Cutting Into History

Scene one of Chapter Thirty is in the bag, and it went a lot differently than I thought.  Or maybe it didn’t.  Either way things came to an end, and in the process a little bit of history was told as well.  Without a lot of preamble, it’s time to get into the story:

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry held Annie’s chair, pushing it in as soon as she was seated and making herself comfortable. She looked over her meal as Kerry joined her. “This looks delicious.”

“Oh, they are. Two top sirloins—two hundred twenty-five grams for you, and five hundred grams for Kerry—prepared just as you both requested.” Isis hovered over Annie. “Garlic butter for you, and grilled onions for your other half.”

Kerry glanced to his left. “What else did you get?”

“Pan fried potatoes and tomato juice.” She examined Kerry’s plate. “And you?”

“Corned beef hash and tomato juice as well.” He glanced up at Isis. “Can we start?”

Vicky was sitting down at the table against the wall, where two new plates had appeared. “Go ahead—” She sat at the same time as Isis, who took the chair on the flight instructor’s right. “Dig in.”

 

I should point out here that two hundred twenty-five grams is an eight ounce steak, and five hundred grams is a little over a pound.  It would seem Kerry needs more meat.  Or maybe he just eats a lot.  I’m looking at the later.

And garlic butter and onions?  Man, it’s a good thing these kids are kissing anyone but each other:

"Let me finish my breakfast, love, and then I'll knock you down with my breath."

“Let me finish my breakfast, love, and then I’ll knock you down with my breath.”

Let’s get to eating, shall we?

 

Annie cut into her steak and began savoring the aroma. She was aware of how good a well-prepared cut of meat smelled and tasted as her mother prepared steak at least once a week when her father was home. She always had a small cut when home, much like the one before her. She sliced off a small piece and popped it into her mouth. “Mmmmm.” She chewed slowly, relishing the flavor. “This is delicious.”

“The kitchen always does steaks perfectly.” Isis cut into her steak. “Haven’t you had them before.”

Kerry nodded. “I had one for my birthday last year—”

“And I had a filet mignon for mine this year.” Annie finished another piece and cut into her eggs before mixing her potatoes with the spreading yolk. “Why didn’t the email say we were having steak for breakfast instead of a ‘beef dish’?” She sipped her tomato juice. “I thought it might be steak, I just wasn’t sure.” She cast a playfully evil glance to her right. “And why were you being so mysterious last night?”

He began smiling as he chewed, speaking as soon as he swallowed. “Having steak and eggs is traditional for pilots heading out on important missions, though most people know about this because it’s what they used to feed astronauts back in the 60s and 70s before they left on a mission.”

Vicky nodded to herself as she glanced at Isis. “I told you he’d know.” She faced Kerry, who was seated directly in front of her. “You know what day it is today?”

He nodded. “Yep.”

Annie held her fork still as she glanced from Kerry to the adults and back. “Is there something important about today?”

 

Now we’re learning why they’re having this breakfast:  it’s due to the historical significance of pilots and astronauts having this before heading off into the Wild Blue and Black Yonder.

 

He waited until he received a nod of approval from Vicky. “It’s Cosmonautics Day. Today’s the day Yuri Gagarin took off in Vostok 1 for the first maned space flight.” He made a circular motion with his right hand. “Once around and down, but that was enough to make him the first human in space.” He eyed the adults across from him. “That I know about.”

Vicky was suddenly interested in her breakfast. “Space flight is covered in D Level history.”

“Right . . .” He had a bit of juice before continuing. “Twenty years later the shuttle Columbia went up on the same day, and that was kind of an important flight ‘cause it was the first known reusable space ship—” Once more he noticed Vicky and Isis avoiding his gaze. “Anyway, today is like a big dead for space flight, and a lot of places around the world have what they call Yuri’s Night, which is used to keep people aware of how important space flight is to us.”

He tasted some of his hash with eggs before turning to Annie. “You’re doing your last solo flight on the same day that history was made twice in Normal space programs, so, you know, having the traditional breakfast that astronauts had before they flew kinda gives you a connection to those events.”

