Tuesday, September 8, 2009
One of the blog's readers sent this comment after reading the last Blast From the Past blog post.
"I don't know what the new Magellan looks like. I haven't been in several years."
I searched my photos and found the following. Please forgive the out of focus photographs. The shaking was caused by either too many 20oz. bottles of Diet Coke or the super cheap camera I bought hoping to capture amazing HD photographs at a budget price. I guess you get what you pay for.
Just out of curiosity, are there any special commemoration ceremonies or medals of honor bestowed upon us overly obsessive veterans who reach 20 missions? ;)
Again, thank you so much for changing my life for the better.
Thank you Ashley for the kind words. I'll pass them along to Saturday's staff. Next time you come to the Center remind me that you've completed twenty missions. I'm sure we can find a suitable pin to mark the occasion. Perhaps the pin of your favorite simulator.
Monday, September 7, 2009
This is a repost of the first chapter of a story I'm writing. It was orginally posted last Christmas. I haven't done much with it since then. I've decided to continue the story now that the school year is underway.
I enjoyed writing our school mission 'The Children of Perikoi'. I enjoy telling it even more. I've wanted to continue the story and did once several summers ago. The mission was told in the Galileo. It was OK but not what it should have been. I blame myself for that. Not everything you write is good. This is another attempt at a continuation of Perikoi using our own staff and volunteers as characters.
Enjoy and post comments. I'd like to know what you think.
December 21, 2321
McAuliffe Station, Earth Orbit.
The McAuliffe Station’s Lounge was located at one end of Hallway 12A on Deck 12 near the Officer's Quarters. The hallway was futuristic in design, with softly rounded corners where the walls met the holotop. The holotop ceiling displayed a 3D sky as one would see on the planet's surface. A holosun tracked the correct position of the Sun as seen in the sky over San Francisco. A bright moon and stars lit the hallway a deep twilight during the evening hours.
Two brightly polished oak doors separated the lounge from the hallway. Each door had an over sized port hole with the station’s logo etched in glass. The station’s Command Training Academy (CTA) was a brisk 45 second walk to the opposite end of Hallway. The CTA section housed the staff and instructor's office's and academy class rooms. Between the lounge and academy, Hallway 12A passed several staff quarters, two turbolift elevators and a small convenience shop managed by the academy's senior class. The shop benefited the both the senior and junior cadets. The senior's got valuable work experience and the cadets had access to a never ending supply of reasonably priced sweets and sodas. The hallway was carpeted in a speckled blue carpet. Fiber illuminated lighting was stitched in the carpet, displaying the number of each room.
It was 23:00 hours. The Station’s Christmas party was in its third hour. The sound of laughter and singing poured into Hallway 12A every time the doors slid open. The noise didn’t matter . Two thirds of the station’s staff were at the party. The others were on duty.
A large Christmas Tree stood on the opposite end of the room from the entrance. It was decorated with holographic ornaments. The ornaments changed color and design to match the beat of the music. False Flame took the place of traditional Christmas tree lights, giving the tree a very 19th century look. A two hundred year old glass star crowned the tree, compliments of the station commander’s wife.
The people in the room divided themselves by choice. Starfleet Officers occupied one end of the room. They were the ones who ran the daily military operations of the station. The educational staff gathered on the other end of the room. They commanded and staffed the Command Training Academy (CTA). The CTA was a special military boarding school for gifted 13 to 16 year olds wanting careers in Starfleet. After graduation, most CTA students found themselves at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco. Their time in the CTA placed them well ahead of their peers. That advantage made getting into the CTA very competitive. The majority of the academy’s cadets were on home leave for the holiday. Those who remained were looked after by instructors and the academy's house parents.
The Lounge doors slid open. The director of the CTA, entered the room. Commander Williamson was fashionably late. He looked around and noticed the demarcation line between the two camps. He moved toward the side of the room reserved for the CTA staff.
“Hello Sir and Merry Christmas,” Lt. Stacy Carrell said. She was the first to see the Commander. The others in her group stopped talking in mid sentence and extended their holiday greetings .
“I see you’re all having a good time,” Commander Williamson observed. He glanced around and noticed the absence of his senior officers. “Where are the old timers?"
