elevation data into a 3D printer and take a look at the result. Looking at the traditional near side it looks fine, round even. But then turn it sideways. It’ll blow your mind. Shout out to the JAXA kids that blew my mind at LPSC.

So the basic premise is that the reason there is more green-green, yellow and red on the far side as compared with the near side is because, when the Big Splat of Theia hitting the Earth and sloshing off a whole bunch of material into orbit happened, that material coalesced into not one but two large orbiting bodies. Eventually, the second, smaller moon started drifting into the Moon’s gravity well, smacked it at a non-cosmic velocity, and splashed itself on the Lunar far side. And so the far side is higher than the near side.

For more full disclosure purposes, I put very little faith in computer models. Just because I work in the financial industry doesn’t mean I don’t work with models. Budget projections are but one example. Sensitization of financial results another. Value at Risk (VaR) I laughed at when it was introduced, and had to explain to my bosses why it was nonsense. I’m well aware of the limitations of models, as well as their (limited) value.

The first question I have I asterisked in the abstract: “How does a large object stay stable at an Earth-Moon Lagrange point for tens of millions of years when you’ve got the Sun, Jupiter, Saturn et al tugging at and perturbing it?”

The reference in the abstract is to Cuk, M & Gladman, B.J. The fate of primordial lunar Trojans. Icarus 199.2, 237-244 (2009).

I read through the article, and get their point, although it quickly devolves into mathematical tetrapyloctomy. In essence, when the Moon and moon were much closer, the differences in the gravitational “warps” of space caused by the large bodies (which we know in our simple system as the Lagrangian points after the guy who worked out the mathematics) would have been such that a fair amount of material could have accumulated at the L-4 and L-5 points until the Moon reached a certain distance from the Earth, the resonance of the orbit shifts, and all of a sudden the mathematical models start going apeshit, leading to harmonic instabilities that pitch the moon on its course with destiny and our Moon. They do have a good point – 4.0Bn years ago the Moon would have been a lot closer to the Earth, and orbital resonance is a subtle but important part of orbital mechanics.

Interestingly, the paper cited seems to be arguing that any large moon could have broken apart on its way in, providing the large near-side impacts attributed to the “Great Cataclysm” of impacts that formed the nearside basins nigh on 3.9 billion years or so ago. The thinking there is that since there hasn’t been much evidence of the “Great Cataclysm” much of anywhere else in the rest of the Solar system, at least based on current data, and the impactors that created the great basins must have originated near Earth.

Which brings me to my second question – what is the effect of the transition of the second moon through the Moon’s Roche limit? I’m rather disappointed that none of the science articles seemed to address that question.

The Roche limit is the distance from a large body at which the inverse square law of gravity starts to have a significant effect on another large body approaching the first. The second body is experiencing so much different gravity between the near point and farthest point that it starts getting pulled apart. It’s the same basic thing as you getting pulled into spaghetti as you fall into a black hole, ‘cept on a planetary scale. If the body is as big and moving as slowly as they indicate, I guesstimate that it would have spent about eight minutes or so getting taffy-ed transitioning that Roche limit.

My third question has to do with the model. What was the level of granularity of the second Moon? What were the perturbatory inputs other than the Earth and Sun? There are so many things I would have to know about the model before I could put any small amount of faith in its output. And frankly, I don’t feel like paying the $32 for the paper to find out.

So color me as skeptical of the claim of a second early moon. There’s just too many pieces that don’t feel right for me to lend it much credence. My view may change if I ever do get to read the article. I anticipate a trip to Half-Price Books in a few months should prove fruitful, so I’ll let you know if I change my mind.

Which re-minds me, we do have a second moon, called Cruithne, that is currently on a funky potato chip/horseshoe orbit and so doesn’t visit much (and is why some folks deride it as not even a moon). Here’s a cool picture of our second sister and her wacky orbit:




Howdy everyone!

Outstanding. That’s the only way to describe this year’s Moon Day at Frontiers of Flight.

From not even knowing if there was going to be one this year only three months ago, to what actually transpired, was quite a ride.

It’s hard to get an accurate attendance count, as museum members can just wander on in, and the birthday parties they run in the play area leads to an unknown number of extras. I do know that we surpassed last year’s count by 1pm, and if attendance didn’t get to 1,000 it got real frakin’ close.

The museum director noted that attendance at the Moon U. lectures was up a bit from prior years. The inflatable planetarium from the Museum of Nature & Science was a full house for every show but the very last one, and the presenter, Kyle, was singled out for many kudos. The stomp rockets that the Astronaut Training Center brought along were quite popular and there were foam rockets flying down at that end of the museum all day long.


The art show of Comics in Space was well-received, as was the comet-building exercise in one of the Moon Academy classes. All of the speakers seemed happy, and I even got a last minute addition of a local blogger who was at the last Shuttle launch for the Tweetup. Regular readers may remember that OotC got invited to a launch Tweetup back in 2009, which gave our own Rob an excuse to fly up from New Zealand and do a little space tourism while here. Jason of Lights in the Dark gave our last speech of the day, symbolically linking the last talk of Moon Day 2011 with the last Shuttle launch.

The Lunar Sample Bags were gone by early afternoon, but I saw a few towards the end, so people were making a day of it. We even made the 10 o’clock news on Channel 8. Apparently I was on for close to 15 seconds babbling about the event. The PR guy at work said I did a good job, so I should be happy. I don’t watch TV, haven’t for years, and so I miss out on that sort of thing.

I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from the exhibitors, and everyone wants to come back next year. So planning has begun for next year.

Since I’ve got so much lead time I can think even bigger. You have to, because most of the plans fall through along the way. Crap happens. So the planning has to encompass massive failure while still providing a top-notch end experience. Being the ambitious sort that I am, I’ve started working a few angles.


The big draw that I want for next year is the ISS Trailers. Of course the e-mail to the address at the webpage bounced, so I’m currently waiting on an inquiry to NASA HQ about whom I should contact. Hopefully I won’t have to wait as long as for the rejection letter for the position of NLSI Director (3+ years and counting). I also want to get some of the display panels to put up on the mezzanine to help get people upstairs.

If I can get the ISS trailers that would be a huge draw and definitely newsworthy. It would also give me leverage to get the museum to ask both Richard Garriott and Anousheh Ansari to talk about their ISS experiences in the auditorium. And if I can get Richard at the event, that gives me leverage to push for more corporate participation to sell the space “business” side of things. Something I’m desperate to do.

My view is that we’re at the ‘Air Show’ stage of development of the space industry. The hardware is there and flying, but for the bulk of the population it’s still sci fi. So the companies need to show off their hardware not just to each other at trade shows, but also to the citizenry of the nation where this is happening. Having their goodwill behind the space industry is a very powerful intangible.

So my goal is to get three companies to participate. I’d love to have SpaceX haul an engine up from McGregor (about a 2.5 hour drive) and spend the day explaining to people how it works. It would be great to have AstroTech come up from Austin (~2.5 hours) and show off some of their flight hardware. I’d have unmentionable biological reactions in my unmentionables if Blue Origin were to show off anything.

If I can get corporate exhibitors, then I can put together something like a space business roundtable for Saturday afternoon, and have Rick Tumlinson of the Texas Space Foundation/Alliance lead the discussion. That’s the sort of thing that would let me advertise Moon Day in the Dallas Business Journal and Dallas CEO.

Speaking of advertisements, I also need a web ad. I know just the guy, from Dallas Mars Society who did the triptych cover (Texas frontier/Moon frontier/Mars frontier – Our theme was ‘From Old Frontiers to New’) for our ISDC program book. Gotta note that in the to-do list.


Next year’s art show is going to be space-themed LP covers. I’ve already got a few dozen in the Lunar Library, Moon-themed of course. I anticipate spending six months DITC (that’s Diggin’ in the Crates) around the D/FW metroplex looking for appropriate covers. Remember – my focus is on rockets and astronauts and planets and Moon exploration. So a random Boston cover of a guitar-spaceship hovering over an alien planet would not be appropriate; the cover from ZZ Top’s Afterburner album would be appropriate. And I’m going to throw in Willie Nelson’s beautiful Stardust album cover well, just because. And somewhere I still have a card with his well-wishes that he sent while I was at Harvard Summer School back in high school, so there is a sentimental attachment.

Any comments suggesting ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ will be deleted. However, Easy Star All-Stars ‘Dubber Side of the Moon’ would be an appropriate suggestion. My brother-in-law, a bass player on the side, flipped when he saw Stan Clarke’s ‘Children of Forever’, a very cool cover that is going in the collection. That one’s getting ripped from the USB turntable in the not too distant future.

The goal is 150 covers. Not sure how many I’ll end up with, but I am being liberal and including laser discs so there is some padding there. There was a prior show up in Seattle that had 117 covers, but of course this is Texas, so everything is bigger and better here. I would dearly love to have that Mel Torme ‘Swinging on the Moon’ cover in the collection, but I doubt I’ll be able to find it around here.

“Why not go online?” you might ask. Too easy, and I like to spread the love around and try to keep small businesses going in my local community. As I would rather that folks were employed around here as compared to anywhere else. And weird things turn up. I was dropping off a flyer for the Comics in Space show at one of the local comic book stores where I had gone extensively through their stock as part of my work on this year’s show. I mentioned that I was working on a different show for next year using LP covers. They replied that they had just gotten over a dozen boxes of LPs for the online business they run in the back of the store. I asked for first dibs on any space-themed ones, so as they process the stock they’ll keep an eye out for appropriate covers and put them aside. How cool is that? Sweet as.

So yeah, I’m really excited about that part of next year’s Moon Day.

I got a call this week from the museum, which is just ecstatic about the turnout. That just doesn’t happen on a midsummer weekend unless there’s something special going on. Which there was, thanks in small part to yours truly.

You know, the Director said, the quality of our Moon U. (or Lunar U., as he prefers) talks is of a sufficient quality that we should look into getting Continuing Education (CE) credits for educators who attend. Good point, and exactly along the lines of my thought to get in contact with the Aerospace Education Services Project (AESP) and see about having Moon rock and meteorite Lucite disks certification classes. Yours truly is certified, and I have the certificate framed and hanging above my desk, as well as our local prof from Brookhaven College who does the Moon rock family-friendly classes at Moon Day. I remember when we had those classes at the 2007 ISDC they were packed. I’m also trying to get the resident Moonatic to talk about looking at the Moon with a telescope, and the Astronomical League and American Lunar Society certification programs.

I also want to plant a Moon Tree at one of the upcoming Moon Days. There is one in the metroplex already, at a high school up in Plano, but I think it would be appropriate for the Frontiers of Flight museum to have a Moon Tree. Planting a sapling in the middle of July in Texas is probably a really bad idea. It needs to be nurtured to sufficient strength where it can either be planted at the event, or planted earlier in the year and dedicated at Moon Day. Hmm…there’s a garden center across the street from the museum. I wonder…


As the beginning of August approaches, so does the close of the ballot box for The Moon Society. A fairly decent percentage of the membership voted, which is an encouraging sign. It looks like I’m a lock, unless there is a last minute stuffing of the ballot box with write-ins, which is always the risk I had when I insisted on being elected versus accepting a hand-off to the VP position after getting myself elected to that post. Next year, when I stand for office again under the normal election cycle for President (every other year), I run the risk of another candidate as well as write-in. Ah, the perils of elected office.

