THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 8

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 8

…“If you are trying to talk me out of the Commander’s chair on the New Mayflower, forget it; space is my future, not World League Baseball.”…

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The Mission of the New Mayflower is taking center stage.

“You must have girls  at every Air Force base..around the world I would bet.. but they will have to stand in line and wait Rick,” Roy is messing his dashing protégé Rick Stanley.

“Don’t get me wrong Crip. The space program is my life and probably always will. It’s just the little things about home that I’ll be missing; Spring training, the warm Southern sun, using my Symantec Telepathic Implant, Mexican Food, spring break, the Rio de Janeiro Red Snappers.”

“It sounds like baseball, fun and sun are your life, not Space Colony,” Roy points out. “If your heart is on the diamond or beach, you better get out while you can. I know of a dozen lieutenant commanders, who would be more than pleased, if you resumed your career with the Snappers.”

Roy is giving the young gun a gut-check.

“If you are trying to talk me out of the Commander’s chair on the New Mayflower, forget it; space is my future, not World League Baseball.”

“That is why I talked NASA into letting you play baseball six months a year, Rick my boy. You and you alone had to confront that crossroad in your career, answers only you can provide. For what it is worth, I knew you would make the right decision.”

“Yeah, well it was not as cut-and-dried as you make it sound. Baseball has been in my blood since I can remember,” Commander Stanley looks back at just one of his loves. “Thank you for allowing me to have two professions at once.”

“I’ll miss going to your Rio home games, I love that city! Can you still get me free tickets?”

“Sure Crip, box seats right next to Riva Riviera,” the wildly popular South American singing superstar.

“Hubba-hubba! She can sure shake……….”


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 8


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 7

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 7

The prime of Roy’s career was spent languishing through the lean years of the space program. There was a dirty word used back then, “privatization”; a sorry excuse for a shortsighted, budget strapped exploration climate...

privatization-001

It is dawn on the southeast coast of Texas. The same sun the warms the planet Mars, reflects off the still, new-mayflower-001February water of the Gulf of the Americas and Roy Crippen. He stalks about the base of the deep-space shuttle named New Mayflower, expecting to be alone in his vigilance, only to find its Commander going through the same pre-mission routine. Ever since the Challenger disaster, some 5 decades past, uneasiness seems to be passed along from one mission commander to the next.

“What a surprise Rick! You can’t shake 1986 either, can you?” The
current manifestation of Roy was but a 2nd grade schoolboy back then, yet he speaks from a heavy heart, having watched the disaster unfold in a Florida classroom.

Richard Stanley, who was born in 1999, ranks as the number 3 commander behind the two-you-know-who’s presently orbiting Mars. “Yes that and the fact that I will not be strolling around (Heinlein’s) Green Hills of Earth for a couple years. It is an ominous thought, losing 2 years and all.”

“Great genre reference buddy, we all love Heinlein, but I refuse to swallow that ‘losing two years’ stuff. I would trade places with you, like that!” Roy snaps his fingers. “After 52 years I have been labelled a has-been; 52 and not allowed to fly, how fair is that? I could fly a Boeing 967 at supersonic speeds for any commercial air carrier, for 18 more years in the friendly skies and but none in a ship outside the stratosphere.”

Roy is not lying about his desire to fly missions. The prime of his career was spent languishing through the lean Obama years of the space program. There was a dirty word used back then, “privatization”, a sorry excuse for a shortsighted, budget strapped exploration climate. The only government money was spent on, “…….drones and probes, probes, rovers and drones,” he recalls with more than an ounce of disdain.

ediitors-note(Official song and video of the Challenger 7 fund. Flight and crew of the Challenger in 1986. Sung by Jerry Dycke, written by Jerry Dycke and Charlie Whitaker in 1986. The film edited for this project was provide by NASA to John Biffar who produced the video. The song was produced and arranged by Steve Rogers.)


THE RETURN TRIP

Gobbling up the Commons. Cartoon by Ahmed Abdallah

Government Waste. Cartoon by Ahmed Abdallah

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Toxic Avenger’s Chemistry Lab – WIF Superheroes

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Dangerous and Deadly

Chemicals That Will

Ruin Your Day

We encounter them every day, putting things like water, chlorine, acetic acid and sulfuric acid to work for us in mundane ways. Yet amongst the chemical soup, there are some substances that are just too deadly. In this list, we discover chemicals that are lethal beyond comprehension and learn what to never touch, breathe, or taste, for the sake of survival. If it dissolves glass or is 20 quintillion times as strong as sulfuric acid, the danger is real, and we are not joking.

