THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 184

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 184

…we have lost not only two of our finest astronauts, but the very first colonists on another planet…

Roy Crippen takes his turn as, mourner, moderator and commemorator.

“I do know Sampson and Celeste McKinney and I can proudly say that they counted me as their friend. To know them is to know the definition of reliability. If I had a dollar for every time I heard them say, ‘You can count on us.’ I would be materially rich beyond measure.

“As Braden King would tell you,” he points at BK sitting between the boys, “there isn’t anything they would not do for their country and their space program. And if we could hear them now, they would be telling us, ‘Do not stop with Space Colony 1. You must press on; you must come out and be with us.”

He pauses to reflect on what space exploration is all about.

“When one decides to become a working astronaut, there are certain things you must come to terms with in your mind. Topping that list and there is little question as to its reality, is that constant companion of dealing with the speculative unknown: d-e-a-t-h. We at NASA, as well as our global partners at the World Space Consortium, deal with technology at its finest, but because of the distances involved and other uncontrollable factors, danger is:

  1. one step behind every single manned mission
  2. when we step out of a vehicle exceeding 100,000 feet of altitude
  3. each time we take that next step baby step closer to the edge of the solar system

“I need not remind you of the Challenger or Columbia and the brave men and women who gave their lives. Did they believe they would return to Earth safely? Yes they did. Did they know there was a possibility that they wouldn’t? Yes they did.

“We have gone 27 years without a fatality in space. We now find ourselves coming to grips with terrible realization that we have lost not only two of our finest astronauts, but the very first colonists on another planet

“…. both were keenly aware of the perils they would be facing. Did they know that Space Colony 1 was destroyed by jealously and hate not a meteor or electrical malfunction? No probably not.”


Episode 184

page 175


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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...


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.)


Gobbling up the Commons. Cartoon by Ahmed Abdallah

Government Waste. Cartoon by Ahmed Abdallah

Episode 7

page 8

Science Fiction Coming to WIF

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Science Fiction Coming to WIF



Grab some caffeine, open your trusty and ubiquitous computing device and take 5 (or 10) minutes to read THE RETURN TRIP – every day – except Saturdays at WIF.


Space Colony 1 is a stepping-stone, Earth’s best chance to leave the Solar System – There is a family of space explorers named McKinney. Join them as they colonize the planet Mars…..and are hijacked to the stars.

science fiction from Gwendolyn Hoff

Earth attempts to colonize Mars, but the McKinneys get an unexpected trip to Orion’s Belt instead.

BACKGROUND: THE RETURN TRIP is a book that I wrote in the mid-1980s. In the face of current events concerning the privatization of space exploration and specifically recruiting a married couple to start a colony on Mars, I decided to reach back to my unpublished 1st draft and update my original work. The Challenger shuttle disaster took away my steam at the time, having already included some Space Shuttle trouble in the book.

This is Book One of a three book series about the Space Family McKinney. The Null Solution will be next, followed by Alternity. Every chapter is good, clean Science Fiction.

Science Fiction Coming to WIF

Return Trip-001




Weather Winds of Change – WIF Historical Switcharoos

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When Weather Changes

the Course of History

Everyday weather has a tremendous impact on day to day life. While it generally tends to just slow down our commutes or affect our picnic plans, extreme weather can flip the tides of a war or bring a civilization to its knees. Mother Nature doesn’t take sides, and the world as we know it would look awfully different if not for her interventions.

10. The Kamikazes


The divine winds we’re talking about here aren’t the suicide pilots of WWII, but the powerful monsoons that shook Japan’s coast in the 13th century. Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan, had taken the throne of the Mongol Empire, defeated southern China and united the country under the newly formed Yuan Dynasty. He then set his sights on the islands of Japan.

After several unanswered attempts to persuade the Japanese Emperor to surrender, Kublai amassed a large force and attacked. In 1274 he began his offensive with 40,000 men and 900 ships. Leaving the Korean peninsula, they arrived at the southern tip of the island of Kyushu and came face to face with 10,000 samurai. The Japanese bushido style of combat was utterly unsuited to fighting the Mongols, but a powerful typhoon struck the coast and destroyed the attackers’ fleet and most of the army.

