On the road, again…

Howdy all!

Back when I was a youngster, we would drive every other year from Texas up to Buffalo, NY to visit the grandparents. One of my Dad’s favorite phrases, being a military guy, was that we would be hitting the road at “Oh dark thirty” (and we did). To wake me up at such an unnatural hour he would pop a cassette into my stereo, crank up the volume, and play Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” to wake me up.

This time around I’m traveling to New Zealand. I’m not taking my computer with me, so don’t expect any updates over the next couple of weeks. I’ve got things like horseback riding, bungee jumping and Maori experience on my mind, as well as checking out an entirely new sky’s worth of constellations.

The State of NewSpace

While I’m generally loath to bandy about the phrase “NewSpace”, it seems particularly fitting in the context of a just-released video that does a darn fine job of summarizing where we are at this particular moment in time in developing a more commercially-oriented space industry in the U.S.

Were I a couple of decades younger, I might consider the industry a great place to be a part of something new and growing, sort of like how the computer industry was back in the late 70s/early 80s, when I was plugging away on a TI-99/4A and a Kaypro IV at home and TRS-80s, Apple IIcs and IIes in junior high and high school. Even tried to teach myself CP/M. (unsuccessfully)

Thing is, there was a fledgling private space industry back in the 1980s, too. Microgravity science payloads were lining up to fly on the Shuttle (till Challenger), the Conestoga launched from Texas (unsuccessfully), and folks were trying to get a crew-tended space station to orbit, the Industrial Space Facility (unsuccessfully).

There is great promise in the human spaceflight industry, but that promise is fragile. It needs nurturing and careful cultivation if it is to grow to become a significant contributor to U.S. (and global) prosperity. One way that everyone can support the space industry is to join a space society. Doesn’t matter which one – just join one if you haven’t already. Now is the time.

LEGO Letdown


About a month and a half ago, I noted that LEGO had a splash page up at www.legospace.com hinting at some new space-themed LEGO sets to come out around the end of January.

Real space stuff, like the sets they had out around the end of the 1990s, not the silly stuff like the Mars or Space Police sets of the last decade, but real rockets and satellites and Moon rovers and astronauts not aliens. What was even cooler was that they were going to be coming out around my birthday, so I could treat myself right and buy myself some nice new space LEGOs for myself. The countdown clock hit zero yesterday, so during lunchtime at work today I jaunted off to the mall to visit the local LEGO store, VIP Card in hand.

Where I found nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

One of the young ladies at the store happens to be a bit of a space geek, and recognized me from prior inquiries. She said she hadn’t seen or heard anything.

What a major bummer! WTF, LEGO? Then I get home from work, check the legospace website linked above, and find that they’ve reset the countdown clock to over a month from now. (and what happens then? It gets reset again?)


In some respects it shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve alleged previously that space stuff gets short shrift in the marketplace. I’m not saying that this is an intentional example, but by default it gets added with the others.

Part of why this makes me sad is that I have to wait longer to get some for the Lunar Library, but also to donate to NSS of North Texas to use as part of our kids program/activities. We used to have a small tub of space LEGOs from the 1990s sets, including a Saturn V rocket that was built over and over and over in varying configurations by countless kids at our outreach events. Here’s an example from the ‘Festival of Stars’ we helped out with at a community center in South Dallas:


This was of course part of a much larger display that we had:


Most of the places that we work with know that we can set up over 8 tables worth of displays, mainly handouts backed by info boards. We have a new ISS info board that complements the older one you see in the above photo.

Unfortunately, those LEGOs went missing after one of our later events and we’ve never been able to find anything comparable. We have gotten donations of Star Wars LEGO sets, but we usually pass those straight through to our Santa Space Toy Drive. Frankly, they don’t pay us enough to perpetuate the Star Wars mythology in our NSS of North Texas play areas.

What we do provide is a bean bag toss, some non-franchise-specific rocket playsets, coloring pages, inflatable planets, a feltboard, and that sort of thing to occupy the kids with space adventures while we chat with the grown-ups about different space topics in which they might be interested. There is the occasional meltdown as a youngster will vigourously rebel against having to leave their space wonderland in which they are so enthralled, but generally the kids are good about sharing and playing well together, and leaving gracefully when it’s time to go. I can only ponder what happens afterwards, as the child starts dropping hints: Wow, that rocket was sooo cool; you know my birthday/a holiday is coming up; gee whillickers, I really wish I had one of those rockets with which to play; Mom, can I have one of those rockets? Please? ad infinitum

Which is all part of my sinister master plan to promote the purchase by consumers of space toys, with the evil design of convincing retailers to put more space product on their shelves, so that more people with have the opportunity to buy space-related goods, which turnover prompts the production of more space stuff, and thus is a virtuous (evil, I meant evil) cycle born leading to greater prosperity all around as everyone is happy.

Although the more jaded and realistic view is that space people don’t buy much space stuff, so why should anyone else? The only thing that sells and produces profits (mostly) is franchise-related consumer goods, which is why you’ll see gobs and gobs of Star Wars stuff on the shelves, and very little real space stuff like rockets and launch towers. Sad but true.

Look at it from a non-LEGO perspective. What kind of rocket models can you find at your local hobby shop? Two, maybe. A Saturn V and a Shuttle stack. If you’re really lucky you might find a Redstone from the first Mercury flights. Same old, same old. How about new rockets like an Atlas V, or a Delta IV, or a Falcon 9? Maybe with a Dreamchaser on top? You can put together a model of a V-8 engine, the insides of a horse or a person, but how about a model of a rocket motor? I’ll admit that there is an Ariane V model out there, which was kinda fun to put together, but in general you’d be hard-pressed to find it in a shop. Which reminds me – check hobby shops as well as used book stores whilst in New Zealand.

So now apparently we have some new LEGO rockets to look forward too. Here’s an advert from the, I’m guessing, British tele that was posted on YouTube:

Which makes me even less happy about having to wait over a month for what I thought was going to be my birthday present to myself. Total birthday bummer, dude.

Passport Pleasure

Howdy everyone!

Having had my identity stolen, I tend to be a bit cagey about giving out private information, and take extreme measures to try to safeguard it so that I don’t have to deal with another instance of someone stealing $50,000 of stuff in my name. I’m also rather uncomfortable with the overbearing security apparatus that we’re building here in the U.S., so when my passport expired I was rather disinclined to get one of the new ones with the computer chip that can be read by nefarious parties. Besides, I’m really not flying at this point, as I prefer not to subject myself to the violation of my 4th Amendment rights that is the security theater. For the ISDC in May I’m driving to Huntsville, just like I drove to Chicago for last year’s conference.