Annie sat in silence for a few moments pondering Kerry’s last statement. She’d never once connected her ability to fly to anything important, just as she never thought of being able to do magic as anything special due to her being around it all her life. Now she discovered, through her association through Kerry, that others could find important connections to events that, until now, she didn’t know existed. “I come to school to learn about advanced forms of magic, and I discover so much more.”

“Well, we knew about this, which is why we scheduled the flight for today.” Vicky poked her steak a couple of times, looking as if she were deciding to have a bite first. “If you’re gonna make a little history, then do it on a historical day.”

“I like that.” Annie patted Kerry’s left wrist. “And you’re going to make it with me.”

He shook his head, chuckling. “No I’m not—” Kerry set down his fork so he could take Annie’s hand. “You’re the one making history: I’m just there to be your witness.”

 

Now, for a bit of history.  Everything Kerry said is true:  12 April is considered Cosmonautics Day, or as some say in the US Astronauts Day, or as the UN proclaimed in 2011, International Human Space Flight Day.  12 April, 1961, was the day Yuri Gagarin blasted off for a one orbit flight around the Earth making him the first human to do so.

He looks pretty chill for a guy who's about to ride a rocket that had a tendency to fail fifty percent of the time.

He looks pretty chill for a guy who’s about to ride a rocket that had a tendency to fail fifty percent of the time.

Then, twenty years later, 12 April, 1981, the space shuttle Columbia, mission number STS-1, took off from Cape Canaveral and spent a couple of days in orbit before landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  A few months later it took off again, becoming the first reusable spacecraft.  That we know about.

Riding the rocket is always more fun when you bring your own engines.

Riding the rocket is always more fun when you bring your own engines.

There was also mention of Yuri’s Night, which is an annual celebration held on 12 April since 2001 that’s meant to heighten awareness of space flight and all that it’s done for mankind.  Maybe after Annie finishes her flight she can get Kerry to explain these things to her.  Between onion and garlic kisses, of course.

Now, the one thing that Kerry didn’t do, and probably for good reason ’cause as I was writing this scene I was also thinking, “Nah, doing that would be bad“–what he didn’t do is mention what happened to Gagarin and Columbia.  For Yuri things didn’t go well after his flight.  Though he was made a Hero of the Soviet Union, his life became more restricted as he was turned into an overnight celebrity by this country, and there were reports that his drinking took a turn for the worst.  He was kept from further space flights, and at one point the Soviet Union tried to keep him out of the cockpit.

Eventually he became the backup pilot for Soyuz 1, which was going to be piloted by his best friend Vladimir Komarov, with whom Yuri had a bromance that, had it occurred a hundred years earlier, would have been the subject of Russian poets.

And today would be a movie staring Ryan Reynolds and Channing Tatum.

And today would be a movie staring Ryan Reynolds and Channing Tatum.

However, this is Russia we’re talking about, and so you know this relationship is doomed.  It turned out that the Soyuz spacecraft was a death trap, but being this was early 1967 in the old Soviet Union, no one gave a letayushchiy yebat if they were about to rocket someone into space in a death trap, and Yuri decided the only way he could save his friend was, on the day of launch, to arrive at the pad early, suit up, and take Komarov’s place.  However, Vladimir Mikhaylovich knew his best friend Yuri Alekseyevich would pull just that sort of shit, and he arrived even earlier than Gagarin and was already on the way to the pad when Yuri arrived.

So the Soyuz death trap went up with Komarov instead of Gagarin–and things turned out pretty much as you’ve probably come to expect:

In old Soviet Union, spacecraft crash you!

In old Soviet Union, spacecraft crash you!

The mission went to hell, the Soyuz reentered spinning hard because it had lost the ability to maintain it’s attitude, and when the parachute popped the lines tangled and the chute never filled.  Komarov hit the ground doing about two hundred and fifty miles an hour, and Gagarin was, by all accounts, devastated.  About a year later Gagarin himself was dead, kill when he lost control of an aircraft he was piloting and spun it into ground.