Seven years later, Kublai Khan brought together an even larger force of 140,000 soldiers and 4400 vessels to take the islands once and for all. Mother Nature intervened again,wrecking all but a couple of hundred ships in a furious storm. The survivors were little match for the better prepared Japanese.

9. The Battle for Long Island


During the American Revolutionary War, General George Washington was leading 19,000 troops in the defense of New York City in the summer of 1776. After the British left Boston in March, they arrived at Staten Island and made their headquarters there in July. Over the following weeks their numbers bolstered to up to 40,000.

Not sure where they would attack first, Washington left half his forces in lower Manhattan and moved the rest to Brooklyn and Guam Heights on Long Island. On the 22nd of August, the British landed in Gravesend Bay. Thanks to loyalist informants, the attackers discovered an unprotected path through the Guam Heights that would take them right into the heart of the American forces. On the 27th, the British charged the defenders, who quickly realized their dire situation and began their retreat to Brooklyn.

Under the cover of darkness and with the help of some locals, the Americans managed to slip away unnoticed to Manhattan via the East River. The British, stationed only a few hundred yards away, were totally unaware because of a dense fog which settled on the bay in the early hours of that morning. Eyewitness accounts mention George Washington being among the last to retreat. If it wasn’t for that mist, chances are that General Washington would have been captured and the war would have taken a very different turn.

8. The Mayan Decline


The Mayan civilization was one of the most prominent Mesoamerican cultures. Existing as early as 1800 BC, they reached their peak around 800 AD. During this time they built over 40 cities and mastered mathematics, astronomy and calendar keeping. They also practiced agriculture, but in a slash-and-burn style that cultivated mostly corn, beans and squash.

After around 900 AD, little evidence of other advancements exist and most oftheir cities were abandoned. Historians are still unsure what happened, with some blaming civil unrest or warfare. More recent evidence points to long periods of drought brought on by heavy deforestation — since most of the Yucatan peninsula relied heavily on rain for its water supply, a drought can spell disaster and bring even the mighty Maya to their knees.

7. Attempts to Invade Russia


We think by now the Russians are accustomed to the idea that pretty much no one can invade their country. With the exception of the Mongols, who successfully conquered Russia in the beginning of the 13th century, no other force was able to do so thanks to the extremely harsh winters the region experiences almost every year.

The first to try was King Charles XII of Sweden in the winter of 1708-9 during “the Great Northern War.” He led a sizable force from Saxony to conquer Moscow, but was stopped in his tracks because of the losses sustained during one of the coldest winters in modern European history.

The same thing happened to Napoleon in 1812. Of his 600,000 men only about 100,000 managed to return to France, while the rest died of starvation or exposure to the elements. This defeat, inflicted in part by the Russians and in part by Mother Nature herself, changed the course of history.

Adolf Hitler apparently forgot the lessons taught by the aforementioned leaders,since he made the same mistake. In the winter of 1941, German forces trying to conquer Moscow and Stalingrad were all but wiped out by the bitter cold and constant attacks from the Soviets. This marked the beginning of the end for the Third Reich.

6. Donora Smog Disaster


In the late days of October 1948, disaster struck the town of Donora,Pennsylvania. A weather phenomenon known as “air inversion” hit the town due to a flux of cold air coming from the west. Located within a valley and surrounded by peaks towering some 400 feet, Donora offered the perfect conditions for an inversion.

The phenomenon on its own isn’t dangerous. It blocks warm air close to the ground, while cold air flows above and a thick mist is generated. But mixing this trapped warm air with pollutants from a zinc smelting plant, steel mills, a sulphuric acid plant, coal burning steam locomotives and river boats isdangerous. 20 people died and another 6000 became ill because the pollutants couldn’t escape into the upper atmosphere. The Donorans were unknowingly breathing in large amounts of sulfur dioxide, soluble sulphants and fluorides.

