musical milliner

January 13, 2013

Our Lost Home

imgres

Guest blogger August Stadtfeld is a junior at The Marin School in Sausalito.

I settled on a large boulder, having finished my days work. As I relax, I remove my protective helmet, and I can breath. The heavy equipment is dropped, making an audible thud.

The recycled air fills my lungs, both calming my nerves,and stinging my sinuses. I’ve worked in the red mines for several years, collecting precious minerals for our small community. It is a difficult task, but I carry it out dutifully and without regret, for the colony is in dire straits.

We have been stranded on this cruel orb for generations, and I know not how long we can last on its brittle, lifeless, uncaring soil.

Unlike most here, I can remember what life was like. Before our communities’ cruel twist of fate. Back then,we were a content group. Our society was optimistic for our future, with hopes and dreams of what we could accomplish on this new home of ours.

Back then, I’d explore the world’s surface, as many have before. Occasionally I came across a small rover, its structure long broken, sent to examine our future home many years ago. These remains were my only company as I looked up at the stars.

On this airless world, the stars shine so brightly. But not as brightly as the planets. They glow like beacons, calling others to their surfaces. Jupiter shines almost a dull copper, Saturn is a subtle gold. Our species home was a glorious blue.

Our home was a sign of hope. Our home, once so bright and full of potential, which once shined a bright, clear red, is now only a dark, scorched brown.

After our colony was built, a disaster occurred, unlike any other seen by human eyes.

Our sun, with its warm and calming influence, that had helped us grow for countless millenia, betrayed us. Some say what happened was our fault, that we had tampered with forces far beyond humanities comprehension, and other said it was an act of God, that we were being punished.

The sun lashed out, its eternally raging inferno destroying everything in its path.

Mercury and Venus are gone, reduced to dust. Our colony was spared, but the planet was burned. It’s a wasteland now. But the blue planet, that which began our journey to the stars, that is the one that suffered the most.

As the heat struck it, its surface cracked. The seas dried up, the continents fragmented. From our colony we saw the cities glow white hot, and melt into nothing.

 As it cracked, the planet grew hotter, and when the final blow struck,when that last wave of wrathful heat came, the blue planet shattered.

Its remains flew across the stars to parts unknown.

We are the last of our species. We exist in this vast, uncaring universe alone,with no sign that anyone else has survived.

Many of us have given up,waiting for the inevitable time that the sun burns even hotter, and removes us from existence. We stand here, at hell’s gates, with no hope for salvation, as we weep for our lost home

(c)GoshGusPublishing(ascap)2013

December 24, 2012

La Sono Viva!

Filed under: music — by SAMM @ 7:55 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

imgresTo any women out there who are stuck in a bad situation, you can get out. It will be anguishing.
You will make it. And you will learn who your true friends are, because not only are the marital assets divided, but often long term friendships are as well. Be prepared for his extended family to completely shut you and your children off. Be prepared, in case you weren’t already aware, that his family never really liked you anyway.

Almost four years ago I got to a place of such intense discouragement and pain that I jumped ship. This was the beginning of the end, which has still not ended. There has been a mandated truce, but no resolution. I am no longer living in fear, although I am wary that he will go postal. By all accounts, his behavior continues to be strange and negative, and he says random and odd things which get back to me. He complains to anyone and everyone, often to people he only knows casually. The overall theme is I have made him this way; I have ruined his life.

I am no longer the person I was. I am no longer anxious and self-loathing, nor all the bad things he said I was.

In the beginning of the big change, I was like someone touched by both Stockholm Syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder. I knew with certainty I could no longer bear the life I was leading. All the pretension and all the social masks had worn me down. I couldn’t fake it anymore.

At a point some years earlier, I observed how the situation was affecting the kids. They are perceptive and intuitive, and once they realized I had been lying to them, I had to come clean.

Each went through his own process of dealing, and that will continue to cycle back over time. I am pretty sure both were relieved, and at different times informed me that they were glad that home had become a quiet refuge. I’ve also been on the business end of their anger over the fact that the financial situation has negatively impacted them. They know I love them beyond reason,

The good news is I am more myself than I’ve been in 25 years. I don’t have someone telling me on a regular basis how I don’t measure up, and how useless I am, and what a sponge I am. I know better now.

I am thriving. I am at peace, and I am alive!

