When Mining Asteroids, Don’t Forget Your Trusty Dog

The recent arrival of the privately designed-and-built Dragon space capsule at the International Space Station dovetails nicely with another recent event: the announcement of a privately funded initiative called Planetary Resources, Inc., to seek out and mine near-Earth asteroids.

Both dovetail nicely with my own initiative: the release of my short story “Dog Star” as a standalone ebook. The dovetailing has to do with the fact that “Dog Star” is about a young asteroid miner who finds himself grounded on just such as asteroid, just him and his disabled ship… and his trusty “smartmutt,” an enhanced border collie named Sam. Dogs who can discuss astrophysics with you while thinking about digging on an asteroid aren’t a dime a dozen even in this future. Sam has to prove his mettle while helping his human dig his way out of this life-threatening jam.

This is a reprint of a story that first appeared as part of an online science-oriented anthology of stories called Diamonds in the Sky, which was funded by the National Science Foundation to help further the cause of science education, particularly in astronomy. (This new release has a couple of minor corrections from the text as it was released in the anthology.)

Gretchen, the student who has been working with me, helped get “Dog Star” up for sale on the last day of her interning stint. (Thanks, Gretchen!) It’s now free at Smashwords, and you can also get it in the Kindle and Nook stores.

Kindle | Nook | Smashwords (free!)

“Dog Star” will also appear in my forthcoming short story collection, Reality and Other Fictions, which is rapidly moving toward completion. I hope to make an announcement about that in the next few weeks. It will contain about half my published stories, including a couple not released as standalone ebooks. The other half will follow in Going Alien, soon after.

NASA Cuts: What Is Obama Thinking?

Congress is right now considering future budgets for the funding of our space program, and it’s got me extremely worried. The Obama administration has proposed deep cuts, especially for planetary sciences. This is crazy, stupid, and short-sighted, and I call upon Congress to turn this thing around—please! Let’s continue funding our world-class space program, especially for space and planetary sciences, which since the Apollo days have been the capstone of American scientific exploration. The U.S. has already pulled out of one important international planetary mission, based just on the proposed budget. It would be a travesty to cancel other cutting-edge space missions.

It’s practically a given most of the American public thinks we spend a lot more on the space program than we actually do. In fact, NASA’s budget has always been a drop in the bucket compared to the Defense Department’s. Even at the height of the relatively extravagant days of the Apollo Moon landing program, the space program only accounted for a few percent of the federal budget. Since then it’s been sharply cut back. And now they want to cut it back even further. This despite the fact that every dollar spent on space helps to stimulate the economy, maintain our leadership in science and technology, inspire young scientists and engineers—and that’s in addition to advancing our knowledge of the universe, and laying the groundwork for a future spacefaring civilization.

The Obama budget would put the brakes on all of this. And when you put the brakes on a programs like this, you don’t just slow things down, you cause enormous disruption to long-range endeavors and put highly trained people out of work, people whom you might not be able to get back a few years down the road. I’m an Obama supporter, but this may be his administration’s single most misguided action.

To voice your support of space exploration, contact your Congress critter. One way you can do that is by signing on with the message from the Planetary Society, which you can dispatch to your representatives here.

Have an Astronomically Romantic Valentine’s Day!

Settle in with a mug of good coffee or hot chocolate, pop the video up to full-screen, set the sound to romantically soft, and enjoy this with a friend (real or imaginary). From Randy Halverson of dakotalapse.com.


Temporal Distortion from Randy Halverson on Vimeo. (Click and scroll down to read about what you’re seeing, and how it was done. Also, note the composer of the music: Bear McCreary of BSG fame.)

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