As for Columbia

Yeah . . . let's not go there.

Yeah . . . let’s not go there.

It broke up on reentry, killing all seven astronauts aboard, and that pretty much started the end of the shuttle era, which means that when we want to go into space today, we have to ask for a ride from the Russians, who are still flying the Soyuz capsule, which isn’t nearly the death trap it was in the beginning.

Yeah, you can see why Kerry didn’t want to bring any of this up–

When your sweetie is about to head out on an important flight of her own, you damn sure don’t want to jinx things.

On Wings of Flight

Yesterday was a personal day:  a lot of time on the road, and very little writing.  Oh, it got done, but like three hundred words worth, mostly because I wanted to get the next scene started, but I didn’t want to get too much because I was falling asleep in my chair.

It's all gonna happen in that big building at the top-middle.  You'll see more tomorrow.

It’s all gonna happen in that big building at the top-middle. You’ll see more tomorrow.

Now, on to the travel.  As it was my eleven month anniversary of being in hormone replacement, I decided to take a little day trip, and headed down to the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport outside of Washington D.C..  And while I didn’t write, I took pictures:  lots of pictures–

Like walking up to the entrance.

Like walking up to the entrance.

I’ve visited the Air and Space Museum in downtown D.C., and I’ve been to the Air Force Museum outside Dayton, OH.  As you might have guessed I love aircraft.  I almost went into the Air Force at one time, and would have loved to have gone up on the shuttle, danger be damned.  Here I got to hob-nob with one of a kind aircraft, many of them among the last of their kind, and a few of them the only ones of their kind–

Like this--

Like this–

And this.

And this.

The 367-80 was the test plane that led to the Boeing 707.  It’s also famous for one of the most famous incidences in flight history, when test pilot Tex Johnson performed two barrel rolls the Dash 80 (as it was called) in front of a bunch of Boeing executives on 6 August, 1955.  You wanna see?

The the evidence from inside the plane.

And the evidence from inside the plane.

But I saw more as well:

Like this beauty.

Like this beauty.

That is one of the last aircraft used for training by the Tuskegee Airmen, and if you don’t know their history, you need to read more.  This biplane was off in a far corner of the museum because, as I discovered later, it’s being moved to another museum in downtown D.C..

And I found this:

Yeah, if you don't know this aircraft, you do need to read more.

Yeah, if you don’t know this aircraft, you do need to read more.

But since I’m talking here, the Enola Gay was the B-29 that bombed Hiroshima, Japan, on 6 August, 1945.  It only dropped one, but I think you know by now the one we’re talking about.  As the Air Force Museum has Bock’s Car, the aircraft used to bomb Nagasaki, I’ve seen both bombers.  And I can move on to other things–

Like this:

This Concord wasn't used in Doctor Who, but it's still impressive.

This Concord wasn’t used in Doctor Who, but it’s still impressive.

And this:

Didn't Indiana Jones crash a couple of these?

Didn’t Indiana Jones crash a couple of these?

And a Super Connie:

Back when planed looked elegant.

Back when planed looked elegant.

The last surviving plane to make the first flight around world in 1924.

Air and Space Museum 06072015036

Doesn’t look a day over eighty.

And I found the first human-powered aircraft to cross the English Channel:

Air and Space Museum 06072015098

Heading towards France because the pilot wanted a good meal when he touched down. Just kidding.

 

The first jet bomber, flown during WW II:

The Germans were way ahead of us in a lot of ways--

The Germans were way ahead of us in a lot of ways–

And a rocket plane, the ME 163, that was one of the desperation weapons used as WW II came to a close.

And sometimes the Germans were just a little nutty.

And sometimes the Germans were just a little nutty.

I also found a Blackbird, but it wasn’t singing in the dead of the night–

It's just sort of sitting there--

It’s just sort of sitting there–

Waiting for its close-up in a Transformers movie.

Waiting for its close-up in a Transformers movie.

But I got a picture before it changed.

But I got a picture before it changed.

And another.

And another.

I also discovered how the space program used to run on 124 kilobyte (yes, not a typo) computers:

Seriously, your phone is bigger.

