THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 185

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 185

…The mourners want to stop crying, but who will be the first? They wish they had more answers when God alone knows what happened on Mars…

Presidential candidate Crippen wraps up the grim occasion.

“But because we don’t know what exactly happened to them, is of little matter now. Today we are here to honor them and to make a promise, the promise of continuing dream of the McKinneys …and all of us at NASA…SOL-logo the dream of colonization, not just of Mars, but the stars beyond it! But we are going to go there, AT THE SPEED-OF-LIGHT!!!.”

The reference to the SOL Project is intentional.

Roy does not miss the opportunity to draw Charlotte Walker onto the funeral altar, a move that does not go unnoticed by the attending press.

“All of us, in our own way, knew Sampson and Celeste McKinney. Do not fail them or Image result for red white and blue wreaththeir memory.”

Roy Crippen, Braden King, Deke McKinney and Gus lay a giant RW&B wreath on the flag-draped caskets. The clergy representatives, each of their faith, give their blessing. The honor guards carry the sarcophagi to the waiting horse drawn cortege.

The crowd disperses slowly, bound together by a trance of unbelief. They want to stop crying, but who will be the first? They wish they had more answers when God alone knows what happened on Mars. They do not want to have to memorialize speculative assumptions, but just when is the right time to say when?

Apart from a mourning nation and most of the “civilized” world, two significant figures remain stoic. Whether or not they are expected to be resigned and vulnerable, the McKinney boys, with eyes to the heavens and beyond, hold firm. They are sending a message for the world to heed: ‘We remaining McKinneys dedicate the rest of our lives to the memory of our parents and the future of America’s space program.’


THE RETURN TRIPEpisode 185


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 169

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 169

…“Just how long will we be staying on Mars?”

“Until the experiments are done or we run out of excuses… and then we will discuss.”…

— “We’ve been eavesdropping Rick… where the hell is Sammy Mac?” If the situation weren’t so bothersome, it would make for a great episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. “Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions?”

“Their boys aren’t listening in are they?”

“No, thank God and we are going to control who knows what, when and you are taking care of the where.”

“Then I don’t think we can say anything for sure Roy – Braden. This is all way too strange and it is going to take some time to do a CSI Mars or wait for them to come back from wherever they are hiding. Tycho looks lived in but not lived-in enough, if you know what I mean?”

“I may be overstepping my bounds, but I am going to have you stay out there and conduct every single experiment or at the very least, pick up where they left off.”

“FYI……I see some early spectro-photographic soundings that show some huge lithium deposits, not to mention liquid water and crude bacteria deep in the subsoil.”

“See if you can unravel the missing person’s mystery first and worry about all the other goodies later.”

“Just how long will we be staying?”

“Until the experiments are done or we run out of excuses… and then we will discuss.”

“What do we do with Tycho when we leave, shut it down, blow it up, hang a For Rent sign on it?”

“None of the above; Just close the door and leave the lights on!”

“Now who would leave a perfectly good machine like Tycho behind on a distant planet?”

“Too bad we don’t have an automatic recall feature or a good hangar to store it.” Roy laments an unnecessarily un-lamentable set of circumstances. “I guess we will be have to be the first.”

{Maybe not Roy!}


THE RETURN TRIP

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 168

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 168

…It’s like they hitched a ride from off the planet and we passed ‘em up on the way here, like sub-light-ships in the night.”…

Ships in the stillness of the night, 1888 – Ivan Aivazovsky

— New Mayflower cameras tell most of the story from the outside, however Rick Stanley and his #2 {nameless brand X astronaut} have been inside the seemingly abandoned for some time with a 3rd keeping their ship anchored in the sea of red sand.

Moonlight Stroll by Jay Nottingham

There is a valid reason for the lack of interaction, fueling concerns about what they do not find inside Tycho; neither McKinney. The Mars lander has that “lived-in” feeling, but the residents are not where they were expected to be.

“Doesn’t it look like they come in and out of Tycho a lot…I mean every day?” asks #2. “And there is stuff missing that shouldn’t be…the hard copy of the star-chart is gone, not to mention their EVA gear. Maybe they’re on a moonlit stroll.”

“Yeah and where is the lander interactive tablet? It is portable but you wouldn’t take it out into the dusty beyond.”

The most amazing discovery of all, are the digital numbers on the environmental and power-level readouts.

“Oxygen is at 98.2%. H2 0 is 100% of capacity. And the volts and amps have not dropped below 99% in 2 freaking months?”