As part of the transition I just got an e-mail to TMS about First Step. This is a Space Renaissance International initiative to get folks celebrating July 20th. It seems this sort of thing is in the air, as NSS of North Texas got an e-mail from AIA encouraging us to celebrate National Aerospace Week from September 11-17. It’s doubtful we’ll be doing anything as I already have a speaker for the September meeting and we’re already committed to a Sci-Fact party room at the sci-fi con FenCon on the 24th. We hand out the same kind of space fact info we hand out at our regular outreach events, but with adult beverages and R-rated movies.

International Observe the Moon Night is October 8th. Not sure what we can do there. Last year the event corresponded with FenCon, which worked out well for us.

After that is Astronomy Day at the UTA Planetarium on October 22nd, in conjunction with the Texas Astronomical Society and this year the Fort Worth Astronomical Society as well, an example of the kind of cross-pollination that can occur at something like Moon Day. Another is the Dallas Mars Society partnering with NSS of NT for the FenCon sci-fact hospitality suite. Both events are also opportunities for our Science Fair Scholarship raffle, and this year we’ve got an early box for our Santa Space Toy Drive. This year’s goal is to match last year’s 100 space toys donated to the local Santa’s Helpers community toy drive.

It’s going to be a busy year.

Moon Day looms on the horizon

Howdy everyone!

Things are finally gelling in place for Moon Day this Saturday, and I have a chance to chill a bit and update everyone on what’s happening.

Over a dozen exhibitors lined up (and more on the way next year):

NSS of North Texas (ISS, Cislunar Space, Solar Power Satellites)
The Moon Society (Moon)
Dallas Mars Society (Mars)
Dallas Area Rocket Society (Rockets)
Fort Worth Astronomical Society (solar scopes)
Texas Astronomical Society (telescopes)
UTA Planetarium (programs)
UTD Center for Space Sciences (upper atmosphere)
Solar System Ambassador Kelley Miller (Moon)
Civil Air Patrol (aerospace education)
Museum of Nature & Science (inflatable planetarium)
Astronaut Training Center (floaty chairs, astronaut suits)
Spaceminers (tether climber, robots, gyroscopic engine)

Next year I’m working on getting the Boy Scouts of America, headquartered here in the metroplex, to show off their STEM-related badges (engineering, robotics, space exploration, et al) and highlight a new STEM project on which they’re working. UNT should be back, and I’ve been working on the Monnig Meteorite Gallery over at TCU for the past few years. I’m hoping to get a display and a speaker from them, which would be a big addition to the program (especially as she would be talking about Lunar meteorites. Woo hoo!). We have been including their beautiful info postcard in the Lunar Sample Bags each year.

And, dagnabit, I’m starting next Monday on getting companies to show off their hardware at next year’s Moon Day (July 21st, 2012). We’ve got so many here in the great State of Texas, and it’s truly a shame that the folks of the metroplex (the money center of the state) don’t get to see what’s going on. My goal is a minimum of three company exhibitors (and we don’t charge for the space either, nudge, nudge) and a business panel in the auditorium put together by the Texas Space Foundation/Alliance. I may end up with nothing again, but if this year is something of a success I may be able to use that as leverage. In the interest of STEM I may have to start with non-space companies here in the metroplex like Raytheon and LockMart (who only do aero stuff here) to embarrass them into participating.

For the speakers we’ve got two tracks, what I’ve taken to calling Moon Academy (family friendly all ages) and Moon University (high school or bright middle schooler and up, on more sophisticated topics).

For the Moon Academy we have three programs this year, each run twice:

Moon Rocks w/Chaz Hafey of Brookhaven College (JSC lucite disks)
Toys in Space w/Cynthia Whisennand of SSA and CAP
Exploring the Solar System w/J. David Hale of SSA (incl. comet-building exercise)

A: Solar System
B: Toys in Space

A: Moon Rocks
B: Toys in Space

A: Moon Rocks
B: Solar System

Next year I’m looking to add classes on Moon Observing and Crater Making, and DARS should be back with a rocket class. Next year works better for them as it doesn’t overlap with their monthly rocket launches up in Frisco as it did this year.

For Moon University (or Moon U.) we’ve got five speakers lined up:

11:00am UTD Geosciences Lecturer Bob Finkelman will talk on “A Microscopic View of the Moon”

lunchtime movie: “Postcards from the Future”

1:00pm Also from UTD, Dr. James Carter will speak on “The Lunar Regolith and Its Maria Simulant JSC-1A”
2:00pm NSS of North Texas member Ken Ruffin addresses “What’s Next?: After the Space Shuttle Program”
3:00pm NSS of North Texas member Pat Hauldren speaks to “Science Fact in Speculative Fiction”
4:00pm Lights in the Dark blogger Jason Major will talk about his recent experience “Tweeting the Last Shuttle Launch”

These will be in the auditorium upstairs. We were going to stream mission coverage there, but the museum looked at the schedule and saw that Saturday is garbage compaction day on the ISS, and was generally finding there was no good way to set up the speakers on the main floor, and so decided to move everyone up to the auditorium. Now we’ve got to work extra hard to get people up to the auditorium so that we don’t have a rehash of last year when Armadillo Aerospace only had a dozen folks show up for their booming rocket videos (gee, why didn’t they return this year…?). I had about as many in my Cislunar Space class across the hall. Luckily we have enough speakers that I don’t have to inflict that talk again this year.

The Moon Academy and Moon U. appellations are just notional this year, but they’re very useful for keeping track of who’s what’s where, and so will probably be formalized next year. I’m also thinking of some kind of certification program where kids who complete say 3 of 5 Moon Academy classes get a certificate of accomplishment. 5 of 5 gets a gold star.

But that’s not all! There are also Moon Day door prizes: vials of JSC-1A from Orbitec, t-shirts from the Great Moonbuggy Race, a planets painting and free art class from G’nosh!, a copy of the lunchtime movie “Postcards from the Future” courtesy of director Alan Chan, and a teensy tiny piece (9 mg) of a Lunar meteorite from the Lunar Library.

If you’re one of the first 200 kids (generally up to about middle school age) at Moon Day you’ll get a Lunar Sample Bag filled with goodies from a whole bunch of folks, and most notably a copy of Make Magazine. All the materials get shipped directly to the museum (and locked in a storeroom), so I haven’t seen them yet, but I’m pretty sure the copy of Make is the space projects issue from last year. We’re all very excited about that one.

Had enough yet? [thank you sir, may I have another?] No? Good, ’cause there’s more. There’s also the Art Show – Comics in Space!
-60 Years of Graphic Space Adventure.
-Over 200 covers spanning six decades.
-Stunning visions of Space Exploration and Human Adventure from 1950 to 2010.
-Action, Excitement, Danger, Thrills, Chills, and the Wonder of Discovery!
-The Most Important Show you will see this year!

And that pretty much covers it! I’ve got to say that I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity and desire to participate this year, which has exceeded all of my expectations. Most of the people I contacted were happy to forward materials on what they’re doing. Some folks didn’t get it though, having gone entirely electronic and expecting me to pay to circulate their materials, and so I can’t highlight their work. It’s one thing for me to flash a web address in a slide presentation, it’s quite another for a kid to go home with a cool bookmark with a web address on it that leads to all kinds of wonderful things.

From my perspective as someone who is trying to sell the idea of the importance of space activities to the citizens in my community, I need something physical to hand out that has a web address on it. And expecting me to pay for your publicity doesn’t fly with me. My budget for this event is $0.


That’s right. Every institution is eating the individual cost of their participation. NSS of North Texas paid to underwrite the Lunar Sample Bags (which consequently have the web address on them). Museum of Nature of Science is paying a staffer to run the inflatable planetarium. I paid to frame the comic books since it is my Lunar Library that is putting on the art show, as it did last year. (I’m still deciding on next year’s project, probably collector cards) FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, NASA Innovative Partnerships Program, NASA Lunar Science Institute, Lunar & Planetary Institute, Orbitec, Great Moonbuggy Race, Moon Arts, UTD CSS, and all the others paid to ship their outreach materials to the museum. I also ate the cost of 150 glossy stock flyers posted around the D/FW metroplex, just because this baby is mine and I couldn’t be prouder. My hope is that someday it outgrows me and becomes an institution that families in the metroplex (and around the state, and neighboring states) look forward to each year.

So if you’re in the D/FW metroplex, you need to be at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas (just north of Mockingbird on Lemmon Ave. Look for the big 737 sticking out of the north side) from 10am to 5pm – exploring space!. If you know someone in the North Texas area, tell them where they need to be this Saturday – exploring space! Cost is only regular museum admission – $8 adults, $5 students/seniors, under 3 free. Cheaper than a movie (oh wait, you get one of those too!), lasts longer, is way more informative and healthy for the brain, and the A/C is included!

Moon Day Countdown

Howdy everyone!

One of the things I do as part of the prep work for Moon Day is to put the event on as many online local calendars as I can, over 15 so far this year. Turns out one of the event calendars has a nifty countdown widget to help keep track of how long until Moon Day:

I still need to work on getting the attendance numbers up…

Here’s a basic layout of the program so far:

Main Floor:
Museum artifacts
NSS of North Texas
The Moon Society
Dallas Mars Society
Dallas Area Rocket Society
UTD Center for Space Sciences
Fort Worth Astronomical Society (solar telescopes)
Astronaut Training Center (Space Camp-type equipment)
Solar System Ambassadors
Civil Air Patrol
UTA Planetarium
Space Miners
Museum of Nature & Science Inflatable planetarium
Speaking area (tentative)
Awakening the Sleeping Giant – Texas, New Space and the Next Frontier – Rick Tumlinson, TXA
Lunar College (Moon U.?; adult-level talks on space topics)
A Microscopic View of the Moon – Bob Finkelman, UTD
The Lunar Regolith and Its Maria Simulant JSC-1A – Dr. James Carter, UTD
A Roadmap of Cislunar Space – Ken Murphy, NSS of North Texas (tentative)
Space Shuttle: What Comes After – Ken Ruffin, NSS of North Texas (tentative)
Science Fact in Speculative Fiction – Pat Hauldren, NSS of North Texas (tentative)

Downstairs Classrooms:
Moon Academy (family-friendly classes)
Moon Rocks – Chaz Hafey, Brookhaven College
Toys in Space – Cynthia Whisennand, Solar System Ambassadors
Exploring the Solar System (+ build-a-comet exercise) – J. David Hale, SSA
Lunar Observing (?)

Art Show (upstairs):
Comics in Space
60 years worth of space-themed comics framed up for display, ~200 in number. 22 panels. It’s going to be an amazing show that I’m about 2/3rds finished putting together.

Auditorium (upstairs)
Moon movies -
Postcards from the Future
Coverage of Shuttle’s last flight

Moving Forward on Moon Day 2011

Howdy everyone. Just taking a break from all of the NSS of NT chapter stuff, and The Moon Society stuff, and my big project for the next few weeks: Moon Day


Planning has kicked into overdrive, and I’m off to a solid start. The main difference this year is that we’re moving from a four-hour event on a Sunday to a seven-hour event on a Saturday, based on feedback from last year. This means the exhibitors have to staff a display for a longer period, and I have to find a larger speaking pool (or spread out the existing pool that I can retain over a longer period).