Then the invite arrived. Rob’s getting married down in New Zealand. For those unfamiliar with Rob, he is the person who created the Out of the Cradle (OotC) website many years ago, and posted about SpaceX activities when they were flying out of Woomera [Oops – Clark points out I meant Kwajalein]. He is a big fan of the commercial space sector, and would very much like to see more of it down under. He’s also a bibliophile and was quite fond of the Lunar Bibliography that Clark Lindsey was kindly hosting at Hobbyspace. He asked me to move it over to OotC and put it into a blog format. I wasn’t too keen on the idea, but by September 2006 I had encoded a couple hundred ‘filecards’ and we were ready to go live. I have to admit, having it ordered chronologically makes research a bit easier in some regards, like the evolution of Moon fiction and what kind of stories were being written when. And so began my tenure here at OotC.

It’s hard maintaining a blog, and by early 2008 Rob was ready for a sabbatical. I was running the Lunar Library in one of the back rooms, and he handed over the keys to the website mid-year. He did get the invite from NASA to attend one of the Shuttle launch tweet-ups, and flew quite a ways to see it, something noted by most of the major media (and a few idiots who got their noses bent out of shape because they thought NASA had paid to fly him up. Idjits). We met for the first time up in D.C. just prior, where I was at an NSS Board of Directors meeting, and we also had some recent NASA Academy folks stop by (including the most recent RA from CNES, a transfer program I helped jump start in 2002) making for an interesting discussion all around. Afterward, Rob went and saw a Shuttle launch, something I have yet to experience.

Then, late last year, the invite to the wedding came. After much procrastination, as is my wont, I finally tried to dig up my expired passport, which had become buried in papers somewhere in my apartment. Which is full of books and papers.

Finally, the weekend of MLK, Jr. Day, I found it, filled out the paperwork, and put it in the mail on the 18th. I paid extra for an expedited 2-3 week turnaround, which on the outside would put its arrival in the week I needed to leave for NZ for the nuptials. Then I started the nervous wait. On the agenda – horseback riding and trawling the bookstores for Moon books for the Lunar Library.

Lo and behold, I already have my new passport. I have to admit that it is quite impressive, a work of art even. The pages have images from across the U.S., from the Saguaros of the Southwest that I remember from my early youth in Tucson, to the Rocky Mountains I’ve crossed many times back and forth. Independence Hall in Philadelphia, not too far from where I was born in Valley Forge, and the lighthouses of Maine I have yet to visit. The mighty Mississippi I’ve also crossed many times back and forth, and the farmlands of Kansas I’ve passed through during visits to Mom up in Leavenworth (the town, not the prison). A West Texas longhorn herd, and the Statue of Liberty which I’ve seen from the Windows on the World restaurant in the old World Trade Center. Then there’s the last page.


I’m probably going to get in so much trouble for this, but it is beautiful

Just…wow. On the facing page is a quote from Ellison S. Onizuka:

“Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds…to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation”

You know, I think I may just be okay with this passport, even if I still don’t like the idea of a chip that can be read by nefarious means. And breaking it in with my first trip to the Southern Hemisphere is kind of cool.

Now, should I fly Qantas or Air New Zealand?

A little something over at The Space Review

Howdy everyone!

Some of y’all might be interested in an article I got posted over at The Space Review. It’s not my first article there, but it has been a while. A couple of weeks ago there was an article about EML-1 and one of the questions that kept getting raised was “What would you do at EML-1?”

For some reason I don’t seem to be able to post comments or vote over there, so I decided “Why not throw an article together and offer some suggestions of useful things to do there?”

Since I still don’t seem to be able to post there, I thought I’d offer up some additional commentary here at Out of the Cradle that addresses some of the criticisms raised in the comments.

[Update: Huh. Now the comments are up. Maybe Jeff checked the spam filter and okayed them?]

CharlesHouston notes the very real difficulty of “explaining to the voting public that you are going to a point that does not have “anything” there. The technical challenges are miniscule in comparison to the task of getting people to understand what you are doing.”

I know this first hand from talks I’ve given here in the metroplex. It’s quite a sight to see a room full of Mensa folks with their minds blown. When I talked at a Rotary Club it went right over most heads. The talk at Moon Day went well, but it was a much smaller audience and so more personal and interactive. If only I had access to a TV station and super-duper CGI technology, I could convert millions.

DerekL sniped: “Yep. And we’re ‘blind’ on the sunward side because a) it’s *much* harder to look in that direction, and b) the lighting on the objects we’re looking for is *much* less than ideal. Being at EML-1 does nothing to solve either of those problems.

Before proposing a mission/function, the author would be advised to know much more about the ‘how and why” of said mission/function before blithely going on about it.”

To address DerekL’s argument:

a) Of course it is much harder to look Sunward. Were it not the video in the article would look a lot different. For some folks, though, the ‘hard’-ness of space stuff is what gets them interested in the field, a challenge to tax their intellectual capabilities. My off-the-cuff suggestion would be a de-spun portion of a spin-stabilized spacecraft that would hold a sunshield between the instruments and the Sun.

b) Of course the lighting of objects sunward of the instruments would be much less than ideal – in the visible wavelength. Objects on the other side of the Sun would of course have varying degrees of illumination – in the visible wavelength. I’m not sure why the commenter seems to think that’s the only wavelength to which we’re constrained. Especially given that I mention looking across wavelengths. I am, though, assuming that the objects are spinning, and that we can look for infra-red traces on those rotating objects.

Harris Tweed further piled on with:

“The idea posed here, that you need a pole sitter to enable communication with the lunar far side, is pretty ridiculous. In fact, a relay satellite in a halo orbit around Earth-Moon L2 does that very nicely. A pole sitter is irrelevant to the lunar farside.”

This is a misreading of what I wrote, but I think less due to the language of the writing and more to the preconceptions of the commenter. At no point did I indicate that a pole sitter would be needed for communication with the far side, only that a pole-sitter would enable such. However, the commenter needs for me to have said ‘need’ for his criticism to have support, so that’s how he frames it.

Interestingly, over at Transterrestrial Musings, the same commenter notes:

“This idea has been floated by many others, including in very recent papers in the Space Review. This piece doesn’t add anything new. In fact, a habitat at Earth-Moon L1 was the notional architecture for the Decadal Planning Team ten years ago. This particular piece is somewhat unfortunate, though, because it makes a few mistakes with regard to optimal NEO sensing (L1 is really a pretty poor place from which to do that) and the prospects for pole-sitters (which are certainly not needed for farside communication, and don’t look anything like terrestrial pole sitters).”

The commenter indicates that I made a “mistake” regarding “optimal NEO sensing”, as apparently he considers EML-1 a “pretty poor place from which to do that”. A careful read indicates that what I actually wrote was that looking for NEOs would be an “ideal “first mission” for instruments emplaced at EML-1”. Not the same thing at all, and I would aver that anything out past the clutter of cis-GEO space is way better than anything we’ve got now. If the commenter has an optimal location for looking for NEOs, he does not identify it.