Just ask the Toxic Avenger:

10. Fluoroantimonic Acid

Superacids are scientifically defined as acids stronger than the infamous chemical sulfuric acid. And super they are, which makes them extremely dangerous. You probably wonder what the world’s strongest acid is, and that record goes to Fluoroantimonic Acid, a superacid that will actually dissolve glass. Terrifying. Of course, it would swiftly melt away any human body parts it came into contact with as well. The actual strength of this acid is a number that we cannot even imagine – just 20 quintillion times the strength of pure, full strength sulfuric acid, which is dangerous enough.

The super-acid has to be stored with extreme caution in containers made from PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) to prevent deadly accidents. Just about any organic compound will be protonated by this acid, which also forms vapors with a high level of toxicity. The components of the acid at an elemental level are combinations of antimony, hydrogen and fluorine. The raw materials are pretty mundane, but the right combination is extraordinary in its power. Chemical engineering and organic chemistry operations make use of this chemical for its ability to protonate organic compounds without having to find a specific solvent.

9. Nicotine

It might surprise you, but nicotine, an addictive plant-derived alkaloid, can be deadly toxic and we are not talking about a slow death from smoking-related health complications. Simply being accidentally overexposed to nicotine can cause a fatal overdose. Small amounts of nicotine function as a stimulant, but too much interferes with the autonomic nervous system and skeletal muscle cells. Furthermore, nicotine is poisonous enough to have been used as an insecticide, which has caused some very unfortunate accidental human deaths.

Nicotine poisoning is becoming more widespread in society thanks to increased availability of alternative nicotine products, such as liquid nicotine, according to Healthline. Symptoms of overexposure may include vomiting, increases in blood pressure, heart arrythmia, dehydration, dizziness, headache and visual and auditory disturbances. In insecticide applications, nicotine is sprayed on sites of insect infestation, swiftly killing the pests. Nicotine’s toxicity is such that only 30 to 60 milligrams may kill an adult. Fortunately, fatalities are not very common in adults, but data shows that if a child gets ahold of nicotine products, fatalities are more likely. Even picking tobacco plants without sufficient precautions has been identified as a potential cause of nicotine poisoning.

8. Hydrogen Peroxide

It’s almost water… but not. It is hydrogen and oxygen, just like water, but in a different ratio. While you have seen it in the home and drug store for a variety of uses, what you get is the diluted form (3 to 6%). Hydrogen peroxide in more concentrated amounts is explosive, extremely dangerous, and able to unleash tremendous damage (so handle with great care).

Hydrogen peroxide in so-called food grade concentrations has caused a number of deaths when misused or accidentally ingested in quantity. The stuff is poisonous, as it behaves very differently in the body compared to the water to which it is so relatively close, chemically. Even worse is the fact that violent criminals have used hydrogen peroxide in deadly attacks.

In one especially tragic case described by the British Broadcasting Service, subways in London were attacked by four crazed bombers who used hydrogen peroxide-based explosives to kill a shocking 52 people in London tube and bus attacks. Due to the mundane nature of hydrogen peroxide, police were not notified of the purchases of the chemical despite the large quantity being bought on repeated occasions, prompting criticism from the coroner commenting on the case.

7. Dimethylcadmium

Cadmium is not very well known compared to the nearly cliched “big three” poisonous metals and metalloids, arsenic, mercury, and lead. Yet cadmium is exceptionally dangerous, especially in the readily bio-available and extraordinarily anti-organism and reactive compound known as Dimethylcadmium. Possibly the most toxic thing a chemist could reasonably be unlucky enough to come across, the compound consists of Cadmium, Hydrogen and Carbon mixed in just the right way to be unusually unsafe. Dimethylcadmium is not something to wash away, for it will explode upon exposure to water.

Furthermore, the chemical is carcinogenic, though that might be one’s last worry considering how immediate the threat of acute poisoning and physical injury presented by this chemical is. A colorless liquid, Dimethylcadmium quickly turns to vapor, allowing it to inflict even more damage should people allow themselves to get into its proximity. The nasty effects of Dimethylcadmium include quick attacks through the bloodstream on the heart and lungs, which it targets with incredible biochemical force.

6. Azidoazide Azide C2N14

This bizarre acid is the most explosive of all created chemical compounds on the planet. Literally anything can cause it to detonate, making it an unmanageable compound. Azidoazide Azide has the seemingly mundane chemical formula C2N14, but what a bad combination that is.

