Friday, October 23, 2009

Bryan Christie Infographic of Mars missions
Gorgeous visualization of the Mars missions, and their rates of success. Clicking on the image will toggle it between lower and higher resolution versions. Thanks to Boing Boing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My handshake went to the moon!

Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, but by then I was old enough to not have a hissy fit over it.

I'd cried a few years earlier, when I was 7 years old, and saw an article in LIFE saying that Jerrie Cobb was very likely going to be the first woman on the moon. Jerrie was a pilot who'd successfully gone through astronaut training until NASA decided in 1960 to bar women from the ranks of astronauts, no matter how qualified they were. I was jealous, and it just wasn't fair that she was going to be able to walk on the moon's surface before I could.

Buzz Aldrin came back to his New Jersey hometown in 1966, to be honored for his achievements in the Gemini 12 mission. Montclair proclaimed December 5 as "Buzz Aldrin Day," with much civic hoopla, and of course, a parade. I played flute in the Montclair High School marching band, resplendent in a uniform that looked like a cast-off donated by the palace guard of some tiny European duchy. If I wasn't in the fast track for showing that I had The Right Stuff, at least I could play The Right Note, even though I was mortified to be seen in public wearing that horribly goofy uniform.

After the parade there was a reception at the high school. I got to shake Buzz's hand. It's funny how memory is so kinesthetic sometimes. We were in the northern corridor outside the auditorium, by the short flight of steps, Buzz to the east of me. It was a short, perfunctory exchange of pleasantries, of the sort that Buzz had probably done thousands of times. I undoubtedly opened with a fervent yet suitably restrained expression of the "Golly Mr. Aldrin, it's great to meet you!" sort, trying not to sound too much like Eddie Haskell. Buzz probably countered with a "Thank you for coming." Hand thrust out, grab, pump, on to the next excited hometown citizen.

Three years later, Buzz took my handshake with him to the moon. I'm sure he didn't know he brought it, he probably had a lot on his mind. Question is, did he leave it there? Does it wait there, waving at me when I look up at the full moon? Or did it return with him, carrying the essence of moondust with it?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Making Light: The Ball of Kerrimuir

Jim Macdonald of the Making Light blog has started a glorious science fiction/slash thread in the style of the endlessly inventive bawdy classic The Ball of Kerrimuir.

"Slash" is a fan fiction term, originally referring to Kirk/Spock stories written by Star Trek fans that had a romantic or sexual subtext.

Slash fiction

Making Light

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mars features named after SF writers

Jack Williamson, Roger Zelazny, C.S. Lewis and Fredric Brown recently had features on Mars named after them by officials of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mars Rover project.

Full article

Honoring Williamson

I checked the NASA/JPL Mars Rover website to see if there is more about this there. No information on these unofficial names available there, and they still haven't gotten a search engine for the site after all these years.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Yuri's Planet

"On April 12th, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alexseyevich Gagarin became the first human in space. His remotely controlled Vostok 1 spacecraft lofted him to an altitude of 200 miles and carried him once around planet Earth. Commenting on the first view from space he reported, "The sky is very dark; the Earth is bluish. Everything is seen very clearly". Alan Shepard, the first US astronaut, would not be launched until almost a month later and then on a comparatively short suborbital flight."

See a much better version of the picture at the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) page, which shows much more subtle detail.

Credit: Astronaut Photography of Earth "ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth’s horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible." Image courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.

Thanks to Making Light blog

1930's fragment of John Carter of Mars animation

In the 1930's, animator Bob Clampett proposed to Edgar Rice Burroughs that he do an animated John Carter of Mars movie. At the very least this clip survives, though I'm unclear as to whether any other clips are available. In the Boing Boing comments section, posters note that while he was alive, Bob Clampett showed it at the San Diego Comic Con every year, and that it is found as an extra on the "Beany and Cecil" DVD.

SciFi Scanner article, with clip

Poster jackanaples comments on Chris Roberson's blog Roberson's Interminable Ramble: "Incidentally, Charles Edward Pogue (screenwriter on David Cronenberg's THE FLY amongst other films) wrote a screenplay for A PRINCESS OF MARS that ERB's grandson supposedly thought the best adaptation of the master's work ever. I'd read online that Pogue occasionally sells this unmade script to fans at Burroughs cons."

At SciFi Scanner, John Brownleee discusses his concerns about the upcoming Pixar film of A Princess of Mars.

Snarkerati reports that the film, a blend of live action and CGI, is the first of a projected trilogy of John Carter of Mars movies, and is set to be released in 2012.

The editor of ERBzine notes, "I have taken photos of the original storyboards that are still preserved in Danton's Tarzana Archives. These will be featured in future ERB Webzines." He also points out that the birth name of Charlton Heston, born well after the start of the ERB Mars series, was John Charles Carter.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Quote of the Day

"I will look forward to more photos of Mars. Number Seven, coming up hopefully, will read, in large canal letters across the whole surface of the Red Planet: Bradbury Was Right!" -- Ray Bradbury, in a letter to Richard Grossinger, 1971

Book of the Earth & Sky Book II by Richard Grossinger.
Black Sparrow Press, Los Angeles, 1971

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Virgin and Google announce joint Mars Base 100 year plan

Maybe you saw the header on Google's main page today:

A Cool World: Enjoy a rosier future as a Virgle Pioneer

Maybe you ignored it it because it sounded daffy. Uninformative. You don't click on links that tell you how you can become one of the cool kids. "Virgle" sounds like strangling virgins. And no matter where you stand on the issue of depicting the true colors of Mars, you reserve "rosy" for translations of Homer, not Virgil, and certainly not Mars.

So if you managed to bypass all those reasons not to open the link, you find "An invitation. Earth has issues, and it's time humanity got started on a Plan B. So, starting in 2014, Virgin founder Richard Branson and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be leading hundreds of users on one of the grandest adventures in human history: Project Virgle, the first permanent human colony on Mars."

They seem to have glommed onto the Mars Society, so I guess that rules out anomalists as being the kind of Mars geek they want onboard. Or will it?

Curious illustration at their opening page, . Teeny weeny little explorers on some kind of long rectangular mesa, the mesa having seemingly escaped some intense ejecta from the crater. Ejecta that has hurtled out into the air in long rectilinear pillars, some with straight channels, some with straight channels forming a cross. Their FAQ gives no nod to planetary SETI; the illustration lists the page URL as its address in properties. Wonder what that's meant to show?

Then again, consider the date. It gets much sillier as you go on.

Oh well. :)