No bodies, no consumption, no mischief, nothing is adding up for Rick, who has been through some mysteries of space

Moon Station

{Just like the initial recon/shuttle missions to set up the Moon Station outpost. Mysteriously, they discovered that items, left behind by the Apollo missions, were missing, when no one other than NASA had been there since the 1970’s;  WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?!}

“100% water, what’s up with that? That level should be at 45 by now. It’is like they hitched a ride from off the planet and we passed ‘em up on the way here, like sub-light-ships in the night.”

“Or they ended up with a tour guide who doesn’t know shit about Mars.” —


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 167

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 167

… I am issuing a gag order, no network feed until further notice. I don’t want Deke and Gus finding out their parents are missing…

“Mission Control, we have a problem,” Rick Stanley reports. “We are seeing some surface disturbance in Space Colony 1 lander’s landing field and it looks fresh, real fresh. Can you see what we see?”

Braden King and Roy Crippen are only separated by their cuffed shirt-sleeves, side-by-side to rely on the other for support.

Braden wonders why neither McKinney is signaling their brave rescuers in any way…. or answering the hails… .or firing a single blast from the quieted Tycho.

Roy is in possibilities mode… they are conserving fuel… they are low on oxygen…that impact crater, maybe a meteorite knocked out their communication gear.

Anxiety levels on Earth can be measured at the Moon Station and the beating of hearts drown out any other sound. Even the successful landing of the New Mayflower fails to break the spell.

“Two of us are going EVA. We can see lights on inside the lander and one of them is the green airlock beacon!”

“Doesn’t that mean they’re out of the lander?” Braden knows enough about procedure to be dangerous.

“You’ll need to close the airlock manually to balance the air and pressure before you enter,” Roy cautions and informs those who have not been around a lander simulator for a while.

Image result for no answerIt seems like only yesterday that New Mayflower had Mars within
hailing distance. Was it too much to ask for Sampson & Celeste jump on the horn and say “hey!”? Shouldn’t monumental effort be rewarded when expectations are being met?

Those damned Koreans officially leapfrog Osama Bin Laden as “Satan of the Century”? It is a very long line of evil and growing.

“It’s a good thing we did not run a live feed to the networks, in fact I am issuing a gag order until further notice. I don’t want Deke and Gus seeing this stuff.”

One doesn’t read a book from back to front, right?–

Extra-vehicular activity (EVA) is any activity done by an astronaut or cosmonaut outside a spacecraft beyond the Earth’s appreciable atmosphere. {Wikipedia}

 


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 166

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 166

…“Mission Control, there is a problem…

“This is Rescue Mission 2A-1B, the New Mayflower approaching Mars orbit, range 225,200 miles and closing.”

To say that this April day has been anxiously anticipated is a colossal underestimation. Few like comparisons can be made, with the almost three month build up to this historic moment.

“We have been attempting to make contact, but Tycho is giving us an away message. Image result for emotional rollercoaster gifThe signal is strong and there is no sign of distress. She’s a good sight for sure!”

Roy Crippen, Braden King, and the entire GLF staff are poised to witness a watershed moment in the agonizing saga of Space Colony 1. The minimum expectations of the rescue mission involve flattening the emotional roller coaster that has been this colossal project, one that has dominated the past two years in everyone’s’ life.

High-highs followed by the lowest of lows are not a healthy prescription for the faint of heart. Braden can attest to how mounting mental pressures can manifest itself into the physical.

And hope is the most powerful drug at our disposal and you do not need a medical doctor to prescribe it. Suppressing it today would require a cold wet towel or a badass, who-cares attitude. To have gotten the mission organized and off the ground, overcoming relentless interference from determined enemies, and reach this point is a testament to the audacity of hope.

“Take it down to 200 miles and make two orbits at 0º degrees latitude. When you have a good fix on Tycho, use the Plain of Xanthe as a landing strip, just like we did out at White Sands {Missile Range N.M. simulator).”

“We still have not established voice or visual Roy.”

“Let’s not borrow trouble now Rick. Take her down on the smoothest 200 yards you can find.”

This newest incarnation of the Mayflower circles Mars at its equator twice, the first orbit locates Tycho; the second has trouble locating anything that resembles smooth. An area to the left of the lander has the appearance of a recent Xanthe neighborhood to-do.

“Mission Control, there is a problem…..”