The events led to a settlement of $250,000 for the victims’ families and the steel mill closing nine years later. The companies that owned the plants never assumed responsibility for the disaster, claiming it was “an act of God.” Nevertheless, it sparked a nationwide response, leading to the enactment of theClean Air Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

5. Cold Weather and Witch Hunts


All throughout the Middle Ages, people were torturing and burning women at the stake in the belief that they were witches. Women and girls were accused when something out of the ordinary happened in a village, and accusations of witchcraft were also a good way to address personal disputes and rivalries.

Another possible motive involves the weather. Witch hunts took place in part between the 15th and 18th centuries, during which the sun was covered with multiple sun spots that created a time of colder weather known as a “little ice age.Young girls accused of controlling the weather provided the perfect scapegoats for crop failures. This could be a coincidence, but the pattern repeated itself during the Salem witch hunts, when another cold spell lasted from 1680 to 1730. Some diaries and sermons dating from that period offer further evidence that the weather was the main cause for the prosecutions. And it’s repeating itself again in Tanzania, when women are killed for witchcraft after too much or too little rain.

4. The Hindenburg


While it’s been long believed that the Hindenburg disaster was the cause of technical malfunction caused by an engine spark which ignited the highly flammable and possibly leaking hydrogen inside the zeppelin, some recent evidence may have proven otherwise. Leaving Germany, the Hindenburg began a three day journey towards New Jersey. After reaching its destination on May 6, 1937, the airship suddenly caught fire and plunged to the ground just when it was beginning landing operations. After just a couple of minutes and 36 casualties, the era of the blimp was over.

Other possible theories involve a lightning strike and even a saboteur’s bomb trying to destabilize the Nazi regime, but recent findings suggest that a storm theHindenburg flew past on its way to the States is to blame. When it came across this storm, the airship was charged with static electricity. When it started to land it was grounded, which produced a spark that ignited the excess hydrogen built up in the back of the ship.

3. The Evacuation of Dunkirk


During the early stages of World War II, when Axis forces were winning battle after battle on all fronts, a force of about 330,000 Allied soldiers found themselves trapped on the beaches of the English Channel near the town of Dunkirk. Bearing down on them were German forces looking to finish off the stranded French and British troops.

To make the situation even bleaker, an effective rescue was next to impossible since the German Air Force was far bigger than the Royal Air Force, meaning rescue ships would have simply been blown out of the water. Then, as Nazi tanks were only 20 miles away, what Winston Churchill called a “miracle of deliverance” appeared as if from nowhere. A freak storm cloud and heavy rain kept the German planes grounded, while to aid the Allies further Mother Nature brought along heavy mist and some of the calmest waters the English Channel had ever seen.

From May 26 to June 4, 1940, Operation Dynamo saw everyone from the military to locals with boats capable of traversing the Channel evacuate soldiers. As the last men were ferried to safety the weather cleared, leaving the Germans alone on the beach and the Allies alive to fight another day.

2. The Challenger Space Shuttle


73 seconds into her flight, the Challenger came apart on the morning of January 28, 1986. The initial launch date was set for the 22nd, but bad weather and technical difficulties pushed the date to the 28th. What at first baffled engineers and technicians working on the mission became clear when they saw the video recordings.

As the shuttle was taking off, hot gas was leaking due to a faulty O-ring made of rubber that was designed to keep a joint in the booster rocket sealed. The ring failed because of the low temperatures Florida was experiencing that morning. A recommendation was written to not launch in temperatures below 53 F, but the suggestion was ignored. January 28, 1986 is still the record holder for the lowest temperature in the area, with 26 degrees compared to an average of 50.

1. The French Revolution


The French Revolution was largely an economic and food related uprising. France, already burdened by the aid they offered the Americans in the Revolutionary War, was experiencing a series of droughts and other weather that lowered food production significantly.

The previously mentioned little ice age had more severe effects during the second half of the century, and together with an eight month volcanic eruption in Iceland in 1783 and some major temperature fluctuations brought on by a major El Nino event made crop yields plummet. This led to increased prices in food that French citizens couldn’t afford. A series of hailstorms that destroyed crops in 1788 made the situation even worse for the hungry populace, and the Revolution soon followed.

Weather Winds of Change

– WIF Historical Switcharoos