September 20, 2012

La strada panoramica

There are times to keep one’s stories close, and there comes a time to share them with the innocent involved because it is also his history. Timing, boundaries, the effect the information may generate with other parties is tricky business. As a mother, I believe my children deserve to know their complete history. You have to gauge your child’s maturity. Too soon, and they may not have perspective. And then there is understanding that waiting too long can create resentment. They want the truth, and they deserve it.

My timing in these matters can and has missed the mark, but when giving a young adult child bits of their story previously hidden, especially those factual parts steeped in my own deep emotion, when is there ever a right time? Tricky also because in some cases, my perspective is biased to a point where there is only one point.

Recently prompted by a reference to a possible future road trip involving side trips and scenic routes, something long suppressed surfaced. I told my child one of his stories. I started with a disclaimer that he would learn some facts, and some bias, and I would be honest about when the lines crossed.

I was heavily pregnant, just six weeks to go. The idea of going for a ride up the coast to a nice spot seemed a good idea. But the trip was long, and I always had to pee. We made frequent stops, but I had to concentrate on holding it. After an hour or so, I wanted to go home. This trip had become exhausting. But no, the driver, the father of this child, decided I would feel better when we got to this specific land’s end, so he kept going, and my resentment increased.

Soon we were travelling in our old Jeep down a pot-holed, rocky road, full of dust on a hot day in mid September. My discomfort grew to abject misery. I felt every bump and shake, and my Braxton-Hicks contractions became increasingly painful.

I begged him to slow down. I told him this was not good for me or the baby. He seemed most focused on his own enjoyment. He kept saying, “Buck up. We’re almost there.” Which of course we were not. I’ve never reviewed a map to be certain, but I believe the dirt road was about twenty miles.

We got to the destination, and yes, it was lovely. But I was not feeling well. I was nauseous. I went to the loo at the visitor center and threw up my lunch. All the while the pre-labor contractions came and went. After a short nap on the sand, and lots of water they stopped.

The ride home was better, but by this time I was angry and in tears. He drove more slowly, but spewed a litany of reasons as to why I was such a wimp: I didn’t exercise enough; I didn’t get out enough; I was too consumed with being pregnant; and why were we even having this baby when we were having so much trouble with our relationship. (That last one came up again on the walk between parking the car and a two block waddle to the hospital.) I’ve since learned that this is the language of a bully.

As the story goes, we made it home. There was tension, which was usual, and I went to sleep without supper.

Next day, I had a doctor’s appointment. I got into the shower, and in the course of washing up, I felt my amniotic fluid leaking.

How could this be? I was just entering the thirty-fifth week of pregnancy. I used a piece of Nitrazine tape I had on hand, and it was blue, which was positive for amniotic fluid. Oh shit. This baby is coming too early.

Off to the doctor. I told her about the previous days outing, and she asked me “What was he thinking?”  As she examined me, my little leak turned into a gush all over her table and floor. The membranes had ruptured, and I was going to have this baby. I went home to get some things, and tried to track down my husband, who was two hours away in a business meeting. When he got home, we headed to the hospital during which his insensitive and absurd comment, still burned into my brain, was uttered. I understand his statement was the expression of a compilation of fears unfiltered at an emotional time. But really, his inability to filter is part of what doomed my respect for him.
I was set up with an IV of antibiotics, and the plan was to give me 24 hours to go into labor naturally. The odds of the baby having respiratory issues was about 50/50, his gender making him more vulnerable, as neonate boys produce less surfactant, a substance which allows the lungs to work smoothly. If he weighed in over six pounds, he would just be “pre-term.” Babies under six pounds are premature. I had to get my head together, put my fears aside and birth this baby.

His was an easy birth. He weighed six and a half pounds, and but a for a transitory episode of struggling to get his lungs going, he was plump and pink with blond hair.

When I started this essay, I brought up the ethical question of how much and when to tell an almost adult child. This is the hard part. This fabulous boy, though within normal ranges, was developmentally on the far side. He later had challenges with fine motor skills, and minor learning issues which he has learned to manage and for the most part outgrown. He is a solid student, a creative thinker, and one of the kindest people I know. He is tall and gorgeous.

