Best of the Moon 2008

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Wherein your friendly Lunar Librarian looks at the best additions to the Lunar Library for 2008 and chooses the best of the best in each category.

This year the catch phrase is “value”. In a tight economy every ounce of value needs to be squeezed out of each dollar spent. One of the metrics we’ll be using this year is the MSRP compared with the number of pages (with some qualitative fudging for font size, line spacing, margins, &c.) or the number of minutes of video.

There were a lot of additions to the Lunar Library over the course of 2008 as it struggled with its sophomore slump[1], magnified by increased content responsibilities here at the parent OotC website. This was further impacted by your friendly Lunar Librarian taking the keys to the entire website[2] just in time for software upgrades and miscellaneous website issues to make things go kablooie. Still, I’ve soldiered through like I always do, and here we are at our third annual Best of the Moon. Like usual, we’re going to go through some of the miscellaneous categories before arriving at our Moon, so let’s get started.


Big Rocks from Space

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This category is always a fun place to start. Where else can you find unbounded promise for a more prosperous tomorrow and pants-wetting terror of civilization-level destruction all wrapped into one? There wasn’t much found this year in this particular category. 3D World magazine, for CGI coders, offers up an article on how to simulate a cometary impact. This year’s ISDC in D.C. once again featured a panel on Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). Air & Space Magazine from the Smithsonian featured an article on how NASA is looking at a sortie to an asteroid as a possible alternative for a nearer-term objective than the Moon. Since I have to go with hope over destruction, the Air & Space article gets the nod for Best of the Moon 2008 in Big Rocks from Space

For the High Frontier (HF) we have a few different subcategories.

HF EML-1

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For this category I’ve got to go with the Astronomy Cast on Lagrange Points, from Dr. Fraser Cain, the manager of the renowned ‘Carnivals of Space‘, and Pamela Gay, a/k/a Starstryder, a young astronomer active in education and outreach (and the 2009 International Year of Astronomy). Lagrange points are not an easy concept to wrap one’s brain around, but once you do they are marvelous.


HF Facilities/Infrastructure


The section of the Lunar Library is dedicated to the hardware elements of a space-faring civilization. Rockets, space stations, satellites, and even technologies like space tethers and solar sails. I’m going to divide this one into magazines and books to help sort things out.

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On the magazine side, the Lunar Library is on a very tight acquisition budget (since no one is buying anything through the Amazon ads, nor clicking Google ads of interest), and so has a preference for those magazines that are free of cost for subscriptions. Imaging Notes offers a quarterly magazine focused on the space assets that help us monitor our home planet. Turns out we’re falling behind in keeping a steady supply of new Earth-watchers headed into orbit so that we can continue to build our datasets. Tech Briefs is a monthly NASA publication that highlights technology developments that have come out of our space program and its hardcore performance requirements. Companies that review this magazine can get a heads-up on competitive developments that are in the pipeline. The area of NASA associated with this publication, the Innovative Partnerships Program also publishes the terrific ‘Spinoff’ magazine each year. This one is a must for technophiles.

From the Ground Up” is a monthly newsletter from Near Earth LLC, a capital markets group that focuses on the financing aspects of the space industry, particularly communications satellites. This is one I particularly enjoy reading, given my background in finance. Via Satellite is a monthly that is also focused on broadcast satellites, offering global coverage of what is a significant worldwide industry.

Someone who keeps an eye on the kinds of things that can damage our orbital infrastructure is the NASA Orbital Debris Program Office, which publishes the Orbital Debris Quarterly Newsletter to help keep everyone informed of the debris risks in orbit. This is one area that continues to be problematic for the people who maintain our orbital assets, having to zig and zag every now and then (and wasting fuel doing so) to avoid some errant object. AdAstra featured a nice cover story on Space-Based Solar Power, which will hopefully become part of our future space infrastructure, as it does offer a great deal of promise for the provision of clean energy from the Sun. Most of our energy is second- or third-hand solar power anyway, we might as well plug in directly to the source and cut out the polluting middle-men like oil and coal. NSS got such a strong response to the report that they put it online. There’s also a video that offers a bit more detail here

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On the book side of things, we start out with “Solar Sails” by Vulpetti et al. I’m only about 2/3rds of the way through for my review, but it’s basically a layperson’s introduction to the idea of using sunlight to propel spacecraft around the Solar system. It’s not a new idea, as Pierre Boule’s book “Planet of the Apes” opens aboard a Solar sail yacht that is cruising around the Solar system. The crew of the yacht find, literally, a message in a bottle in space, a message that contains a most fabulous tale of a man from Earth who traveled to Betelgeuse, and the strange planet of apes that he found there. I digress, but it helps show the roots of my romantic fondness for this particular type of space travel.