THE RETURN TRIP

Emotional Rollercoaster – fightingwithstrength.com

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 161

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 161

…Systems on the NEWFOUNDLANDER that never made so much as a peep, poop or gurgle are adding their ovations to the emergent chorus…

Chorus by Jacob Rowan

The Space Family McKinney, Sampson, Celeste, and Sammy are strangely content with whatever fate befalls them, but not long after that adorable-Mars/moon-namesake joins the 4th planet party, the NEWFOUNDLANDER seems to be having other ideas. Several times in the recent past, Sampson noted sudden, uncharacteristic computing activity. It seems random and spontaneous, not as a result of anything they or he was doing, but it is incremental in its frequency.

“Here it goes again Sam! Are you sure you didn’t bump something over there?” Celeste is concerned about the electronica noises distracting Sammy from feeding time, courtesy of one of her two milk-filled nursing stations. It is the only dispensary aboard this ship that is certified Grade A.

“I keep telling you that nothing I am doing around this musical chatterhouse is causing any of this. I would not risk upsetting the status quo, although I really think I getting that steering thing nailed.”

During this current cycle of beeps, boops, bops, pops, and hums, the whole ship comes alive at once, in the familiar key of A. Systems that never made so much as a peep, poop or gurgle are adding their ovations to the emergent chorus. It is like the ghosts of its former crew were manning their stations, which was impossible.

When the unmistakable whine of the ship’s propulsion unit, that magical mystery miniature module in the bowels of the lower deck shakes the control bridge and the sheer awesome power is being harnessed and directed with purpose, Sampson acts instinctively.

“Sit down in that chair over there, strap yourself in and wrap this blanket around Sammy,” he hands it to her and secures his girls.

For his part, Sampson seizes what they believe is the command seat, though there is no crew to instruct or the slightest feeling of control.


  THE RETURN TRIP

No Control by Güneş Yılmaz

Episode 161


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Amazing Nature Almanac – WIF Science

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Strange and Beautiful

Natural Phenomena

wif-almanac-001

Nature is amazing. There is no doubt about that. People have marveled at nature’s beauty since they came into existence. Not knowing what was happening, these people of old came up with some truly magnificent stories, trying to give a sense to the world around them. Today we are blessed with more knowledge about the world, but nevertheless this doesn’t diminish the magic taking place before our very eyes. If anything, it only makes nature more interesting.

 And while we no longer believe the “sky to be falling” every time it’s raining, or that Thor is smiting his hammer with every lightning strike, there are some natural phenomena out there we common folk still don’t understand. Here are 10 such natural occurrences, explained by our most prized of storytellers: scientists.

10. Snow Rollers

snow roller

No, these weren’t made by gnomes during the night, but rather by a series of meteorological events, in a particular order. Snow rollers aren’t a common sight, but when they do happen, and you stumble upon some of them, be sure that a fairly unlikely series of events took place the night before. First and foremost there needs to be two separate layers of snow already present: a first, icy or crusty layer of snow underneath, and a wetter one above. This way, the wet layer has something on which to roll over. Then you need some wind, strong enough to scoop out balls of snow and push them forward, similar to a tumbleweed, but not so strong as to blow it apart.

They will also form in relatively sloped areas, but this is not absolutely necessary. Just imagine yourself making a snowman, and the process is more or less the same. The biggest differences are that one is made by a person, the other by the elements. Also, snow rollers are more often cylindrical in shape, rather than a sphere, and they can vary in size from that of an average snowball, to that of a car. Nevertheless, the many meteorological conditions which need to take place in that exact order, at the exact time, make these snow rollers a very rare phenomenon to behold, and they usually make headlines in the newspapers the following day.

9. Mammatus Clouds

mammatus

Looking very ominous, mammatus clouds are sometimes the harbingers of an imminent and powerful thunderstorm. But more often than not, they form just after the storm has passed. Also known as mammatocumulus, they translate to “mammary cloud” due to their appearance as pouches, usually hanging beneath a larger, anvil cloud. As updraft pushes precipitation enriched air to the top of one such anvil cloud, the air begins to spread out, and the heavier precipitation, usually water particles and ice fall back to the bottom, forming these mammatus clouds. As the air falls back down to the ground, it heats up, evaporating the precipitation within it. The more precipitation there is the further down they will sink.

These clouds usually span over an area of several hundred miles in all directions and last for about 10-15 minutes at a time. While they usually form underneath an anvil cloud, they also appear on occasion under altocumulus, altostratus, stratocumulus, cirrus clouds, as well as volcanic ash clouds. Whatever the case, they look amazing and ominous at the same time, especially when sunlight is reflected off of them.