But I told him of the long road trip, and my belief that his birth was early due to it, and my bitterness over knowing that a few weeks longer in the oven may have made his school days less harrowing. I blame his father, but it’s pathetic because his father discounted my knowledge, went against medical advice and forced us on that drive. I don’t want him to resent his father over this. How can I be objective in this situation? I don’t think it possible. My son will make up his own mind.

(c)GoshGusPublishing(ascap) 2012

August 26, 2012

Inside the Fog

Filed under: music — by SAMM @ 2:14 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,


St. Augustine called it imtima mea, the ‘inward dwelling.” In the East, it is called the Maha Sunn, a void which separates the Created from the Uncreated worlds, where souls wander alone being cleansed, awaiting realization of a higher plane.

For the past several years, this is where I’ve lived. From time to time, there are days and weeks where the air is clear and sweet. There are hours of peace and contentment in the middle of a dark day. Mostly though, the fog is thick.

Sometimes I hear faint voices from the other side reminding me that there is another side. But my compass is broken, and I can’t find my way in the dark. I grasp what is left of the thin thread that keeps me attached to sanity. Is it strong enough? Will it break?

I am tired from standing in one place for so long. I feel the past, but not the future.

I remember being reminded by someone (who claimed to love me once) over and over that my problem was that I measured my life by my feelings, and lack of empirical evidence. The word “feeling” was used as a taunt.

(c)GoshGusPublishing(ascap) 2012

June 8, 2012

Pilgrim

Filed under: music — by SAMM @ 8:20 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Sometimes a song just smacks you in the gut. These are the lyrics from the title track from Eric Clapton’ s “Pilgrim.” Released March 10, 1998.

Simon Climie & Eric Clapton (c) ASCAP 1997.

And how do I choose and where do I draw the line
Between truth and necessary pain?
And how do I know and where do I get my belief
That things will be all right again?

What words do I use to try and explain
To those who’ve witnessed all my tears?
And what does it mean to know all these things
When love’s been wasted all these years?
When love’s been wasted all these years?

Standin’ in the shadows
With my heart right in my hand
Removed from all the people
Who could never understand

I was a pilgrim for your love
A pilgrim for your love
A pilgrim for your love
I was a pilgrim for your love

It’s like livin’ in a nightmare
Like lookin’ in the blackest hole
Like standin’ on the edge of nothing
Completly out of control

Now where have I been all these years
And how come I just couldn’t see?
Like a blind man walking ’round in darkness
I was a pilgrim for your love
I was a pilgrim for your love

Standin’ in the shadows
With my heart right in my hand
Removed from all the people
Who could never understand

Standin’ in the shadows
With my heart right in my hand
Removed from all the people
Who could never understand

I was a pilgrim for your love
Pilgrim for your love
I was a pilgrim for your love
A pilgrim for your love

I was a pilgrim for your love
A pilgrim for your love
I was a pilgrim
Pilgrim for your love

May 28, 2012

Gratitudine

Om moment tonight: I was sitting in the dark in my front garden on this warm spring evening when one of the Box People trucks cruised past. I had 4 big boxes in the house, so I zipped inside, snagged ’em, and ran to the corner where the truck had pulled over. A nice man who spoke little English took my boxes, broke them down, and gave me a big smile, which I returned.  The universal language.

These people work hard every night collecting cardboard for cash.  Many in this big city who know of them, take cardboard out  late at night to the corner, where one of the trucks will see the pile. This is not litter.  This is income for food and rent and clothing. It is always gone by sunrise.

They are but one lane on the highway of a two hundred year old tradition in this country. Newcomers working hard to make a new life, and finding creative ways to get by, making work of things most of us never consider.

That my paternal grandparents sailed across the on the Martha Washington at the beginning of the 20th Century and made their way to Colorado still astounds me. Stephen Fry talks about a beguiling theory that America is composed of people who share a belief that “good enough” is not enough. As the first post-Enlightenment community of governance and ideals, we are a people whose ancestors (with two important exceptions) stayed behind because they refused the risk. For more on this discussion, here is a conversation between Mr. Fry and Craig Ferguson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWDzfkWDClk&feature=iv&annotation_id=DrPinch2190_annotation_508875

The Box People are my people.  Our people. Help them out.  Last night, I needed a reminder of how damn lucky I am, and how humble work is not beneath me.

(c)GoshGusPublishing(ascap)2012

March 9, 2012

Segni e presagi: primo anno (Signs and Omens)

It happened too fast. He proposed three weeks after their first date. They married four months later.

