The Write Stuff: A Blog Contest!

penkeyboardThe Universe has been around for a little under 14 billions years now, and the Earth came to be about 4.5 billion years back.

Therefore neither will suffer or even notice if we step back for a moment and take a look at something else.

Since you’re reading this now, it’s likely you’ve read some of the other blog posts I’ve put here.

So how exactly do they come to be?

I’m glad I asked, and I’m happy to share the answer.

First, and this is by far the most difficult part, there has to be a topic. I am absolutely horrible at finding these, even within a given range of subjects. Fortunately, Joe isn’t.

From there, I take over. The next step is to pick a direction. Without that, a typical entry would probably be a long string of meandering gibberish.

Moving on, there’s the planning and rough outline, which occur entirely in thought. This is not as hard as it sounds, and is the stage at which the key points are established. Some of the wording also starts to occur here.

After that? It depends. If typing, step away from the keyboard. If using paper, put the pen down. Take 5-10 minutes to pick out some music or put in your favorite dvd – don’t play it too loudly – and get something to drink (I often go with tea). Then breathe for a moment.

Now it’s back to the desk, beverage in hand, to begin the writing. This is the actual placement of words – the fun part. There’s a lot to consider here, as a good amount of information needs to be presented in a short space. Most of the blogs here are intended to take less than one minute to read, yet still make sense to anyone and hopefully inspire everyone.

So how do I know when to stop? Simple. I let the entry itself decide. When it does, the whole thing gets polished up and a fitting graphic or picture is picked out to go inside it. Conveniently enough, this is also about the time the cd/dvd is done and the teacup is empty.

This is when I save and send it off for Joe and Tracey to review it. This is also when any recommended changes get looked at and made, if necessary, and the publishing date and time are programmed in.

The whole process, from beginning to end, usually takes up between 1 and 3 hours.

So why not give it a try?

Pick out a topic you enjoy. You might be surprised what happens when you let your hands express what your mind thinks.

In fact, I’m so sure that you can come up with something great that I’m going to make a contest out of it. Take a shot at writing a space-related blog entry yourself, email it to me at by April 1st, 2013, and the winner will have their writing published on the site as one of our tri-weekly blog entries.



Any side of the Moon

Thanks to Jesse Ward for the amazing graphic!

Thanks to Jesse Ward for the amazing graphic!

We see it almost every night. We look up at it so often, in fact, that many of us don’t even notice it any more, yet it was the focus of one of the most amazing ventures of the 20th century.

As of now, the Moon has only been reached by craft under the control of government agencies, and the folks at the X-Prize Foundation seem to think that needs to change. And they’re right.

In 2007, sponsored by Google, they announced the inception of the Google Lunar X-Prize, a competition for private space firms to:

1. Land a robot safely on the Moon,
2. Have the robot travel 500 meters (1,640 ft.) across the surface, and
3. Transmit HD pictures and video back to Earth.

$30,000,000 has been allocated to winners of the competition, with $20,000,000 going to the first firm to accomplish the goal and $5,000,000 going to the 2nd team to do so. The remaining $5,000,000 is reserved for the achievement of other tasks, such as capturing images of Apollo mission landing sites or capturing video from the dark side.

Competing teams also have a deadline of December 31st, 2015 to complete the necessary steps. Originally there were 34 companies developing craft to make the attempt, though 8 have now withdrawn, leaving 26 firms from various nations still in the running.

With some of the teams having already completed successful test flights, the prize grows closer and closer to being claimed with each passing day.

Remember that, this being the first such attempt, there will be more to come.

Where will you fit in to that vision?


For more information, be sure to visit and


Moving starward

proxima centauriHere on Earth, we know that life is made possible by our nearest star, the Sun, also sometimes called Sol. We also know that the Sun is one of billions of stars in this galaxy.

So which is the next closest?

Proxima Centauri, in the Alpha Centauri solar system, is about 4 light-years away, which means that light from this star takes 4 years to reach Earth.

So how far away is that?

Light travels at 186,000 miles per second, so over the space of 4 years, it covers about 23,462,784,000,000 miles.

So what does that mean in everyday terms?

If you got in your car and could drive there non-stop at 60 mph, it would take you 44,640,000 years to cover the distance. In other words, make sure you eat your breakfast, pack a lunch, and grab your favorite 8-track before starting on the trip.

Obviously, we won’t be able to get there with the vehicles we have today, but research is being done on the technologies that will one day take us there.

Earth is our beginning, but everyone travels at one point or another.



Looking up

Most of us, myself included, have a person, or perhaps a list of people we look up to for guidance or inspiration. They could be those who we just admire. Maybe we even call them “heroes”.

So what does someone have to do for me to consider them a hero? Anyone who can accomplish a major feat when so many around them tell them it can’t be done is a hero.

Chuck YeagerChuck Yeager comes to mind. On October 14th, 1947, he became the fastest man in the world when he broked the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 “Glamorous Glynnis”. Yeager was not the first to attempt it, though, and more than one pilot before him had been killed in the attempt. In fact, even some of the engineers and scientists working on the project said the sound barrier would never be broken.

tuskegeeairmenI also consider the 332nd Fighter Escort Group of WWII to be heroic. You may know them as the Tuskegee Airmen. The 332nd was the first fighter squadron composed of black pilots. Take into account the period of history. At that time, black people in general were considered somehow inferior, and even in the military, they were seen as incapable of operating combat aircraft. Their flight training was seen as simply an experiment. So what did they do? They not only proved that they could become effective pilots, when assigned to bomber escort duty, not one bomber under their care was lost to enemy action – a claim that no “white” fighter squadron could make. And they did it with a huge group of people saying they couldn’t. Heroes? Most definitely.

collageWhile not quite a hero, I also admire Anthony Bourdain for his ability to entertain. Though not the first “rock star chef”, he is one of the most visible personalities working to make cooking “cool”. I look at Betty White in a similar way for her personality, as well as George Takei for his sense of humor, and Mr. Spaid (my favorite teacher – ever) for his unfailiing ability to pun.

