How Bad Do You Want It?

On October 14th Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian skydiver, daredevil, and BASE jumper achieved his goal. For the high risk, the level of technology and training needed, he wanted success badly. How bad do you want it?

Did You Watch Him Fall Down From the Sky?

Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria jumps out from the capsule during the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on October 14, 2012. // Red Bull Stratos / Red Bull Content Pool // P-20121016-00084 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

If you missed the spectacular jump, watch this video:

Did you catch who his sponsor was? Red Bull! Apropos, don’t you think? See more information at the official Red Bull Stratos team website.

For more technical information about the jump, go to extremetech.com.

Baumgartner wasn’t the first to try to achieve this record. Joseph Kittinger tried it in 1960. In fact, Kittinger still holds the record for the longest time in free fall (five minutes and 35 seconds).

Lesson Learned

I don’t know about you, but I am terrified of heights.  Put me on a three-foot ladder and I start to shake, make the ladder a five-foot ladder and I’m hyperventilating. I could never do what Felix Baumgartner or Joseph Kittinger did.  But I admire them.  Is that admiration due to jumping out of the balloon capsule higher than anyone else? No. Is it because they fell further and faster than anyone, ever? Uh-uh. Is it because Baumgartner broke the sound barrier with his body?  Nope.

Kittinger was a fighter pilot in Viet Nam and later made extreme altitude parachute jumps for Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories.

Baumgartner did more than 2,500 skydives, seven years of preparation with the Red Bull-sponsored team, two test jumps, and a three-hour ascent in a tiny, pressurized capsule lifted by an ultra-thin helium balloon. All of that for a terrifying nine-minute descent, for speeds up to 833.9 miles per hour, a world record, and tons of scientific data. Data that NASA hopes will lead to improvements in spacesuits and escape plans for future astronauts.

Don’t forget that neither Kittinger nor Baumgartner could have accomplished what they did without the drive and determination of past skydivers, researchers, and scientists who developed the base knowledge and equipment necessary.

For me, reading about these men (and women) puts things into perspective. It takes a lot of hard work to reach for your dreams, to be successful.

“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful”

Do you have a goal that you feel may be impossible?

How bad do you want it?

Going to Mars, Word by Word

The Power of Words

Do you remember when you first started to read?

Children recognize the power of words before they can form them. They know that books hold secrets long before they can read. Their curiosity and fascination drive them to turn pages of a book looking for the key to understanding. They beg to be read to. Finally, they are old enough to learn to read. But first, they must know their alphabet by sight and sound. There are only 26 letters but there are at least 44 sounds those letters, or combinations of letters, make. Finally, they learn to string the sounds together. Faces scrunch up with effort as they laboriously sound out letters on the page.

“rrrrr – ah–”
“No, that is a u. It’s sound here is ‘uh.’”
“rrrr – uhhhh – ennn. rrr—uhhhh—nnnn.”

Suddenly their face light up and they shout, “Run!” After the first word, the second, third, and fourth come more quickly. They turn the pages eagerly, finding new words and ideas on every page. They read nonfiction and fiction. Some progress to reading science fiction.

The Power of Ideas

The field of speculative fiction, or science fiction and fantasy if you prefer, has been referred to as the fiction of ideas. But science fiction is more than ideas. It’s words strung across a page that evoke images of worlds not-yet-seen, people who are the same-yet-different, people who are vastly different, and words that inspire ideas. Ideas that spur some us to take action, to become an inventor, an explorer, an astronaut, or an astronomer. And some of those inventors, explorers, astronauts, and astronomers turn their attention to Mars.

public domain image of Mars from space, Going to Mars book reviews, lynettemburrows.com

Melding Words and Ideas into Hope

We’ll never know what inspired the first man to look up at the night sky and notice a pinkish-red star. It’s color and cycle of appearing and disappearing from our skies, filled viewers with curiosity.

The first recorded observations of Mars we know of were written by ancient Egyptians. In 400 BC the Babylonians called the planet Mars, “Nergal,” the Star of Death. The Greeks named it Ares after their god of war. Its moons are Phobos (fear) and Deimos (terror). Perhaps it was the color that inspired men to associate the planet with such things.

In the 16th century, Copernicus proposed a heliocentric model for the solar system where the planets circled the sun. Kepler revised that, giving Mars an elliptical orbit. The telescope, invented in the early 1600s allowed men to take a closer look at this pinkish-red celestial mystery. Men like Galileo, Cassini, and Hershell peered at the red planet, each adding his observations to those of others. When Giovanni Schiaparelli made a map of Mars and called the lines ‘grooves’ (canali in Italian), the grooves became known as canals and lit the rockets of man’s imagination.

Publishing Mars

Although not the first book published using Mars, The Two Planets by German Kurd Lasswitz (1888) is thought by some to be the first significant work on Mars. In 1898, a mere ten years later, came H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars came out in 1912. The Northwest Smith series of stories were written by C.L. Moore in the mid-1930s. By 1938 C.S. Lewis contributed Out of the Silent Planet to the growing number of books about Mars.

In 1941 Isaac Asimov wrote Heredity about twins separated at birth, raised on different planets, and having to work together on Mars. Robert A. Heinlein repeatedly used Mars from the late 1940s onward. The Fifties saw stories and novels about Mars published by Arthur Clark, Ray Bradbury, Lester del Ray, and John Wyndham among others. Larry Niven, Roger Zelazny, and Phillip K. Dick joined the field during the Sixties.