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The Jane’s brand is well-known for their cataloging of the instruments of the defense industry, as well as the space industry. This year they published a “Recognition Guide” that covers rockets, satellites, and launch centers. It offers some basic almanac data on each item, and some descriptive color. This one is definitely a good gift for the rabid data absorber in the family (they’re the ones that read the encyclopædias and dictionaries). I’ve been thinking of whether there might be a way to create one of the card games that the kids are so fond of playing at a certain age that’s based on real world (and near-future) space technology to build some kind of space-exploiting empire set in the Solar system. This book gave me a lot of good ideas in that regard.

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J.D. Hunley wrote “U.S. Space-Launch Vehicle Technology: Viking to Space Shuttle”, which looks at many of the engineering decisions that went into the various launch vehicles over that time frame. Transport remains the key to getting assets and infrastructure into space, and a problem that we have to solve on the human side of the equation. This book should definitely be appealing to engineers working to solve that problem.

So we’ve got quite a variety of competition for this category this year. Looking over the competitors, TechBriefs certainly puts in a strong appearance, as does ViaSatellite. On the book side we seem to be focused on the transport side of things. Here, I think the best all-around informative work is the ‘Space Recognition Guide’. I think I’m going to have to go with the broadest audience appeal, and make Jane’s Space Recognition Guide the Best of the Moon 2008 for High Frontier Facilities & Infrastructure.

HF Fiction


We have some fun additions to this category this year, so let’s dive right in.

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Right out of the gate in 2008 was the DVD release of the British film Sunshine. In this taut thriller the Sun has gone wrong, and only a precisely placed massive nuclear charge can reset things back to normal. The first ship went missing, so the physicist heading up the project is on the second ship to the Sun with the last of Earth’s nuclear fuel. Turns out the first ship isn’t quite so missing, and so of course the knuckleheads have to divert from their mission to save humanity to see what’s up. Trouble, of course.

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2008 also saw the release on DVD of the independent British TV series from 1990, Jupiter Moon. 150 episodes of space-y soap opera drama in four box sets, served up on a college on a spaceship in orbit around Jupiter’s Moon Callisto. The scripts were vetted by real scientists, so there are no wormholes or warp drives here. A veritable rogues gallery of character archetypes rotates under the spotlight over the course of the 60-odd hours of this show.

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Boom Studios made a daring move and published a comic book of a murder mystery set on the ISS, the ultimate locked room, in Station. Once the first death is shown to be no accident, the paranoia sets in as each astro- and cosmonaut ponders the possible motives of the others. Who can you trust in the cold depths of space when the station is crumbling around you?

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Last up is Zero-G from Image Comics. Scientists have identified a strange asteroid, one that looks to be bountiful in all kinds of wonderful things, from Platinum Group Metals to nuclear materials. Everyone immediately sets out to claim it, as it contains sufficient wealth to upset the global balance of power. It also contains monsters of the deep-space variety, and the heroes soon find themselves in trouble of the deep-doodoo variety. This one is still being published, with book three due out this week.

Some interesting new fiction out this year, that’s for sure. ‘Sunshine’ hewed reasonably close to science fact in its science fiction, but so too did ‘Jupiter Moon’, if not more so. The comics are both fluffy fun, the sort of thing to be discovered on a rainy weekend afternoon, but I think I’m going to have to go with the serious soap opera drama of ‘Jupiter Moon‘ (seriously, what an ending!) as the Best of the Moon 2008 in High Frontier Fiction.


Youth HF Fact

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This category is traditionally dominated by Launch Magazine, a bi-monthly devoted to rocketry and a variety of related topics. By covering all levels of rocketry, from amateur up to the real deal, Launch helps to provide a clear continuum of how an interest in model rocketry can evolve into a career working with real rockets. The variety of articles ensures that you can’t read just one. This magazine is one of my favorites, which is why I’m working on getting them to advertise here at OutoftheCradle.net. The only possible competition is being entered in another category, so Launch Magazine gets the nod as Best of the Moon 2008 in Youth High Frontier Fact.


Youth HF Fiction

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First up is “Rat Trap by Michael Daley, a sequel to his 2005 book “Space Station Rat“. Our rat protagonist is a super-smart genetically-altered lab rat who got smart enough to escape, and has made friends with a young boy on a space station. Problem is, the station’s facilities are programmed to deal most severely with rodents (because their chewing can cause immense damage to a spacecraft’s systems, an idea explored in ‘Jupiter Moon’). The pair managed to defeat the ship’s systems the first time around, but now the rat’s owner is coming to the station to look for him, and the ship’s defense systems are almost repaired. Lot’s of back-referencing in this one, so probably a good idea to read them in order.