In the same paragraph in which he asserts that I offer nothing new, he also derides the pole-sitter suggestion for farside communications, indicating they’re not needed when I made no so such claim. He does at least offer up the usual trope of a comm sat in EML-2 orbit, an idea I try to avoid, as I would prefer that at least part of the farside be relatively quiet for the radio astronomers, and having a big old comm sat parked above the farside kind of defeats all of that. And yes, I know computers can filter interference.

Commenter Tom D does add that bouncing the signal off a pole sitter would shorten relay times to the farside versus off a sat in a halo orbit out at EML-2, something I hadn’t considered.

fritz wants to know why I don’t mention a Lunavator, a space elevator that would ascend through the Lagrange point to a counterbalance in the Earth’s gravitational sphere of influence. It’s a good idea for testing out the space elevator concept with minimal risk to Earth (other than, you know, the counterbalance, which would likely be mounted with rockets to kick it into Earth orbit if something goes wrong. The idea gets treatment in Schrunk et al’s “The Moon: Resources, Future Development, and Settlement” (which also notes the “sitting” capabilities of solar sails). In all honesty, while I like the idea, I think it’s a bit further in the future than what I was talking about

spacechampion wants to know “So how many years constructing things at EML1 would we have to do before we can go some place interesting? 20? 30?” spacechampion doesn’t indcate what he/she thinks is an interesting destination, but as far as I’m concerned we’re not in a race anywhere. We’ll get there as fast as we have the will, and the more options we build in in the interim the better off we will be in the long run.

astronist counters “But its utility for manned access to the Moon and beyond is limited. The key requirement driving any architecture for a safe passenger-carrying system above LEO is shielding against solar storm radiation, and this forces the solution of Earth-Moon cyclers (or, for Mars, Earth-Mars cyclers).”

I disagree that any solution is “forced” by the presence of radiation, and 24/7 access to the entirety of the Moon’s surface is not something to be dismissed lightly. One byproduct that has been proposed for oxygen processing is cladding for crewed assets in space to address that very issue. It’s not like no one has ever thought of the idea of radiation in space, and countermeasures. By the same token, nothing in an EML-1 architecture precludes the establishment of a cycler, and the first thing I’d look into would be a taxi service between the cycler and any crewed EML-1 facilities.

YetAnotherBob points out that:

“One problem with L1 that I didn’t see mentioned in the Article. The Lagrange Points L1, L2 and L3 are dynamically unstable. Gravity pulls everything there away from the point. There would need to be near constant station keeping. that means fuel. L4 and L5 are dynamically stable, meaning that an object inserted there will be pulled back into the Lagrange point. It’s a weird orbit, but it is an orbit. ”

I actually do mention it in the article, though indirectly. The whole point of the halo orbit is to induce some stability into something staying there. There are station keeping requirements, but as I note, it’s orders of magnitude less than for the ISS or other stations in LEO. He’s right that L-4 and L-5 are stable, though it’s more like wandering around on top of a gravitational mesa. Unless something changes the energy of the object, it’s going to stay in that general vicinity. Getting nudged around by the gravitational influences of the large bodies of the Solar system the whole while, but generally constrained to a particular volume of space.

He continues “And yes, the gravitational manifolds do connect the Lagrange Points for all of the planets. But, it can take decades to arrive there. Probably not good for passenger service.”

Which I don’t propose at all, though I have heard talks of using modified IPS trajectories for crewed trips to Mars, which I’m rather skeptical about.

He further adds “Finally, NASA has proposed a satellite for finding sun ward asteroids. However, it is at the Earth Sun L1, not one of the Earth Moon ones. That point is further Sun ward, and so would see more of the asteroids between Earth and Venus. With station keeping requirements, it would be able to stay on station for about 2 years.”

Which, in the tradition of NASA, is likely going to be another throwaway mission, another very expensive tool tossed into the void, just as they’ve done in the past. What I tried to suggest was that we can have ongoing data if we do things differently.

I think the problem really is the depth to which ‘traditional’ thinking in the space sector focuses on optimized solutions to specific issues. Want to put 20 metric tonnes at the South Pole of the Moon? An engineer can provide an optimized solution. Need a reason for that 20 mT? A scientist can provide a specific solution. Need some fundage? There’s a politician willing to look for a pork angle. Need an explantion of how value is added to the commonweal? Well, ummm…

There’s the rub. One thing I tried to address in my article was particular problems and possible solutions that address those problems.

1) If a crewed vehicle for exploration is being put through its paces on some test runs, EML-1 is a great location for a test run – close to home, but with a bit of a challenge to the mission – the establishment of a halo orbit.
2) While you’re there, might as well drop off some instruments. ‘Cause, you know, you’re there. Why wouldn’t you?
3) One thing that the instruments could do is look for NEOs in an unusual way.

1) There’s a lot of junk floating around in GEO space. Dead sats, expended kick stages.
2) From EML-1 it is way easier to get to GEO and back than to try to stage such missions from LEO.
3) So over the long term, you get a lot of benefits from staging such missions from EML-1.

I don’t know. Maybe my logic’s too complicated. Nevertheless, I do want to thank Jeff Foust for including the article in The Space Review.

Review: “Back to the Moon”

“Back to the Moon” by Travis Taylor and Les Johnson. Published in 2010 by Baen Books, it weighs in at 303 pages with Afterword. Three editing errors noted.

The time is the near future,sometime late in the 20-teens or early 2020s. NASA is engaged in an a dry-run of the Altair system for a Lunar return. Probes are mapping the surface with increasing resolution in preparation for the next landing. On the private sector side, Space Excursions is about to embark on their first free-return trip around the Moon with paying tourists in the Dreamscape. Things are looking up for the space industry, and that has some folks jealous.

China launches their own probe to the Moon, but it apparently crashes. This leaves the media free to focus on the Dreamscape flight. Five paying customers, each for their reason, are going to where few others in the human race have been – out to the Moon. It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill trip with various and sundry egos jostling for position, until they start passing behind the Moon. The pilot forgot to turn up the squelch on his radio, and in the static he hears a faint voice:

“sssssssss Emergency! Please help! ssssssssssss SOS! This is the crew of the Chinese exploration ship Harmony calling for help! We’ve crashed and are ssssssssssssssssssssss”

WTF? That wasn’t in the mission briefing. (the pilot is a Millenial, or Gen Y) They make brief contact, and a passenger is able to spot the crashed vehicle. Four people, little power, depleting air. It seems hopeless, as the Dreamscape can’t land on the Moon (yet), and its homeward-bound trajectory was set three days prior. And why did no one know there were people on board the Chinese craft?