I was a little concerned when I sent out my initial request for indications of interest from participants in prior years. The University of North Texas jumped on board right away, and Starman Ron DiIulio is one of our headline speakers, a Solar System Ambassador (SSA) and usually donates a meteorite as a door prize. Last year they brought a display with them, which I anticipate again for this year. is bringing their tether climber again this year. NSS of North Texas, co-host of the event, typically has a huge six-table display with videos, display boards, tons of handouts, Ad Astra magazines, and once again our Science Fair Scholarship raffle to raise money to award at next year’s Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair.


Dallas Mars Society will be joining us for the first time to highlight the upcoming Mars Society conference in August. Since I’m running for president of The Moon Society, I’m going to put together a separate TMS display with information about the organization and some righteously cool dioramas. The Astronaut Training Center will be bringing a number of their simulations to the event, including a floaty chair like at Space Camp.


One of our biggest ongoing supporters at NSS of North Texas is the UTA Planetarium, where the chapter has done outreach displays and Girl Scout merit badge work. The UNT Planetarium, as noted, will be there as well. This is rather interesting, as it was just announced at three different local school districts here in the metroplex that they are going to shut down their planetariums to save money. I’ve contacted both of the big civic planetariums (Noble in Fort Worth and Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas), but haven’t heard back yet. I did manage to track down the person at MoN&S responsible for their StarLab, and after a quick conversation it took them less than a day to run the idea up to management and get approval. So as a new feature this year we’ll have a large inflatable planetarium running programs throughout the day. Yee-hah!


More new folks will be joining us this year. The Civil Air Patrol, which offers an aerospace education program, will have a display. As will the Fort Worth Astronomical Society, which appears to be moving from a self-maintained website to a JPL-sponsored one. And the UT Dallas Center for Space Sciences just sent an e-mail asking if it would be possible to not only donate copies of their Cindi in Space comic (q.v. infra), but also have a display as well to show off some engineering models and have materials available on UTD science and engineering programs. I quickly called him back and said Yes! Yes! You have tapped into the essence of what this event is all about.

Moving on to speakers, there are three areas to cover: auditorium, conference rooms, and kids classrooms.

The auditorium is for our big name speakers. Starman usually gets the last presentation of the day, typically on the history of the Moon and asteroids, since that’s where we give away the meteorite door prize that he offers each year. The room has full A/V, so that’s where Neil Milburn of Armadillo Aerospace gave his rocket motor presentation last year, to an apparently disappointingly small audience. I’d like to get one of our local ISS tourists to come give a talk, either Anousheh Ansari here in the metroplex, or Richard Garriott down in Austin, but the museum takes point on ultra-VIP matters.

Given that I’ve got three extra hours to work with, I’m seriously thinking about including a screening of ‘Postcards from the Future‘, maybe around lunchtime. I arranged for an early screening of the film at my ISDC back in 2007, which resulted in an article in Wired Magazine. Consequently, the director, Alan Chan, who most recently has been working on the Green Lantern movie, has given me permission to screen the movie at NSS of North Texas events. Or more recently at The Moon Society hospitality party at the ISDC. He also sent us a couple copies of the DVD for chapter use, like in our Science Fair scholarship fundraisers.


The museum is concerned about the low level of turn-out in the auditorium, which they’ve noticed at events other than Moon Day. Their thinking is that people get lost in the main floor, and just don’t get upstairs to the auditorium. So they’re considering sectioning off an area on the Main floor for the auditorium speakers and having them down there where there’s greater visibility. Postcards from the Future would loop in the auditorium. Only problem is that it orphans the art show (q.v. infra) and the conference room speakers.

The conference rooms are used for grown-up level talks on space topics. In prior years we’ve had talks on Lunar regolith simulant, meteorite hunting, the Lunar atmosphere, cislunar space, and the like. This year I’m trying to get things like Moon observing and Moon basics. I do have a couple of NSS of NT chapter members who want to give talks on “Shuttle: What Comes After” and “Science Fact in Speculative Fiction”. If I can find time I may give my Cislunar Space presentation, and it may be that Dr. Carter might be able to give his talk about Lunar regolith simulant again.

In the kids classroom, local SSA and CAP and NSS of NT member Cynthia Whisennand will give her Toys in Space talk again, and Brookhaven College Astronomy & Physics Lab is looking again into having a Moon rocks class using the lucite disks from JSC. I might be able to scare up another class or two.

On the materials side of things, I’ve had a fair amount of success. One of the things that makes Moon Day unusual is our ‘Lunar Sample Bags’, which we hand out to the youngsters. About 200 of them last year, so we’re preparing 250 again for this year. NSS of NT just approved underwriting this year’s bags, and so they get the chapter website shown on the bag.

Finding stuff for the bags involves writing to a whole bunch of folks, of which about half respond and most of which are able to provide something in the quantities requested. We’ve got our usual supporters, which have provided materials for three years now, like the Lunar & Planetary Institute and the NASA Lunar Science Institute. This year they both tried to send me International Observe the Moon Night materials, so I’m guessing it’s a big outreach priority for them.


Another pair of true blue materials suppliers are the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation and the NASA Innovative Partnerships Program, both of which provide strong commercialization content.

I ran into Amanda from Google Lunar X Prize at the ISDC, and they’re going to help out again with materials, including Moonbots. We’re also trying to figure something out with their inflatable globe. My understanding is that it was prepared by Orbis World Globes, who were then going to compress the dataset to fit on a scale Moon to accompany their Earthglobe when they could find the capital to fund the computational time. Amanda remembers the story a bit differently as to who the X Prize Foundation sourced it from. Whatever the case, it’s up in St. Louis and the folks holding it have agreed to ship it down if we pay for the freight. Given that my budget is $0, it’s probably going to be staying in storage for a while.



The Yuri’s Night folks are seeing what they can scrounge up in the aftermath of this year’s event. Space Center Houston is going to be sending up some brochures with 10% off coupons. I ran into the Moon Arts folks at the ISDC, and they are sending some brochures. The UT Dallas Center for Space Sciences is printing up a batch of their Cindi in Space comics to include in the bag, and as noted are now looking at a display as well. I was hoping to get packets of the mini space lettuce that Orbitec includes in their Space Gardens, but they don’t have enough on hand, and are going to send a couple vials of JSC-1a Lunar regolith simulant instead. The Great Moonbuggy Race is sending a couple of t-shirts for door prizes (and the chapter may snag one for their Science Fair Scholarship raffle) as well as some handout materials for the handout tables. And Virgin Galactic is going to see what they can send us.

As I noted, I contact a lot of folks. A few who haven’t responded include Moon Zoo, STScI, TSGC, P&W Rocketdyne, CanSat, NanoRacks, STK, Estes Rockets, and Lunabotics. You have to cast a wide net to capture a few results, but as I often note, while your answer will usually be no, the ONLY way to get to yes is to ask.

Speaking of door prizes, I’m having a hard time with those. As noted, Starman usually gives us a meteorite sample, and Orbitec is sending some JSC-1A vials. I can use a couple of the Great Moonbuggy Race t-shirts they’re sending as well. In years past there would be a relatively recently published juvenile book that I would request a signed copy of from the author, but this year has been pretty arid. Past examples include Moonwake, Lunar Pioneers, and Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? The year that Moon 3-D came out we got some of those as well.

This year I thought I’d try to hit up some local businesses and see if they’d be willing to donate product tax-deductibly to a 501(c)3 organization. The last bookbox standing is totally corporate and won’t post our flyers (Borders at least used to have community bulletin boards near the bathrooms), so I’m not even going to bother with them. I was hoping that the LEGO Store would have some autonomy, but the manager said I had to go through corporate in CT. I’ve dealt with them before, so I knew that was a dead end. (although I am going to have to try again for a project I have in mind at The Moon Society) I tried at Hobbytown USA, but the manager indicated they typically only donate to schools, and then just remainders type items. But they would post a flyer. The local comic shops might be willing to offer up some space-y graphic novels, but I’ve got other plans for them regarding the art show.


This year’s art show is going to be 60 years of space comics. About 200 comics or so, arranged 3×3 on a 32″x40″ black foamcore mount with a black metal frame. The first comic is a 1950 adaptation of the George Pal movie Destination Moon. The show then works its way up chronologically to 2010. There are 22 panels in all (making for 198 comics), although I’m thinking of doing a special kids comics panel to mount down in the play area to point kids upstairs to the rest of the show. Local comic shops that have helped in supplying the source material include Lone Star Comics (my main shop), Keith’s Comics (main back-up), Titan Comics (best boxes to dig through), Big World Comics, and Half-Price Books. I’m also going to use the display case again, this time filling it up with games. Board games, computer games, role-playing games, video games, puzzles, LEGOs and so forth. This serves as a counterpoint to the display downstairs of Apollo-era toys and games.

So the program is rich with content of all kinds, showing the vast diversity of space activities. And it’s all local!

The main thing at this point is to get the attendance numbers up. In 2009 it was somewhere between 500-600 attendees, in 2010 a bit shy of 500. If the exhibitors are going to keep doing this I need numbers in excess of 1,000 this year. I’ve already got folks passing on participating this year because last year was a disappointment, especially from the perspective of the speakers having small audiences. We still don’t have any advertising budget, so we’ve got to go old school.

The main thrust, which began last weekend, is flyers, like the one up top. I personally eat the cost of printing up the flyer on 8.5″x11″ glossy photostock paper, and then these get posted anywhere we can get permission to do so. I’ve printed up 100 so far, but I keep adding new names as more folks come on board, and so I’m up to the third version of the flyer, which will likely be printed up next week as I anticipate running out of my existing stock this week. We target libraries, book stores, record stores, restaurants and cafes, comic book stores, grocery stores, homeschooling supply stores, basically any place that’s non-corporate. I’ve found over the years that you’ll get much more support from the local folks than corporate types that have to run things up through chains of command. Corporates tend to only want to do big-ticket high-visibility type things where they expect significant name-recognition from a large audience to accrue therefrom. 500 attendees is too small, and the demographic isn’t easily distinguished. It’s an all-ages event, with content targeted to kids, families, and grown-ups alike. It’s the D/FW metroplex, so there’s no telling how many people might show up.

The other angle is getting listed on as many local online event calendars as possible. That’s the project for this weekend. The basic strategy there is to Google ‘Dallas event calendar’ and the like and see what websites show up on the first couple of pages. Strong google-fu allows me to winnow down the best candidates pretty quickly, and then you submit the info to each one. Sometimes there’s a no, but usually for something like Moon Day you’ll get listed.

I’ve already contacted the reporter at the Dallas Morning News who wrote up the event last year, but don’t expect expect to hear back until closer to the event. I also need to contact the local Dallas Observer to be sure to be listed in their Night & Day column in the issue that comes out on the 13th. There are other local media to contact as well, like Pegasus News and Star Newspapers.

My big hope is that we’re able to get on a local radio show called Think! on KERA the week before the event. I drove all the way downtown during my lunch hour to drop off a flyer, a Lunar Sample Bag, and a short cover letter to try to pique their curiosity a bit.