The raw materials for the chemical exist in the air we breath every day, but in different molecular combinations. Classified as a high-nitrogen energetic material, this azide is so reactive that the slightest chemical change may create disaster. Furthermore, changes in temperature or slight disturbances will cause the chemical to explode, making it an extremely unstable substance. Chemists found that the compound was explosive even in solution, and would explosively decompose even as a result of infrared scanning. While a curiosity as a record holder for most explosive substance, this is no chemical for any amateur chemist to check out.

5. Ethylene Glycol

The worst chemicals are not just the most immediately toxic, corrosive, or explosive. Being commonly accessible and also tasting good are most unfortunate in case of mislabeling. A key part of antifreeze used in cars, ethylene glycol is metabolized in the human body by the same enzyme that digests ethanol found in wine, beer or whiskey. Yet the chemical has disastrous effects on the kidneys and central nervous system.

Children and pets are vulnerable, but even fully-grown victims may not realize what they are ingesting in cases of mislabeling due to bottle reuse until it is too late to dodge death or serious harm. Effects can include nervous system disfunction that leads to death within a short time from contamination, which occurs easily upon exposure. Accidental ingestion, exposure to fumes in concentration and spills, or skin absorption are all among the ways that the deadly goo can come into contact with victims.

4. Chlorine

Chlorine might seem like a familiar substance, or less a poison than a disinfectant, despite its notorious wartime usage. After all, the water you drink is likely chlorinated, or at least you hope it is if there is concern over possible waterborne illnesses. Yet chlorine and chlorine derivatives can be exceptionally dangerous, and also easy to accidentally encounter in either excessive concentrations or in combination with other common chemicals that render it much deadlier. For starters, chlorine can cause serious lung damage in pure form.

The chemical reaction that produces chlorine can occur from mixing cleaning products that were never meant to be combined, such as bleach and acids like vinegar (acetic acid). This can be extremely toxic, and even fatal. Chlorine is insidious. It may not kill outright, but exposure may trigger permanent lung damage that builds over time. One of the worst symptoms, apart from actual burns, are those associated with pulmonary edema, a fluid accumulation in the lungs. Greenish yellow, chlorine has a sickly smell that some might recognize from bleach made from sodium hypochlorite or swimming pools and treated drinking water, where it is used in lower concentrations.

3. Dimethyl Mercury

Mercury poisoning is often thought of as a chronic issue, which is more likely to be the case when mercury compounds like Cinnabar (Mercury Sulfide) or even in pure form in small quantities come into contact with the human body. Yet organic mercury compounds are more bioavailable, or readily absorbed and metabolized in the human body. Thus, they are far deadlier. Dimethyl Mercury, for instance, is a chemical to be greatly feared.

Volatile in its reactivity, Dimethyl Mercury is colorless, flammable, and is one of the most potent neurotoxins in the universe. Just 0.1 milliliter can trigger an acute case of mercury poisoning, which can kill. Exposure need not be through ingestion – skin contact is a potentially fatal incident. Death can occur even if gloves are worn, as latex is no barrier to the chemical. The tragic death of chemist Karen Wetterhahn saw the researcher die after being exposed to just several drops of Dimethyl Mercury, which went through her latex gloves. Following exposure, she thought she would be OK until symptoms arose and she passed away 10 months after the tiny spill.

2. Sodium cyanide

Frequently used in industrial applications, sodium cyanide can cause death in an extraordinarily short timeframe should exposure occur. The white, water soluble salt is mostly used as a chemical agent for extracting gold from ore, and is thus not illegal despite the danger it presents. In some extremely disturbing cases, the chemical has been used to murder (or attempt to murder) people for insurance money. The most shocking fact in these truly depraved criminal cases was that the chemical was placed in products available in public for purchase, with the hope that the intended victim would be among the customers.

Sodium cyanide is also used for illegal cyanide fishing and is an all-around deadly chemical that should not be handled casually. Acutely toxic, sodium cyanide kills by interfering with human respiration and is an inhibitor of electrons. Impairment of oxygen metabolism then occurs, with lactic acidosis to follow. Death can result from exposure to just 200 or 300 milligrams of sodium cyanide. Unfortunately, fatal effects come fast with this nasty chemical.

1. Chlorine trifluoride

A bizarre chemical of interest to Nazi researchers as a weapon of World War II, Chlorine Trifluoride just didn’t make the grade as it was seen as too dangerous. A total of 30 tons were produced by Nazi Germany to create bombs and flamethrowers before being discontinued for its sheer impracticality. The bizarre chemical is an oxidizing agent that is corrosive to the point of conflagration. Formed from an unstable mix of halogen elements chlorine and fluorine, Chlorine Trifluoride is explosive, toxic, and exceptionally reactive. It might shock some that there are chemicals that can dissolve glass, but this chlorine compound is another glass buster in a different way.