8. Ice Flowers

ice-flower

This natural phenomenon in particular is as beautiful as it is rare, and only takes places in late autumn or early winter, before the ground freezes over. As the air goes below freezing point, the sap within some plant stems, plants like theFrostweed (Verbesina virginica), begins to freeze and expand, pushing through the plant itself and forming an amazing thin sheet of ice, similar to a flower petal. Certain conditions need to take place for this beautiful phenomenon to appear. As the ground is still unfrozen, water keeps on going up the stem and through the microscopic cracks, the sap escapes and transforms into ice, adding to the ever longer sheet.

In some instances, this phenomenon can happen to wood as well. Wood which hasn’t yet dried completely and is kept in freezing conditions can sometimes present these Ice Flowers. More often than not however, the wood cracks from the pressure within, generating these wonderful patterns which curl and fold into gorgeous frozen petioles, giving this phenomenon both its name and appearance.

7. Columnar Basalt

columnar-basalt

This type of rock formation occurs, as it name suggests, in basalt, which is a lava flow rock. These formations can be found all over eastern Washington state, Devils Tower in Wyoming, Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, or the Los Organos on the northern part of La Gomera Island in the Canaries, and many other places around the world. Based on their name, you can clearly see what kind of stories people used to give these, back in the day. Nevertheless, there are columnar basalt formations found even on Mars. The way these form, is similar to how the ground cracks during a severe drought. As the water evaporates, or goes into the water bed below, the ground above contracts and cracks. The same thing applies here, as the lava flow progressively cools over a period of maybe longer than 100 years. The cracks form perpendicular to the original flow direction.

The difference in thickness of these columns depends on the speed at which they cool. While there are cases of a lava beds contracting as a whole, it is more likely for them to crack. The faster they cool, the thinner the columns will be. And while hexagons are most common, polygons with three to twelve or more sides can be observed. Their length, which can be greater than 50 feet, is based on how thick the original lava flow was.

6. Fallstreak Hole

fallstreak-hole

This particular cloud formation looks as if someone took an enormous cookie cutter and made a hole in what, otherwise, looks like an enormous flat cloud covering the sky. In fact, some people call them Holepunch clouds. Another particular aspect here is that a streak of cloud usually hangs underneath that hole. What’s happening up there is quite interesting, to say the least. For starters, we need to know that air at higher altitudes is much cooler that the temperature at the ground level. In fact, temperatures can go well below freezing point.

But despite this, water vapor and tiny water droplets “refuse” to freeze and remain in a “supercool” state. Water usually begins to freeze due to the impurities inside it: salt, dust particles, all sorts of other minerals, and so on. Cold, distilled water can also begin to freeze instantaneously if a piece of ice is added to it, in a process known as “ice nucleation.” Since water vapor is quite pure, water stays in liquid form even under freezing temperatures. Here, a piece of ice falls from higher altitudes and comes in contact with the water inside this cloud. This in turn sets out a chain reaction, freezing the droplets around, and making them fall to the ground – thus, the cloud streak below the hole. If a plane happens to pass through a cloud at a shallow angle, it can also cause it to freeze and form a cigar-shaped Fallstreak hole.

5. Brinicles

Brinicles are a fairly rare sight to see, not because they rarely happen, but because they take place underwater. In fact, they were only discovered in the 1960s. When seawater freezes, it releases its salt, creating super-salty brine. This percolates through cracks in the ice, into the water below. This brine then sinks because it’s much denser than the surrounding water. That is also the reason you can float in salty water, far better than in a fresh water lake. Nevertheless, this brine is also much colder, and the seawater around freezes on contact. Over time, this creates somewhat of an inverted cone, or funnel if you will, which goes ever deeper towards the bottom. This stalactite is what’s known as a brinicle.

Since brinicles appear in shallower waters, closer to the coast, in a course of some 12 hours it’s able to reach the bottom, trapping everything in ice. Creatures usually living on the ocean floor, like starfish and sea urchins, move far too slow and they get trapped in this newly formed ice, which then spreads along the bottom. Not surprisingly, brinicles are more commonly known as “The Ice Fingers of Death.”

4. Volcanic Lightning

Also known as a dirty thunderstorm, volcanic lightning is a weather phenomenon related to the production of lightning in a volcanic plume. What causes them was somewhat hard to figure out, and is still not yet fully understood. While during a thunderstorm, lightning is caused by colliding ice crystals, which generate enough electricity to cause a lightning bolt, ash clouds are far more difficult and a lot moredangerous to study. At first glance, it would seem counter intuitive to attribute ice as the main culprit behind a “dirty thunderstorm”. Some new scientific studies and better equipment, however, have begun to show us what’s really happening during one such volcanic inferno.