He had a hot temper, initially observed when a situation or something he did made him angry at himself. Later redirected to her.

The engagement ring had been recycled. Made for another, rejected, and held for safe keeping by his mother. One of the sisters let this information slip.

He went on a three week trip a month before the wedding, and became intimate with another woman, with whom he traded a couple of letters. She only read the other woman’s, of course.

He spent a lot of money but he was finishing graduate school.

After the wedding, the top of the cake was given to a sister for what the bride  thought was for freezing so they could have it for their first anniversary, per tradition. After her attempts to collect it, she was told that “it was good!” They had eaten it.

His requests for an inappropriate display of public affection on their honeymoon.

The mother announced, “We have a real girl in the family.” Three sisters and a mother with excess body hair, prematurely aged skin, and only one who made an effort to look nice.  Goes along with “She has such beautiful skin.”

A family where there is no concept that feminine and strong are virtues. A family where subjugation to the husband is the rule. A longer engagement would have clarified this and other important issues.

All four adult children call her “Mommy.” Girls, maybe. But from a 30 year old man?

The name thing. The refusal to accept that she had not changed her name, but received mail addressed to Mrs. His First and Last Name. Ordered address labels, Ms. Her Name, and Mr. His Name.  Get the hint? Nope. This continued for twenty-two years.

It was assumed that she was a radical feminist. Not “radical,” but didn’t most women who came of age in the 1970s  naturally embrace feminism as synonymous with the idea of choice in manner of living?

The vegetarian thing. The father constantly needling her about being a PETA type activist when she never even thought of converting his food preferences. Her personal choice made fifteen years before. She doesn’t eat meat, and won’t cook it in her home. What others do is not her call or concern. Both parents making it clear that a good wife would cook her husband anything he wanted.

Reading the $200.00 phone bill in the second month of marriage and finding an alarming number of phone calls made to sex chat numbers. Husband confessed this was a long term habit he would stop. He went on for hours after the resulting confrontation muttering “I’m a bad man.”

Her awareness that she had married someone missing certain interpersonal skills, but with the hope he would mature.

That he told his mother things which no self-respecting man would, such as the frequency of their sexual relations, or to phone her to complain of every disagreement or argument.

The first time he threw her up against a wall and slammed her repeatedly into it, and the resulting bruises around her upper arms and back. Her shame, and the regret she still carries of not asking her father to help her.

The first time he hit her head and she saw stars.

(c)GoshGusPublishing(2012)

February 24, 2012

A Lenten Reflection~ guest blogger Kaze Gadway plants some seeds

Kaze Gadway is a lay youth minister to an outreach project for Native American youth and young adults in Arizona.  Episcopal Diocese of Arizona