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Space is a space mystery set in Huntsville, Alabama. The ‘Space Cadets’ is a group of friends who meet once a year to talk space. Our protagonist’s father has invited him along for this year’s event, and Jason tags along despite his (well-founded) misgivings. His nemesis is back, the FBI is snooping around, and soon the bullets start flying. Jason’s on the run, and he’s got to figure out from what.

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Astronaut Dad is a graphic novel about secret Cold War astronauts, and the impact of the secrecy and danger on the astronauts’ children. First of a series, in this one the children do a little snooping, and discover that their fathers might be more than just test pilots. I’m glad to see more graphic novels being produced along more realistic themes. ‘Laika‘ and ‘First in Space‘ come to mind.

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Our last entrant in this category is “Rocket Girls a terrific anime just released on DVD. The reviews for this one are generally positive, with a couple of strong dissenters. One reviewer noted that it was a stealth lesson in orbital mechanics. I thought it was phenomenal, given its strong portrayals of strong women in fields like chemistry and medicine, and the protagoniste does evolve as an individual and a leader. It’s a bit slow getting out of the gate, but well worth the patience. As should be evident from my review of the series here at OotC, ‘Rocket Girls’ is my choice for Best of the Moon 2008 in Youth HF Fiction

For more juvenile fiction set in the high frontier, be sure to check OotC’s Summer Space Reading Camp published earlier this year. For this category we have:

Pt III: The New High Frontier
Pt IV: The Old High Frontier
Pt V: Special Edition: Rocket Gyrls Reading Club


Youth Educator Materials


One of the changes I made to the Lunar Library this year was to try to break out the more educator-oriented youth materials from the more family-oriented youth materials in each of the categories. This means that this category is heavily laden towards Moon materials this year.

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Kids to Space: Mission Plans is a follow-up to the phenomenal 2006 work “Kids to Space” (K2S) which won the Best of the Moon award that year for Youth High Frontier Fact. The editor, Lonnie Schorer, had hoped that K2S would be adopted in classrooms across the country, but for some reason that wasn’t happening. She got feedback that the teachers needed lesson plans before they would use the book, so Lonnie got to work, teaming up with Barbara Sprungman David. The result is this comprehensive volume of Lesson/Mission Plans conforming to National Education Standards that touch on all the myriad topics covered in K2S. For full disclosure, your friendly Lunar Librarian co-authored the Moon chapter of K2S.

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Lunar Nautics was a joint project between NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and Discovery Place. For grades 6-8, this teacher tool is a series of exercises wherein students take on roles of corporate employees planning for a return to our Moon. It can be run in a variety of ways, from a 6-hour exercise to a full-blown 5 days of 8 hours each covering all the various aspects of planning and implementing a space mission. This one featured a large number of student exercises and demonstrations that I hadn’t seen before, well beyond the usual marble in tray of flour cratering demonstration, and is quite thorough.

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Field Trip to the Moon” is another joint project, this time between the American Museum of Natural History and MSFC. The classroom activity involves six teams addressing the areas of Ecosystem, Geology, Habitat, Engineering, Navigation, and Medical requirements for a Lunar station. Over four ~40 min. class periods the students proceed with Investigations, leading to a complete Lunar station at the end. There are extensive supporting materials available online, making this one a bit easier to implement, perhaps as practice for Lunar Nautics.

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Lunar Challenge is a resource that was published a few years ago, but which I only added to the Lunar Library this year. It’s another intensive project for educators, but benefits from the authors’ years with the Challenger Center to provide a well-rounded and supported experience for participants. While themed around the design of a Lunar base, the exercise is really about systems and how they work together. Like communications systems, power systems, computer systems, and so on. The project manual recommends having an engineer participate to give participants a behind the scenes look at a buildings’ wires and pipes and vents and so on. It’s also notable for involving parent-child teams in the exercise.