Seriously, your phone is bigger.

I also found a space lab:

And some tunnels.

And some tunnels.

Really as big as a bus as was once said.

Really as big as a bus as was once said.

I discovered where the museum kept their nucwewur willis:

Bad Star Trek imitation, I know.

Bad Star Trek imitation, I know.

And the Mother Ship:

I watched this last night.

I watched this last night.

With R2-D2 along for the ride.

Didn't see him though.

Didn’t see him though.

Most of all, I saw the space shuttle Discovery, which I’ve wanted to see a long time.

How it looks when you walk into the hanger.

How it looks when you walk into the hanger.

Some close ups:

Air and Space Museum 06072015067

Air and Space Museum 06072015068

Air and Space Museum 06072015093

 

Air and Space Museum 06072015088

Air and Space Museum 06072015081

Air and Space Museum 06072015097

 

Hello, Canada Arm!

Hello, Canada Arm!

And I managed to get a couple of pictures with the orbiter:

Looking pregnant here because I was leaning back for some reason.

Looking pregnant here because I was leaning back for some reason.

And I got ready for my close up.

And I got ready for my close up.

All in all, a good, tiring day, and I was totally beat when I arrived home.  But . . . I’ll probably go back again.  Maybe next year when I get close to two years on HRT and I’m done seeing my doctor.

Tomorrow, more writing–

Because after all this fun, it's time to go back to work and write about, um . . . flying!

Because after all this fun, it’s time to go back to work and write about, um . . . flying!

 

It’s No Game

There has been a lot of playing around the last couple of days, and some yelling on the phone as well.  Why would one be yelling on the phone?  Because there’s someone on the other end who isn’t listening, that’s why.  That’s all short-term nonsense, however, and I expect things to go back to some semblance of normal by the end of the week.

Or a black hole will open and suck me into another dimension.  Anything’s possible at this point.

There’s been a lot of thinking going on between writing.  Most of said thinking isn’t about the new story, because I know what’s happening with that, and since I’ve mind mapped the story and I know the ending, all that is required is getting the middle parts written.  I’m into the sexy bits now, and while I’m only doing a thousand words a night, it’s fun getting into that stuff.  Right now I don’t feel like doing more than a thousand a day, but the end is already in my head, and I’m guessing that the totally erotic stuff happening now is going to be good for another three, four thousand words.

There’s the nagging feeling that I want to get into another story, a different story, soon.  I know I want to edit Replacements so I can get it ready for publishing, because the writing’s complete, it only needs a cover and some polishing and then it’s off to be self-published for fame and glory.  Sure, that’s why I’m a starving artist, don’t you know?

Beyond that–well, I’m thinking of getting Couples Dance out and starting the work on that as well.  Despite my emails I’ve heard nothing from the publisher that wanted a look at the manuscript, and I have to guess they’re either not interested, or they’ve went belly up.  Now that story, it’s a strange one.  If I can get that published alongside Replacements and Her Demonic Majesty, that’s three out of the four titles I set as a goal for this year, and it means there is still the possibility I can make Number Four happen before the end of the year.

There is the feeling, though–I want to do something science fictiony again.  Yes, I have science fiction stories that I could either write or edit for publishing, but I want to get back out into space.  I want to do something that is adventurous.  I don’t know why I’ve had this feeling kicking me about the back of my mind of late, but when I’m looking at the desktop of my computer I see my 3D rendering programs, and I want to get into one and start playing about with ship designs and the such.

I want to jump back into the sci fi game.  I want to do something that’s fun–maybe a bit of space opera wrapped up in some seriousness.  I want to do it and keep it “short” and see if it touches my mind.  I even have a character that would be perfect for this sort of story–

Maybe it’s time to pull her out and give her a run at the readers.