Julian of Norwich “Pray inwardly, even though you find no joy in it. For it does good, though you feel nothing, see nothing, yes, even though you think you cannot pray.”
Lent is not like Advent. Advent is a preparation of the celebration of God with us, God walking among us. Although Lent comes before Easter it is a season not like any other. It is forty days of intensifying holy practices.
All religions have holy practices. They are ways in which we discipline ourselves to be immersed in activities that expose us to the sacred. It may be putting money in a jar to give to the poor. Or depriving ourselves of food or pleasure to remind ourselves of what is really fundamental. Or writing down our faith responses in a journal. Or meditating on Holy Scriptures in a different way. Or spending time in contemplative silence. Maybe it is a walk in which you observe such awesome particulars such as a leaf. Or it could be intentional prayer.
I pray all the time. Usually it is in response to something. I am concerned for someone or someone asks me to pray. During Lent, I pray in a cycle to include all those who usually get left out of my conscious prayer life. I pray for those in danger, for those nations who are in social upheaval, for those crushed by the economy, for those disenfranchised in decision making, for those paralyzed by grief or loss, for those bruised in spirit in shame and guilt, and for those who have lost their way. How I feel doesn’t come into it. I go inward to hold up those that are disconnected and fragmented in their daily joy. I don’t usually have an outcome, like I hope everyone gets a job. I hold them up as significant to the God who dwells within us.
“What are you giving up for Lent?” asks a child who has heard this on TV. “Nothing,” I reply. “I don’t believe in giving up something like candy that I shouldn’t be doing for my health anyway. I do add things.” And I give her an abbreviated context of holy practices.
“I’m going to give up fighting with my mother,” says one youth proud of himself.
“That’s great,” I reply. “What are you going to do instead?”
There is a thoughtful silence in the small group. He says, “Maybe I should help around the house more. That’s what we fight about.”
Another youth who has been with us for a long time says, “Maybe you should clean a different part of the house every day. That would make it a spiritual practice, wouldn’t it?” He looks at me and I tell the story of Brother Lawrence again of finding the sacred in even the smallest of kitchen chores by doing it intentionally with reverence and dedicating it to God.
“We do that in Native ceremonies,” an older youth comments. “Every implement we use, everything we undertake is lifted up and prayed over.”
We talk about that in general terms in order not to reveal the particulars of confidential sacred ceremonies. They have all participated in some kind of intentional sacred practice, including helping at the altar in Church.
One of the youth confesses, “Sometimes I am only praying by rote. I don’t really feel anything.”
I assure him, “Feeling is not necessary but intentionally holding up some person or issue to God is. Like when we pray for Haiti. We’ve not been there but we can take the time to hold up that country to God. That puts it into our minds and it also declares that we believe that God holds this as important and worthy to be cherished.”
So we each make a list of things that we normally do not pray for and each holds up one thing. The responses are amazing—being bullied, car crashes on our interstate that goes through our town, stores that depend on the tourist trade, people dying without family present, forgotten birthdays, violence in homes, and neglected animals. Our prayer life is enriched just by listing these things. We decide to check in and see what happens when we do something every day that exposes us to the Holy.
It is an exciting season.
Blessed Lent everyone.
In faith,
Kaze

February 5, 2012

We Should Become Martians: Part II~ Regular guest blogger Claude Plymate concludes his thesis.

  Claude Plymate is the Telescope Engineer/Chief Observer at  Big Bear Solar Observatory in California, and is the  former chief  wrangler of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory Arizona for many years. He is a regular contributor to Musical Milliner.

It is true that we currently do not have the technology to allow a human trip to Mars. Now that the shuttle has been retired (and rightfully so), the U.S. doesn’t even have a rocket that can get humans to low Earth orbit! Forty years ago, however, that was not the case. The Saturn-V rocket used for the Apollo lunar program could have been repurposed for a Mars mission. It would have taken more than a single launch of even the mighty Saturn-V for a Mars mission but it would have been feasible. Now that we finally retired the Space Shuttle, we are free to consider the next generation of boosters that will again be capable of taking us beyond Low
Earth Orbit (LEO).

NASA recently announced the Space Launch System (SLS). If funded, SLS will be a heavy lift vehicle derived from both Shuttle and Apollo-era technology. The SLS will initially have a payload capability to LEO of just over 1/2 that of the Saturn-V. The eventual plan is to continue to upgrade its lift capacity with larger strap-on boosters. This is expected to ultimately give it a payload to LEO of slightly greater than that of the Saturn-V. Unfortunately, the “evolved” boosters are scheduled to not be available before 2030.

SpaceX has proposed several very intriguing projects and has an amazing track record of following through on its claims by delivering working hardware. Its Falcon 9 rocket topped with their Dragon capsule has already flown and is scheduled to fly a resupply mission to the Space Station (ISS) soon. Falcon 9 (F-9) currently can only deliver about 1/2 of what the Space Shuttle could to orbit, good enough to get supplies and astronauts to and from the ISS but isn’t of a class necessary to do much more. SpaceX has, however, announced the Falcon Heavy. The Heavy is effectively three F-9 rockets strapped together! This simple evolution of the proven F-9 gives a projected launch payload of about 1 1/2 Shuttles! Now that’s beginning to get to the point that we can begin designing missions. But wait there’s more… SpaceX has proposed the eventual development of a Falcon X and derivative rockets dubbed the Falcon X Heavy & Falcon
XX (what SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, has called the BFR for Big F@$#ing Rocket!). The Falcon XX would have a payload exceeding that of either the Saturn-V or SLS.

Below is a table comparing some current & proposed rocket payloads to LEO:

Rocket Chart

What I’m attempting to point out is that very capable Mars rockets are well within current technology and were even produced using 1960’s technology!

