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.”…

chronicle-001

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

asteroid

Rogue Asteroid

Episode 3


page 5

Greater Galaxy Gateway Gala – WIF Space

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Far-out Facts

About the

Milky Way

Galaxy

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When we think of where we are in the entire universe, our planet is just one a small speck. Even our solar system is one of many in the Milky Way Galaxy, and our own galaxy is one of billions in the universe. It’s hard to image how big The Great Expanse actually is. But with advanced technology, we have a better understanding of what lies in the deepest parts of space. Just in our own Milky Way Galaxy, we have numerous suns, planets, solar systems, comets, black holes, and so much more. Here are 10 interesting facts about our Milky Way Galaxy…

10. Structure And Size Of The Milky Way Galaxy

The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy with a center bulge that is surrounded by four arms that are wrapped around it. Around two-thirds of all the galaxies in The Great Expanse are shaped in a spiral. Our galaxy, as well as our solar system, is always rotating. While our solar system travels around 515,000 miles-per-hour on average, it would still take approximately 230 million years to travel around the Milky Way.

Our galaxy is around 100,000 light-years across and has a mass of between 400 and 780 billion times the mass of our own sun. 90% of its mass is believed to be dark matter.

There is a huge halo of hot gas surrounding our galaxy that stretches for hundreds of thousands of light-years. While it is believed to be as huge as all of the stars put together in the Milky Way, the halo itself only has around 2% of the amount of stars that are found inside of the disk.

And at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy is the galactic bulge which contains gas, stars, and dust that’s so thick you can’t even see into it, let alone to the other side.

9. The Andromeda Galaxy Will Eventually Collide With The Milky Way

The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will eventually collide into each other, but it won’t happen for a very long time. While it was previously thought that it would happen 3.75 billion years from now, newly conducted research from the ESA’s Gaia mission estimates the collision will take place in 4.5 billion years.

And we may not get hit as hard as previously thought. The new research also suggests that it won’t be a full force collision and rather a “tidal interaction,” which means that no planets or stars will collide with each other.

There is a group of more than 54 galaxies that are named the Local Group, of which Andromeda and the Milky Way are a part. These two galaxies, as well as the Triangulum Galaxy, are the three largest in the group. Andromeda is the most massive galaxy, while the Milky Way ranks second, and the Triangulum is third. Andromeda and Triangulum are both spiral galaxies and are situated between 2.5 and 3 million light years away from the Milky Way.

8. Our Galaxy Is Warped And Twisted Instead Of Being Flat

It’s always been said that our galaxy is flat as a pancake, but a recent study revealed that the Milky Way is in fact warped and twisted. The farther away the stars are from the center of the galaxy, the more they become warped and twisted in an S-like appearance.

Over 1,000 Cepheid variable stars (1,339 to be exact) were used in a study conducted by astronomers from Macquarie University as well as the Chinese Academy of Sciences. These stars became bright and dim in a manner that changed according to their luminosity. The data collected from these stars by using the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (or WISE) let astronomers create a 3D map of the true shape of our galaxy.

While the Milky Way is now confirmed to be warped and twisted, it’s not the only one out there that’s like that. While it’s not overly common, astronomers have confirmed that a dozen other galaxies in The Great Expanse have twisted spiral patterns in their outer-most areas.

7. There Are Hundreds Of Billions Of Stars In Our Galaxy

It’s tough to know exactly how many stars there are in our galaxy since the halo around the Milky Way also contains many stars. In addition, the center of our galaxy has a galactic bulge that’s filled with dust, stars, and gas, as well as a super-massive black hole which makes that area extremely thick with materials that telescopes are unable to see through it.

While around 90% of our galaxy’s mass is made up of dark matter, the majority of the remaining 10% is dust and gas, it is believe that only about 3% of the Milky Way’s mass is made up of stars. Some researchers believe that there are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy, while others say that there are much more – between 400 and 700 billion.

The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission is mapping out the locations of around 1 billion stars in the Milky Way, so that’s a good start.

6. There’s A Super-massive Black Hole At The Heart Of Our Galaxy

It is believed that most, if not all, galaxies have a super-massive black hole at their center and the Milky Way has one that weighs as much as 4 million suns. Sagittarius A*, which is the massive object located at the center of our galaxy, has been observed for the past several years. Although black holes can’t actually be seen, scientists study them by observing the materials that are orbiting around them.