 

No Boom Yesterday, Boom Today

By the time you read this, chances are 2012 DA14 will be a fond memory.  The asteroid, about fifty meters in diameter, will soar some 27,520 kilometer over the Indonesian island of Sumatra at 1:25 PM Chicago time.  No chances at all it’s going to hit anything, though it’s going to be watched closely, because Earth is gonna kick its orbit a bit and send it screaming off into the black.  Though, again, there likely won’t be a lot of kicking, and definitely no scream, because we all know, no one can hear you scream in space.

Then again, if you were in Central Russia, near the Ural Mountains today, you didn’t need to wait for 2012 DA14; you had your own close encounter.  A ten meter hunk or rock or ice flew in, lit up the sky, disintegrated  and kicked out a sonic boom that broke windows for miles.  Reports are that over five hundred people have been injured by flying glass, ’cause in Russia, meteors open windows on you!

I like the headlines, though:  “Rare Russian Meteor Strike” is a misnomer if there ever was one.  First, the meteor came apart in mid-air, so it was really a strike.  And lets dress the “rare” part:  Tunguska, anyone?  Sure, it’s been more than a hundred years, but nature doesn’t want you to get complacent  it likes you to know it’s got your ass in its hands, and it can take you out any time it feels.  We don’t even have to go back one hundred years, thought:  12 February, 1947, Russia experienced the Sikhote-Alin meteorite strike, which touched down in the middle of nowhere–

Though if you want to make this last one a little scary, Sikhote-Alin occurred about four hundred fifty kilometers northeast of Vladivostok, and about five hundred kilometers due east of the Chinese city of Harbin.  1947 was a scary time:  imagine the reaction of the Chinese if they’d had a huge meteor disintegrate above one of there cites.  Not saying they’d have done anything–they were sort of busy with their own internal issues–but it might have made them go, “Hummm”.

These things happen all the time.  There’s a lot of things out there in space, and we run into it every day.  Most of the time were talking about something the size of a coffee cup burning up and making a bright flash for a second.  Sometimes you get something like the object that shook up Russia, about thirty feet across, breaking up and leaving a loud boom in its wake.

And every so often you get a Tunguska:  a hundred meters of rock air busting some five to ten kilometers up, developing an explosion like that of a fifteen megaton hydrogen bomb.  Not the sort of thing Micheal Bay would screw with, save to take out Paris, but if this sucker had detonated over Russia this morning, the videos popping up would have been a lot different.

When people say, “Hey, what do we need science for?  What good is a space program?”  This is why.  We’ve reached the point where it’s even money that a cosmic shot is going to take out something significant.  People were injured by flying class today; in five years a slightly bigger rock might set a few fires with a heat burst and kill some people.  Or maybe it’ll be a little larger than that, and people will once more have the opportunity to know what it was like in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on a couple of dates in 1945.

This was the argument Arthur Clarke put forward in Rendezvous with Rama:  after parts of Europe are devastated by a meteor breakup on a particularly lovely morning in 2077, the governments of Earth decided they couldn’t afford any more of these cosmic potshots, and beefed up their ability to detect these threats, and a way to move them the hell out of the way should it be necessary.  There’s no reason we can’t start on this now; it only takes the willpower to make it happen.  And don’t tell me about costs:  take a NOLA/Sandy sized disaster, and start scaling up.  As Clarke pointed out in Rama, Earth in 2077 couldn’t not afford another strike like the one that had taken out most of Northern Italy, and had sunk Venice.

And just to show you Arthur was on to something when he wrote in 1972 about an event that wouldn’t occur for another one hundred and five years:  the date of his meteor strike was . . .

September 11, 2077.

He was just a writer; nothing to see here . . .

 

Orbital Plaything

The allure of space is strong with me.  When I was thinking about stories, I was playing out a scene within my alternate space history story, where a woman, whose father was involved with Soviet Space program from the mid-50’s until the early 1980’s, is recollecting watching Valentina Tereshkova and Irina Soloviyova prepare to lift-off on Vostok 6.

That time Tereshkova flew and became Seagull, but her recollections covered two more important memories.  The first was standing at a launch pad two years later and saying goodbye to Tereshkova and Soloviyova as they prepared to lift-off on Voskhod-5, and how she felt a year later after Yuri Gagarin did everything he could to keep his best friend Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov from flying Soyuz 1, where upon he suffered the same fate his friend suffered in this reality.