First to Arrive

Then Mariner 4, a US spacecraft, became the first to arrive at Mars in July 1965. It snapped about 20 pictures on its flyby. According to some, those pictures spelled the death of the mystique and mythology of Mars. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Among many others, Jerry Pournelle and Gordon Dickson published stories about Mars in the Seventies. The 1980’s saw works by Stanislaw Lem, Greg Bear, and S.M. Stirling. Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series was published in the Nineties along with books by Ben Bova, Stephen Baxter, and scores of others. In 2000 Geoffrey A. Landis’ award-winning Mars Crossing was published.

In addition to all these printed words are films and television shows about Mars. There is no way this blog can cover all of the Mars fiction written. Literally, millions of words have been written about the red planet. And now that Curiosity has landed and Mars is being studied and written about again, one might expect another upsurge in novels set on Mars will be coming. Yet there are some who bemoan the fact that Science Fiction has lost its way.

In his August 17th post on Cracked.com, Robert Brockway says there are 4 Things Science Fiction Needs To Bring Back: the optimism, the sense of exploring for the future of mankind, some good old-fashioned mind f***ery, and the sense of fun.

Going to Mars, Word by Word

So in the spirit of exploration (pun intended) and in celebration of the landing of Curiosity, I am beginning a new series of posts. I’m collecting fiction, old and new, written about Mars. I’ll read the stories and report on them here. I’ll be looking for the sense of wonder, the sense of fun, the optimism for the future of mankind, and the good old-fashioned – storytelling (fooled ya, didn’t I?).

I have a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars trilogy collected in one book. Interestingly enough it has an introduction written by Bruce Coville that fits as if he wrote it for this post. In his introduction Bruce says,

“How can I tell you how much I loved these books?
Would it be enough to say that there was a period in my life when the thing I wanted more than anything else in the world was to be John Carter? I used to go to bed at night hoping to wake up on Mars. . . .”

Could you wish your words had any more impact on a young person than that? Words have power. Spoken words. Written words. Your words. My words.

What better use than to write stories, collections of words, meant to power the imagination and optimism, to inspire men to send rockets and rovers millions of miles through space, to power hope for the future?

Won’t you join me in my exploration of the fascinating red planet in fiction? First: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, I hope you’re ready.

Next stop – Barsoom!

If you’ve read a Mars book, please leave a comment with the title of the book and what your thoughts are about it. I love it when you share your thoughts with me!

The image above is a public domain image from http://www.public-domain-image.com/full-image/space-public-domain-images-pictures/mars-planet-of-the-solar-system.jpg-royalty-free-stock-photograph.html

Red Rover, Red Rover, Send the Humans Over!

A seven month, 354-million-mile journey is worth celebrating with a mash-up. Congratulations to NASA for the successful landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars. It’s a phenomenal accomplishment. Over the next months to years, the rover Curiosity will investigate Mars’ habitability, study its climate and geology, and collect data for a manned mission to Mars. Red Rover, Red Rover, Send the Humans Over!

Curiosity’s First Low-Resolution Color Panorama


Follow the further adventures of Curiosity on NASA’s website.

Sending men to Mars is vaguely in NASA’s future plans, but Elon Musk, internet entrepreneur and founder of SpaceX, believes man can be on Mars in 12-15 years.

 

A human settlement on Mars by 2023

Read more about Mars One, an international effort to put men on Mars.

Granted, there have been many dreams of sending men to Mars. This article from Wired, Humans on Mars: the Craziest, Weirdest, and Most Plausible Plans in History, touches on a few.

This is just the beginning. Mars is the next frontier. It begs to be explored.

Would I go if I could? My enthusiasm says ‘Heck, Yeah!’ In reality, I probably wouldn’t be one of the first. I’m not usually that adventurous. But I will be watching and supporting the exploration of Mars and hope that there will be men on Mars in my lifetime. Either way, I’m excited to see what happens from here, are you?

Or are you among the doubters and Naysayers like the following two links?

Did Curiosity Land on Mars or in Afghanistan

Can a Reality TV Show Help Put Humans on Mars?

I don’t doubt that the rover is on the red planet. I don’t doubt that Humans will step foot on that planet. I believe that the benefits of the science, the technical development, and the knowledge that we gain from such a venture will be worth it. What about you? Do you hear it calling? Are you going to follow the discoveries and adventures of the red rover, Curiosity? How would you answer if you heard the call, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send the Humans over?”

Space Shuttle Era Ends, What’s Next?

The Space Shuttle Era ends and I’m sad. The Space Shuttles were transformed into museum relics when they were delivered to the Smithsonian this week.

Space Shuttle Discovery arrives at Smithsonian
Photo Credit: NASA/Smithsonian Institution/Carolyn Russo

One wonders what the future holds for the manned American Space Program.

Will it be Lockheed Martin’s vision discussed in their YouTube video: A New Era of Space Exploration?

What will happen to the International Space Station?

According to NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, ‘failure is not an option.’ See the entire article “What’s Next for NASA?

I fear that the future of manned space flight may be dim, at least in the near future. I also believe that humans have an insatiable need to explore, to find frontiers, and that need will fuel new and exciting missions in space.

As the Space Shuttle era ends, what do you think will happen next? What do you think the future holds for manned space flight? For the International Space Station? For space exploration? As always, I appreciate your time and love your comments. Keep them coming!