Scientists wanted to measure the effects of gravity near the black hole so they decided to observe a small star called S2 that orbits deep within Sagittarius A*’s gravity well every 16 years. They noticed three bright flares that traveled around the black hole’s event horizon at approximately 216 million miles per hour (or 30% of the speed of light).

Scientists previously believed that there were only small and super-massive black holes, but there are in fact medium-sized (or intermediate) black holes that are rare but they do exist, and we’ll talk about that in the next entry…

5. There’s Also A Jupiter-Sized Black Hole Wandering Around Our Galaxy

New research indicates that a rare Jupiter-sized black hole is wandering around our galaxy. The data came from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (or ALMA) which includes 66 telescopes that are placed across the Atacama Desert located in the northern part of Chile.

The data consisted of the scientists observing two gas clouds, called Balloon and Stream in reference to their shapes, and what they witnessed during their two-day observation period in May 2018 was that the gas clouds were moving in an odd pattern, like they were spinning around an invisible center in a location where no light was coming from.

The team determined that the object was an uncommon medium-sized black hole that has around 30,000 times the mass of our sun and is approximately the size of Jupiter.

4. Earth Is At The Center Of The Habitable Zone In Our Galaxy

For the last two decades, astronomers have modeled the evolution of our galaxy in order to figure out the four essentials needed for complex life – the existence of a host star; a sufficient amount of heavy elements to create terrestrial planets (like Earth); enough time for biological evolution; and an environment without gamma ray bursts or life-threatening supernovae.

Almost 4,000 exoplanets and nearly 3,000 planetary systems have been confirmed to exist in our galaxy. Hundreds of those star systems have more than one planet that is within the Galactic Habitable Zone (or GHZ) and there is no doubt that many more are out there just waiting to be discovered.

And of course Earth is located at a perfect spot near the center of our galaxy’s GHZ. What’s even more interesting is that according to astrophysicists at the Australian National University, the GHZ only has about 10% of all the stars in the Milky Way.

3. There Are Almost 4,000 Exoplanets In Our Galaxy

Planets that are beyond our solar system are called exoplanets and thousands have been discovered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope over the past several years. These exoplanets can be any size, with some being rocky and others having icy surfaces.

The Kepler Space Telescope worked to find these planets from 2009 until 2018. During that time, it discovered 2,682 exoplanets with over 2,900 possible candidates that are still waiting to be confirmed. And according to information found on NASA’s website, a total of 3,916 exoplanets (including the ones found by Kepler) have been confirmed.

Kepler ran out of gas and was officially decommissioned in November 2018. However, a new spacecraft, called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (or TESS) has taken its place to find new planets. It was launched in April of 2018 and is planning to scan around 85% of the sky in its two-year mission.

2. So Far, Almost 3,000 Planetary Systems Have Been Discovered In Our Galaxy

Another important piece of information presented on NASA’s website is that 2,917 planetary systems have already been discovered. One of those planetary systems which is very similar is our own solar system is called Kepler-90 which is located approximately 2,500 light years away from us towards the Draco Constellation.

Kepler-90 has eight planets which is the same number of planets located in our solar system. Other similarities between the two solar systems are that Kepler-90 has a G-type star which is comparable to our own sun; it has rocky planets like ours; and it has other large planets that are similar in size to Saturn and Jupiter.

One major difference between the two solar systems is that Kepler-90’s planets all orbit very close to their sun which would indicate that they may be too hot to sustain any type of life. But with further research, more planets could potentially be discovered that orbit at a further distance.

1A. Milky Way Is Only One Of Hundreds Of Billions Of Galaxies In The Universe

According to data collected from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, it was previously thought that there were around 200 billion galaxies in the universe. However, it is now believed that there are at least ten times more galaxies out there in space.

Some experts believe that around 90% of the galaxies in the observable universe are too far away and even too faint to see with our telescopes. Thankfully, the James Webb Space Telescope (or JWST) is scheduled to be launched in early 2021 which will help to see these faint galaxies and perhaps uncover even more.