With this chemical you can literally set glass on fire. Most chemists do not want to work with the chemical given the extraordinary danger it presents. (Definitely forget the test tube!) The reactive chemical will start fires upon any disturbance that cannot be put out with water; water just grows the fire. This stuff burns the fireproof – even asbestos, the deadly fireproofing material will burn with Chlorine Trifluoride. The only way to store it is in containers with a thin fluorine coating, but an accident will spark disaster. When a storage facility with the now banned chemical weapon caught fire, the flames continued until they had burned a foot into the ground before stopping.


Toxic Avenger’s Chemistry Lab

WIF Superheroes

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 6

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 THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 6

…The future is reserved for the dreamer, the past is there for the reminisce(r), but the present belongs to the opportunist, as it is for Roy Crippen. …

Image result for past present future

Image result for early nasaWhile the happily married McKinney’s prepare to inaugurate Space Colony 1 and the whole of Colony Control/Command Com gawks at the spectacular views sent back by the huge orbiting station, the project coordinator still has his head under the hood, so-to-speak. For Roy Crippen, a shuttle astronaut from the horse and buggy days, with the Chronicle currently in place, the task of dispatching the deep-space shuttle New Mayflower now becomes his top priority; a green light has replaced the amber shade which has been flashing on the project status screen for an agonizingly long time.

Mars City Mock-up

Mars City mockup

Here at the Galveston Launch Facility, finishing touches are being applied to the refitted shuttle. The passenger liner type vehicle and its load of astronauts, scientists and miscellaneous personnel must be ready to hit the long and empty reaches of space ASAP; 26 future citizens of Mars City.

Getting the New Mayflower into space is routine, save the very rare and unfortunate exception. All precautions have been taken and were a breeze compared to the 140 million kilometer journey ahead, at the painfully slow space-pace of 50,000+/- km/hour.

Speed-of-Light2It seems like so-much wasted time to Roy Crippen. “We should be able to go much faster than this.” Beside his duties as heart-and-soul of Space Colony 1, a considerable soul by itself, he lays awake nights working out one particular science project in his mind; speed-of-light space travel. 100 physicists and “spacies” are presently taking theory and making it reality in the laboratory, but the physical application of SOL theory is his persistent pet peeve. There resides a completed SOL Cruiser on the drafting board of his soul.

crippen-2036-001The future is reserved for the dreamer, the past is there for the reminisce(r). But the present belongs to the opportunist, as it is for Roy Crippen. This tall, thin man has garnered worldwide attention because of the Colony, the kind usually coveted by more attention seeking men. He has minimized the office of the President of the United States or the ever busy Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency in his mind.

There are reporters from Fox International, Reuters and World Newsmakers assigned to follow his every move. Some suggest he run for President in 2036, a notion he scoffs at, but secretly finds intriguing.


THE RETURN TRIP

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 5

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 5

…Commander McKinney’s first step in real gravity resembles that of a newborn colt…

Newborn Colt by Robert J Bryan

Newborn Colt by Robert J Bryan

Like the superb team they are, precisely the reason they were chosen to inaugurate the Colony, the McKinneys {of space family fame} are moving to advance history. Sampson brings their modified space shuttle into docking position, unleashing thruster blasts for fine tuning. The massive craft floats in with deceptive ease, belying its gross tonnage of 90,000.

independance-dayOnce in place, they are able to shut down the weary guidance systems of the deep-space shuttle, not to be reactivated until it makes way for the second wave of colonists, another 6.2 months from now (which will be 7/4/2030—Independence Day). It will be a long wait, but there will be no shortage of things to do. Space Colony 1 is a state-of-the-art scientific laboratory and this particular pair of space veterans can make these instruments dance.

Sampson frees himself from the pilot’s chair gladly. Albeit quite comfortable, the seat has his body’s imprint in it, but it will be good to have a change of scenery. He and Celeste are looking forward to stretching out underused muscle and ligament.

After extended space travel, this first foray into it, space medicine experts are giddy by having this look into the human physiology aspect. Commander McKinney’s first step in real gravity resembles that of a newborn colt. It is embarrassing to stagger helplessly with almost everyone on Earth watching live or on tape delay. He shrugs off Celeste’s chuckles to regain his balance.

beauty-crown-001Not unexpectedly, the sleek figure of Lieutenant Commander McKinney does not fare any better than her mate, but looks prettier doing it. From most any point of view, her Miss Sweden 2014 crown would not have tumbled from her head, not like her astronaut headgear. She tries to corral her long platinum blond hair, throwing her head back, trying to act like nothing had happened.