“There were sitting at that far table. They’re gone now,” replied Lt. Bracken Funk.
“I see that Lieutenant. Anyone have an idea where they went?” the Commander asked.
“Not a clue,” Lt. Emily Perry sang as she danced rhythmically to an upbeat Christmas carol. She had a drink in her hand. Some of it spilled onto the carpet. Williamson reached out, took the cup and smelled its contents. “I don’t drink Commander,” She replied curtly while taking back the drink. “Besides alcohol is banned on this base so we make due with what ‘s available - we are drunk with joy!” she exclaimed as she picked up her prancing.
“You younglings have fun. I’ll just back away before I get hurt.” Williamson moved from the table and did another glance around the room looking for people closer to his age. His senior staff were nowhere to be found. As he turned toward the door he caught the eye of the station’s commander. The commander gave Williamson a polite nod. Williamson returned the nod and the pleasantries were finished. The Admiral was well respected throughout Starfleet.
The Commander ran the station by the book and strictly followed the chain of command. He rarely questioned his superior's decisions but strongly disagreed with the decision to place the Command Training Academy on his station. It was something else on his plate even though the school was, for the most part, self sustaining.
Williamson picked up a cranberry juice from the bar in one hand. His other hand dove into a bowl of yogurt covered pretzels . He walked out of the lounge to find his senior teachers. The hallway went quiet when the doors closed behind him. He walked slowly toward the turolift elevator. The lift opened as he approached. He stepped in. The doors closed.
“Destination?” the computer waited for his response. He thought for a moment. Where would they be? He knew they were going to the party so they had to be together somewhere. He could ask the computer to locate their comm badges but wanted to try a guess before taking the easy route.
“Observation Deck,” he replied. The lift moved upward and then sideways. Seconds later, upward again. The lift stopped and opened on deck 3. In the doorway stood two of the Academy’s students, Midshipman Aland and Midshipman Merryweather. They stopped dead in their tracks upon seeing their Commander occupying the same lift they were waiting to enter. They were caught. They were suppose to be in their squadron's common room enjoying their own party. Instead they were loose.
“Well, well, well..... what do we have here?” Williamson asked. Both boys jumped to attention. “Two cadets roaming the station without clearance. I do believe that is a violation of curfew. Please correct me if I’m wrong,” he asked. Neither of the boys spoke. Their gaze was unbroken on a spot on the wall.
“Sir, we were on our way....” Aland began speaking only to be cut off by the Commander.
“Not interested. Sorry. If I want to hear a fine piece of fiction I’ll go to the theater. Let’s see, what is playing tonight on the holoscreen? Yes, I believe it is ‘Caught in a Web of Lies’. No gentlemen - words would be a waste of breath at this point and we don’t want to overwork the oxygen generators.” Both boys squirmed every so slightly. Merryweather’s eyes rolled upward and then toward Aland. He knew it was pointless to explain a breech of curfew. He was surprised Aland had tried. “Gentlemen, you will take the next lift and go straight back to your dorm. You will report to your leader, explain what you were doing and then go straight to bed. You will bypass the party in your Common Room. Tomorrow we will sit down with your squadron leader and decide on a suitable punishment. I don’t want to make such an important decision now. This is something that needs thought. You know what I say - the punishment must fit the crime. Now step back and you have my permission to breath.” The boys took one step back. The lift’s doors closed. “Resume,” Williamson said. The lift speed off. Seconds later the doors opened. Williamson stepped out onto a solid floor. The rest of the room appeared to be open space. He was right - there at one of three tables sat his senior officers. “I thought I’d find you in the Observation Deck,” he said moving toward the table.
“Too noisy in the Lounge,” Mark Daymont said. Sitting with him were five other CTA officers. When they were alone they called each other by first names. On Mark’s left sat Aleta, Lorriane, and Sheila on his right sat Dave and Bill. The table was full of snacks all hand carried up from the party below.
“You’ve got the right idea,” Williamson said as he moved a chair out and sat down. “This view never gets old.”
“That’s why we came up here. Quiet talk and a great view,” Dave explained. The blues and whites of Earth nearly filled the sphere over their heads. Beyond was the star studded blackness of space. Their conversation wound it way through many topics. Time was spent on the students. They discussed the new simulations being prepared for the Senior Cadets. Lt. Megan Warner, assisted by several of the younger instructors, was writing a complete military campaign involving several simulations to be told in three of the station's training ships.