Last up is a little bit of self-promotion. Your friendly Lunar Librarian is in the process of writing a series of articles here at Out of the Cradle called Teacher Tools for the High Frontier. Like this article, it’s a culling of educational materials found in the Lunar Library along particular themes. To date:

Big Moon edition
Technology Samples
International Space Station
Rocks in Space
Space Navigation

Clearly I can’t pick my own stuff, so I’m looking at a field of four really strong competitors. Each have their merits, and I of course have a personal attachment to ‘Kids to Space‘. Still, I think for the sheer volume of space information conveyed on so many topics that the team of K2S and the new ‘Mission Plans‘ offers the best bet for educators, making it the Best of the Moon 2008 in Youth Educator Materials


Fun & Games

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Here we’ve got some serious space toy competition
-Lego®Nickelodeon’s® SpongeBob Squarepants TM Rocket Ride
-PlanetHeroes: Moon ‘Lunar’
-PlanetHeroes Moonbuggy
-Planet Heroes: The Ace That Jumped Over the Moon (DVD)

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-Lift-off Rocket
-Space Base
-Space Camp Barbie
-Big Book of Space Exploration to Color

The only one of the toys that I’ve seen proven in action is the Lift-Off Rocket and Space Base, which I had at one of the NSS-NT displays we’ve done at the UTA Planetarium. One young child was absolutely enthralled. My personal favorite is the Planet Heroes action set of Moon ‘Lunar’, his action Moonbuggy, and action DVD. I’m tempted to go with the Space Camp Barbie, but then y’all might think I’m a sellout. The coloring book is really educational, combining three prior coloring books, and I’ll probably get in trouble for admitting that I sometimes make photocopies of the coloring pages to hand out to kids at various outreach events. (I’ve actually got a whole bunch of different coloring books so I can tailor the pages copied to the theme of a particular event) Legos are of course one of the most brilliant inventions of the last century and I’m a life-long fan, but I don’t watch TV so I have no particular affinity for the Spongebob franchise. The rocket is pretty cool though.

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Going into the final round, we have Moon Lunar on the outside, Space Camp Barbie leading on the inside, and Lift-Off Rocket/Space Base making a strong charge from the rear. Moon ‘Lunar’ is hampered by Fisher-Price’s clumsy efforts at crafting a new franchise, the Planet Heroes, while not associated with a TV series, though there is a set of 3 DVDs. Brand creation is a tough gig, and the toys don’t seem to be moving that well here in the metroplex given the early discounts. Space Camp Barbie is a well-established franchise, though she doesn’t get to space near often enough. (Hello! Where is the Barbie Dream ISS/Bigelow Module?) Still, I can’t get over the look that kid had in her eyes when she was playing with the lift-off rocket and zooming through space thanks to the nice large handle with sound-effect button. Still, Barbie has been known to elicit a joyous response and endless hours of imagination.

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I…hmmm…this is a really tough one. I’m glad to see so many space toy options, but I don’t appreciate how much harder that makes the decision. Okay, it’s the space dog that decided it for me. That, and the fact that it is a more generic imagination toy (and thus with fewer constraints on free imagination) than either of the other two finalists. I’m going with the International Playthings Lift-Off Rocket and Space Base playsets…

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Stop the presses! We have a new contender late in the game! And by golly what a contender! It’s the Hallmark/Peanuts tribute to NASA’s 50th Anniversary stuffed Snoopy. Harkening back to 60s, he features the aviator helmet and goggles of his WW I escapades while in a spacesuit and clear plastic helmet. Snoopy has always been near and dear to my heart. Ladies and gentlemen – I’m torn, and so I’m going to punt this one to the kids. NSS of North Texas recently did a display at the Science Place at Fair Park which included a play area with a number of toys available to play with while we talked space with the parents. Amongst the many toys were the Lift-Off Rocket and the Space Base, as well as a plush Snoopy. No question, the kids went right for the rocket and space base, and it mesmerized them for long periods of time as they crafted space adventures in their minds with the rocket and the buggy and the mobile lab and the spacedozer and the robot and everyone’s favorite, the dog.

Based on the testimonials of the children as evidenced by their play, the International Playthings Lift-Off Rocket and Space Base playsets remain as the Best of the Moon 2008 in Fun & Games.

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Best Space Calendar

This isn’t a regular section of the Lunar Library, but there were two very interesting calendar editions that merit consideration.

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First up is the Space Settlement 2009 calendar produced by the National Space Society. This gorgeously illustrated wall calendar reflects the best of an NSS Space Settlement Art Contest. For full disclosure, NSS of North Texas purchased a box of these calendars and has been trying to sell them at various events, beginning with the International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC, different from ISDC) back in July, all the way up through the SEDS SpaceVision 2008 conference just recently. It features international space events throughout the year, and highlights different ways of engaging in space activism each month, from the politically active ProSpace March Storm (in March) on Capitol Hill, to the University-level SEDS conferences.