My biggest disappointment this year would have to be the lack of response from folks on the business side of the industry. I expected that Armadillo would be a tough sell after the weak turnout at their talk last year. SpaceX down in McGregor has previously indicated that they don’t see their educational mandate extending beyond Waco (it is, admittedly, a 2.5 hour drive or so to get to Dallas), so I took a softball approach and just asked for materials while exploring other avenues for trying to make something happen. Stone Aerospace indicated they wouldn’t be able to make it, and I haven’t heard back yet from the young go-getter at the Houston office of Paragon SDC. AstroTech didn’t respond to my inquiries last year, nor do I expect them to respond this year.

Here’s my view on things: We’re in the age of spaceshows. Back in the 1920s and 30s, airplanes were viewed by the general public as strange mythical things. It took airshows to drive home the point to everyone that aviation was a real industry with lots of applications, as people could actually get close and see the bent metal.

There’s also a larger effect at work as well. I view the space industry as one in which the U.S. of A. has a competitive commercial advantage. I also believe the space industry is one which offers enormous opportunity, which we should be exploiting like crazy to create value (and thereby wealth) for our nation and the world.

Still, it’s regarded as a bit mythical and sci-fi by the populace at large. To overcome that, they need to see the hardware. This builds confidence that yes, this is something our nation can do. In these dark economic times (which I’m cursed with understanding better than 99% of the world’s populace thanks to my day job and work history in the banking and financial sector. Don’t get me started…), the populace needs something that they can be confident in. Industry after industry that we start up quickly rushes overseas for exploitation, but space has high enough barriers to entry that the stable of our competitors is very limited. Very good at what they do, but none of our competitors have the American spirit that can make it happen for everyone, or the markets to make it happen (or at least what battered remnants remain after the last couple of decades of abuse and cancerous rot and corruption).

That spirit is worthless without training and guidance, and that’s why STEM emphasis in education is so important, to cultivate the brightest young minds into training themselves to tackle the tough problems that face our nation. Bridges don’t stand and rockets don’t fly if we ain’t got engineers.

And that’s where events like Moon Day come in – to give people the opportunity to explore all about space in one location, and find out what resources are available in the community. It also gives the local space folks a chance to meet each other, and maybe figure out other opportunities for collaboration. Youngsters go home with a sample bag stuffed with space materials (hopefully most of it with some kind of web address on it) that they can lose themselves in over the following week or so of torrid Texas summer. I was initially concerned that this would be a particularly weak event, and possibly the last of them as I would turn my efforts to other, more productive, ends. As the planning has progressed, though, more and more folks have stepped up to the plate, and it’s really looking like a very exciting event this year. There’s still several weeks to go, and I’ve got other unmentioned leads that I’m pursuing.

To shill for my own cause for a minute, this is the sort of thing that I’m going to try to bring to the presidency of The Moon Society if I get elected (so please join and vote). A focus on basics and being a voice in the community. If I can get membership numbers up, more chapters could be formed, which would be tasked or challenged with arranging talks about the Moon in their local community. What happens is that the first one is usually a fail. The fail is almost always tied to publicity and getting the word out. But the few people who do show up remember the coolness of the content, and might tell a few friends about it. After licking its wounds, the chapter would try again, maybe with a different topic. What’s happening is that they’re building the network of Moon knowledge in their community. The astronomy club guy/gal who does Moon observing and wants to show others how cool it is. The local university professor who harbors a secret obsession with the Apollo Lunar samples. The librarian who has read every Apollo book in the library cover to cover. The local banker who has a huge collection of Moon books and has actually read a good chunk of them, on all topics.

By which point certain audience members will start identifying themselves and you may find some new talent. At about the same time chapter or outpost members will be gaining enough confidence in their Moon knowledge (and will have read enough of the Moon Miner’s Manifestos) to offer their own talks about the Moon. They may create their own, or they may download a generic presentation from the TMS website that I’m going to work on putting together with a team. Eventually they may end up with enough stuff for a Moon Day type event in their own community.

So if you’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, or know someone in the D/FW metroplex, mark your calendar for Saturday, July 16th, from 10am to 5pm at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas, at of Mockingbird and Lemmon. There’s a big 737 sticking out of the side, a recent gift from Southwest Airlines. You can’t miss it!

Be Afraid

Be very afraid.

The first part of my Moon and Back interview at the ISDC conference is now up. I haven’t watched it yet, as I’m a little worried that I said something phenomenally stupid.


Interview With Ken Murphy, part 1 – Outreach For Space Awareness

Originally posted on

Update: Wow, not half bad. Shows you the power of good editing. Too many ums and uhs, though. I need to work on that.

And here is part II:

Interview With Ken Murphy part 2 – Cislunar Space And The Business Case

Originally posted on

And lastly part III:

Interview With Ken Murphy part 3 – The Children of Earth

Originally posted on

ISDC 2011 Debrief

Howdy everyone!

I’m safely back from the road trip to this year’s ISDC in Huntsville, AL. My agenda this year was a little more complicated than in years past:


1) Continue building the Lunar Library
2) Make concrete strides in establishing self as Gen X Moon guy
3) Not screw up my presentation
4) Achieve The Moon Society goals
5) Throw a great party

Tuesday was the drive in. About 10 hours, not too bad. About the same as the drive up to Albquerque to see Mom. Since I was driving I had loaded up the car with goodies for the trip – handout materials for The Moon Society display, Moon-themed alcohol (more on that anon), and stuff for the party. Far more than I could have taken on a plane…

Wednesday was the Space Investment Summit (SIS). I tried to get motivated to go early, but instead spent the morning cruising Huntsville bookstores looking for new additions to the Lunar Library to tackle objective one. The BookLegger, just down the street from my hotel, turned out to be the best of the lot. The rest were either laden with bodice-rippers, or, like Five Points Books, closed. Still, I was happier with the finds at one place in Huntsville than in my entire search across the L.A. basin last month after the Space Tourism Society anniversary dinner for Dennis Tito.

I got to the SIS early in the afternoon, and quickly saw that things have not been progressing much with regards to investment activity. Here’s what I’d like to see:

I have 401K money that is sitting in cash. I refuse to invest in what I view to be corrupted markets, but I would dearly love to invest in some of these new space companies and get cash into projects like Lunabots and sticky-booms.

However, since I am not a “Qualified Investor”, I am not able to do so with my personal investment monies. I may do “Qualified Investor”-level work at the bank, but that does not mean that I personally have the wherewithal either income or asset-wise to put my investment money in anything other than mutual funds and publicly-traded stocks and bonds. I want to put my money where my mouth is, but our current rules and regulations do not permit such a thing.

So I’ve been trying to think of ways to allow individual investors to mutually pool their money into some sort of fund that can invest in non-publicly-traded companies. The best I’ve been able to come up with is a Trust that would hold the actual equity or debt investments. This Trust would register as a publicly-traded company that makes investments in “NewSpace” companies, as well as non-traditional investments like funding a particularly promising CubeSat in return for all commercial and IP rights. (an issue the Google Lunar X Prize contestants are wrestling with right now)

Though a publicly-traded company, all of the shares would be held by the Fund, which assets are offset by the liabilities of the investments by individual investors and pension and mutual funds in the Fund. The Fund itself would be publicly-traded, which ticker I would buy with my 401K money which is currently earning peanuts, but is at least hedged against principal loss by being in cash.

Other investors of a like mind would also buy into the fund. It would probably have to be set up something like a money market fund, with an NAV of $1 so that the total amount of shares outstanding solely reflects the pool of money invested by the Trust in space companies. But then how do you pass through losses?

This is probably too transparent a structure for the Feds, so it would likely not work. Plus you’d have to fend off all of the lawsuits from entrenched powers that be that don’t like threats to the status quo, even if that status quo is leading us on a road to poverty. So the fundamental issue remains unaddressed: How do we get money from average investors to the space sector to accelerate developments? (and without ending up in the kind of tech bubble we saw in the 90s where capital is squandered and malinvested in really bad ideas)

I did, however, get a chance to speak briefly with Richard Phillips, who ran the Space Economy Leadership Summit (SELS) a little while back down in Austin. He had expressed an interest in taking the SELS model around the country as a means of trying to hook up more venture capital money with the space sector. I suggested he instead take it around Texas to help drum up support for the industry in the state. The reason I was so anxious to speak with him was that one of NSS of NT‘s best event partners, the UT Arlington Planetarium, was interested in participating in a Moon Day event this year, and so I’ve committed to organizing the event. I’m getting a much lighter level of interest from the usual exhibitors, so one way to work around that is to add some kind of business track to supplement the family exhibits.

This is not as oddball as it sounds. Rick Tumlinson recently got the ball rolling on the Texas Space Alliance (TXA), and has agreed to have someone from TXA (and possibly himself) up for the event. There is a lot more space industry in Texas than most people realize, with companies like Armadillo Aerospace, SpaceX, Paragon SDC, AstroTech, Oceaneering, Wyle Labs, Blue Origin and many others having operations here in the state. Now if I could just get them to start showing off their stuff so that people can see that yes, this is a real industry with real American hardware being produced. We’re at the time when the space industry version of air shows is going to be a very, very good and important thing, as it gives people hope in dark economic times that there are still things this nation can do better than anyone else (at least for the moment). People need to see that, which means that stuff needs to be shown off. Like at Moon Day… Mr. Phillips said he would see what he could do to help.

Also calling for my attention was an ISU-USA alumni workshop. There were a half-dozen or so alumni at the conference, and the new president of the ISU-USA alumni association, Michael Laine, was looking for ideas on how to revive what has generally been a rather moribund organization. A few of the problems are things like international alumni not knowing that they are welcome to be part of ISU-USA while they are here and help enrich the organization’s activities, or where to find alumni, as e-mail lists fall out of date, data gets lost, and people move on, or what the role of the social networks like LinkedIn should be.

Unable to solve all the problems in one fell swoop, we did what all good alumni do – went out to a dinner party instead. Great camaraderie was had by all, and now we knew who each other were for the rest of the conference. Which was good, as Angela was in charge of the hospitality suites and she struck me as a no-nonsense type. She immediately knew how to manage me and my party, and was even sweet enough to call me problem child.

Thursday was my big day. My speaking gig was at 3pm, so I was able to roll in at a decent hour. Most of the morning was spent setting up The Moon Society’s booth (a last minute freebie from the organizers), and I got to enjoy the lunch talk by Owen and Richard Garriott. I disagree with Owen that the government should choose one or two vehicles and focus on those, and much rather prefer that there be 5+ options and the market, in the form of those who purchase the vehicles, provides the solution. He seems to be falling into the trap of ‘only NASA as a customer for human spaceflight’ thinking, though his own son disproves that notion.

Interestingly, I happened to be seated next to a reporter from the Huntsville Times. So I grilled him.

Last week, I gave a talk about the Moon to an elementary school up in Plano. While getting set up beforehand, one of the teachers came up and asked what was happening with NASA. The reason she asked, she said, was because her elementary school students were coming up to her and asking why it was that the Shuttle was going away and NASA ending?


Think about that for a second. Little kids are getting the message that there is going to be no more space stuff. NASA is ending. That is the distilled essence of what they get from their peers, parents, teachers and -media-. Why was it, I asked the reporter, that this is the message that kids are getting from the media?