Well, the Yankees, or at least Uncle Sam, is here to help. That Altair that was set to fly in a month? You’ve got a week. If anyone can do anything to help save the day, it’s the Americans. We’re just crazy like that. And off to the Moon scrambles a desperate rescue party from NASA.

Certainly an interesting premise. I think it takes the Chinese philosophy of “saving face” a bit to the extreme, first in their silence regarding the presence of a crew, and second in the rebuffing of U.S. offers of assistance. We’re assured of a technically accurate description of the Constellation transport architecture (Ares I, Ares V, Orion, Altair) by both authors’ close association with NASA, but the assumption at that all of the components would be available in the early 2020s seems to strain credulity a bit given that the Augustine Committee looked at the budgets and progress and didn’t see the Altair coming online until the late 2020s, early-to-mid 2030s at best.

The storytelling also suffers a bit from the focus on technical accuracy. Character development is okay, but really not much more than is needed to move the story. Pretty much every crisis or moment of danger is foreshadowed well-prior and easily spotted by astute (or ISU-trained) readers. At times the prose was dry enough that I felt like I was reading an engineering debrief rather than a fiction story.

I think the focus on the Constellation architecture works against the book, in that it will quickly date it as ‘just another Moon story’ (of which there are hundreds), rather than as a timeless work to be enjoyed again and again by succeeding generations. Sort of like with Erik Seedhouse’s “Lunar Outpost” (wait, or was that Michael Carroll’sSeventh Landing“?), which was less about setting up a Lunar outpost and more about the Constellation project. Which is effectively de-funded, and moribund at best at the moment. Something that Mr. Taylor has words about in the Afterword.

Unfortunately, Constellation was an answer to a question that wasn’t being asked. The Vision for Space Exploration promulgated by President Bush in 2004 specifically stated that NASA was not going to build a new rocket. By September 2004 there were a number of industry players promulgating transport solutions for crew and cargo to the ISS through the Concept Exploration & Refinement (CE&R) studies which were supposed to have led to a flyoff amongst at least two solutions in the 2008 (prob. 2010) timeframe. That was all out the window when Michael Griffin came on board and announced ESAS in early 2005. The Ares I and Ares V were around in 2004 (check out SafeSimpleSoon; I have a marketing CD from ATK with videos of the stuff dated August 2004), but didn’t compete in the CE&R studies (although there is an Ares I in the Boeing presentation). In essence, with the adoption of Constellation, NASA was building their own rockets that no one else could use, or perhaps dare to use in the case of Ares I. The Russians had a 100 mT to orbit rocket they used for the Buran, but seeing no other market for the rocket in the world they mothballed it. Ares V would serve only NASA, with the taxpayers footing the bill for something they couldn’t have – a chance to go to space.

The reader should definitely check out the CE&R studies, as they are going to start looking familiar again (as with the CST-100 from Boeing).

Mr. Taylor reaches different conclusions in the Afterword, though his professional proximity to the Constellation project may influence him as much as my personal dislike of the Constellation architecture (engineering optimization gone overboard, giving us an expensive system for limited tasks, with little applicability to any other purpose) may influence the tone of my writing when reviewing books that tie their objectives to that particular architecture. Let’s just say that I found the Afterword a bit of a sour pill after an otherwise okay story.

And okay kind of sums it up. I’ll go with a waxing half Moon for “Back to the Moon”.

How to make friends for the space industry…



According to the Associated Press (q.v. also NASAWatch), Buzz Aldrin has decided to sue that beloved icon of youth, the Topps trading card company, for having profited from the use of a photographic image of Buzz on the Moon. This is, of course, retarded (in that it will hamper, slow down, or cause to fall behind, efforts at space popularization) and he should fire his lawyer (or his lawyer him).

One presumes that next up on the list are any and all books that contain an iconic image of Buzz on the Moon. For a reasonable fee the Lunar Librarian could go through the stacks of the Lunar Library and catalogue any and all instances as well as note the publishers so that the lawyers could go after them as well. I guarantee the Apollo and Youth sections of the Lunar Library would be veritable gold mines.


This is, of course, just an opportunistic grab for cash. Topps is by no means the only company to have featured Buzz on a trading card. There are a number of examples in the Lunar Library, a few of which are featured here. Space Ventures, Inc., which published the SpaceShots series, appears to still be around – why not go after them? Or how about the World Space Museum folks?


So if Buzz needs money, why doesn’t he just do what the youngsters do? Put up a bleg on his website alongside a tip jar. I have no doubt that there are many in and out of the space industry who would be more than happy to send a few bucks his way, and if the media picked up on it he’d have it made. Crowdsourcing can accomplish some amazing things.


Speaking of tip jars, I’m often asked why I don’t have a tip jar here at Out of the Cradle. My philosophy on the matter is a bit complex, so let me explain. I do want to make money from the website, which is why I have adverts on the left and right sides. I believe that the space industry is underserved in the marketplace, likely from merchandise buyers having been burned over the years with excess Apollo-related product, but I don’t think the problem is that simple. I keep an eye out for Moon-related product to add to the Lunar Library, as well as to donate to various NSS of North Texas projects. (I did insist that our webmistress add a tip jar to the homepage, which I encourage everyone to hit to support our space education and outreach efforts in the D/FW community) ‘It’s hard to find’ would be an understatement.


One of the bookboxes was the only place locally that had a copy of the new Baen book “Back to the Moon” by Taylor & Johnson. I visit that particular store every week, but hadn’t seen it in the New Releases section. Which I would not have given that it was immediately filed away alphabetically in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section, which I go through much less often. If I relied on my local bookbox (instead of Hobbyspace and others) to let me know that there was a new Moon book out I would be out of luck. Now go into the Kids section and find the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Look for #26 – Moonquest. I’m willing to bet anyone who reads this a dollar that their local bookbox will not have it in stock. They’ll have books after 26, but not #26. Go ahead, try it. Then see if they even stock any of the new Tom Swift series, which feature orbital hotel and rocket racing stories.


Perhaps most frustrating was Kids to Space. Sure I’m proud of my contribution to the book (the Moon chapter). However, it was disheartening to find that even though the local bookboxes had the book in their warehouses, they would not stock it in the local stores. As a result, most of the sales were done through Amazon, with pretty much all of the tail-end sales of the first edition coming from B&N warehouses. Basically zero market awareness for what is an excellent middle-school age reference book about space (even without my contribution).