Two hours passed in good conversation. It was getting late. They agreed to call it a night. As they stood the station's alarm sounded. The klaxon's pitch caused some in the party to cover their ears as it reverberated around the transparent ceiling of the Observation Deck . The alarm stopped just as suddenly as it started. A second later the voice of the Station’s Commander came through the speakers.
“Alert Condition One. This is no drill. Alert Condition One. This is no drill,” his voice sounded firm and emotionless.
“We are under attack?” Lorraine asked with a puzzled expression. Everyone in the room starting looking up through the sphere into space. There were no ships. All seemed peaceful.
“Control,” Williamson said as he tapped the communicator pinned to his uniform. There was a slight pause before the call was answered.
“What can I do for you Commander?” the voice responded.
“Where is the attack?” Williamson asked.
“We’ve received word from Command that Farpoint Station has been destroyed,” the duty officer answered.
“Farpoint Station?” Williamson was surprised by the answer. Farpoint Station was the Federation’s furthest starbase, four months away at maximum warp from Earth. He wondered why the station was placed on battle alert if this attack occurred so far away.
“Farpoint was attacked by an alien race only recently encountered,” the officer answered his unasked question. “They use wormholes.” That statement made it clear. Anyone able to use wormholes could strike anywhere and at anytime.
“Who are they?” Williamson asked almost fearing the answer.
“I’m not sure what they call themselves but the Voyager and Copernicus encountered them at PCX2214. It is also referred to as Perikoi. We lost the Copernicus. They lost one of their ships. It appears they are back and in force.” The conversation ended. The room was still. Everyone knew the implications of wormhole travel.
“Well ladies and gentlemen, life is about to become very interesting.” Williamson said to the small gathering. “Let’s go to the Common Rooms and explain this to our cadets. I’m sure they are as concerned as we are.”
The group moved for the turbolift. The doors opened and closed leaving the quiet of space behind.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I watched a National Geographic Special on this cute star named Wolf-Rayet 104. Isn't it something the way it pinwheels in space? The pinwheel is actually caused by a smaller companion star. You see, they orbit each other which causes their solar winds to interact making a kind of space dust that we can see here on Earth a mere 8,000 light years away.
WR104 is soon to become a naughty star. It will blow its top in a brilliant explosion. That explosion is the problem we may have to face on Earth. Now when I saw 'may' I mean it could happen tomorrow or over the next few hundred thousand years - a mere snap of the fingers in space time but forever away from human perspective.
So we can add Wolf -Rayet 104 to the list of things that are queueing up to snuff us out. Don't know where to put it on the list? Let's see:
The North Koreans may blow us up with one of their kitchen crock pot made nukes because we don't pay proper homage to their Dear Leader.
Iran may do the same just because we are infidels. I don't recall ever converting to Infidelism but if they say I did then who am I to argue? Infidel and proud of it. Are there any benefits?
There is always Global Warming. Of course the benefit to going this way is the chance my home on benches overlooking beautiful Pleasant Grove and Utah Lake may someday become oceanfront property. Let those Ice Caps melt! I'm taking surfing lessons.
Let's not forget a Pandemic. They say somewhere in the world lurks a virus that has our names written into its DNA. Well, it will have to find me first. Let the little bugger try to get me. I'll retire (luckily I'm close enough to buy out my last few years. That will give me a monthly income) and seclude myself in my Fortress of Solitude only coming out at 3:00 A.M. to purchase necessities at the Lindon WalMart. The plan is flawless with one exception. What if this virus turns people into brain eating walking dead? Mmmmmmm. The thought of trying to enjoy an evening of pleasant TV with several former associates banging at my door and windows crying "Brains......Brains......." makes me think a different course of action may be required. I'll pack necessities and loved ones into the Battlestar and head to rural South Dakota. I own 8 acres of pine covered land in the Black Hills where the only thing I'd need to fear are rabid squirrels.