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In competition is the the year in SPACE – 2009 Desk Calendar, from Starry Messenger Press and the The Planetary Society. Here we have a wire-bound weekly calendar. It notes 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy, gives some background on the work of The Planetary Society, a monthly sky summary, and then dives right in to the weekly layout, with Monday at the top, and a facing page with large space photo and explanatory text. The photos range from the planetary to the historical to the galactic (M74 is particularly nice way to spend the week). A variety of smaller calendars (monthly, &c.) fill out the back. Given the discount that Out of the Cradle readers get on purchases (details at the Lunar Library entry for this item), it is certainly a strong contender in the value category. 18 of the photographs are human-spaceflight themed, which is a fair proportion. Lots of Mars photos for the Mars-o-philes in the audience. Nowhere near enough of the Moon, though.

The NSS calendar, on the other hand, is all art, and an envisioning of our possible space futures. Everyone always notes the cat in the window of one of the Mars modules in one image. The Lunar greenhouse is pretty cool.

I do have to disclose that I am currently an officer of NSS-NT, and serving on the Board of Directors of NSS (as Region 3 Rep), and so there may be some concern that I am shilling for a product that my organization is trying to peddle. I am, but only because it is actually a good calendar with pleasing images, and I have the 2008 edition on the wall of my cube at work.

Given the disclosure requirements, and the fact that the competitors serve two different calendar needs, I’m going to punt and call this one a tie.



Now, ladies and gentlemen, we come to the Main Event of this evening’s proceedings, the awards for the Best of the Moon 2008 for all things Lunar.


Apollo

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Apollo. It’s going on forty years ago that we made this accomplishment, and Apollo remains the first thing everyone considers when talking about humans and our Moon. Some of us remain forward looking, envisioning an even more accomplished tomorrow, and so I don’t put a lot of emphasis on Apollo category additions to the Lunar Library, even if the publishers do because it’s a known market for book sales.

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On the DVD side we have the release of the well-done 2007 documentary In the Shadow of the Moon, which explained Buzz’s long pause on the LEM ladder and a certain first that he can claim on the Moon. Then there’s the Discovery Channel’s ‘When We Left Earth‘, which features the Apollo program as part of a longer narrative of human transport to space. On the book side we have David Mindell’s ‘Digital Apollo‘. This one comes across as a kind of a ‘Soul of a New Machine‘, but for the computers we designed to assist us in landing on the Moon. As much as I liked ‘In the Shadow of the Moon‘, from a value perspective ‘Digital Apollo‘ conveys the deepest amount of learning per dollar, even if it isn’t focused on the astronauts, and so gets the Best of the Moon 2008 for Apollo


Cultura Lunaris

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This is my clumsy attempt at a cute Latin phrase for the topic of the human culture associated with our Moon. The category serves as a kind of catch-all for miscellaneous items, like neckties and t-shirts, as well as movies and books on things like Lunar witchcraft or plant growth, or true idiocy like the Moon hoaxers, that are added to the Lunar Library.

This year had some interesting additions:
-Moonwalker t-shirt
-Moon Dust pen
-Alan Bean’s online art gallery
-NASA’s art contest Life & Work on our Moon

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Way back in the day… [Ed.: 2002 to be exact] NASA Academy took a field trip to the Kennedy Space Center to get a behind the scenes tour of how things operate, from the comms link to the fence that surrounds the launch pad. Dennis Wingo had recommended a t-shirt place on Highway 1 (actually, 3) that had some great original t-shirts. I looked but didn’t find it, not seeing it until we were headed out and so didn’t have time to stop. During my recent road trip to the LEAG/ILEWG/SRR in Cape Canaveral, I made sure to stop by the bricks and mortar shop of Spaceshirts.com and see what they had to offer. One of the items picked up was the Moonwalker t-shirt, another was the Moon Dust pen (which is really Lunar simulant, a topic of much discussion at the Moon conference). I have to say that the Space Shuttle stickers with their logo were a huge hit with the kids at a recent NSS of North Texas display. They offered me more and I should have taken them.

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Alan Bean – Apollo Moon.
Not used with permission

Alan Bean was someone we hoped to have at our 2007 ISDC conference here in Dallas, given that he is local, but it is very difficult to get him out of his studio. He recently put a gallery of his paintings online, which aptly demonstrate why it’s okay if he’s difficult to get out of his studio. These are found at the Alan Bean Gallery. Still on the subject of art, NASA had a competition for the best art depicting Life & Work on the Moon. There were many terrific entries, even if not as polished as the well-experienced Mr. Bean. My personal favorites were ‘Enabling Exploration’ and ‘Pole Colony’. It looks like they’re doing it again this year, so it’s not too late for your shot at Moon fame and glory.

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This is always a tough category to judge given the broad range of items found therein. I’ve always had a fondness for artistic works, so I’m biased in that direction. While the NASA competition is a nice way of promoting an interest in things space amongst a younger and more non-traditional audience, I think the volume of artistic work that Alan Bean has contributed to the commemoration of Apollo and celebration of our Moon merits choice of the Alan Bean Gallery as Best of the Moon 2008 in Cultura Lunaris.