There are other examples from other types of product, but generally in the retail marketplace space is woefully underrepresented amongst consumer choices. So I want to encourage people to purchase more space-related product, which sends, above a certain threshold, a definite sign to the retail industry, which will then stock more space product, which brings awareness of space to a broader audience. That’s why nearly every one of the over 2,000 entries in the Lunar Library has an Amazon link (which unfortunately you don’t see if you use AdBlocker in Firefox). I make my money when readers purchase space product and I get a thin slice of the proceeds. Which serves my larger goal of building support in the retail industry to merchandise space-related product to a larger audience of consumers. P.S. Unfortunately I don’t get cuts from purchases directly from the publisher, but those links are mainly for the educators that visit the Library that might want to get a review copy for consideration for use in their curriculum.

That’s why I don’t have a tip jar.

It’s also why I don’t appreciate things like Buzz’s little lawsuit. Because if it gains any traction any producer of product that might feature Buzz’s likeness, even educational, is going to waste time and money trying to figure out what their exposure might be. Which will discourage others from even doing space-related product. Who wants the hassle?

This sort of thing is also why copyright used to be for a fixed and limited period of time. 21 years, IIRC. Our copyright laws are so screwed up right now it’s ridiculous, and it’s part of why our creative output has been stagnant at best of late. Everything gets tied up in corporate knots as people try to peel off cash flows from the revenues associated with the use of any particular creative widget. In this case Buzz is trying to capture a slice of any and all cash flows associated with the use of a historical image, which is by the way over 40 years old.

I wish I did have the trading card in question for the Lunar Library collection, but I haven’t found it at the local card shop as yet, and so you’ll have to settle for the scans of these other iconic ‘Buzz on the Moon’ trading cards from various series over the years. I wonder what would happen if I asked him to autograph one…

Top Cow First Look Vol. 1 – Black Vault


Moore, Clay B. Illus. by Nelson Blake II, Dave McCaig & Troy Peteri
“Black Vault”
Top Cow First Look Vol. 1
Top Cow Productions
ISBN13: 978-1-607-06204-2
Publisher’s Web Site

Librarian’s Note: Another space station themed comic (after Station in 2008), in this one a new module arrives at the station, one that the crew is not allowed to know anything about, and the new staff isn’t talking. A new series for 2011.

Review: “Luna”

“Luna” by Garon Whited. Published in 2007 by Xlibris, it weighs in at 340 pages. Some editing and fact errors noted, but not bad for a self-published work of that length.

Sometime in the near future, there’s a crew on the way to the Moon to check-out and turn the key on an extensive Lunar facility that will eventually house thousands of residents. 300,000 km en route, they get to see the end of the world, consumed by nuclear fire. For all they know, they are the last survivors of humanity. Two men and three women and a well-stocked Lunar base designed for many many more people. So begins another slow climb back from the ashes of destruction for humanity.

The time is far enough in the future that there are other orbital facilities scattered between LEO and GEO. A Mars-bound craft is being constructed at Heinlein station, and there is an orbital colony at L-5. There’s also a rogue orbital weapons platform waiting to blast anyone who tries to communicate from Earth. Which becomes increasingly unlikely as they learn that some bioweapons got loose on Earth as well, wreaking havoc amongst survivors.

Their first rescue mission is to Tchekalinsky Station, where they learn that the struggle for the survival of humanity is far more primal than they first realized. They do get some more women out of the experience, but at a terrible cost. Being the last vestiges of a legal government carries some heavy burdens.

Next up is the Liwei Habitat at EML-5, trailing 60° behind the Moon in its orbit around the Earth. This is home to the last vestiges of the wealthy and privileged, and those burdened with seeing to their needs. Things have kind of gone downhill on the habitat, and the team only rescues some 100 of what they hope are reasonably healthy and sane individuals, including many technical staff. It’s when they get to the relative safety of the Moon that the wealthy and privileged start getting uppity. They expect to have things their way, and so take it upon themselves to hold an election to put themselves in charge of the military officers of the base. Why shouldn’t they? They’re the wealthy and privileged.

And so begins the battle for the future of humanity. One founded on the just application of laws, or one ordained by a privileged elite that expect you to embrace your providing of their life of privilege? Forget the fact that their “wealth” is radioactive dust blowing through the atmosphere of Earth, and the only real value they can provide is in maintaining a livable environment for everyone who’s left. The question is can they recognize that?

Overall an interesting speculation of humanity surviving the reaping of sown technological seeds, by using technology to take humanity out of the cradle, to the Moon and then onward to the asteroids, Mars, the moons of Jupiter and rings of Saturn, and the fuel depots of Uranus and Neptune, which will not only supply ample He-3, but also fuel the leap into the Oort Cloud.

A possible future, but we would need to get our act together in the present to achieve it, and that doesn’t look likely in the near future at least (yea though some of us are trying).

Back to the story, the Deus Ex Machina is provided by robotic technology, and the fact that once you get a certain ‘critical mass’ of equipment on the Moon, robots can make robots. For whatever need one might have, and they are put to ample use in the unfolding of the story.

In some respects Max, the protagonist of the story, reminded me of an old story that I read on my Palm Pilot while taking the subway to work about a decade before this whole Kindle/Nook thing. The main character was a muscle thug, but had a heart of gold and wins the dame in spite of his mug. I wish I could remember the title… The interaction between Max and the various ladies of the post-apocalypse has a certain Heinleinian feel to it.

Overall, lots of thrilling action and suspense. Having only a handful of human survivors trapped on a hostile planet sets a claustrophobic tone early on, with an undercurrent of omnipresent concern for the security of the air supply. The Moon is a harsh place. Like the harsh frontiers of Texas it can be turned into a place of prosperity, but it is going to take discipline, which the military generally has and civilians generally don’t. It is also going to take some harsh justice (as was once served up on the harsh frontiers of Texas, out around the Pecos, as I recall), though it is blunted with compassion in the story.

One of the better Moon-based stories out there, I’m going to go with a waxing three-quarter Moon for “Luna“.

Review: “A Fundamental Survey of the Moon”

Published in 1965 by McGraw-Hill, it weighs in at 138 pages plus a short but excellent glossary, and index. Old school, so no editing errors noted.

Folks on the LEAG mailing list recently received news that one of the early pioneers of modern Moon science, Ralph Baldwin, had passed away. He is most noted for two prior works, “The Face of the Moon” in 1949, and “The Measure of the Moon” in 1963. As neither of those tomes are yet in the Lunar Library, I’ve decided to pay my respects with a review of his one book that is in the Lunar Library.

“A Fundamental Survey of the Moon” begins with a preface wherein the author summarizes the work as a comprehensive view of what was known up at that time, and more importantly notes that sufficient historical background has been given to understand the conclusions and assumptions about the Moon. In many regards, this makes the work also an exposition on the application of the scientific method to the Moon, rather than just a straight conveyance of facts.