Where is this taking me?  Yesterday I became interested in a program I downloaded last year, a simulation program named Orbiter.  The person who created set it up so that it would be as realistic a space flight simulator as possible, and given the number of times I’ve already crashed, I’d say, yes, it very much is.

While most of the simulation is taken up by the space shuttle Atlantis, and the ISS, there are a few fictional craft that will let you experience things that you might not ever do in real life.  One craft, the Dragonfly, allows you to take off from the ground, fly into orbit, and even fly off to and land upon the Moon if you so desire.  There is another craft called the Saturn-A that is used on the Moon and Mars, but last night I managed to lift-off from Earth and fly into orbit–for a little bit, that is.  I did something bad, and I ended up putting the ship into an uncontrollable flat spin (or, in the vernacular, I entered an excessive yaw-right maneuver, and exhausted my RCS fuel trying to correct) and reentered the atmosphere somewhere beyond Africa.  One moment you’re trying to fix your situation, and the next thing you know there’s all this glowing red mist just outside your window . . .

Trying to figure out what you’re doing is half the battle.  I’ve gotten good enough that I can figure out how to get into orbit without burning too much fuel (I’ve still gotta learn those angle of attacks so I don’t rocket straight up and out), but I’m still learning the fine points of trying to go from the Earth to the Moon.  Tried that today, and ended up getting to the moon’s orbit–only the moon wouldn’t show up at that point for a couple of weeks.  Oops.  It’s that sort of “accident” that leaves you gasping for air, wondering what the hell happened.

The best part of this:  addons.  There is a very large community out there that’s constructed all sorts of simulations, from historic flights to flights that are happening today.  But if you prefer, there are modules that’ll let you fly craft that exist only in your imagination . . .

I’ve already got my eye on a few adons, but first I’m going to figure out how to fly better than I am, ’cause these ships cost a lot of money, and I don’t want to spend my time crashing them, or ending up lost in space for eternity–

Hey:  Lost in Space.  Sounds like a good title.  I wonder if I can do something with that?

The Marathon Cruise

First, lets recognize a couple of birthdays.  First, we have George R. R. Martin, born in 1948, which if my magic calculator is correct, means he turns 64 today.  I offer this as a public service to all my friends who follow A Song of Ice and Fire series, only to remind them that he’s another year closer to not finishing the series.

Second, we have the birthday of a certain Malcolm Reynolds, who likes to wear a brown coat and tight pants.  Of course, he won’t be born until 2468, so if my magic calculator is still working correctly, we only have to wait 456 years before the blessed event occurs.  Take heart, people, you have plenty of time to get flowers out to Shadow.

With that said, lets move on to the other insanity.

Writing is hard:  I think I’ve said that on more than a few occasions.  If you want to create a story, and do it the right way, you gotta work at this stuff.  You gotta write every day, even if it’s just a little bit here and there.  And you have to edit.  It’s not enough to get it slick the first time around–you gotta polish it up even more after you’re through with the story.

Last night was like that with me.  Two chapters of Her Demonic Majesty, about six thousand words.  The first chapter disappointed me; found all sorts of things that needed fixing, so I fixed them.  By the time I was finished, I’d cut out about one hundred words, rewrote more than a few paragraphs . . . got it nice and pretty.

Then I looked at the next chapter:  another three thousand words.  It was 8:30 PM.  Did I want to get into that?

You do what you do, right?

This chapter was much better.  I rewrote a few paragraphs, but the net result of this edit was to add words, to make everything clearer.  Stuff was removed, but the net result of this edit was to bump the word count.  By the time I was finished, I found my word count was pretty much a push:  I was about twenty words ahead of where I’d been when I began working.

It was 9:45.  I was tired.

You never realize how tiring this work is until you get into the actual doing.  It’s a matter of concentration, trying not to miss anything, reading everything so that it makes sense.  It’s actually a lot more work than getting the story down, because you’re looking, thinking, feeling . . . wondering.  You see the words on the page before you, and you’re mind is going in circles, deciding if what you are reading makes sense, and if it doesn’t, how should you go about fixing those words.