It’s an undeniable fact that a human mission to Mars would be expensive. I typically hear conservative estimates ranging somewhere in the ballpark of $150 Billion. Any way you look at it, that is a lot of money – roughly $500 for every US citizen. Keep in mind that any such program would be spread over at least 10 years which makes the cost per year around $15 Billion/yr. $15 billion is still a heap of money but less than the current annual NASA budget. (Don’t think, however, that I’m advocating dedicating the entire NASA budget to a Mars mission. NASA does a lot of other very important programs. I wouldn’t want to see the budgets for those other important programs get consumed.) It would seem that we either need to find ways of getting the costs down or increase the funding. Increasing budgets do not seem likelyin the current economic/political climate. If we want to go to Mars, we need to find a cheaper
approach.

Let’s examine why space flight tends to be so extremely expensive. One reason is that you much carry all of the fuel, hardware and resources for the return trip on the outward leg of the journey. Picture it this way; imagine if to fly from San Francisco to New York, the plane had to carry all it needed for the return flight – fuel, food, water, etc. The plane wouldn’t need to be just twice as large to carry it all; it would need to be MUCH larger. To carry the extra fuel and supplies, the plane would need to be built much stronger and heavier. This heavier plane would need larger engines to fly requiring yet more fuel which would require a bigger heavier plane… it becomes a vicious cycle. Costs quickly spiral out of control leading to the inevitable conclusion that transcontinental flight is simply not practical! We get around this by not carrying everything needed for the entire trip. Planes are refueled and restocked before their return flights. Estimates that I’ve seen indicate that somewhere around 90% of the cost of space missions are due to the penalty paid for the return trip. Think back to the iconic images showing the colossal Saturn-V sitting on the launch pad before heading off to the Moon. All that immense hardware was used up just to return three guys and some rocks sardined in that little
sedan-sized capsule!

So in this era of ever tightening budgets, how might we design an affordable human mission to Mars? What if we simply cut out all those massive costs accrued by the return flight? Now don’t be aghast. I’m not suggesting some suicide mission. Keep in mind, that my original justification for going to Mars was the eventual goal of colonization. Why not just start the process from the outset?

A one-way trip should be able to be carried out for around 10% the cost of a round trip mission – somewhere in the $15 billion ballpark range. In an era of $100 billion bailouts and Trillion dollar wars, this sounds like a bargain. Especially when put in the context of safeguarding against the potential extinction of humanity on this planet. I often hear economists say that the way out of our economic slump is to create jobs. What could be a more noble jobs creation plan than mobilizing our high tech industries and stimulating universities to develop technologies for our expansion into the solar system and the long-term safeguarding of our species? Add to this that historically every dollar invested in space has returned about $7 to the economy and you have a true win-win scenario. Perhaps what our economy really needs is an “Occupy Mars” movement.

The cost estimate above is admittedly rather simplistic and overly optimistic. Sustaining a Martian colony would require significantly more resources than a simple Apollo style “flats-and-footprints” out-and-back mission. They would need continued supplies, oxygen enriched atmosphere to breathe, water, pressurized habitats in which to live and work, greenhouses to grow food, spare parts and backup equipment and, of course, power. (A growing colony would need ever-growing sources of power.) Spreading these costs over the lifetime of the project still makes it comfortably affordable within existing budgets even if we assume it will end up costing
several times the overly simplistic estimate above.

Early settlers would have to be dependent on periodic resupply missions. I would envision that every couple of years when a launch window opens up, another ship would be scheduled to deliver more supplies, equipment and another batch of pilgrims. In this way, the initial base would naturally grow over time as infrastructure and population is added, evolving from base
to colony to settlement and eventually to society.

A high priority from the start would have to be placed on achieving self-sufficiency. Not only is it of economic interest for a Mars society to become self-reliant, it would be too risky to depend indefinitely on the Earth. It is inevitable that a supply mission will someday fail or changes to Earth bound economics, politics or public support might leave the new Martians on their own. For their own security, they would have to be able to take care of themselves as soon as possible.

Admittedly, this is an edgy high risk concept. Who could we find to sign up for such a dangerous mission, one that at very best would leave them with very little likelihood of ever returning t friends and family? Honestly, I think there would be no shortage of volunteers! Those that go would become legends. Their names would go down in history as the founders of a new world. I expect that humanity would be mesmerized by the daily drama. Each settler would become heroes on TWO worlds! Who wouldn’t dream of being part of such an historic project?