Mr. Baldwin is regarded as a bit of a “gentleman scholar”. He was trained as an astronomer, but worked in the family business at Oliver Machinery Co. in Grand Rapids, MI. In his first book, he made the case that most of the craters we see on the Moon couldn’t have been volcanic, even if everyone assumed they were. We just don’t find volcanic craters that big on Earth, nor anywhere even approaching the size of those found on the Moon. There were also physical features more akin to those one would find in an impact rather than in a volcanic eruption. Problem was, everyone assumed that the craters were all volcanic, so his book was largely ignored in the scientific community. As folks started to look more closely at the Moon, however, his conjectures proved increasingly accurate. The race into space, and to the Moon, was unveiling surprise after surprise about our little sister, and more and more assumptions were being thrown in the rubbish bin. Mr. Baldwin didn’t work from assumptions, though. He worked from basic scientific principles.

In chapter one, he introduces historical perspectives. The author explains how knowing the resolving power of telescopes by diffraction of light tells us that most terrestrial telescopes are limited to seeing objects larger than about half a mile across, and then lays out other gaps in knowledge regarding the nature of the Moon. Ancient names are dredged up: Democritus, Aristotle, Aristarchus, Hipparchus, and Ptolemy, many of whose discoveries were almost lost to time under the burden of commonly held assumptions over the next 14 centuries. The story then picks up with Brahe, Kepler, Newton and Galileo, who laid the groundwork for our growing knowledge of the Moon until the modern era.

The next chapter looks at the law of gravitation and the orbit of the Moon. We step back to Tycho Brahe, who spent years and years meticulously tracking the position of the planets. He spent his entire life trying to make the data fit within the ‘circles within circles’ perfection demanded by the church. The frustration must have been terrible. His assistant, Kepler, decided to analyze the data and see what it told him. To this day, orbital mechanics is based on Kepler’s 3 Laws of Planetary Motion, though with much refinement. No one understood why they worked, but they did, and it took Newton to make the connection with the Law of Gravitation. Putting together Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion with Newton’s Laws of Motion gives us the formula:


where G is the Constant of Gravitation, M is the mass of the big object, m is the mass of the smaller object, and r is the radius from the center of mass (CoM) of the big object to the CoM of the smaller object.

At first the formula didn’t work for the Earth and Moon. It was off by about 20%, which was no good. Turns out that everyone’s assumption in 1665 about the length of a degree on the great circle of Earth was 60 miles (which affects your calculation of the radius). Oops. In 1671, the Frenchman Picard pointed out that it was actually 69 miles. So Newton went back and reworked the formula, and bingo the observation matched the theory. Score one for the scientific method team.

The author then goes on to explain how it is determined where the Moon is (and will be) in its orbit around the Earth, and notes some of the difficulties particular to the Moon. He cites E. W. Brown’s book “Tables of the Moon”, which filled over 360 magazine-sized pages with calculations of the Moon’s motion. It notes over 155 terms in the expression of the Moon’s longitude whose coefficients are more than 0°0’0″0.1, and over 500 with coefficients less than 0°0’0″0.1. That’s a lot of calculating. A tidbit that was unearthed during the exercise was that the perigee of the Moon’s orbit advances, while the ascending node (where the Moon passes up through the plane of the ecliptic) was regressing. This is complicated by the fact that the line of apsides (aka the major axis along the long part of the ellipse, half of which, the semimajor axis, is used in orbital calculationa) is advancing, but not continuously. Oh, and the angle of inclination of the Moon’s orbital plane to the plane of the ecliptic actually varies between 4°59′ and 5°18′, and the eccentricity moves between about 1/15th and 1/23rd, only averaging about 1/18th. There’s other stuff too, like the tides, the Earth’s fat middle, and the Moon’s receeding from the Earth at about 3cm or so per year.

Speaking of tides, the next chapter takes a closer look at them. The author walks through the theory of the geometry of it, and then explains why it’s not quite that simple. He also notes an ingenious experiment by Michelson in 1913 to measure the tide-raising forces, and explains how all of the bodies of the Solar system have their own particular affect on the tides.

From tides, the next chapter moves on to tidal friction and the shape of the Moon. The author notes the difficulty of extrapolating orbital positions in the future or distant past. We have records of eclipses from the Bible, and the Chinese have records dating back thousands of years. We can calculate when an eclipse should have occured on any particular date in history, but it always ends up earlier than when the records said it happened. Deduction? The Earth was rotating a wee bit faster back then. Turns out the Earth is slowing down by about 1 second per day per 120,000 years, so back in New Testament times the day was about 1/60th shorter than today. One of the more esoteric consequences of this is that the orientation of the Earth in its rotation has shifted a bit.

We then look at how the affect of tidal motions effects the slowing down of the Earth’s rotation, and where that energy gets dissipated to (the Moon) and the effects thereof, such as slowly inching farther and farther away from Earth. Nothing to worry about though. What’ll happen is that eventually the same side of the Moon will face the same side of the Earth, it’ll be about 550,000 km away, and the day/month will be 47 days long. This is estimated to take about 50 billion years. Given that the Earth and Moon have only been around about 4.5 billion years, I don’t think we have to dwell on it.

Now if the Moon is getting farther away, that means in the past it was closer in. Hard to tell how much closer in with current data, but it was probably in close enough that there would have been tidal effects on the shape of the Moon. This seem to bear out as the Moon is a triaxial ellipsoid, meaning the length of the axis that goes through the center of the face of the Moon is different from the one going across which is also different from the one going up and down. Using some simple math for the moment of inertia, we discover that the Moon seems to have a fat bulge facing towards Earth.

A slight aside. I was at the Lunar & Planetary Science Conference a couple years back, and at the poster session some of the young guys from JAXA showed me a 3-D ‘printed’ Moon created using laser altimetry data from Kaguya. The surprise was when you held it sideways and the Aitken Basin just pops out as a big old slice out of the rear end of the Moon. Absolutely stunning, and something that isn’t conveyed in most globes or videos. Something that goes a long way towards explaining the apparent ‘bulge’ facing towards Earth.

To try to get a better sense of this, the next topic is contour maps of the visible face of the Moon. The author explains the difficulty of putting them together with the tools of the time, but once done they further demonstrate significant variations from a normal sphere.


Then, and now…


Kaguya topographical map of the Moon

The question of where the Moon might have gotten started, which affects the nature of the bulge, is explored in the next chapter. The author explores a number of the ‘Moon sloshed off from a molten Earth’ (or fission) hypotheses, most of which break down for angular momentum reasons. There’re the ‘Moon and Earth formed in the same region of space’ (or coaccretion) theories, which break down mainly for density reasons, and the ‘Moon formed elsewhere and wandered into the Earth’s gravity well’ (or capture) theories. Of which the latter is closest to the current ‘Big Whack’ theory of cataclysmic impact by a Mars-sized planetoid named Thea, which sloshed off a good part of itself and the Earth’s crust into space.

