Category Archives: Space

Anything more than 100Km from Earth

Spacecraft Design

I just posted a rather long bit on spacecraft design for my new novel. A little side-trip in the development process is drawing my version of a Colonial Landing craft. You can see a more complete description of the process and my drawing here:


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Biological Integrated Circuits?

A bit of geek news on Slashdot this past week provided me with a small case of future shock and reminded me of a story I read many years ago.  Here’s the news link:

Back in 1975, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote a classic hard science fiction novel called “The Mote in God’s Eye”.

In one scene, an alien “engineer” was shown a damaged electronic control panel and, after studying it for a few moments, he took out something like a toothpaste tube and squeezed a thin line on a burnt circuit board. With a bit of poking and prodding, this paste automatically flowed into position, repairing the damaged areas in an almost biologic manner. This scene has stuck in my head ever since.

Similar reports from several organizations around the world point to inkjet-printable solar cells or flexible solar ‘cloth’ becoming commonplace in the near future. Combine that technology with self-assembling microcircuits and we might be facing the loss of huge segments of the electronics manufacturing industry.

What do you think? Are these latest developments on the way to making flexible computer systems on-demand, from a tube of paste? If so, what does this mean for all those Asian manufacturers?

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Happy Halloween!

First off, I love Halloween in all of its variations!

Here’s a shot I took awhile back that might put you in the mood.

Secondly, midnight tonight is the start of NaNoWriMo and I’m happy to report that all the preparation for my novel experience is done. Let me explain, if you will.

The novel I’m planning is going to be called Selenaphiles and it will be the second in a science fiction trilogy I’m referring to as the Multiplarity.

The system that I’ve found works for me is to have two files open while writing. One file is the actual Work in Progress (WiP) and the other is a WiP_Notes document. The notes are gathered over a period of time and contain a character profile list as well as links to web pages with relevant research information and images to help me visualise locations and objects.

The image above is an example of a public-domain file from NASA/JPL that I’m using to develop some of the locations in Selenaphiles.

The note file proves its worth when I actually start writing the story in that I don’t have to try to generate character names and locations on-the-fly. That sort of thing can prove a terrible distraction when you just need to get the story told.

Like its predecessor, Selenaphiles is going to have a lot of characters and some memorable action sequences. I’ll be sharing some of them both here and on my NaNoWriMo page, so stick around, enjoy the ride and feel free to ask questions.

And before I forget, a Blessed Samhain to all!

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Back to the moon – in Mandarin!

One of my fellow members of the Washington Science Fiction Association had this reply to a gripe about the shuttle program. He kindly permitted me to quote him.

I got all the yelling and throwing things out of my system when they cancelled the Apollo program and turned NASA over to the political appointees and the form-fillers.

The historical parallel that I see here is the Ming Dynasty. They had everything — the biggest empire, the best political system, the highest technology, the most powerful military … and they lost their nerve. They pulled back into their empire and sat there until it collapsed — and the Europeans moved in with ocean-going ships, cannons, and Government- backed capitalism.

We had a chance to get off this rock, bootstrap our technology to the sky (literally!) and break out of the current economic trap of living by cheating each other and preparing for war. We blew it. Our Government is interested in nothing but paying off their campaign contributors and winning the next election, Big Business is interested in nothing but the CEO’s paycheck and the stock price, and the public is hooked on Reality TV.

Look at the Delta Clipper program. The DC-X was a technology demonstrator, done on the cheap, that showed that they could take off and land vertically, turn the engine off and restart it in flight, and change the flight angle from nose-up to nose-down and back. The followon DC-Y could have carried a payload (possibly human) from any point on the planet to any other point on the planet in 90 minutes. The DC-X and DC-Y used current technology; the Delta Clipper itself (single-stage to orbit) would have needed a new engine.

Nobody’s interested. NASA played with the DC-X until they broke it, and that was that. NASA played around with the X-33 until they hit a technology glitch, and cancelled it. We’re back looking at stuff that is less powerful than the Saturn rockets that Apollo used. And we can’t rebuild the Saturns — we lost the plans.

Oh, well. We can buy launch services from the Chinese. After all, we buy everything else from them.

— Steve
Steve Smith steve dot smith at zipbeep dot org
“Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.” — Otto von Bismarck

I couldn’t agree more. Thanks, Steve!

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First Entry

I pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave me birth
Let me rest my eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth
Robert A. Heinlein

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