Some of the tasks the JWST will conduct will be to find out what happened after the first stars were formed following the Big Bang; finding out how galaxies were formed and assembled; the birth of stars and proto-planetary systems; and understanding the atmospheres on distant planets to find out if they are habitable and can sustain life.

1B. What WIF Calls the Universe

What most folks refer to as the “Universe”, the rest of the fictional civilizations out there call it “The Great Expanse”, at least that is how  “I-Gwen” describes that wondrous-wide Creation that God set in motion. If giving God credit offends your sensibility, the “Big Bang” happened.

Whatever it is called or whoever gets the credit, it certainly boggles our little minds and this author is eternally fascinated.


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The NULL Solution = Episode 157

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The NULL Solution = Episode 157

…Gus McKinney’s sole luxury comes in the form of a vehicle license tag: SOLx3…

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Key to the City

Houston Texas has always been a NASA town. Back in its heyday, the Johnson Space Center was the centerpiece of space aeronautics. Even after critical operations shifted east to Oskaloosa and Lovell S C, and south to Galveston and GLF, never once have they surrendered the nickname of “Space City”.

Thanks to the inland seaport and nearby wide-open spaces, Houston has overtaken Chicago as the 3rd most populated city, as well as metropolitan area in the United States. They are big on bragging rights, particularly when it comes to space heroes.

If he had a case of the druthers, Gus McKinney could have easily given up his pressure-suit for politics. He believes he is too young for that old man’s occupation. But that does not mean he has bought a single meal or beverage while out & about in Texas for THE LAST 20 YEARS.

His appearance on Good Morning Mission Control blew up the Internet for 2 hours. Gus McKinney EVA Action Figure is the most popular Christmas gift for the years 2050 – 52. To his credit, he has repeatedly turned down reality television producers, who would kill for the opportunity to spend quality camera time out at King Ranch. His sole luxury comes in the form of a vehicle license tag: SOLx3. Anonymity goes out the window {at the speed-of-light} when he goes to 7 Eleven for a Slurpee. He does not pay for those either.

He will need all that plus a sawbuck if he wants to be in the mix concerning the coming of Collapsar Axis. Roy Crippen compares confronting it to “shooting spit wads @ the moon”. The decision has been set in stone. The only volleys being lobbed at the Ÿ€Ð menace are “friendlies”, reinforcing the image of a peaceful people who would never consider taking an offensive posture… except the one time when our hero squeezed-off a warning disruptor blast at a single Ÿ€Ð cruiser, back when Terran folks were a bit jumpy about the Lorgan issue.

Hopefully the “invaders” have a short memory.

At least the United States has backed away from the literal ledge, that the rest of the world is about to jump off of. At various times in history, the fact that the Americas are an island unto themselves is quite convenient. The European Union head is connected to Eastern Bloc neck bone, the neck bone is connected to the Russian backbone and the backbone is connected to the Asian tailbone and the Tailbone is connected to the kangaroo bone.

Editorial comment: No bone is connected to the African bone… where disease still spreads faster than the news.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 157


page 153

The NULL Solution = Episode 145

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The NULL Solution = Episode 145

…Rick Stanley digs deep for a way to frame his description about really happened on Mars…

Good Morning Mission Control’s current purpose is to direct attention to the recent homecoming of two heroes of space and their incredible story of riding the plume of a volcano to break free from Martian gravity.

“We didn’t have enough fuel achieve escape velocity,” is Rick Stanley’s explanation.

“Not if we wanted to get back home,” adds Gus to this already flawed storyline. “We came back with 2 tons worth of samples; vegetation, soil, water, you know, for our boys in the Lab. They wouldn’t let us land if we came back empty handed.”

“That’s right Commander McKinney! We needed the heat thermals to get our butts out of the atmosphere.”

“And yet you didn’t bring any pictures back to share?” RG II goes off-script to ask the question most viewers would ask if they had the chance.

“We were so busy doing the calculations required for liftoff that I guess we forgot.” Stanley is the most convincing of the pair.

“Then could you describe the Martian landscape to our viewers?  We are receiving that very question from a million people across the world.”

Rick Stanley digs deep for a way to frame his description.