In the process, she tips over sideways, puts out her left hand out to brace herself… thereby slicing open her palm on a digital gyroscope display. Blood flows through the epidermis immediately, sending Sampson to the nearest station first aid kiosk for gauze and sterilization material. He is terribly concerned, yet calmly tends the ugly wound.display

“Don’t think that this will keep you off the job,” using his worst bedside manner. “It should be okay before we need it.”

“I certainly hope so… it’s just a flesh wound.” Celeste is confused by his prognosis.

“I was talking about the monitor!”

Sometimes he treats her a little too much like “one of the guys”. It is advisable for him to display more spousal compassion.

“Did you assign us separate cabins Commander McKinney sir?” She is kidding……….mostly.


THE RETURN TRIP

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 4

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 4

…Space Colony 1 has all the appearance of being worth every budget-busting Kronor, Rupee, Shekel, Dinar, Peso, Pound, Ruble and Euro, camels or cocoa beans

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Celeste McKinney hurdles mission business to inquire, “How are the boys Braden?”

“Your angels still have their halos, though slightly askew. They wanted to talk to you guys, but I told them they’d have to wait until you powered-up the Colony. In fact, if you do not adjust for the iso-magnetic field, we’ll have to pick up your pieces.”

“I’m on it Colony Control. All instruments are online—preparing to enter synchronous orbit with Space Colony 1—reducing speed to 11,000 km/hr—orbit set at 110 kilometers,” adds Sampson.

The Mars Colony’s main superstructure is a hulking 400 meters in diameter and 100 meters tall, with spiny offshoots that makes it appear to spinning like a toy top in its final few revolutions. It is that slow centrifugal motion that produces its own gravity, as well as placement above the Martian wispy atmosphere.

This multi-trillion dollar project, to which most of the developed free world, has made noteworthy input in people and money, has all the appearance of being worth every budget-busting Kronor, Rupee, Shekel, Dinar, Peso, Pound, Ruble and Euro, camels or cocoa beans. Years of planning, check and double-checking design and computation, has the world on the brink of the future outside of Earth and much closer to probing the rest of the Milky Way galaxy.

Like the superb team they are, precisely the reason they were chosen to inaugurate the Colony, the McKinneys {of space family fame} are moving to advance history. Sampson brings their modified space shuttle into docking position, unleashing thruster blasts for fine tuning. The massive craft floats in with deceptive ease, belying its gross tonnage of 90,000.

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 3

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 3

  …“Thanks for the warning guy,” taunts Sampson McKinney, while turning to his wife and co-pilot to quip, “just what everybody needs, interplanetary caller ID.”…

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At this very minute, supplanting the interplanetary cruise control, Chronicle, the McKinney’s deep-space shuttle’s automated docking systems spring to life. Dormant circuits surge with electrical current, a familiar computer-generated voice starts the show; “YELLOW ALERT. FORTY THOUSAND KILOMETERS FROM DECELERATION. COMMENCING IN NINETY SECONDS.”

The Chronicle’s mainframe speaks in predictable Hawking-like monotone; not the most exciting traveling companion, but artificial companions are better than none at all.

“Nice to hear your rusty voice AL,” not HAL of 2001, “it’s been a while.”

“TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED FITFY-ONE HOURS TO BE EXACT COMMANDER,” the computer states flatly. “PLEASE SPARE ME YOUR HUMOR.”

“Or about 100 days, you precise piece of cr**…”

“INCOMING COMMUNICATION FROM COLONY CONTROL!”

“Thanks for the warning guy,” taunts Sampson McKinney, while turning to his wife and co-pilot to quip, “just what everybody needs, interplanetary caller ID.”

“We heard that Chronicle. It is against international regulations to criticize the on-board hardware…”

The new human voice is that of Braden King, Earth’s mouthpiece to space travelers for two decades.

“Long time no see King. It seems like a year since we heard your dulcet tones.”

“You’ve logged 25 million miles since we had you dodge that rogue asteroid.”

“Yeah thanks for the heads-up old man. That gave me and Cel a chance to get reacquainted, if you know what I mean.”

“I don’t want to hear the details Sam…..and happy new decade to you!” Braden King is more than Director of Communication for the LOVELL SPACE CENTER {formerly Elgin Air Force Base, Florida} and Colony Control Command Com to Sampson & Celeste McKinney. This silver-haired, golden-throated gem of a man has become a surrogate parent figure to them, as well as tending to their teenage sons, Deke and Gus, while they are away.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Rogue Asteroid

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