Note that there is a non-virtual gallery showing of his work down in Austin through July of 2009 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11.


La Lune

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This is the French-language section of the Lunar Library, and this category has been dominated by Espace Magazine. The publishing may or may not be on hiatus, as the LL hasn’t received a copy since August. CollectSpace got word that the editor had to take a leave of absence, leaving the future of this phenomenal publication up in the air. There’s no question, though, that it gets the Best of La Lune 2008.


Moon Fiction

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This section of the Lunar Library was dominated this year by the short story. Two publications appeared this year, both driven by space-interest organizations trying to multiply the ways in which they tap into popular culture and generate interest in space activities.

The National Space Society organized a writing competition in conjunction with Hadley Rille Books, culminating with the publication of ‘Return to Luna‘ this December [Now available]. I talked them into sending me a preview copy, which has a terrific variety of shorts from a new crop of writers.

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The Moon Society has also been looking at Moon fiction, and in November published Moonbeams, the initial edition of a periodical devoted to Moon and near-Earth fiction set in the near-future. This also featured new writers, and has the promise of being a periodical publication if folks keep contributing short stories. Its price-tag of free makes it a strong value contender.

The full disclosure doesn’t work here as I’m a member of both NSS and the Moon Society. I’m going to have to go with my gut instinct, which is that my favorite short story of the bunch was ‘Coyote and the Gamblers’, and that one is found in ‘Return to Luna‘, making it the winner of Best of the Moon 2008 in Moon Fiction.


Moonbases


This is one of the most important sections in the LL, as the establishment of a Lunar facility is one of the goals that the Lunar Library is trying to help enable. There were quite a few additions in this area, reflecting what I see as an increased interest in our neighbor in space.

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Ian O’Neill did a four-part series over at Universe Today on ‘Building a Base on the Moon‘ (I-Challenges & Hazards, II-Habitat Concepts, III-Structural Design, IV-Infrastructure & Transportation) that helped open up the idea to a broader audience. The latest Masters class at ISU did team project report on “ALERTS: Analysis of lunar exploratory robotic tasks for safety” which looked at how robots are likely to be used on the Moon so that we can consider how to do so with safety in mind. Peter Kokh over at the Moon Society continued to crank out the excellent Moon Miner’s Manifesto. I suggested to Peter that they publish the archives through Apogee Books, which would make a great amount of material available to the Moon-interested.

Lunar Ventures
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Lunar Ventures held another competition where university teams were tasked with creating a business plan for the Moon. There have been some creative solutions offered, and at least one real business has arisen from the competition. The organizers have taken the Luanr Ventures idea in a new direction, serving as an incubator for space businesses. Dennis Wingo, now with MoonViews (q.v. infra) wrote a couple of articles on heading back to the Moon entitled “Bootstrapping the Moon” and “To ISRU or Not to ISRU, This is the Dumbest Question”, which looked at how we could approach things differently from the usual NASA National Plan.

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NASA Langley, fresh from the success of their student art contest, is back with another competition, this one for budding engineers to design “Moon Tools for Moon Tasks” Like the name suggests, this one is about designing a variety of tools that could be well-suited for use in the Lunar environment. Notices of intent aren’t due until December 15th, so get moving!

There are a lot of great entries this year, highlighting the increasing interest across a number of fields in a return to our Moon. In this case, I’m going to base my decision on my desire to promote outreach and education. We have a need for engineers who are familiar with the unique aspects of the Moon’s environment, and so to that I end I am going to name the ‘Moon Tools for Moon Tasks‘ as the Best of the Moon 2008 for Moonbases.


Selenography

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In the category dedicated to the mapping of our Moon, the first addition in 2008 was “The Far Side of the Moon – A Photographic Guide” by Charles Byrne, a nice follow-up to his previous work, “Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Near Side of the Moon”. Also added was the Moonposter, a nice educational tool out of Ireland. Your Lunar Librarian found a small desktop Moon globe at his local Mapsco store earlier this year. And lastly, Dennis Wingo, author of MoonRush (wherein he was kind enough to reference yours truly), has been doing some archival recovery work, and in conjunction with Keith Cowing of SpaceRef they have provided some stunning new looks at some old “MoonViews“. So this year we have competition from a book, a globe, a poster/map and the digital realm. The book is notable for covering a little-covered aspect of our Moon, the far side. The poster for providing an accessible tool for learning a lot about our Moon. And MoonViews for providing some stunning imagery that was very nearly lost. All of the competitors are strong this year, but I think I’m going to have to go with MoonViews as the Best of the Moon 2008 in Selenography.