He hemmed and hawed a bit about Congress, and National Priorities, and Policy, so I had to pin him down. Luckily, the lovely young redhead from the Space Frontier Foundation seated on my other side, N_______, chimed in that she had been getting the same question, ‘why was NASA ending?’, from folks in her peer group (early 20s) who aren’t space junkies like we are and don’t know any better.

Can there be any more heartbreaking question from a kid than

“Why aren’t we going to do space stuff anymore?”


The reporter couldn’t answer the question. Maybe he understands a bit better that the media is doing an abysmal job of informing the public of what is going on, or maybe I just pissed him off. Whatever. FWIW, I explained to the teacher last week how things got to where they are now, from Columbia disintegrating in the skies above our state, to the VSE and decision to wind down the shuttle program, to the CE&R studies of 2004, to ESAS and ARES and their eventual cancellation (and why), how Congress is currently mandating that NASA build it a ginormous rocket, and how private industry is working hard to provide not one, not two, but three launch vehicles as well as near half-a-dozen different crew vehicles. So there is actually great reason for optimism, and her students have very exciting things to look forward to in the future.


Thursday afternoon was back to getting the Space-Based Solar Power display put up at The Moon Society table. One of the things advocated by TMS is that as much of SBSP as makes sense should be derived from Lunar materials. These would be low-value-added products like extruded girders, trusses, solar cells, those sorts of basic things. And wandering around the exhibit hall to see what kinds of goodies were available, as well as taking a load or two of party stuff up to the hospitality suite.

3pm was getting close, so I headed up to Salon 5, just in time to see the end of Gordon Woodcock’s presentation. Holy guacamole! I’m supposed to follow Gordon Woodcock? WTF?

For those who don’t know why this existential crisis was descending upon me, Gordon is one of the old school Moon guys. He’s got papers in many, many of the books in the Lunar Library. If you’re talking about doing a Moon base, he’s one of the guys you’d want on your team. He’s one of the folks in the Lunar Underground, that kept the selenian flame burning at NASA during the long dark years of Faster! Better! Cheaper! and Mars uber alles! (a/k/a Mars is The Goal), and a planetary science community that basically considers itself (mistakenly in my view) done with learning anything from the Moon.

So, tough act to follow, and I only have 25 minutes to do a 50+ minute presentation. Which I manage somehow to achieve, with a few questions at the end. It’s the same presentation I gave to the kids the week prior, but with the scripting stepped up a few notches for a much more learned audience. Afterwards I stepped out into the hall, and who should Gordon be talking to but Paul Spudis? Who it turns out had also seen my presentation. Dr. Woodcock gave me a thumbs up, good job, and Paul, being the good Moon mentor, noted that “there are a couple of mistakes I need to get with you on, but, fundamentally, a good job.”

Wow. What higher praise can a Moon guy get? Sweet as.


This put a nice warm glow on my evening beer run as I raced to get the hospitality suite set up for the Moon party that night. As one approached the suite, one would see my “Lunar Adventures: See the world in a whole new way” framed poster sitting on a tripod outside the door. As one entered, immediately to the left and behind the door, were the Moon movies. Postcards from the Future looped a few times, and then it was on to classics like Plymouth and Murder by Moonlight. On the left wall was a -large- printout of the oblique view of Copernicus crater. Chris Carson of Luna City had done this for the original photo, but got a LOIRP restored version for the new one from Dennis Wingo. Most excellent. Further down the left wall was the kitchenette area, with a counter facing the front of the room and a bar facing the back, and very little room to maneuver in between.

For libations I had arranged for cases of Blue Moon and Honey Moon beer, as well as a six-pack of an oatmeal stout that had a crescent Man in the Moon face on it, and which was my emergency stash for later. There were seven bottles of wine, including Luna di Luna, Spellbound, Luna, Astrolabe, Luna e Stellae, and one more I can’t remember but which also had a Moon theme. And then there were the liquors. Green Moon absinthe-flavored vodka. Midnight Moon Carolina moonshine. Lunazul tequila. Magic Moon orange liquer. Moon Mountain wild raspberry vodka. You get the picture.

The beer ran out at 10pm. I had left on a beer run at 9:30, but the directions were missing one key element, and by the time I was crossing narrow bridges with trees growing overhead I knew I needed to get back to the party and that there was no way I was going to be able to get more beer in a decent timeframe. The wine ran out next, then the liquor. Every drop was consumed, and then many folks wandered up to the SFF suite to drink their booze.

Back behind the bar was a love seat/chair/table arrangement where I had put out all of the new LEGOs for folks to play with, and a lamp with a black light bulb. Moving to the right side of the suite in the back was the bedroom area. Here I had a flat screen showing Moon documentaries. I had brought several with me, but got so caught up in the party that Direct from the Moon ended up looping all night. There was a blacklight in the bathroom.

Coming back to the open front area, there was a sofa and chair with side tables and a coffee table. There was a GameBoy with Lunar Lander and a Nintendo DS with Moon ready to play, and glow sticks available on the table (very popular – so much so that SFF got some for Friday night). The lamps had faux black lightbulbs in them, and there were also miscellaneous trading cards laying around for folks to take.


I didn’t hear any complaints about the party, other than, you know, Rick shouting for my head when the beer ran out. (just kidding) So I consider it a success. The best compliment came when someone noted later that Apollo was conspicuous by its absence from the party. Mission accomplished!

What was most edifying was how many youngsters were there. SEDS, ISU, SFF, Yuri’s Night, and even the NASA Academy. Special thanks to Omar (one of my charges at the 2002 Goddard Academy) and Nick for bringing the NASA Academy folks out. Not just Thursday night, but Friday for the SFF party and Saturday for the SEDS party as well. One of my objectives for throwing the party was to recruit some younger folks to The Moon Society, which is proving a hard sell. Many of them have experience with joining all sorts of things in college or right out of college, and everyone asking them for money and time and skills and they burn out quick on the whole joining organizations thing.

This is emblematic of a larger societal problem facing many organizations in many industries, and one that boils down to demographics. The Baby Boomers are a huge generation, outnumbering Gen Xers by nearly 2 to 1. The Baby Boomers are notorious for not grooming their successors, and so when companies and organizations get to the point where people start retiring from being active in any particular activity, there’s no one to take over and continue the work of the organization. So they scramble to try to find someone. Except there are only half as many Gen Xers around, and they move in entirely different social circles, so they’re hard to find. Latch key kids grew into latch key adults, and we’ve got our own projects and activities that we’re working on, thank you very much. What exactly is our motivation for working towards your goals?

So the answer that I’ve come up with is to have cool projects to work on. Remember, younger folks have been raised in more team-oriented environments, working together towards success. This is great for projects, and TMS has plenty of them. TMS recently received a bequest to be applied towards projects. Two have come up that hold particular appeal for the organization: a solar-sail comm sat for Lunar orbit, and a lava tube exploration analogue. I gotta tell ya, when I mentioned lava tube exploration, I saw eyes light up. It was only recently that it was pointed out to me that since the lava flows had occurred in successive layers over millions of years, there were likely lava tubes in multiple layers. The challenge is how do you send a robot down a skylight to explore. There’s going to be a messy cone of scree under the skylight, and any exploring is going to be done at a right angle to it. It would be interesting to rappel in a spacesuit down a lava tube skylight.

Other ideas are to have chapters and outposts arrange for Moon talks in their communities, and raise money for science fair scholarships for space projects.

Murphy’s Law continued to flog me after the party was over. I’d run low on beer because I had made the mistake of letting folks start early, before the official 9:30pm start. By which point most of the beer was gone. Now at 2:30 in the morning I discover that the skybridge to the Von Braun Center (VBC) has been locked up, and I have to hike around the VBC to get into the parking garage. Which it turns out has been locked up and I can’t get to my car (legally), and couldn’t get out even if I did. So it turns out I’m crashing in the hospitality suite for the night, or what’s left of it.

Friday morning I’m up with the Sun, as I’m going to be speaking to the international students at 10, and I’ve got to get back to my hotel and shower and change. I’m back with time to spare, which is good because the room is still locked. Having chaired an ISDC myself, I knew exactly what to do – go search for someone who worked there. They were unlocking the doors by the time I got back. Since they were still setting up the A/V & computer I equipment I volunteered to go first, since I needed neither. So with a stiff cup of coffee in hand, I dove into it.

The point of my talk, I was told, was to give the basics of setting up and running a chapter. I pointed out the many different organizations that already exist, like NSS, The Moon Society, The Mars Society, SFF, SGAC, and SEDS. Forming a club associated with one of these organizations allows you to leverage off of their structure, as Moon Society – India has done. You can always strike out on your own, though. I talked about different kinds of projects that can be undertaken in the community to help get the space message out. And I laid a quote on them from a Sci-Fi book. IIRC, Moonrise by Ben Bova.

“If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

Because seriously, if you don’t step up to the plate and make things happen, then nothing will happen. And history only happens to those who show up. If you want to have a space club, then make it happen. Don’t wait for someone else to do it, because they won’t. FWIW, this is also a way that future leaders are unveiled.

With that, my obligations for the conference were over and I could sit back and relax, or so I thought. I decided to take a closer look at the book table and see what I could find, having already espyed a copy of “Somebody Else is on the Moon”, which the Lunar Library has in paperback, but not hardcover. Chatting with the gentleman behind the counter, it turns out that he is Five Point Books, which closed when the landlord tried to jack up the rent on the PoS clapboard house converted into a business with a paved front lawn in a gentrifying neighborhood, and went virtual instead. Hopefully my purchases helped in that endeavour. And where else but an ISDC would you find a banker talking to a poet about space books?

The Friday luncheon was an eye-opener with Dr. Spudis. He’s really coming around to the idea of not just sprinting to the Moon first and then backfilling cislunar space, but developing cislunar space in a way that facilitates getting back to the Moon, especially with the right transport architecture, which can be leveraged to accelerate cislunar (and translunar) development. There’s a lot of work to be done in cislunar space that has nothing to do with the Moon, something I highlight in my talk, but having the resources of the Moon available in cislunar space greatly facilitates further growth. It was when he said something along the lines of “we have to work together to climb out of the cradle” that I threw my arms up in a silent Yes! Why, you ask? Just scroll to the top of the page.

Cislunar space is where it’s at, folks. It’s where the development is going to happen. It’s where the LEO space and gas stations are going to be. My guess is at 0°, 28°, 40-42°, and 51.6°, corresponding to equatorial, Kennedy, most US spaceports, and ISS inclinations. The next destination is EML-1, which is 3.77 km/s delta-V (approx.) from all of those LEO inclinations, which means even the ISS can be used as a platform for stepping out to EML-1. Actually, if you put gas stations in LEO, EML-1, and on the Moon, 4 km/s will either get you to the next gas station, or to/from many destinations of interest. It’s where the GEO broadcast and power platforms are going to be located (and where we really need to send a garbage crew). It’s the L-5 point where NSS and others would eventually like to see space colonies.

After the luncheon I was trying to get away so I could take a nap at my hotel and be rested and refreshed for the rest of the day, but that was not to be. Alvin over at Moonandback had seen my presentation the prior day and wanted to do an interview. I kept getting questions about one of the images in my presentation, and whether or not it was going to be online. Unfortunately, there is enough copyrighted material in the presentation that while I can claim fair use in a talk, distributing it online is just asking for trouble. Alvin’s going to be using some of the slides in the interview when he posts it online.