Chapter six looks at the major surface features of the Moon, detailing the different features of increasingly larger craters, and their effects outside the crater. We learn of features associated with the impacts that later became the maria, and then of the maria themselves, features like rilles and wrinkle ridges and mountain ranges and chain craters, as well as what little was known of the far side.

Next up is “What caused the Moon’s craters”, where the author walks through the reasoning leading to the conclusion that the Moon’s craters were formed by impact. Terrestrial astroblemes and crater-like structures are examined, as well as the results of studies of explosive cratering. Relationships are drawn from the data, and then compared with Lunar observations to see if the patterns fit. Serendipitously, they do.

In the next chapter the author describes the mechanical process of forming a crater. Lots of descriptions of violent processes tearing at the surface of the Moon, scarring it again and again. This is followed by a chapter on the formation of the dark maria, wave after wave of lava flowing across the Lunar surface.

Once the nature of the surface is established, it’s only natural to wonder how hot it is, and the next chapter looks at the thermal cycling experienced during the long Lunar ‘day’. The book concerns itself primarily with the brutal variations seen in the more equatorial latitudes. Thankfully our knowledge base has progressed significantly over the succeeding forty-five years, and folks are looking at setting up shop at the Lunar poles, where the low angle of the sunlight is thought to create an ambient surface temperature of about -40° (F or C, I can never remember which), which is much easier on the engineering requirements for the machinery.

Now that we have a sense of the temperatures at the Lunar surface, what is it like in other regards? The author looks at reflection spectra, polarization, light backscattering and other indirect methods that scientists were limited to at the time. Temperatures aren’t the only thing that changes on the Moon’s surface, and in chapter 12 the author considers phenomenæ like transient Lunar events (TLEs), particularly Alphonsus and Aristarchus. Given that these TLEs are usually assumed to be gases venting from the Lunar interior, the next chapter looks at the vanishingly thin Lunar atmosphere. He calls it an exosphere, but I’ve also seen it refered to as a collisionless gas (where the molecules rarely if ever bump into each other). Chapter 14 looks at the mechanics of Solar and Lunar eclipses, and the book finishes off with an update regarding the Ranger photographs of the Moon.

So, all in all a comprehensive overview for the time, much of which is still relevant. The book is also a useful reminder of the kinds of scientific thinking that help expand the frontiers of knowledge. It’s written in an engaging style that makes it easy to digest, even when dealing with some college level mathematics and calculus. I’ve been trying to think of a more modern equivalent, and probably the two closest works are Chuck Wood’s “The Modern Moon”, and Paul Spudis’ “The Once and Future Moon”, which is also the name of his blog. Dr. Spudis pays his respects in “A Founding Father of Lunar Science“.

I enjoyed reading it again for this review, and while I would like to give it top marks I do have to recognize that a fair amount of the material is well outdated, enough so that it’s probably best read by someone with a fair degree of current Moon knowledge already; the state of the art has changed significantly in the last forty-five years. So I’ll go with a waxing three-quarter Moon for “A Fundamental Survey of the Moon”.

NSS of North Texas 2011 Holiday Party Debrief

Howdy everyone!

NSS of North Texas had its annual Holiday Party this last Sunday, and it turned out too be quite productive. We’ve had quite a year in 2010, and this was the time where we lay out some projects for 2011.

We were joined by several members of the Dallas Mars Society (DMS), as we look forward to the Mars Society annual convention coming up August 4-7, 2011. We’re going to be looking at ways to play up the event in the local community, something that was kind of bungled for our ISDC back in 2007, so we have lots of lessons learned. Of course it didn’t help that the local news stations didn’t show up until Sunday afternoon, when the event was 85% over and most of the big names had left for other commitments.

Our first project is ConDFW, February 18-20, 2011. The chapter had already approved a half-page ad in the con program book, and DMS agreed to pick up the marginal additional cost to move it up to a full page ad, giving us a lot more flexibility and visibility. Last year we arranged two one-hour panels on space exploration and Mars settlement which apparently went very well, so we’re going to request two more hours for this year and have another Mars settlement panel that can play up the upcoming conference.

The ad also gives us space to announce another project that our chapter is launching at ConDFW – a space poetry contest. ConDFW is a writer’s sci-fi con, where authors get together to bat around ideas, so it’s a good place to launch a poetry contest. The theme is “The Next Continent”, and the chapter has voted a project budget for cash prizes. The winners are going to be recognized at FenCon in September, where we’ll launch the next round of competition.

Speaking of budgets, we managed to raise $353 over the course of the year for our Space Exploration Scholarship for the 2011 Dallas Regional Science & Engineering Fair. This well exceeds the $200 we gave away last year. At the end of February, several chapter members will go to the Science Fair and wander around the more than 800 displays to find the one that best supports NSS’s goals of people living and working in space. Of course, the judges have pretty broad latitude in the giving of the prize, so it might go to a team, or a high school and a junior high school project. The chapter members gave themselves pretty broad latitude when they voted for the chapter to pay the luncheon cost of the winner(s) so that the full $350 could go towards the scholarship(s). [Disclosure: I’m a regular judge in Physics & Astronomy at the Science Fair]

And we had another good year for the Santa Space Toy Drive. The local Star Trek chapter (USS Trinity River) donated a box of toys, which brought our total for the year up over 100.


Now I’ve got a car stuffed with space toys to be dropped off tomorrow night at the Santa’s Helpers collection point at Victory Plaza downtown.

Other projects for the new year:
-we’re starting a new push for our Space Camp prize. You have no idea how hard it is to design a space settlement design competition that will shake out one winner that we will send to Space Camp.
-we’re expecting comments back from the Boy Scouts on our first round of suggested revisions. I told folks to focus on weblinks and appropriate images for the next round of suggested changes.
-we’re going to try to scare up some speakers from the local academic community.
-our work with a local middle school in the Carrolton ISD got moved from March to May, which actually bumps it up against the 2011 ISDC. Given that I’m not interested in flying with all the “security” nonsense and so intend to drive from Dallas to Huntsville, which looks to be about a 10-12 hour trip, so one long day but definitely interesting changes in topography.
-we’re probably going to try for another Moon Day in July, especially if we can get some more speakers lined up this Spring. It would be the last big chance to advertise the Mars Society convention.
-if we had more younger and energetic members we could think about things like a Yuri’s Night party in April and maybe a Space Day event in early May.

We also got a tip jar up on our website, so if you want to encourage and support our efforts head on over to the new NSS of North Texas website and hit that tip jar!

Santa to visit outer space in Dallas

Howdy everyone!

