Space, the Moon, and I

14 02 2010

This article makes me kind of happy:

I learned to read at age three, sitting in my father’s lap. He would hold me and we would read comic books. About age five I began using the public library. I exhausted their supply of books on earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Then I went on to dinosaurs and archaeology in general. I still remember how enthralled I was by Roy Chapman Andrews’ chronicles of his adventures in China and other parts of the far East exploring for fossils.

Next came a novel entitled “Danger, Dinosaurs!” by Richard Marsten. It was science fiction, and I was hooked. All through my extreme youth I read about space exploration and other planets, solar systems, even other galaxies. The universe was mine, all between the covers of a book.


 And now the International Space Station is really beginning to take shape. I know I am too old to go into space, but oh how I would love to visit the space station. Robert A. Heinlein wrote a story, “The Man Who Owned the Moon” about a millionaire who felt the same way I feel, and was able to make it to the moon to die. How glorious it would be to view the Earth from the Moon. And Mars, ai-ya, to stand on the red sand of the planet Mars, well, that would be indescribable.

Alas, I cannot and will not, but at least I can live vicariously and read about the astronauts on the internet, on the effing internet, hoo, real science no-longer-fiction at the tips of my fingers—I can read about the space station as I read about Roy Chapman Andrews 57 years ago. I should call someone on my cell phone, cell phone, ha!, on my little handheld computer, but, it’s still too early in the day.

Holy Moley Addendum: or maybe, Addendum: Holy Moley. I was just toodling around the web and discovered that Richard Marsten was a pen name for Evan Hunter. Crikey, that means the book might even have been well-written. But the few remaining Winston Science Fiction Series copies are too rich for my blood. Oh I long to go once more, dinosaur hunting in a time machine. Wait, I can do that with Ray Bradbury, too.


Blowin’ in the wind?

13 09 2008

I just watched dust devils on Mars! I know it sounds like a 1950’s science fiction film, but NASA has released a short–well, I guess it is a motion picture–stills linked together to show the dust devils. But this is on freakin’ Mars! And I think this is a great way to emphasize the presence of at least a little bit of atmosphere on Mars. Click on the photo!

I love dust devils. There is something mysterious and always very cool about them. They remind me of the energy beings in Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light: the Rakasha.

Many years ago, on a sunny and very hot day in Arlington, Texas, I was out walking with my friend Anna. The Texas wind is almost constant, and its blast furnace nature could burn the hide right off of you. Anna was from Chicago, but that incessant Texas wind used to make her a bit crazy. In those days, 1973, I believe, I had yet to visit Chicago, much less live there, and I didn’t understand. I thought Chicago was the Windy City. Of course, I had grown up in Texas and this never-ending, blistering blow was just everyday life.

Then we walked past a vacant lot that was mostly dirt and a dust devil suddenly sprang into being! It was huge, 15 or 20 feet tall. I was thrilled, and a little bit scared. After all, wasn’t a dust devil just a junior tornado? And we knew about tornadoes in Texas. This big devil was fat in the middle and it flung tiny rocks at us as it danced across the hard-packed lot. It was so cool, and so eerie. Maybe it was a Rakasha! And then it was gone.

Currently I am reading Ben Bova’s latest, Mars Life. I will review it elsewhere, but Ben brings the cold dead world of Mars to life and this animation merely adds to the thrill of off-world doings.

In April of this year I drove from Dallas to Amarillo, Texas, a distance of more than 300 miles. We used to say there was nothing between Texas and the Arctic Circle except a couple of mesquite trees and a barbed wire fence. Well, this trip reminded me of what flat was all about. And there’s not a whole lot just a’ sitting on top of that flat either. It was in the Spring and plowing had commenced. The dirt of far North Texas is rust red, shot-through with iron, and with little traffic and not much else besides an occasional hawk riding the air currents above the freshly-plowed fields, I imagined I was in a rover and driving across the surface of Mars. The roads are pretty straight up in the Panhandle, too, not much to get in the way of road building, but I rounded a slight curve, and off to my right was a Martian-red furrowed field and three gigantic dust devils at play in the Spring air. Oh how I wish I had photographed that.

And now, dust devils on Mars, coming soon to a theater near you. I can’t wait for the color version.