The image everyone kept asking about is one I’ve used previously here at OotC, and is from one of the books I picked up at the Xinhua Bookstore by the Forbidden Palace during a business trip to Beijing. What struck me was the number of young men hanging out in the aisles of the book store poring over the engineering books. I was able to pick up about a dozen Moon-related titles while there, and so have access to a vast plethora of information (in a language I can’t read) about China and the Moon. Want to know what their Moon plans are? Here you go:



My basic understanding is that they’re working on five-year plans. Chang’e-1 was in 07, so I would expect the Moon rover sometime around the end of 2012, and the sample return by the end of 2017. I wouldn’t try to pin them to a specific date, as they will launch when they are ready to do so, not when outsiders expect them to. Failure of the mission would cause the Chinese, in their view, to incur loss of face. They’re not too hip on that, so they’ll launch when they feel they have the maximum likelihood of success.

After the interview I did get to retire to my hotel for a nap. I wasn’t going to the gala, so I just kicked about town for a bit before heading back downtown for the SFF party. Since I wasn’t going to be parking in the VBC again, I tried the Holiday Inn across the road from the conference hotel. I was staying at a sister hotel up on University, so I asked if I could borrow a parking spot off in the corner. The manager was a bit surprised that I even asked for permission, but said okay, no prob. I’ve generally found that being courteous and asking for permission generally helps smooth things much better than the situational ethics version of “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” (or put another way, a fait accompli tilts the balance in your favor). I dabbled in moral relativism and situational ethics back in the 80s when it was really coming into style (it seemed quite popular with the thirtysomething Baby Boomers), but three days in the pen will cure you of that mental illness real quick.

With my Beetle safely parked I could enjoy the SFF party without worry. They’d learned from my experience the night before, and gone with more mixed drinks and only a small amount of beer in an effort to last the night. They also picked up some glow sticks, to use as stirrers in the mixed drinks. One note for those who want to do this in the future – let the recipient of the drink start the chemical process. Running your hands all up and down the stirrer before dropping it in my drink strikes me as a bit unhygienic. Definitely a more classy affair, as befits a post-gala affair, though the booze didn’t last for too much longer than at my party. I got a fair amount of networking done, and was actually able to relax a bit.

Perhaps the oddest moment of the night came when Jessco von Puttkamer came wandering into the much cooler bedroom area. We had met the year prior at the ISU Symposium, where he gave the closing presentation, so I introduced myself again. He ended up asking IT Guru Hugh about his get-up – unshaven and a kilt. My guess is that in Jessco’s view, if Hugh was to be a role-model for the space interested, why would he wear such an ‘outrageous’ outfit. This led to discussion’s of a person’s role in society, and Hugh pointed out that as a Libertarian, he was not necessarilly obliged to live his life by the expectations of Jessco or anyone else. Jessco was confused by this ‘libertarian’ (small l, not ‘Tea Party’) philosophy and wanted to know more.

The variant that I prefer comes from a sci-fi story. Hold on, let me go pull out the graphic novel…here we go, ‘Open Space’ from May 1990. “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Launch!” It’s a Randian tale of bright individuals who decide to leave Earth to create a new civilization founded on the principles of liberty and justness. The founding credo of this society is as follows:

“I may not like the way you wish to live, but injure no other and I’ll defend to the death your right to live as you wish”

A covenant to which all of the citizens of the new society would avow. It’s the best distillation I’ve found so far of the libertarian philosophy, encapsulated in a structure familiar to all fans of the First Amendment: “I may not like what you have to say, but will defend to the death your right to say it”. I’m personally of the belief that it is better if ideas are aired in the market of public discourse, so that people can make up their own minds as to whether any particular meme has merit or not. Bad ideas are quickly unveiled and better solutions can be offered.

The problem arises when the Fourth Estate, the press, devolves into a oligopoly situation where the public discourse is limited to what a handful of individuals decide (so long as everyone continues to use the venues they control), and so things like the provisions of the Patriot Act and the actions of the TSA don’t get the proper airing they need so that our society can determine if those are in fact the best approaches, or if they even conform to the Constitution that underpins the governance of the United States. In that regard I consider Texas Lt. Gov. Dewhurst to be a pussy, in that he so quickly rolled over when a TSA lawyer threatened to turn Texas into a no-fly zone if we stopped TSA agents from groping and manhandling our state’s citizenry.

I am at the point where I refuse to fly. I would dearly like to go to the NLSI and NewSpace conferences at the end of July, but the drive to and from Cali just doesn’t make sense, especially since this year they are not being held contiguously. I will go to the SEDS SpaceVision conference up in Colorado, since I can crash in Albuquerque and see Mom on the way. But I will not fly unless work requires it, which is unlikely in my current role. I got manhandled at LAX on my way back from the Space Tourism Society dinner, and that was the last straw. I am not a criminal; some might even regard me as a benefit to my community because of my civic engagement. I’m one of the emergency coordinators at work, and receive first aid training on a regular basis. I’m the kind of lean and fit Boy Scout lad that you want sitting in your emergency exit row on the flight. Except that now they can’t have me since as a U.S. citizen (and a Texan) I refuse to submit to having my 4th Amendment rights trampled.


Saturday I rolled in late. I knew that today I was going to have to review the student space settlement projects and the students were anxious for me to do so. With my cowboy hat on, of course. It seems to have become iconic, and people don’t recognize me without it. And it seems that my motivational talk on Friday morning may have had more of an impact than was evident at the time, as they were practically treating me like a rock star and asking for my autograph and taking a picture with me. It’s a bit tough for my Aspie brain to wrap around, as nothing I’ve done so far really merits that kind response. It’s also a bit of work as I try to individualize each autograph, which can have freaky effects. For one young lady, when I opened up my mind to see what fell in I kept getting thoughts of equations and algorithms. While flipping through the presentation she was asking me to sign, looking for further inspiration, it kept falling open to a page with a number of equations on it, so I asked her if she had contributed that particular section of the report, which she affirmed. It happened with another young lady where I was getting thoughts of surgical procedures and medical treatments, and she indicated she was interested in biology and medicine. Freaky stuff that makes zero sense and has no scientific basis on any non-quantum level, and humans aren’t supposed to have quantum-level sensory input.

I put on my Science Fair judge hat and got to work, spending at least a quarter hour on each one. I would ask them to sell me on their project, and spend some time using my ISU education to ask questions and uncover errors. I try to take a very laid back style as a Science Fair judge, evaluating each project on its merits, asking them to provide rationales for some of the decisions they made, and discussing how certain aspects of the project may have been more or less appropriate for what they were trying to achieve. It’s less of a judgment and more of conversation on where the project might go or how it might be made even more sophisticated. I did uncover a few things that the actual judges had missed in their evaluation (and which the students can now use to their advantage in future years). It’s an exhausting process, but the students are great, and we did get some cool pictures.

The National Space Society 2011 Awards Ceremony from Moonandback Media on Vimeo.

I was debating whether or not to attend the Saturday NSS Awards dinner. I’m not going to be a happy camper until I get one of the NSS Pioneer Awards because, you know, it’s a great Moon sculpture and I want one for the Lunar Library. Still, a buzzing in the back of my brain told me that I should be there, which was proved correct when Larry Ahearn quietly sidled up to me and informed me that NSS of North Texas was going to be getting an award for Excellence in Public Outreach. I was hoping it might be our Santa Space Toy Drive, which over the years has donated hundreds of space and rocket and astronaut toys to disadvantaged kids, that had sold the awards committee. Or perhaps our Science Fair Space Exploration Scholarship, which has donated $600 over the last two years to space-themed projects at the Dallas Regional Science & Engineering Fair. Or perhaps our Moon Day project (now in full swing for 2011), which has brought all the space goodness of the D/FW metroplex to over 1,000 people over the last two years. Or perhaps our work updating the Boy Scout Space Exploration Merit Badge pamphlet for the post-Shuttle era. Or our many outreach displays at cultural institutions in the metroplex. Nope. It was our Perry Middle School project, where we help build an analogue ISS module for the school’s Space Week, and provide speakers for the event, including Carol’s ‘transmission’ from the ISS where she pretends to be floating in microgravity. Carol headed up to the stage first, and I made sure all of my chapter members got up on stage before I did for their moment in the sun. If the video makes it onto the internet that’s me extending my Beaumont in the air and yelling ‘Yee-haa!’ when the award is announced. Gotta represent, know what I mean?

Speaking of mean, the SEDS party once again featured Rocket Juice, which uses a secret formula carefully guarded by the SEDS leadership to super-saturate the alcohol in the drinks, and one shot will seriously mess you up, so it’s best sipped very slowly. I have to say that I particularly enjoyed the SEDS party, as there came a point in the evening where the balance between the old guard and the youngsters came somewhat into parity, for the first time that I’d ever seen, and you could tell that some of the greyhairs were feeling a bit lost in the shifting culture. I was reveling in it, regaling NASA Academy alum with tales of adventure from the ’02 Goddard Academy, like where I got both the Goddard and Ames Academies in front of Congress, or helped kick start the exchange program with CNES, and Yuri’s Night alum with stories of the dancing astronaut Snoopy awards they were wearing. I was getting folks excited about Lunar lava tubes and The Moon Society. It was a good, good night.


from Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow by Brian Fies, an excellent read

Sunday morning was packing up for the trip home. While I had unloaded quantities of alcohol and handouts, I was also picking up a bunch of stuff like the Solar Power Satellite display, and the many books I’d found, so the bug was once again stuffed to the gills. I finally got a chance to talk with Paul at OpenLuna, a network of Canadian Lunar advocates, and we discussed how our organizations could work together to advance our common cause. My search for my cooler, which had been used by the subsequent hospitality parties, kept me around long enough to get caught up in the tornado drill. I’d noticed the dark clouds approaching, but wasn’t too worried as it didn’t look to have enough energy, and the clouds didn’t have any of the weird colors that usually presage a tornado. It was a good opportunity to note that space advocates should get used to this sort of thing, as Solar flare storm warnings and shelters will be common in the inner Solar system.

The drive back was a bit more leisurely, taking 11 hours to get back to Addison. Still, I despise the games that 18-wheelers play on the interstates; it’s dangerous and clogs up the traffic flow. I had taken Monday off to de-conference and unpack, as well as get started on this debrief.

Monday was also a day to get the next project going – Moon Day on July 16th (which corresponds with the launch date of Apollo 11) at Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas. Regular readers know this is a big project for me, and this year is going to be particularly difficult, as some of my big exhibitors can’t make it, attendance was a bit down last year since it wasn’t an Apollo decadal or semi-decadal anniversary, which trend may well continue this year despite the switch to Saturday, and that switch also gives me three more hours to schedule content for. Working in a business component with a focus on Texas space businesses will help fill that out, and may even facilitate access to underwriting monies. In past years I’ve put together the event with a budget of $0, which makes things like advertising difficult. If I can get some money from an underwriter, I can do things like advertise in the Dallas Business Journal. Still, it’s tough hearing no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no after no. (something the students commented on in their fundraising efforts) It can become quite disheartening, but you have to just keep soldiering on, because if Moon Day is to be, it’s up to me.