“In one of my favorite author Robert Heinlein’s book Farnham’s Freehold, a family already in their bomb shelter, is bombed into the future. Not to a different spot, but one where there are no roads or buildings near where their house once stood. Only the hills and trees and rivers are there, barely recognizable to the keenest observer. The rest of the book is about pretty graphic social interaction, so I won’t bother you with that.

“In our case, Commander McKinney had us land on the other side of Mars… from that structure… not sure it is manmade or not. We managed to traverse the full ½ of the planet circumference…

“…and back.”

“Good thing, right Gus? We weaved and climbed and dodged our way on some of the same ground covered by Spirit and Opportunity, except back then the rivers were dry and we’re not sure anything was ever green and growing. So are maps were mostly Image result for tap dance gifuseless.”

“And not a single hydrogen station to stop and ask directions from.”

“We could only travel by day, even though Solution was equipped with a virtual star map.”

“Just like the ancient mariners we were!” Gus tries to keep things light. The public has seen nothing but press releases and publicity photos ever since the 1st SOL test flights. All that served to do was enhance his legendary family’s space lore. “If I can interrupt, my favorite moment was when we drove Solution into a river. What a kick to see how she handles underwater!”


The NULL Solution =

Episode 145


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The NULL Solution = Episode 130

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The NULL Solution = Episode 130

…Alf Quigby produces t-shirts, collectible buttons and a monthly newsletter, all out his parent’s basement…

CHAPTER TWELVE

Facts and Other Fibs

 

Accounting for the best of intentions, the avoidance of truth is going to catch up to you. One thing leads to another, etc. and there you are, wishing that you would have found a way to clarify instead of classify.

Keeping the wool pulled over the world’s eye is tougher every year.

At NASA, it started with Lie #1.

Deke McKinney did not come back with his brother, like everybody who’s anybody claimed back in 2050. Granted, at the time the space agency was searching for an answer that was not available to them. The inept solution to that dilemma was to allow speculation to run wild. The wildest such rumor: he was considering a presidential bid. In the ensuing six years they still cannot produce a living, breathing Deke. Some nosy kid in Texas {below in Lie #2} called them out on it.

And the world knows {but then again they don’t} because beloved Prez Roy cannot tell the world that he is alive & living on a world 10 light years away; Too Much Information.

Lie #2 is a one of omission.

Joe/Josephine

Current events are nearly impossible to keep from prying eyes. Every “Joe/Josephine Human” on Earth has a video/still device at the ready. Competition to be the 1ST with news is fierce, to the point of neutering traditional reporting outlets. 9 times out of 10, a story goes viral before the next lungful is exhaled.

Previously obscure individuals are the superstars of news making/reportage.

A Houston-area teen named Alf {Alfred} Quigby has been obsessed with NASA operations for a longtime, which in his case are 3.5 of those perplexing adolescent years. He is president & founder of the Space Family McKinney Fan Club. He produces t-shirts, collectible buttons and a monthly newsletter, all out his parent’s basement. He has going-on 152 million followers of his fan club website, ranking him second only to the Taylor Swift tribute site, where millions mourn the passing of the music icon.

Alf Quigby

When no one else bothers to look, Alf notices that Gus McKinney has not been seen for months. If Gus McKinney, so much as, sneezes, he makes sure that the world hears about it. He has suspected that his hero was aboard that drone, which was towed by a SLAV that headed for space earlier in the year. Neither the man nor machine has yet to return to GLF.

Alf is the same kid who tried to expose the Deke McKinney ruse.

Since his last sensationalizing claim, in attempt to control the message, young Alf is hired as an intern in the office of Francine Bouchette-Crippen. His younger sister, Alfina, serves as interim webmaster & editor of Space Family McKinney Fan Club. Alfred still takes all the credit.

Coincidences and questions persist. Explanations are shallow.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 130


page 128

The NULL Solution = Episode 123

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The NULL Solution = Episode 123

…There are forces beyond human control at work on Mars, and when confronted by the unknown, you are compelled to get back to what you do best, fly… home…

The front entrance is appropriately ostentatious. The “Intergalactic Unity” sub-head runs like a scroll around the entire 4 sides of Harmonia, in languages heretofore unseen by human beings including Gus McKinney and Rick Stanley. They have made it past the riddle/key, but what exactly have they gotten themselves into?