So who do you look to for inspiration?

Who is your hero?



Punching the clock

timeclockDo you remember when starting your workday meant punching a time card?

I’m going to show my age here and say that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a punch clock, and longer still since I’ve had to use one.

They’re still in use today, though, in all kinds of workplaces, like warehouses, kitchens, and construction sites, just to name a few.

All of the above are going to be workplaces in space also.

Not everyone who works in space is going to be flying a ship, conducting experiments, or taking spacewalks.

Someone still has to get the food ready, manage parts inventories, and build the shelters. You get the idea.

So if you’re watching the activity and wish you had a place in it, but don’t think you have the skills, think again.

There’s a time card up there with your name on it.

Space needs you.



Zephram Cochrane

Glenn Corbett as Zephram Cochrane

Glenn Corbett as Zephram Cochrane

Back on 1/24, I posted a blog about scientific advances following the lead of fiction. Earlier today, Joe suggested expanding on one aspect of this, namely the likelihood that the world of Star Trek will ever become a reality.

So I became curious about what may be the most well-known element of that universe and looked up Zephram Cochrane.

In case the name doesn’t sound familiar, he was said to be the inventor of the Warp Drive, and according to Star Trek lore, he was (will be?) born this year.

Now, those who enjoy Star Trek as much as I do know that, while there is a good job of character development, the show and movies tend to revolve more around the technology and what the characters do with it than the characters themselves.

In the blog mentioned earlier, I had mentioned that at least some of the technology suggested by Gene Roddenberry is currently being developed.

Czech scientists have created a small-scale tractor beam.

Another group of scientists have successfully “transported” a photon from one point to another

Stephen Hawking himself really is doing research on making Warp Drive a reality.

Many of us encounter talking computers nearly every day.

Think about how many other pieces of technology are depicted. Shuttlecraft. Tricorders. Phasers. Holodecks.

Will those become real too?

That could be up to you.


Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount Pictures.


Procrastinate later!

space clockSome say that my blogs come across as being a bit “pushy”. They’re right.

This is done deliberately.

While Commercial Space is a newborn field, the birth has indeed occured, and this particular infant is growing exceptionally quickly. Any parent could also tell you that young ones need constant attention in order to grow and be healthy.

In other words, now is the time to lend a hand, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist or engineer to help out. Granted, we don’t all have a lot of free time, but any that you can spare will help, even if it’s something as simple as just pondering your future or encouraging your own children to think about their futures as the private space industry develops.

By doing that, you take steps to shape the future of all.

Besides, have you ever seen a child’s face the first time they watch a rocket leave the pad?

Don’t miss out on the future.



Four Leaf Clovers

four-leaf-cloverIrish legend states that a Four Leaf Clover brings luck, hope, and/or good fortune.

Ever looked closely at one? It couldn’t be more well-named. It has, conveniently enough, four leaves, and like other plants, sprouts these four leaves at the top of a stem.

There is a new kind of stem being talked about lately which also supports four amazing “leaves”, and still represents hope.

The STEM Initiative is a project designed to promote education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (hence STEM), especially for children.

This is becoming increasingly important. Let’s face it, education in general lately isn’t what it once was. Schools are falling behind. Ironically, though, technology isn’t slowing down in the slightest, and it’s highly dependent on science, engineering, and mathematics. It’s a symbiosis, much in the same way that plants, including four leaf clovers, are symbiotic with people.

And just because you breathe, you’re a part of it.

For more information, visit



2012 DA 14

2012da14_sMeteor. Deep Impact. Armageddon.

Like me, you’ve probably seen at least one of these films. Hollywood just loves movies about the destruction of the Earth due to planetary impact, and based on ticket sales, so do many movie-goers.

Remember, though, that these are all works of fiction.

But they’re also all based in reality. The fact is that Earth gets hit by wayward rocks every day.

And so it will be on Friday, February 15th. But there’s one that, while it will be close, will simply pass us by. The asteroid 2012 DA 14 will pass within 17,000 miles of the Earth’s surface. How close is that? It will pass within the orbits of our geosynchronous satellites, which circle overhead at an altitude of about 26,200 miles.

That’s right, it will come closer to us than some of our own satellites.

However, don’t be in too much of a rush to build that emergency bunker; it’s not going to hit the surface. Dozens of scientists have been keeping an eye on it for well over a year now, and we’re not in any danger.

In fact, in North America, it won’t even be visible when it passes by. After that, there won’t be another close pass for at least another 30 years.

So are going to go the way of the dinosaurs? Maybe.

But not this year.

Dream easy.


What are the odds?

UniverseNot to state the obvious, but Earth is one planet, orbiting one star.

This may also seem obvious, but the Sun is not the only star. The Milky Way galaxy alone contains about 300 billion stars. If that’s correct, it means that the odds of Earth being the only planet in this galaxy with life on it are 300,000,000,000 to 1.

And the Milky Way isn’t the only galaxy. The information we have now places the estimated number of galaxies in the universe as high as 500 billion. In other words, for every star in the Milky Way, there could be another entire galaxy.

Obviously, this changes the odds. If both of the above are true, that means that (assuming my math is correct, it was never my best subject) the odds of Earth being the only planet with life are now 150,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1.

Pretty lopsided odds, yes?

So do I think there is life on other planets?

No. I don’t think there is.

I know there is.

There’s no dreaming involved in this one.

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