Space Travel for Animals?

Being on retreat doesn’t mean I don’t still get interesting links. First, we have a frog joining the space program, probably not voluntarily:

That’s from The Atlantic, which has more details. This is the recent launch of the LADEE moon probe, on a Minotaur rocket, from Wallops Island, Virginia. Pity the poor creature. But it did have a fleeting moment of glory.

And second, we have some cows who did not seem to enjoy the test launch of a SpaceX Grasshopper rocket. Looks like they didn’t stick around to watch the landing. But you should.

 
A rocket landing on a tail of fire is how God meant us to come back to Earth! All that’s missing is tail fins on the rocket to complete this Golden Age SF vision of space travel.
The retreat is going very well, by the way. Making good progress on the book. 

Starships! — Best Music Video Since Large Hadron Rap*

I love this celebration of over 50 years of starships and their pilots, by bironic, to the tune of Starships Were Meant to Fly, by Nicki Minaj. For better viewing, pop it up to full screen and wear headphones. For best viewing, download it, copy to a USB thumb drive, and play it on a widescreen TV from your Blu-ray player. You’ll be glad you did. It encapsulates a lifetime of vividly realized star travel, from Forbidden Planet all the way up to the Star Trek reboot. See how many scenes you can recognize. I got most of them, but a few were from shows that escaped me.


Starships! from bironic on Vimeo.

My daughter Julia put me onto this one. I’d never find this sort of thing on my own. Lucky thing I’ve got her to keep me current.

(Here’s the rather different music video apparently created by the singer. I like the one above better.)

Starships rock!

*If you missed the Large Hadron Rap, check it out, too.

Get into the Group Photo: Wave to Saturn and the Cassini Spacecraft!

Friday the Nineteenth is the day the Cassini spacecraft, circling Saturn, will turn its cameras back toward Earth, and NASA and JPL want us to go outside and wave. What a photo op! If you’re in America and standing outside at around 5:30 p.m. EDT, you’ll be in the photo. Look to the east and wave to the open sky!

Here’s the official word on the timing of the shot:
“The Cassini portrait session of Earth will last about 15 minutes from 2:27 to 2:42 p.m. PDT (21:27 to 21:42 UTC).” The Americas will be facing Saturn during that time. Other parts of the world, I’m sorry. Next time.

This is approximately what the view will look like from Cassini when it clicks the shutter. 

Who Says Wonks Can’t Have a Sense of Humor?

Think they can’t have a little fun at the White House? How about this Official White House Response to a citizens petition “to Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016”?

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?
[more]

The rest of it is pretty good, too. Why not give it a read?

Earth-sized Planet Found Circling Alpha Centauri!

Woot! It’s finally happened! Researchers have announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the star system nearest to ours. Called Alpha Centauri Bb for now (it orbits the star in the Alpha Centauri group called Alpha Centauri B), this planet is roughly 3.6 million miles from its sun, compared to our 93 million miles from our sun.  So it’s pretty hot, certainly not in the range for most Earthlike life forms. But this discovery suggests the likelihood of other planets in the star system. Most systems have multiple planets, and the ones closest to their suns are the easiest to detect.

This is so insanely, massively cool. We’ve dreamed of it for years. And now we’ve learned that our nearest neighboring star system has a planet the size of ours, and may have other planets in the habitable zone.

The news takes me back to memories of one of the first paperback SF novels I ever read as a kid: Robert Silverberg’s Revolt on Alpha C

Who’s ready to join me in starting construction of a starship?

Ballooning to the Edge of Space

I’m watching the live coverage of Felix Baumgartner’s balloon flight to the edge of outer space. He’s presently at 127,000 feet and still ascending, well past the previous record for manned balloon flight. The plan is for him to jump in his specialized pressure suit and freefall through the sound barrier before parachuting to the ground. 

Live shot of capsule at nearly 128,000 feet

He’s having problem with the heat not working in his faceplate, but they’ve just announced that he will jump regardless. They’re beginning now to depressurize the capsule, preparatory to his stepping out of the capsule and jumping…

Stay tuned!

Ebook Sales: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the UK

This has been a good summer for ebook sales. Although my short story collections haven’t gained much traction (Whattza matter, you don’t like short stories??), the other books have been gaining steadily. There was a big jump in July, for no obvious reason, and August was almost as good, with September so far following suit. I’m talking mainly about the backlist books I put out myself, because those I have timely numbers for—but I have reason to think Sunborn, in its Tor edition, is doing pretty well, too.

We’re not talking headline numbers here, like some indie authors you may have read about.  But over a thousand ebooks a month generates a meaningful contribution to the family budget, and represents continuing growth in the audience.

The vast majority of those sales are through the Amazon Kindle store, with Nook, Apple, and Sony bringing up a distant rear. That makes me a trifle uneasy, I admit—not because there’s anything wrong with the Kindle store, but because I wish there were more healthy competition in the marketplace. I wish, for example, that I had more sales in Book View Café, because it’s a terrific little store and a terrific cooperative of great writers. And I wish the Nook store would get its mojo back.

So what’s the funny thing? Here it is: My sales in the UK have taken off in the last two months. In fact, they now account for about half my total sales. In fact, in September, I’ve sold more books through Amazon UK than I have through Amazon US. That’s amazing, and I have no explanation! But I’m delighted to have a lot of new British readers. Welcome to the Chaos Chronicles! And welcome, too, to the daring few German readers who are trying the books.

I’m grateful for every book sale and every new reader. Still, it’s fun to try to figure out the patterns. Only this time I can’t! I’m stumped!

Watch a sweet, kind of sad, 9-minute film that has nothing to do with the topic of this post. I just like it. It’s about a robot marooned in space. 


Robbie – A Short Film By Neil Harvey from Neil Harvey on Vimeo.

Neil Armstrong, 1930 – 2012

A giant of a man died today, and I feel great sadness, even as I celebrate my own birthday. Neil Armstrong has left us.

I remember it like it was yesterday: July 20, 1969, holding my breath as the Apollo 11 Lunar Module finally landed on the Moon, with Neil Armstrong at the controls. And then, some hours later (late at night in Huron, Ohio), watching the grainy black and white TV images of Armstrong, and then Buzz Aldrin, stepping onto the surface of the Moon. I knew then that the world would never be the same, and that history would forever be divided between the time before humanity walked on another world, and after.

Neil Armstrong steps off the Eagle

Neil reads the plaque declaring that Apollo 11 has come on
behalf of all Mankind.

A defining moment for humanity, but also one for me personally. Many of my friends lost interest in the space program soon after, but I never did. To me it was, and will always be, one of mankind’s grandest adventures.

Others will write more knowledgeably of Armstrong’s life and career. But I’m pretty sure of one thing: a thousand years from now, if we’re still around, the name Neil Armstrong is one that people will remember.

One small step… and another, and another. Godspeed, Neil Armstrong.

Bootprint on the Moon

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