Once an eruption begins, large quantities of positively charged particles are blown into the air, which in contact with the negatively charged air particles around make for an electric discharge. These lightning bolts occur in and around the plume, which is ejected by the volcano itself. At first this theory was mostly based on speculation, but thanks to the very high frequency (VHF) radio emissions technology, scientists were able to get a better look inside one such dense volcanic plume and figure out what’s actually happening. But this is not all when it comes to lightning and volcanoes together.

Another study has tracked the location of lightning strikes some 60 miles from the eruption, and at near-stratospheric heights of about 12 miles above the ground. This seems to be caused somewhat in the same way as in a usual thunderstorm. As the ash cloud is blown by the wind, it thins out, and ice begins to form at its extremities, resulting in further lightning strikes. These studies, while not that surprising, can help a great deal in aviation as they can inform on the way to properly respond to a volcano eruption and the usual flight paths of commercial airliners passing above.

3. Sailing Stones

sailing-stones

Death Valley in California is notorious for its scorching heat during the day and extreme cold during the night. Among the many mysteries and legends linked to this place, none is more fascinating than the “sailing stones” phenomenon taking place within the Racetrack Playa, an exceptionally flat and level scenic dry lake. Some weighing around 700 pounds, the stones which dot the lake bed seem to be moving across the desert floor when nobody’s watching, leaving long trails behind them. This has puzzled scientists for decades now, but now geologists Richard and Jim Norris, believe they have found the answer. Though the phenomenon itself was under scrutiny since the 1940s, only recently did the two geologists actually capture these sailing stones on film. They set up a weather station in the area and fitted stones with GPS trackers. Two years into the project, the stones began to move.

What actually happened was that it rained the day before, and during the night a thin layer of ice had formed over a few inches of liquid water. As day came, the ice began to break apart and, pushed by the breeze, these ice sheets simply dragged the stones with them, scraping a trail on the bottom. By the end of the day, when all the ice had melted, some of the stones moved more than 200 feet. However, the conditions for this phenomenon to take place are hard to come by, and Norris compared the chances of actually stumbling upon it with winning the lottery. This also explains why this seemingly simple occurrence has intrigued people for so long.

2. Penitentes

penitentes

Penitentes are narrow ice formations, commonly found at high altitudes of over 13,000 feet, with low humidity, especially in the Andes Mountains of South America. What’s curious about them is that they usually point towards the sun, ranging from a few inches to six or even 16 feet in height. Their name comes from their resemblance to people kneeling, as when doing penance. More precisely, they resemble the brothers of the Procession of Penance in Spain, who wear hats with very tall, narrow, and white sharp tips (just like the KKK).

Anyway, the existence of these Penitentes was known about as early as the 1800s and were originally believed to have been formed by the wind. But in fact these jagged snow structures are the result of dimples in the original snow sheet. These in turn result in ever larger ablations, through a process known as “sublimation” – where ice and snow melts and vaporizes without turning into liquid water first. This happens more easily at high altitudes due to the reduced pressure of the atmosphere, together with the lower temperatures of the air and the more powerful rays of the sun above. The Penitentes are what remains behind, thanks to their angle towards the sun.

1. Light Pillars

light-pillar

This stunningly beautiful light show usually makes an appearance in cold, arctic regions and can be described as optical phenomenon in which columns of light seem to emanate below or above a light source, in a vertical orientation. This light source can be of natural origins, like the sun or moon, in which case these light columns are called Sun or Lunar Pillars, respectively. Or, they can occur due to the presence of artificial lights as well. These light pillars form when the two astral bodies are close to the horizon and tend to take on the color of the body emanating that light in the first place.

The effect itself is created by the reflection of that light onto the many ice particles suspended in the air or clouds. Because of this, light pillars fall in the category of halos – optical phenomenon produced by light interacting with ice crystals. The reason for why they appear vertical and not as a circle, is because the ice crystals which reflect them consist mostly of flat, hexagonal plates, which tend to orient themselves more or less horizontally as they fall through the air. Together they act as a giant mirror, reflecting the light either up or down. Thanks to the slight turbulences in the air, these ice crystals somewhat change their horizontal orientation, elongating the light column even further. The larger the crystals, the more pronounced this effect becomes. In some rare cases, column-shaped crystalscan cause light pillars as well.


Amazing Nature Almanac

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WIF Science