Two move chapters into the “Done” category.  That’s six total.  I have eighteen to go . . .

The next chapter is fifty-four hundred words.  The chapter after that is about forty-five hundred words.  No matter what, I tackle the first chapter, and put Part One to bed.  What I might do, after I’ve finished that first chapter, is take on two shorter chapters in Part Two and kick them out of the way.  The more out of the way, the more likely it is I can have this all wrapped up by next Saturday.

I’m not in a sprint:  no, this is a marathon, though it might not look that way.  If you’d rather, think of it as a short triathlon–similar to the one Sunita Williams did the other day.  She swam half a mile, biked eighteen miles, and ran four miles in one hour, forty-eight minutes, thirty-three seconds.

Oh, I forgot to mention:  she did this in orbit, aboard the ISS.

From that perspective, I’ve got it easy.

Star Born Unicorn

I remember a time when no one walked on the moon, save in the science fiction stories I read, or movies I watched.  Hell, wanna get real, when I was born no one had even launched a satellite; I beat Sputnik I to the gate by five months and one day, and it would be another four years before a Russian went up for one orbit around the Earth, mostly because he was a very good parachutist–but that’s another story for another day.

I was big into science fiction as a kid, which meant I was big into space–’cause, we’re talking about reading stories that had been written during the Golden Age of Science Fiction–and that meant I was into everything that happened regarding space flight.  We had no internet, so everything came from papers, from radio and TV news, from Life Magazine–which used to print most of the pictures released to the public–and from the few books pertaining to the American efforts, as those wacky Soviets just didn’t want to talk about their stuff.  Hell, they even named their launch complex after a town that was hundreds of miles away, just so we’d get confused . . .

Whenever I had the chance I watched whatever was shown.  I tried to keep up; I tried to gather as much information as possible.  It’s not easy when you’re nine, ten, eleven years old to get your hands on stuff that wasn’t normally available to the public, or had limited accessibility.  That’s the 1960’s for you:  we just weren’t on the cutting edge of the future, you know.

I saw it all.  I watched every mission that went into orbit.  I watch every one that went to the moon.  And I watched, to the best of my abilities, every walk upon the moon.  Even saw a few cars drive around, saw three Lunar Modules take off, and once watched one of Galileo’s experiments get proven.  It was a great time for science, and an even better time if you were a geek.

Those times are long gone.  We haven’t walked on the Moon since December, 1972.  If you removed the trips to the Moon, we haven’t had anyone higher than a few hundred kilometers above the Earth since the last days of the Gemini Program.  While we’ve had a continuous presence in orbit for a long time, we’ve lost our will to explore.

There will come a time, probably within the next five years, that everyone who has ever walked on the moon will have died.  The youngest of the walkers is 76; the oldest 82.  After that, we might have to wait until the middle of the 21st Century before someone does it again–unless people do start walking on the Moon in the late 2020’s, as some are saying.  And the chances are good those people who do the walking again are Chinese, because it seems like no one here gives much of a shit anymore.

In the U.S., there is a definite feel that science is for people who are just too damn smart for their own good, and who are pretty anti-religious as well.  That ignorance is just as good as intelligence, and in some ways better.  When you have people yelling at Bill Nye, as they did a few years back when he spoke in Texas, that the Moon gives off light like the Sun ’cause the Bible says so, one has to wonder where they hell we are going.  When you still have people saying they have “proof” that we never landed on the Moon, you have to wonder how we are ever going to continue.  And when you hear people state, as “fact”, that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, and they have “proof”, it makes you want to just end it all.

One day we, as a species, will get back out into The Black.  It might not be us as a country, but someone will go.  Someone is going to take more steps–on the Moon, maybe Mars, maybe somewhere else.

Say it won’t happen?  You’re surely wrong.  ‘Cause one day I’m gonna hop on my unicorn and take my own trip . . .

And join those who can tell me what it was really like to skip along in the dirt of another world.