Then there is the potential for an Asteroid Impact. That one is tricky. It could come from anywhere and anytime because NASA and the Feds aren't spending enough money to track all the near Earth objects that could bring Armageddon down upon us. This is one where I hope we have at least a few days warning if its going to hit anywhere near the intermountain west. Knowing the roads will be clogged with the unprepared hopelessly trying to get out of Dodge, I'll plan on driving to my favorite exercise spot - Timp Cave. I've made friends with several of the Rangers. I'm trusting they'll let a few of us into the cave to ride out the impact and ensuing fire (trusting the cave doesn't 'cave' in around us). If that doesn't work well...... here's hoping there will be a forgiving priest in the cave with us ;)
Did one of you mention Alien Attack? Come on, we got that covered. I control five starships - don't I? I say "LET 'EM COME! LOAD PHOTON TORPEDOES AND PHASER BANKS." And if all else fails we can beam Admiral Schuler into their ship complete with an assortment of Slime Devils. Nothing could survive a double knockout.
The Obama Administration? Are you asking me if its possible to survive the Obama Administration? Are you serious? I'm an independent. I sit on the fence with one leg on each side. Listen, if I survived Bush / Cheney then I can survive Obama / and.......what's his name?
Taken from Space.com
A beautiful pinwheel in space might one day blast Earth with death rays, scientists now report.
Unlike the moon-sized Death Star from Star Wars, which has to get close to a planet to blast it, this blazing spiral has the potential to burn worlds from thousands of light-years away.
"I used to appreciate this spiral just for its beautiful form, but now I can't help a twinge of feeling that it is uncannily like looking down a rifle barrel," said researcher Peter Tuthill, an astronomer at the University of Sydney.
The fiery pinwheel in space in question has at its heart a pair of hot, luminous stars locked in orbit with each other. As they circle one another, plumes of streaming gas driven from the surfaces of the stars collide in the intervening space, eventually becoming entangled and twisted into a whirling spiral by the orbits of the stars.
The pinwheel, named WR 104, was discovered eight years ago in the constellation Sagittarius. It rotates in a circle "every eight months, keeping precise time like a jewel in a cosmic clock," Tuthill said.
Both the massive stars in WR 104 will one day explode as supernovae. However, one of the pair is a highly unstable star known as a Wolf-Rayet, the last known stable phase in the life of these massive stars right before a supernova.
"Wolf-Rayet stars are regarded by astronomers as ticking bombs," Tuthill explained. The 'fuse' for this star "is now very short — to an astronomer — and it may explode any time within the next few hundred thousand years."
When the Wolf-Rayet goes supernova, "it could emit an intense beam of gamma rays coming our way," Tuthill said. "If such a 'gamma ray burst' happens, we really do not want Earth to be in the way."
Since the initial blast would travel at the speed of light, there would be no warning of its arrival.
Gamma ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known in the universe. They can loose as much energy as our sun during its entire 10 billion year lifetime in anywhere from milliseconds to a minute or more.
The spooky thing about this pinwheel is that it appears to be a nearly perfect spiral to us, according to new images taken with the Keck Telescope in Hawaii. "It could only appear like that if we are looking nearly exactly down on the axis of the binary system," Tuthill said.
The findings are detailed in the March 1 issue of Astrophysical Journal.
Unfortunately for us, gamma ray bursts seem to be shot right along the axis of systems. In essence, if this pinwheel ever releases a gamma ray burst, our planet might be in the firing line.
"This is the first object that we know of that might release a gamma ray burst at us," said astrophysicist Adrian Melott at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, who did not participate in this study. "And it's close enough to do some damage."
This pinwheel is about 8,000 light years away, roughly a quarter of the way to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. While this might seem far, "earlier research has suggested that a gamma ray burst — if we are unfortunate enough to be caught in the beam — could be harmful to life on Earth out to these distances," Tuthill said.
What might happen
Although the pinwheel can't blast Earth apart like the Death Star from Star Wars — at least not from 8,000 light years away — it could still cause mass extinction or possibly even threaten life as we know it on our planet.
Gamma rays would not penetrate Earth's atmosphere well to burn the ground, but they would chemically damage the stratosphere. Melott estimates that if WR 104 were to hit us with a burst 10 seconds or so long, its gamma rays could deplete about 25 percent of the world's ozone layer, which protects us from damaging ultraviolet rays. In comparison, the recent human-caused thinning of the ozone layer, creating "holes" over the polar regions, have only been depletions of about 3 to 4 percent, he explained.