Overall a great conference from the National Space Society, and as usual a completely different experience from years past. I don’t think I attended a single session other than the ones at which I spoke, and spent almost the entirety of my time chatting and networking. There was a pleasing surge in younger attendees, and increasing evidence of new ways of thinking on how to tackle this whole space conundrum thing. Shout out to my peeps from ISU, especially my classmates Fujita-san and Nassim, and the NASA Academy. These are networks that are ‘new’ to the status quo, and I’m glad they’re starting to gain recognition. There are a lot of very, very smart individuals, far more so than I, in those networks, and they are the future leaders of the space field. It’s time they started getting more recognition, and I’m strongly considering suggesting a “Next Gen” track at the next ISDC (which I won’t be attending since it’s going to be in D.C. There’s something just wrong about that place, and my karma feels soiled after every visit. Whether it’s the cesspool of Congress, the co-opted by special interests Executive branch, or the corrupted from justice by ideology Judicial branch I couldn’t tell you, but the place is just rotten and I do not like going there)

I’ve also got to buckle down this summer on the transition to president of The Moon Society. I think I’ve scared up enough votes to overcome any write-in threat, so I’ve got to start refining my vision of what to do with the society into action, and there’re so many things to tackle. No rest for the weary.

And that, my friends, is how I spent my 2011 ISDC.

“Thea Stilton and the Star Castaways”

Atlantyca, SpA
“Thea Stilton and the Star Castaways”
Scholastic, Inc.
ISBN13: 978-0-545-22774-2

Librarian’s Note: The English language edition of the copy I picked up in France last year is finally out. I like the French title, “Destination the Stars” better than “Star Castaways”. So fresh it’s not yet up at the publisher’s website.

They’re Here!!!

Howdy everyone!

My birthday presents to myself finally arrived! I’ve got to say that set 3368, the Space Launch Complex, looks like a phenomenal build. Love the rocket design. The fairing can hold either an astronaut in a rocket sled, or a satellite. There’s a crawler to carry the rocket to the launch tower, and the tower itself features a retractable hose for fueling the vehicle, as well as an elevator for carrying the payload to the top. Even some countdown flaps. There’s also a poster that seems to be hinting at an ISS and a Hubble set in the future. I’m a thinkin’ I’m going to be taking this one to show off at the ISDC (more on that anon).


Set 3366, the Satellite Launch Pad, is a much smaller set, but I do like the idea of a mobile launch control center.


And of course, my favorite, set 3365, the Space Moon Buggy, with drill attachment on the back for some prospecting in the Lunar outback, and a sat dish to send your assay results back to base to get first dibs on a new strike.


In my view, these are the “NewSpace” Lego sets. Nary a space shuttle or Apollo lander in sight. All clear for future cislunar space adventures!

So yes, I’m in a good mood this evening.

I’d been in a bit of a funk, as the trip to L.A. hadn’t turned out as well as I had expected in the ways I had expected. The Space Tourism Society dinner was okay, a kind of “Hurrah! Things are going great” sort of get-together (and frankly, they are going great). Many, many familiar faces and the usual dearth of Gen X and younger participants. There were some, and I made sure to sit in the back at the kids table to have the more interesting conversations. That was where I happened to meet L______. More on that anon.

Friday was spent canvasing the book stores, starting in the Santa Monica area and arcing north and east-ward as the day progressed, up through Hollywood and into Studio City, over to Glendale (the best of the bunch), hooked back around to the Griffith Observatory, which had undergone an upgrade since I was last in LA in ’01 for my ISU internship. Then to downtown LA then back out Santa Monica to hit the stores that had been closed when I’d swung by in the morning. The most disappointing was a place up on Sawtelle. There was a nice 14 volume set that was a children’s encyclopedia of aviation and space for $75. I was quite interested in acquiring the set for the Lunar Library, but there was no way it would fit in my luggage. So I asked the clerk about shipping it. Apparently it was too much trouble, as he declined the sale. Unbelievable. And people wonder why the Chinese are going to eat our lunch. Those folks hustle and make the sale.

It was as I was digesting what had been available at the different stops that I came to the conclusion that the reason there’s no good space movies out of Hollywood is because the literature’s not there. I had better luck finding space books in one bookstore near downtown St. Louis last year on the way to ISDC than I had across the entire LA basin this trip. This was wild to me because at the dinner the night before folks had been talking about how SoCal was a space nexus because of the history there. Don’t see how, as I found way more and interesting stuff on the trip to San Fran last October for the Space Manufacturing conference at NASA Ames.

It was on the way back to the hotel that I got the message from L_______ that she wanted to meet for drinks/dinner. How about the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills? Okay, sure. I may not have had date clothes on this trip, but she sure did: a necklace of stars and a silvery gray sweater that shone as if bathed in Moonlight.

Saturday morning I made one last trip, out to south Inglewood near the airport to a little comic/card shop to see what they might have. A couple of items, but not much. Then it was to the airport and the indignities of flight. First, let me praise Frontier Airlines. They fly nice Airbus A319s and A320s, the animals offer a personalizing touch to the planes that you don’t normally get, and so for example I flew under the watchful eyes of Carmen the Blue-Crown Conure (a sort of parrot) and Trixie the Red Fox (the fox being one of my animal totems, by the way). The agents were kind enough to switch me to exit row seating without any hassle. I usually note that I’m exactly the kind of strapping young lad they want in their exit rows (6’4″, lean and fit, emergency coordinator at work, Boy Scout, you get the idea). In fact, I’d even be willing to go through a couple days of emergency training to get preferential access to those seats.

That’s what makes the security so revolting to me. The presumption is that I am a criminal, and I have to offer myself up to them to prove I’m okay to travel. The concept that to my own government I must prove my innocence, rather than requiring them to prove that I am guilty of what they fear, just fills me with opprobrium. It’s to the point where I am going to have to stop going to space stuff in places to which I can’t drive in a reasonable time. Still, L______ is out in Cali…

Looking forward, planning has begun for Moon Day 2011. I won’t know for sure if we’re having one till the middle of the month deadline for indications of interest. They’ve started trickling in, but I’m worried that I won’t get to a critical mass. May 15th is when I’ll commit. Just in time for the ISDC.

I’ve managed to get myself more involved than I had anticipated. I’m giving a talk in the Space Settlement track on Cislunar Space, I’m hosting a Moon Society hospitality party as part of my campaigning for president of The Moon Society, and I’ve been asked to speak to some of the international winners of the Space Settlement design competition about how they can do space advocacy in their communities. Just the sort of thing I talked about at ISU last February for their annual symposium.

Busy, busy busy!

“Solar Power from the Moon”


Tucker, Patrick
“Solar Power from the Moon”
The Futurist
May/June 2011
ISSN: 0016-3317
On-Line Text

Librarian’s Note: Also includes an article from satellite-guru and ex-ISU dean Joseph Pelton entitled “Finding Eden on the Moon” that lays out a case for a Moonbase entitled Eden 1. The Solar power article features the usual suspects, Shimizu Corp. and Dr. Criswell, as well as criticisms from someone at MarsDrive. It’s good to see these ideas seeing treatment outside the space community.

Happy 50th Anniversary, Human Spaceflight


Fifty years ago, on April 12th, 1961, at 09:07 hrs Moscow time, the Vostok 1 crewed capsule launched from the Baikonur space center carrying one Yuri Gagarin into orbit. It was on that day that humanity began a new age, the space age, and those born after that date share a common bond in being part of the space generation of humanity.

Thirty years ago, a new type of vehicle was introduced, a Space Launch System that would revolutionize access to space and make it routine and affordable, just what industry needed to tap the promising new field of microgravity science unveiled by Skylab. Which it was working towards achieving until Challenger. While the Baby Boomers have Apollo, Challenger was the defining space moment for my generation, gathered around the television as we showed off our space prowess by sending a teacher into space. And then the long stand down at NASA.

Ten years ago, a new generation of space enthusiasts gathered in Los Angeles and around the world to celebrate these anniversaries and space activities in general. This was the first Yuri’s Night, and what a party it was.

My how things have changed. Now we stand on the verge of shedding the old ways that stifle us, and launching into a new phase of space exploration, one where private industry can engage private industry for access to space. Worried about the security of your lab? Why not move it to a location less accessible to prying eyes? Want to take a honeymoon swing around the Lunar far side? Current market looks to be about $200Mn. What do you want to do in space? It may soon be possible.

All begun 50 years ago when Yuri Gagarin was the first human to touch space.

Happy Yuri’s Night, everyone!


The Kids are Alright – 2011 edition


Once again, I managed to sweet-talk my way into the recent Awards Luncheon for the Dallas Regional Science & Engineering Fair. Awesome, as always.

The choice of introductory speakers was rather interesting, one Misty Giles, who is apparently not only an SMU engineering alumna, but was also part of the cast of Survivor: Panama. Pretty young too. If she was 24 in 2005 for Survivor, then she was born 80-81 or so, which depending on whom is consulted makes her either a tail-end Gen Xer, or a front-end Gen Y. Whichever it is, it’s good to see some younger faces in the chaperone, so to speak, side of the equation. I.e. everyone not a student. Usually it’s all grayhairs. Then began the long list of winners.

When I’m judging at the Science Fair, I don’t really get to see more than the 10 or so projects in my particular section, so it’s nice to see the winners from across the categories. The breakdown is Junior High/High School, then Life Sciences/Physical Sciences, which further break down to:

Life Sciences:
-Animal Sciences
-Behavioral & Social Sciences
-Cellular & Molecular Biology
-Environmental Management
-Environmental Science
-Medicine & Health Sciences
-Plant Sciences
-Team Life Sciences

Physical Sciences:
-Computer Science
-Earth & Planetary Science
-Energy & Transportation
-Engineering: Electrical & Mechanical
-Engineering: Materials & Bioengineering
-Mathematical Sciences
-Physics & Astronomy (the category I judge in)
-Team Physical Sciences

Each category has a 1st, 2nd & 3rd place winner, who receive a cash scholarship from the event sponsor. All of these are eligible to go to state, and a few are sponsored to participate in the International Science & Engineering Fair. Folks who pay attention may remember Amy Chyao as last year’s winner (visited the White House a few times, was at the State of the Union, likely going to get her own lab before too long…). She came out of last year’s DRSEF, from the Plano ISD.

Which dominated this year, as Plano usually does. The economist in me attributes that to the simple fact that the science teachers in the Plano ISD are incentivized to produce Science Fair participants and winners. The Dallas ISD certainly doesn’t do so, but then again the Dallas ISD is nowhere near as wealthy as the Plano ISD, where the parents are motivated and can afford to ensure that their children have the tools they need for success.

Which is why I was happy that the NSS of North Texas Space Exploration Scholarship went to some bright-eyed and enthusiastic young gentlemen from Greiner Middle School in Dallas for their work on the aerodynamic properties of rocket parts. We had a successful year fundraising through our raffles, so each one got a $175 scholarship from the chapter. They also each got a prepaid one-year student membership in NSS. And since I have a few Lunar Sample Bags left over from last year’s Moon Day, they each got one of those as well, loaded with all kinds of space-related info and goodies.