After quite a thorough peek of the ground floor, the two explorers from Earth find the building as vacuous inside as it is large outside.

“Just who or what would erect such a thing, with no obvious substance other than a pie-in-the-sky title?”

Copyright © Sharna Fulton 2014

“This is what happens when you get inside without the key. There is no satisfaction for us here, Gus. We’ve got ourselves an eyeful of the tower and nothing else.”

— Out of luck and empty handed, Solution retreats from whence it came, having simply grazed true clarity, not unraveling it. Into the pure water {that flows in-but-not-out of Harmonia}, piloting against a current that is disproportionately strong for 1.75 mph, Gus requires thrusters to make any headway.

Rick Stanley looks to the rear, “We should have kicked up heavenly mud.”

“3/4 thrusters will do that.”

“See for yourself… still clear as a Rocky Mountain brook.”

“This is getting creepy Rick. I’m in favor of packing up our {horticulture/geological} samples and heading back to Earth!”

Upon hearing Gus’ unlikely Martian chronicle, NASA and his stepfather agree. There are forces beyond human control at work on Mars. And when confronted by the unknown, you are compelled to get back to what you do best, fly… home.

The faithful drone that brought them here to Mars is waiting for them after Stanley & Gus retrace their path back to the other side of the planet. Another 2 month sojourn is in their future. Veni, vidi, vici; they came, they saw, they conquered.

Securely nestled in the drone, they are prepared to achieve Mars’ increasingly increasing escape velocity.

“Let’s blow this juke joint!”


The NULL Solution =

JBs Jukejoint by James St. Claire

Episode 123


page 122

The NULL Solution = Episode 115

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The NULL Solution = Episode 115

…Make no bones about it, it is truly like an expedition of old; Da Gama, Hilary, Joliet or Glenn…. or one of these oldies:

The two month trip out to Mars is a breeze. Each man has his own way to pass the time. 60 or days may not seem like a long time, but when 2 men from different generations are left to their own devices; those devices are bound to be dissimilar.

Retiring Rick Stanley has much to catch up on, seeing that his career path has recently resembled the Chinese fortunes in the world money markets – down. It is enough to frighten a super G downhill racer, so quick was his trip to the bottom of the astronaut chart. He has been resigned to cashing NASA credits, training future astronauts, all the while sleepwalking; not a gratified way to go out.

So here he is, crunching file after file of technical manuals with the hope of catching up with his up-to-date cabin mate. ‘How do I do this or that?’ is not the burden he wants project on Gus McKinney, who has been described by most observers as the premier space pioneer… ever.

Astronaut Stanley is not without his own fine resume, but his reads like a high school diploma compared to Gus’ doctoral thesis. He may be piloting the drone, but he will not be at the controls of Solution as it circumnavigates the surface of the new Mars.

SOLUTION

At 40 years old, Gus could be Rick’s son, nearly a grandson. The veteran always wanted a son, but due to his job at NASA, his two ex-wives were in no mood to be widows with a child. Astronaut spouses are a special breed. His were not. His were merely social-climbing-window-dressing.

It is an odd feeling when you virtually idolize someone so his junior. He has a way to go to pull even, but he will.

Gus McKinney spends his time honing his fast-twitch motor skills and pouring over the “Harmonia Query”. When he grows tired of blasting alien invaders from a game screen, he punishes himself by running countless scenarios past the NASA data-cloud; nothing can be left to chance.

His no-fear attitude prevents him from regretting any of his choices, on Earth or in space. Never mind that he takes a lucky horseshoe with him on every mission. Technology cannot completely replace the U-shaped iron equine wear-guard fashioned by a person called a farrier. His prized appaloosa mare threw this particular shoe, causing them to stop… one minute and one mile from the path of a southeast Texas twister that suddenly dropped out of the sky, right when and where he would be returning from a back-forty fence check. He will forever take that charm, wherever the winds of space blow him.

Not to be outdone, daughter Marscie gave him a lime-green bow from her hair as he left King Ranch for this expedition. Either charm comes in second to his wife. McKinney wives need to be special and Mindy is.

Make no bones about it, it is truly like an expedition of old; Da Gama, Hilary, Joliet or Glenn.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 115


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