Selenology

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2008 was a strong year for Selenology, with numerous magazine articles, a few conferences, and one hefty tome all competing for the title. This reflects, IMHO, an increasing shift towards interest in Lunar science and a re-discovery of all the things we don’t yet know about our Moon. Looking first at the magazines, ‘Selenology Today’ had a number of issues published this year, serving up a couple hundred pages of Moon science. Don Beattie critiqued the various robotic missions being sent Moonward in the U.K. publication ‘Spaceflight’, and found most of them lacking. A strange conclusion given the excitement I’ve seen about the data being returned. Will Gater looked at increasing calls for the British to participate in Moon exploration in the BBC/Patrick Moore publication ‘Sky at Night’. There seems to be an increasing interest in human spaceflight especially, but also Moon exploration, occurring across the pond in Britain, and I do note that visitors from the U.K. are second only to the U.S. in visits to the Lunar Library.

Surdas Mohit took a look at why the far side of the Moon seems so different from the near side in American Scientist. Emily Baldwin and Kulvinder Chadha did a multi-story article on ‘The magic of the Moon’ in ‘Astronomy Now’ that touched on one of my favorite topics, the orbital mechanics of the Moon. Another multi-parter was featured in AdAstra, the magazine for members of the National Space Society. I gave out a lot of copies of this one at the last couple of outreach events we’ve done. Last up for the magazines is a look by Dana Mackenzie in NewScientist at the various robots being aimed at our Moon. I’ve got to say that the increasing coverage of our Moon in the journals is quite edifying, and I hope that it continues into 2009.

For the conferences, there were three of note:
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March
NLSI Lunar Science Conference in July
LEAG/ICEUM/SRR in October

I was able to make two of the three (the first and third), though work cut the first one short. The LPSC had a lot of Moon content, and a lot of younger scientists as well. The LEAG… conference was Moon-focused and really impressive, even in the absence of most NASA folks because of the restriction (to none) on conference travel. A bone-headed move, in my view, given that these kinds of conferences are where ideas get batted around and networks developed. Again, there were a lot of younger folks, and I managed by virtue of my Gen X-ness to get roped into association with the Young Lunar Explorers, a group devoted to cultivating a new generation of explorers with the thrilling promise of what future awaits us on the grayfields of our Moon. (My travelogue is here and the conference presentations are now up here)

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The last competitor in this category is the book “International Atlas of Lunar Exploration” by Philip Stooke. As far as Moon science goes, this one is an encylopædic look at all of the past missions. The volume of information is just astounding, attesting to the thoroughness of the author’s research. Still, its price tag does make it more of an institutional investment (like your local university) than a gift for your favorite Moonatic.

After review of the competitors, I’m going to have to go with the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG)/International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG) Colloquium on the Exploration and Utilization of the Moon (ICEUM)/Space Resources Roundtable (SRR) conference as the Best of the Moon 2008 in Selenology.


Youth Moon Fact

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The youngest viewers were the focus of two DVD releases in this category. WordWorld is an imaginary land where letters, when put together to form words, take on the functions of that word. In such a world you can build a r-o-c-k-e-t to go to the M-o-o-n. The Zula Patrol takes a lighthearted look at our Moon that is surprisingly educational in spite of its goofiness. Both are from award-winning lines of children’s videos. We also have “Armstrong’s moon rock”, a biographical look at how Mr. Armstrong came to be the first human to set foot on the Moon. By our value metrics, The Zula Patrol comes out ahead at 19¢ per minute, compared with 25¢ per minute for Word World and 25¢ per page for ‘Armstrong’s [M]oon rocks’. Still, I think the book is where you find the most value for information conveyed, and so ‘Armstrong’s [M]oon rocks‘ is the winner for Best of the Moon 2008 in Youth Moon Fact.


Youth Moon Fiction

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Earlier in the year saw the publication of “One Small Step”, wherein a young lad who has been surreptitiously exposed to jet aircraft flight handling characteristics is called upon by his nation to undertake a dangerous and secret mission to the Moon with a crew of monkeys to see if it wil work before sending humans. Problem is, their best monkey just died on them, and they don’t have time to train a new one. Will our young protagonist rise to the challenge?

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Moon Quest is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure title reprinted from the original run. The drawings have been redone, and some of the story lines look to have been altered. I’m actually going to take a moment to gripe about my local bookboxes. (Barnes & Noble, if you must know) I was looking to buy a copy locally to donate to a toy drive. I was also curious why there was a gap of four titles in the series. A helpful clerk (who shall remain anonymous to protect the innocent and competent) was able to determine that they have about 2,000 copies in a warehouse, but they have to be special-ordered and prepaid before they’ll ship a copy to a store. The logic escapes me, but there you go.