Why give them a Lunar Sample Bag? I hearken back to the ISU Symposium last year, and the young couple from Colorado who taught in a particularly difficult school district that had to deal with a lot of children of agricultural laborers in town for short periods. One thing they noted in what had to be a pretty demoralizing teaching environment, was that when students took an interest in space topics, there was a notable improvement in academic performance across subject areas. Students perceive the challenge, and that’s something that excites them into trying harder.

So while J___ & J_______ may have done their project on a lark (which I don’t know one way or another as I was not involved in the process), for extra credit or whatnot, having that lark turn into such a cool and unexpected result can only be a good thing.

I’m actually rather envious of the chapter judges. I help all year with the fundraising and donating prizes for the raffles and so forth, and I don’t get to be one of the folks giving it away. Oh well.

One of the ideas I’m pondering for if I get elected Moon Society President is the idea of a matching fund program, where Moon Society chapters would be encouraged to raise funds for a Science Fair scholarship in their local community, and the funds would be matched from the national level. It wouldn’t necessarily be a Moon project, but something space related. That would also burden me with having to raise funds at the national level to cover the ‘cost’ of matching the local scholarships.

One thing I’ve insisted on for the last two years is that NSS of North Texas raise the funds externally and not use internal funds. I was able to get away with it the first year, but this year the chapter overruled me and used chapter funds to cover the administrative cost of the winners going to the awards luncheon ($35, quite reasonable given that we’ve sent two each of the last two years). I did manage to cover their one-year student memberships in NSS personally, but the chapter will probably over-rule me on that one next year. I’m just worried that they’re going to start using chapter funds to match the fundraising sums, or just donate outright, which would drain the treasury before too long.

I would take the same approach at the national level; if I initiate a new project I need to find funding for it. Which shouldn’t be too hard – who wouldn’t want to be associated with a science fair scholarship? In a world of too few really good causes anymore (that aren’t just strip-mining donations to pad management lifestyles), it’s hard to argue with the merits of a solid science fair culture in a community, that community’s region, and on up the administrative levels to the national and international level. I’m not joking here, either.

There’s a lot of lip service about the importance of “STEM education”, but one does have to wonder to what extent folks are actually working towards that end, versus hitching up to the gravy train. The reason I say that is that one of my fellow judges was a recent SMU alumna with a Master’s degree in Engineering who was having a devil of a time finding employment.

I noted to her that an engineering career tends to be more project oriented than career oriented, so find the coolest team/project she can think of and try to associate with it. I also told her to seriously consider international opportunities. New Zealand is going to need engineers in the reconstruction of Christchurch. I saw enormously, megalithically, brobdignagianly huge construction projects in Beijing. Africa is building up their infrastructure. There’s a world of opportunity out there.

I also suggested she submit her resume to the bank. We do have a history of hiring engineering and science types as financial analysts, as they bring a discipline and rigor to the position that is otherwise hard to find.

One interesting note from the fair itself. Well over half the judges were new this year, and the general age seems to finally be trending downward. This is both good and bad, as you want to have folks with some experience judging to share the knowledge of how to do so, which counsels against too high a turnover, but you also need fresh faces as the older judges retire.

If you have a technical background in one of the fields above, please consider judging at your local science fair. It’s an enriching experience, and an easy way to directly contribute to the technical sophistication of your community, your region, and your nation. And look at the smiles on those faces – wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?


“Pilgrim Observer Space Station” (model)

“Pilgrim Observer Space Station”
Learning Curve Brands Inc./Round 2, LLC
Item #MPC713
Publisher’s Web Site

Librarian’s Note: While not inexpensive (and what isn’t these days), you’re getting an above-average quality product. There’s no obvious “flash” (the extra bits of plastic that get left on in production), the box is rather nice, there’s an iron-on, some nice spaceship-y decals, and a small background booklet that is perfect for future young scientists and engineers with lots of details on the layout of the station and the kinds of science it would be doing in its peregrinations around the Solar system.


When I was picking it up, the gentleman at the local hobby shop was rather curious about it so I gave him some background, and mentioned its marked similarity to NASA’s recent Nautilus-X design. I’ve been thinking of putting together the Moon Bus, but I think I’m going to tackle this one first.


Throwing my hat in the ring


Many years ago, while living in Manhattan, I was trying to figure out ways to meet girls. I don’t really drink alcohol (except as the occasion merits, like a wedding or gala), so bars were pretty much out of the question. I don’t get to do church socials, so there was another swath of society ruled out. I decided to try my luck with civic organizations, figuring I would meet women who cared about their communities and are probably pretty smart. Given my international background, I figured the United Nations Association would be a place to try. Of course, as is true with most civic organizations, it was mostly greyhairs, but I was learning international stuff and got to do stuff at places like UN headquarters so I was pretty okay with it.

At one point, one of the Directors of the NYC chapter invited me out to dinner, where he asked me to consider running for the BoD. The national organization had done an analysis of their membership rolls, and quickly decided to engage in a marketing campaign of having members make bequests to UNA in their will. Turns out most of them had been around when the UN was formed, and there was a dearth of young blood in the ranks. So they were also engaged in a campaign of rejuvenating the organization, and the local chapter wanted some new blood on the Board. Somehow they saw promise in me, and I ended up serving on the BoD for many years. Through UNA-NYC I participated in the charter meeting of the Rotaract Club at the United Nations, which was a terrific experience, and also had a hand in the formation of the UNA-NYC Young Professionals Group, which has expanded to a national initiative through YPIC.


Ken does space stuff because he loves his planet

It was through these organizations that I got to do things like plant flowers in Morningside Park, clean up an elementary school in Queens, play Santa Claus for disabled kids in Harlem, plant trees in the Bronx, collect books for orphans in Haiti, and help organize volunteers for the NY Citywide Model UN each year. My job was to round up volunteers to prepare the briefing books, and chaperon the event. In return, I got to serve as Secretary-General for the General Assembly (GA) meetings, which were held at UN headquarters. I was either Boutros Boutros-Murphy, or Kenni Annan depending on which year we’re talking about. [Full Disclosure: While in high school I won Outstanding Delegate in the Capitol Area Model UN in 1984]


It was in 1999 that I single-handedly wrote the GA Briefing Paper on the Outer Space Treaties (as the funding hadn’t come through until late in the process, and I couldn’t organize volunteers to write a paper for an event that might not happen), which research led me to the Space Generation Forum at UNISPACE III, and then I went to Adult Space Camp and got the Right Stuff medal for my class, then STAIF 2000 with all the cool technology way cooler than finance and credit, and then on to International Space University for a year of Masters studies, and NASA Academy, and ISDC 2007 and the adventure just goes on and on.

One thing I made sure to do after ISU was to join the space advocacy groups that most closely align with my interests. That would be The Moon Society and the National Space Society. My work to date has been largely with NSS and especially our local chapter, NSS of North Texas. Sure I co-chaired the 2007 ISDC, and recently spent two years on the NSS Board of Directors, but I’m most proud of my work locally. I’ve organized a World Space Week event, two Moon Days, done countless outreach displays, initiated our Santa Space Toy Drive which over the last five years has given over 400 outer-space-themed toys to the local Santa’s Helpers program, initiated the Science Fair Scholarship, which has donated $550 over the last two years to projects at the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair, initiated book drives for the play area at the local Frontiers of Flight museum, and many more projects. Our membership level is at least flat, impressive given the number of older members we’ve lost over the last few years. Our chapter has done a lot of work to educate the people of the D/FW metroplex about the importance of space. And the chapter budget is in a much stronger position than it was was when I joined. Enough so that the chapter can commit advertising dollars to the Dallas Mars Society, which is hosting this year’s Mars Society annual conference.

I got a phone call recently from one of the Directors of the Moon Society who was passing through Dallas on his way down to Houston for the Lunar & Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) and who invited me out to dinner. Hmm, where had I seen this scenario before? Long story short, he asked me to consider running for President of the Moon Society.

After consideration, I’ve decided that I’m going to throw my hat in the ring and run for the office of President of the Moon Society.

I think I can make a difference in how the Moon is perceived as an object of importance, not just here in the U.S. but around the world.

My goal is for a much better informed citizenry with regards to the Moon. It’s the same fundamental motivation that led me to put the Lunar Library online. Informing the citizenry means lots of outreach efforts, something with which I am not unfamiliar. It means talks and lectures in small towns and big cities across the U.S. and around the world. It means content for various media.

To that end, the first item on my agenda is to increase the membership numbers. This will be done through a variety of measures, both online and off. As membership numbers increase, this facilitates the formation of more local chapters around the country and around the world. India is a phenomenal example of what the Moon Society can achieve when it comes to forming chapters. These chapters would be tasked with organizing public lectures about our Moon and related topics in their local communities.v

Organizing public events help to develop the skillsets of the members, as well as establish links into the community. Who might speak at these events? Members might reach out to scientists at local universities, Moon-watching astronomers from the local astronomical society, local Solar System Ambassadors with strong Moon interests, and others in the community. Where might these be held? Any town with an airport likely has a flight museum associated therewith. Libraries are another option. Oftentimes restaurants will let you use their community rooms if attendees buy enough food. Science museums and planetariums are yet more possibilities.

Why would they do this? To teach more people about the importance of the Moon. The Moon is humanity’s sandbox for learning how to spread out into the Solar system, how to tap the resources of space, and can serve as an anchor tenant for the development of cislunar space.

What would I bring to the position of Moon Society president? Over 15 years experience with not-for-profit organizations in leadership roles, including a decade in space advocacy. A 20+ year professional background in international business, economics, banking and finance. Global networks of space professionals from Space Generation Forum, International Space University, and NASA Academy. And a passion for and knowledge of the Moon unparalleled in my generation.

I will also bring a strong history of working with other space advocacy groups to advance the common cause of people moving into space to better tap the resources and opportunities that the Solar system offers.

I’ve been told that I was propped up in front of the TV set for the Apollo Moon landings, but my experience is closer to that of the young ladies who won the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation award for their energy bar, who at last year’s ISDC declared “Do you remember Apollo? Well, we don’t!” I don’t either. For me, Apollo is something in history books, and my interest in the Moon has always been forward looking; how can we use the resources of the Moon to make life better here on Earth?

There are many answers, including the use of water to enable increased cislunar activity, and use of regolith to make the structural elements of Solar power satellites in GEO. Even things like shipping raw regolith back to Earth to be used in fertilizers for all of the trace elements.

There is also significant science to be done on the Moon, as many know, and initiatives like the Google Lunar X Prize are offering new avenues to achieving those science ends. Our robotic tools are progressing in their capabilities, and offer increasingly sophisticated solutions. Ultimately it is people living, working and playing on the Moon that is the goal of the Moon Society, and my own as well.


If anyone is curious about how I perceive the road going forward, I just got word that I’ve been approved for a speaking slot at the 2011 ISDC, and so will be giving an abbreviated (25 min. + 5 min questions) version of my infamous “Introduction to Cislunar Space” talk in the Space Settlement track. Not sure which day yet, so stay tuned for updates. I’m also working with NSS on arranging a hospitality room so we can throw a Moon party on Friday or Saturday.

So as every leader must do, I must ask for your support. (or as Heinlein put it: “Follow me!”) Please consider joining the Moon Society, and giving me your vote in the upcoming election. Maybe even stick around, and help make the future happen.


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