Back when I was working in NYC, one of the fun features of the holiday season was being able to pop out at lunch and check out the decorated windows at the major department stores. While at NatWest in the Empire State Building, Macy’s was just a block over in Herald Square, and while at BNP over on Park Ave, Lord & Taylor and Sak’s were right over on 5th Ave., and FAO Schwartz was on the corner of Central Park.

Dallas certainly isn’t NYC, but we do have our own home-grown major department store, Neiman Marcus, and they do do holiday windows.

If you’ve read today’s Wall Street Journal, then you probably saw the article on “Designing Holiday Windows 2.0“, which notes that this year the store’s windows will have an outer space theme.


Being the opportunistic young man I am, I quickly called up Neiman Marcus (NM) to see if I could talk to whomever is in charge of the windows and see if NSS of North Texas could help out in any way, or possibly participate in some fashion.

This turns out to be a gentleman by the name of Ignaz Gorischek, who was quite courteous in taking a few minutes out of his busy day to speak with me. NM works with local charity groups each year to come up with a theme for their holiday windows, and this year they worked with Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BB/BS). During brainstorming, it was noted that the beneficiaries of the BB/BS program tended to regard their big brothers and sisters as “stars” (which they are). This was seized upon as important, and served as the kernel for the idea of an outer space theme.

Mr Gorischek described all kinds of neat little space goodies they’ve included in the display, which I have no intention of revealing (except for the 200 ft crawl tube you can see in the illustration, for kids ages 4-10 only) – you’ll just have to come see it for yourself. To rub salt in the wound, he has offered me a chance at a sneak peak behind the scenes before the formal unveiling on Saturday evening at 7pm (if I can find a couple of free hours over the next two days; long lunch or duck out early?). That’s the sort of thing that happens when you serve as chapter president for four out of the last five years (the exception being 06/07, the year I was working on our ISDC), and get the chapter to undertake projects like space toy drives and Science Fair scholarships.

You can get a preview of the display at the Neiman Marcus splash page.

Who knew that the D/FW metroplex was such a happening space place? This definitely sounds like something to check out!

Update: Here are a few photos from the event –






The windows will be up until January 1st, 2011, so be sure to stop by early and often!

Sharing Space this Holiday Season

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and so your Lunar Librarian finds himself pondering what he’s going to get the nephews, and the godkids, and my Buckner Bear this year. Also to be considered is space toys for the NSS of North Texas Santa Space Toy Drive.


Since 2005, the chapter has made it an annual project to collect space-themed toys to donate to the Santa’s Helpers program here in Dallas. The first year (above), while modest, was nevertheless an impressive start, and gave us the impetus to do it again in 2006.


We gather these together at our annual holiday party, where these photos were taken, and then I usually drive down to Victory Plaza on one of their public collection nights. At random times the camera crews will visit the drop off line and someone will be lucky enough to be on TV.


My hope is that when I drive up and drop the top on the Beetle that will catch the attention of the camera crew and reporter, who will come over and all of a sudden NSS of NT will be famous for their space toys, boxes of them.


I’ve already found a couple of interesting deals. One of the lineny/bathroomy big boxes had some ‘Moon in my Room’ nightlights (w/ Mining the Moon DVD) for $10 (normally ~$30). The big Toys box had the set of SLOOH cards on sale for $7 (reg. $10). I found some astronaut Snoopys at a local Hallmark.

There are rocket/astronaut/planet/asteroid type toys out there (see the Fun & Games section of the Lunar Library, for example), you just have to look for them.

So please, this holiday season, consider donating a space toy to a local toy drive this year. Doing so helps to imbue a space and frontier-oriented culture in our society which, frankly, will help the industry in the long run. What’s important to kids in their world view will be important to their parents.

And a recommendation to all of the space societies out there – make it easy for your current members to give prepaid blank membership cards as a gift. Throw some tchotchke in there for good measure. The easiest way for anyone to show their support for space is to join a space society. Doesn’t matter which one, they’re all doing different things, join the one that is of most interest to you. Or give a membership to someone you know.

NASA Academy 2011 Applications Now Open!

Howdy, everyone!

Just got word that applications are now being accepted for the 2011 NASA Academy, and they certainly have more programs available than when I worked program support at the 2002 Goddard Academy. Back then it was basically us and the Ames Astrobiology Academy.

For those unfamiliar with the NASA Academy program, it was formed back in 1994, when Dr. Gerald Soffen, one of the PIs on the Mars Viking Lander program, realized that NASA was going to experience a shortfall in trained scientists and engineers in the future (like, right about now) and wanted to establish a pipeline of promising young talent for the NASA folks to look over. He drew on the ISU summer session model to structure a ten-week program of education and research alongside NASA PIs.

In 2011 there are four regular Academies, one each at Goddard, Ames, Glenn and Marshall. Glenn and Langley are also each offering an Aeronautics Academy. Given recent advances in holography, maybe they’ll get to work on designing a 3-D holographic flight control system to replace our current 2-D one. Goddard is hosting a Lunar & Planetary Science Academy while Marshall has Propulsion and Robotics Academies.


This is a terrific summer program that imparts a wealth of experience. Alumni range from advanced exploration folks at Orbital Sciences, to mission control folks at JSC, to X Prize Foundation VIPs. Those who survive the program become part of the NASA Academy Alumni Association network.

You have until January 18th, 2011 to get your applications in, so it’s not too early to get started on the paperwork and rounding up letters of recommendation. Good luck!

“High Frontier” (board game)


Eklund, Phil
“High Frontier”
Sierra Madre Games
Publisher’s Web Site
Board Game Geek Website
Board Game Geek Review
Board Game Geek Review II

Librarian’s Note: Wow! Some 30 years in the making, this thing is thorough. For 2-5 players, the rules run to 24 pages of dense text and images. The propulsion options will satisfy even the most esoteric rocket motor geeks – how ’bout a pebble-bed fission reactor for your asteroid-bound spacecraft? He’s got our second Moon, Cruithne, mapped in there, you’ll learn the names of all kinds of asteroids and what they’re good for, and players will have a much better understanding of the importance of Lagrange Points and the Interplanetary Superhighways. The Expansion Set doubles the board size to include Jupiter and Saturn and offers some interesting twists. This game is really an amazing achievement.

“Moon: A Brief History”

Brunner, Bernd
“Moon: A Brief History”
Yale University Press
ISBN: 978-0-300-15212-8
Publisher’s Web Site
NY Times Review

Librarian’s Note: One of the more than three score titles I picked up while at the Space Manufacturing 14 conference at NASA Ames this last weekend. One of the reviewers quoted on the back, Dr. Paul Spudis, happened to be one of the speakers at the event. This one is a cultural review of the Moon in human history.

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