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“Lunar Pioneers” by Robert Black is an adventure tale for the young lasses, of a young lady of pioneer stock who gets moved to the Moon when her parents get the opportunity to work there. Shipped to the raw frontier, she finds her character honed in its harsh environment, and finds the pioneer spirit that runs in her veins.

I am definitely most taken with ‘Lunar Pioneers‘ out of the bunch. I heard about it while compiling an article on girl-centric science fiction, and quickly ordered a copy in anticipation of getting a copy while writing the article. That didn’t happen, but I included it anyway. Eventually the author sent me a copy, and I thought it rather well done. Some reviewers took issue with some finer details, like nose scratching, but overall it is a good attempt at trying to convey what sorts of challenges would be faced in both microgravity and the 1/6th gravity of the Moon. In my view it’s the Best of the Moon 2008 in Youth Moon Fiction.

If you’d like to see more juvenile fiction set on our Moon, be sure to check out OotC’s Summer Space Reading Camp. For the Moon we have:

Pt I: The New Moon
Pt II: The Old Moon

Moon Manga/Anime

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This category offers an interesting challenge.

In the one corner we have the ongoing release of “Freedom” on DVD. Appealing to younger audiences, this one follows the story of 15 year-old Takeru, who chafes at the limits of the ‘freedoms’ granted to him on the Moon. The Republic of Eden was founded on the Moon after an ecological disaster on Earth, leaving our mother planet uninhabitable. Problem is, Takeru is finding evidence to the contrary, and he soon finds himself escaping his ‘freedoms’ to find a young lady on Earth.

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In the other corner we have the very adult story of “Moonlight Mile“. Goro and Lostman have scaled all of the most challenging peaks on Earth. Upon cresting Mt. Everest they see the ISS with the Moon in the background. Each of them instinctually realizes what their next challenge is, but they pursue that goal by very different means. Their paths cross and re-cross as each races to be first to the Moon.

While the first is pretty kid-friendly (rated 13+), the second most assuredly is not. It pretty much opens the story with the protagonists’ ‘Good Luck ****s’ before setting out on the last stage of the ascent of Everest, and in a rather noisy and graphic manner. In spite of the rather crass opening the overall story is rather intriguing, plumbing the depths of geopolitical intrigue.

‘Freedom’ made the mistake of going with the HD-DVD format, leading to very expensive disks with only one episode per disk. It never made it to the end of the series (AFAIK), ending at Disk 5 of 6 or 7. A new set on blu-ray has just been released, but be prepared for sticker-shock.

“Moonlight Mile” fell prey to licensing issues, and the original publisher was forced to stop before they could release a 4th disk. There’s supposed to be a repackaging coming, but I’m not holding my breath. Which is a pity, as I managed to track down some French language copies of the manga and it is a ripping yarn, even if just as graphic as the anime.

In the ‘just missed’ category, we have the manga ‘Earthlight’, which was the winner in this category the last two years. The third volume was supposed to have been released back in November, but it is still MIA, apparently having been delayed by the publisher, TOKYOPOP.

Sorry kids, but I’m going to have to go with the grown-up tale of ‘Moonlight Mile‘ as best of the Moon 2008 in Moon Manga/Anime.

Moon Movie

Our final category has just one entrant – “Moon Zero Two”, released on DVD (finally). A terrific British film from 1969, it was the first (and really only one to date) Western set on the Moon. Monied interests want to conveniently break the law to ensure even greater wealth for themselves, while a pretty girl seeks her prospecting brother. Our protagonist is caught in the middle. Is there any way he can get the money and the girl?

I was already familiar with the story from reviewing the novelization for the Lunar Sci-Fi Reviews thread over in the forums. Still, the movie caught me off guard with its dramatic scenery and mise en scène, and fairly plausible rendering of a possible future on the Moon.

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[In another case of ‘just missed’, Fly Me to the Moon was released on DVD the day after this article went to press. It was supposed to be released Nov. 25th, but got delayed. So I left it out of consideration. It’s not really a serious contender, though, being limited to enjoyment primarily by the 3-5 year old set.]

And that, Ladies & Gentlemen wraps up this year’s Best of the Moon. Be sure to stop by prior editions to see what other kinds of space goodies are available. See you next year!

Best of the Moon 2007
Best of the Moon 2006


[1] Historical Note: The Lunar Library was launched in September 2006. I think it was the 9th, but I’m not entirely sure anymore…
[2] The Out of the Cradle website and the Lunar Library are assets of Lunar Library LLC, a Texas company

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