Monkeys on Saturn? No, Monkeys on Jupiter

Two space history items for today, May 28th:

Fifty years ago — on this date in 1959 — a Jupiter rocket lifted off from the Eastern Space and Missile Center at Cape Canaveral, carrying two female monkeys, “Able” and “Baker.” Able was a seven-pound rhesus monkey and Baker was a squirrel monkey that weighed less than a pound. The monkeys traveled 1700 miles downrange, reached an altitude of 360 miles, and survived “in good condition.”

In our second item, a Saturn rocket — designated SA-6 — launched from Cape Canaveral on this date in 1964. The unmanned launch tested the rocket and spacecraft components for the Apollo mission to the moon. It did not, however, carry any monkeys.

You can read more about Able and Baker on this Smithsonian page or in this NPR article.

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A Few More Queries, And With Them, Rejection

I forgot to post this yesterday, but the fourth week of the agent hunt consisted of sending out several more queries and receiving one very nice rejection. Here’s the tally of the really important statistics:

  • 34 queries submitted
  • 9 rejections

And so it goes.

On the advice of a couple people in the business — whose names I will not use, but whose identities might be guessed by people familiar with my experience in the very small SF&F world — I also submitted a partial (3 chapters and synopsis) to one of the major SF publishers. We’ll see if anything comes of that.

Hopefully someone out there will be interested in publishing a near-future science fiction story about colonizing the moon — the risks people will take, the hardships they’ll endure, and the sacrifices they’ll make to achieve a difficult goal. Here’s hoping!

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This Day in Space History: Apollo-X Launch

Forty years ago today — May 18, 1969 — astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, John W. Young, Jr., and Eugene A. Cernan lifted off on the Apollo 10 mission. Their Saturn V launch vehicle (number SA-505) launched at 12:49 a.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center, on “the mission before THE mission.”

(Apollo-X launch. Click to enlarge.)

Travelling in Command Module “Charlie Brown” and Lunar Module “Snoopy,” the astronauts tested all aspects of the lunar mission except the actual lunar landing, and accomplished several “firsts” including:

  • First transmitted color photographs of the full Earth from a crew in space
  • First demonstration rendezvous in lunar orbit
  • First burning of LM descent stage engine in lunar landing configuration
  • First LM steerable antenna at lunar distances
  • First LM within 15,240 meters [8 nautical miles] of the lunar surface
  • First crew-assisted navigational, visual, and photographic evaluations of the moon
  • First and only Apollo launch from Launch Complex 39B

(Views of Earth from Apollo-X. Click to enlarge.)


Images from the Johnson Space Center Digital Image Collection.

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Bouncing Signals Off the Moon, a Half Century Ago

Today in space history — 50 years ago, in fact — an intercontinental radio transmission was made using the moon as a relay station. The signal went from Jodrell Bank, England to the Air Force Cambridge Research Center in Bedford, MA.

(Click to enlarge.)

It was a neat idea, and perfectly reasonable in the age before long-lived, reliable communications satellites had been built. This book chapter details the Jodrell Bank work, and this page discusses an earlier U.S. Navy program to use the moon as a communications relay.

(Image from Flickr, by longhorndave, Creative Commons licensed.)

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Shhh, be vewwy quiet … I'm agent hunting

My hunt for a literary agent to represent WALKING ON THE SEA OF CLOUDS — and such other work as I hope to produce in the next ever-how-many years — continues. Slowly. I do have a day job, after all. And a night job.

So, after two weeks pursuing elusive agents, tracking them by their Internet presences and deciphering the glyphs they’ve carved in electronic “guidelines,” I’ve racked up the following record:

  • 20 queries submitted
  • 4 “thanks, but this isn’t right for us” rejections
  • 3 “interesting, tell us more” responses
  • 2 manuscripts submitted
  • 1 “partial” submitted — 50 pages & synopsis

If you want to play “hunt the agent” with me, see if you can spot one of the wild agents who might be interested in a near-future, realistic science fiction novel about survival and sacrifice in the early days of a lunar colony. If you see some, don’t scare them away! Try to chase them in my direction. And let me know, so I can get the right query ready! đŸ˜‰

Image by Gaetan Lee, from Flickr, under Creative Commons license.

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Apollo Prep Mission, 40 Years Ago Today

On March 3, 1969, a Saturn-V rocket lofted the Apollo-9 mission into earth orbit from the Kennedy Space Center, carrying astronauts James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott, and Russell L. Schweickart. This mission accomplished a number of objectives in advance of the first manned mission to the moon:

  • It was the first launch of the complete Apollo configuration, including the Command Service Module and the Lunar Module, aboard a Saturn V.
  • It was the first time a human crew tested the lunar module in space, with the first docking between the CSM and LM and the first time astronauts fired the LM ascent and descent engines in space.
  • On this mission, LM pilot Rusty Schweickart made the first EVA by an astronaut without being attached to spaceship life support equipment.
  • The mission tested the Portable Life Support System in space for the first time.

Apollo-9 was a great success, and paved the way for all the moon missions to come.

And in more space history with a lunar component: Ten years before Apollo-9, on March 3, 1959, the U.S. launched Pioneer-4 from Cape Canaveral in an International Geophysical Year launch. Pioneer-4 was the country’s first sun-orbiting space probe, and marked the first successful flyby of the Moon en route to another destination.

Now, if we could only get back there ….

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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.


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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