Space History Yesterday — Clementine

A day late and a dollar short, as my Dad says, but I couldn’t leave out a launch I actually saw, could I?

Yesterday — January 25, 2009 — was the 15th anniversary of the launch of the Clementine mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. In 1994 I was stationed at Vandy as part of the Titan (launch vehicle) System Program Office, and we watched the Titan-II launch from the parking lot of our building. One of my office-mates — Deb Fort, with whom I was stationed years earlier at the Rocket Lab — worked facilities support for the mission.

Clementine, for those who don’t remember it, was also known as the Deep Space Program Science Experiment, and was “designed to test lightweight miniature sensors and advanced spacecraft components by exposing them, over a long period of time, to the difficult environment of outer space.” So says this Naval Research Lab page, and they should know since they built the thing.

The Clementine mission plays an important role in my novel, MARE NUBIUM, as it was the first mission to return data that indicated ice in craters at the lunar south pole. Even though subsequent data show the ice probably isn’t as plentiful as once thought, it still makes (in my opinion) a good prop for a story.

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Fifty Years Ago in Space History — Luna-1

Fifty years ago today, on January 2, 1959, the Soviet Union launched its Luna-1 mission from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It was the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the Moon, and the first to escape Earth’s gravity and go into orbit around the Sun as an “artificial planet.”

You can read more about Luna-1 at this NASA page.

[BREAK, BREAK]

With lunar exploration in mind, do you know of any editors or agents looking for a novel about lunar exploration and survival? If so, let me know or point them my way … I’ll be shopping my new novel around soon.

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The End — of the Year, and My Novel

I toasted the New Year early with cold medicine, and despite some occasional fuzzy thinking throughout the evening I finished writing my novel tonight at about 10:30 p.m. EST.

MARE NUBIUM — THE SEA OF CLOUDS now goes into some light editing before I release the draft to a few trusted readers. Hopefully the review and revision process will take less time than the writing did.

So, with thankfulness that I was able to meet that goal before 2008 expired, I say: Happy New Year!

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A Little Lunar Exploration History

For our continuing “this day in space history” series, today marks the 40th anniversary of the Russian’s Zond-6 mission to the moon. It successfully flew by the moon as planned, but a reentry problem apparently caused most of its photographic film to be lost. You can read about it on this NASA page or this Wikipedia page. I’m not sure what to make of the notation that France sponsored the mission, but I was very interested to see that Zond-6 launched on a Proton rocket out of Tyuratam: the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Why did that fact interest me? Because I watched the Nimiq-2 satellite and its Proton booster get prepped for launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome back in November-December 2002. (I came home shortly before the launch.) While I was there I was inspired to write the first draft of my short story, “The Rocket Seamstress.”

In other writing and lunar-related news, yesterday I passed the 80,000-word mark on my novel, MARE NUBIUM. I’m beginning to doubt that I’ll hit 100K by December, but I’m trying to forge ahead.

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Lunar Programs: Then and Now, Ours and Theirs

Forty years ago today, Apollo-7 splashed down in the Pacific after the first manned flight of the Apollo program. (See this blog post for more on the mission.)

That was then, and our mission. As for now, and their mission:

India made the next giant leap in its space program early Wednesday with the launch of the country’s first deep space mission, a probe to circle the moon with science gear from India, Europe and the United States.

(From Spaceflight Now)

The spacecraft, Chandrayaan-1, launched last night (in Zulu [Greenwich Mean] time, at 0052 Wednesday).

The probe flew into space aboard a beefed-up Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, a 146-foot-tall rocket originally built to haul Earth observation satellites into orbit.

And now it’s on its way. Congratulations and good luck!

If I ever — no, that’s too negative; make it “when I” — get back to work on my novel of lunar survival, which has been on hold for the past three weeks, I wonder if I can work any of this into it. Probably not, but at least it gets me thinking about it again.

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Some Recent Space and Lunar History

Five years ago today, the European Space Agency’s SMART-1 mission was launched to the moon. SMART was an acronym for “Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology,” and the spacecraft tested solar electric propulsion technology on its way to the Moon. According to the ESA fact sheet on SMART-1, the spacecraft entered lunar orbit on November 15, 2004 — for those who didn’t know, electric ion thrusters don’t make for a particularly speedy trip — and after a one-year extension the mission ended on 3 September 2006 with a planned lunar impact.

As well as testing new technology, SMART-1 did the first comprehensive inventory of key chemical elements in the lunar surface. It also investigated the theory that the Moon was formed following the violent collision of a smaller planet with Earth, four and a half thousand million years ago.

And hopefully, relying on some of the latest lunar science observations will help make my novel MARE NUBIUM a little more realistic. Time will tell.

Now, back to work on the thing đŸ˜‰ .

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Progress Report and Space History

MARE NUBIUM, my novel of lunar colonization and survival, is now 70,000 words long. I have six weeks left if I’m going to finish the thing by Halloween. I need to pick up the pace.

On the space history front, 45 years ago today — September 18, 1963 — the lifting body demonstrator “ASSET-1” (a precursor to the Space Shuttle) flew to an altitude of 35 miles at the Eastern Space & Missile Center. You can read about the ASSET program on this Air Force fact sheet or this Wikipedia page.

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Today in Space History: Great Imagery Lunar Flyby

As I’m working on MARE NUBIUM, my near-future novel of lunar colonization, I’ve run across some interesting space history items that I thought I’d post from time to time.

Today was the 40th anniversary of the launch of CORONA mission 1968-065A, a KH-4 (“Keyhole”) satellite that launched aboard a Thor rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (I was stationed at Vandy from 1993-95, and toured one of the Thor launch pads while a student at Undergraduate Space & Missile Training.) According to the National Space Science Data Center, “The spacecraft had the best imagery to date on any KH-4 systems. Bicolor and color infrared experiments were conducted on this mission.”

A year later — and three weeks after Apollo 11 landed on the moon — the Russians launched the Zond-7 spacecraft from Tyuratam, i.e., the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (I spent three weeks at Baikonur in late 2002.) The mission flew by the moon on August 11th and took two sets of photographs, then returned to earth on August 14th.

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Living in a SF World: Cool NASA Video

Saw this video this morning on Spaceflight Now, taken from 31 million miles away by the Deep Impact spacecraft, of the moon seen orbiting the earth. In the time-lapsed video, the earth rotates and the moon passes between the earth and the spacecraft.

Two versions are posted, a red-green-blue composite and a near-IR-green-blue composite — I think the near-IR version shows off the continents better. When we’re on our way to Mars, we can look back and see this and be amazed.

The Spaceflight Now story is here.

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