In light of the huge economic problems we’re currently in, when should such an epic project begin? My opinion is if not now then when? A one-way approach to Mars is affordable and starts down the path of making humanity a multi-planet society from its inception. I, therefore, suggest that our mantra be “Mars – one way to stay!”

(c)GosgGusMusic(ascap) 2012

January 19, 2012

We Should Become Martians: Part I. ~ Guest Blogger Claude Plymate Returns!

  Claude Plymate is the Telescope Engineer/Chief Observer at  Big Bear Solar Observatory in California, and is the  former chief  wrangler of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory Arizona for many years. He is a regular contributor to Musical Milliner.

It likely won’t come as any surprise to those of you who know me or have read some of my earlier essays that I am a strong advocate of sending humans to Mars. What might surprise you are my reasons which are more about societal needs than about scientific exploration. Our population has now passed the 7 billion mark.

There are indicators all around us that this planet cannot maintain the pressure we’re applying to its resources and resiliency. There is little reason for me to go into the details here; you are all well aware of the risks we are subjecting ourselves to. Global climate change, fresh water depletion, famine, nuclear proliferation, pandemics and war are just a sampling of the dangers we pose to ourselves. On top of our self-imposed hazards, the solar system is in general a menacing place to live.  Asteroid impacts have already wiped out the dominant species on Earth at least once before.  A nearby supernova could disrupt our ozone layer with catastrophic consequences. We are fortunate to have a strong magnetic field and atmosphere that protects us from the harsh radiation coming from solar flares but civilization has left our technology quite vulnerable to such eruptions. It doesn’t appear that a “super flare” will kill us outright but just imagine the disruption to society if the Internet, electric grid, GPS system, radio communications and even telephones suddenly and unexpectedly went ‘dark’– and not just for a few hours but possibly days, weeks or even months!

What I’m trying to point out is that there are many real threats to our civilization and even our existence as a species. Some are self-imposed, some are natural.

This leads us to the question of how to mitigate such threats to humanity.  Consider how you deal daily with risk management of other items you regard as valuable. For example, you wish to protect your documents and photos stored on your computer’s hard drive. What do you do? Of course, you backup your files onto a separate drive stored  in a separate location. (You do back up your files, don’t you?)  Applying this same rationale to society naturally leads to the conclusion that to survive long-term, humanity must expand beyond this one little planet.  Then, even if the unthinkable occurs, all that humanity has achieved won’t completely disappear from history.

The obvious first destination for a human outpost beyond Earth is Mars. Mars is the most Earthlike of the other planets within the solar system. It is close in astronomical terms and has an atmosphere. Mars is a place we can live. Plus, the lower surface gravity of Mars (about 1/4  that of Earth) makes getting on and off its surface much easier than here on the Earth.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere on Mars is very tenuous with a mean surface pressure ~ 600 Pa (0.087 psi), equivalent to an Earth atmospheric altitude of around 90,590 ft (27,612 m). On top of that, it’s a toxic mixture of mostly carbon dioxide. Anyone on the surface would have to wear a pressure suit (space suit). Even this exceedingly thin atmosphere could be used to pressurize suits & shelters. All that would be needed would be a compressor to pressurize the interiors. Simple inflatable structures could even be used for such things as storage, workshops and greenhouses. You still couldn’t breathe in the high CO2 environments but an oxygen mask would be all that’s required for people to work in otherwise shirtsleeve comfort. There are likely many plants that could thrive in these pressurized greenhouses. Obliviously, living quarters would need more oxygen to make a breathable atmosphere which is easily attainable
by liberating O2 from either CO2, water or even iron oxides (rust!) in the soil that gives the planet its red color.

Water means life. We need water to drink, water for crops and water to make oxygen. Recent Mars probes are making it clear that water (at least in the form of ice) is much more common on Mars than previously believed. What is required to harvest the water is energy; energy to drill wells or mine ice, energy to extract the O2. Possible sources for power include solar panels and/or nuclear generators and perhaps even geothermal. I suspect that the atmosphere is simply too thin to support wind power.

There are two primary arguments against going to Mars that people normally state; interplanetary spaceflight is beyond our technical ability and the cost would be far too great. I’d like to address these arguments one at a time.

Stay tuned for We Should Become Martians: Part II next week.

(c)GosGusMusic(ascap)2012

« Previous PageNext Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.