"So that would be very bad," Melott told SPACE.com. "You'd see extinctions. You might see food chain collapses in the oceans, might see agricultural crises with starvation."
Gamma ray bursts would also trigger smog formation that could blot out sunlight and rain down acid. However, at 8,000 light-years away, "there's probably not a large enough effect there for much of a darkening effect," Melott estimated. "It'd probably cut off 1 or 2 percent of total sunlight. It might cool the climate somewhat, but it wouldn't be a catastrophic ice age kind of thing."
Cosmic ray danger
One unknown about gamma ray bursts is how many particles they spew as cosmic rays.
"Normally the gamma ray bursts we see are so far away that magnetic fields out in the universe deflect any cosmic rays we might observe from them, but if a gamma ray burst was pretty close, any high-energy particles would blast right through the galaxy's magnetic field and hit us," Melott said. "Their energies would be so high, they would arrive at almost the same time as the light burst."
"The side of the Earth facing the gamma ray burst would experience something like getting irradiated by a not-too-distant nuclear explosion, and organisms on that side might see radiation sickness. And the cosmic rays would make the atmospheric effects of a gamma ray burst worse," Melott added. "But we just don't know how many cosmic rays gamma ray bursts emit, so that's a danger that's not really understood."
It remains uncertain just how wide the beams of energy that gamma ray bursts release are. However, any cone of devastation from the pinwheel would likely be several hundred square light-years wide by the time it reached Earth, Melott estimated. Tuthill told SPACE.com "it would be pretty much impossible to for anyone to get far enough to be out of the beam in a spaceship if it really is coming our way."
Still, Tuthill noted this pinwheel might not be the death of us.
"There are still plenty of uncertainties — the beam could pass harmlessly to the side if we are not exactly on the axis, and nobody is even sure if stars like WR 104 are capable of producing a fully-fledged gamma-ray burst in the first place," he explained.
Future research should focus on whether WR 104 really is pointed at Earth and on better understanding how supernovae produce gamma ray bursts.
Melott and others have speculated that gamma ray bursts might have caused mass extinctions on Earth.
Friday, September 4, 2009
How about a blast from the past?
Many of you younglings to the Space Center are rubbing your eyes in wonderment at this picture. You’re texting each other seeking the answer. What is this room? Where is it located? Is there a simulator at the Space Center hidden away behind some fake wall? Is this like Disneyland’s Club 33. A place for ‘special’ guests. A place where the Space Center reserves its best stories for preferred clients? If so, you’d like to know the requirements to get membership wouldn’t you?
Let me answer your questions and put you out of your misery. No, there isn’t a secret simulator hidden away somewhere at Central School. No, we don’t have a Club 33 where members pay thousands of dollars a year for membership. I wish there was but our Club 33 would be named 33 because of the price we could get away with charging for our memberships - $33.00 :)
So now that we’ve dispensed with that possibility, let’s look at the clues. It is a room with stadium seating and computers. Now think carefully. What simulator at the Space Center resembles the one you see here?
Yes, its the Magellan. The original Magellan from years past.
I’m the dashing young man at the front of the room doing what I do best - talking. If allowed I tend to hog the conversation in any room. My magnetism and gravity (attributed to my larger than average mass) draws people’s attention like water falling toward the drain in the bathtub. I like to think everything I say is interesting, although I fear the reason they are all so enraptured with my prose is my position as their boss.
The person standing against the wall in the green shirt is Kyle Herring. Lorraine Houston sits to his right in pink. Lets see if you can pick out some of the other staff pictured.
The old Magellan went extinct about four years ago. Out of the ashes rose our new Magellan. I admit there are times I miss the old simulator. It had a charm of its own. Don’t you just dig those strawberry iMacs? Groovy is the word that comes to mind.
But, we are all happy with the new and improved Magellan. Less colorful than the original but easier to operate and easier on the eye.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Space Center Educator
Magellan Flight Director
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
There are times when I need special help at the Space Education Center. At those times I sit back, cross my fingers - eyes - legs - arms and toes, and pray the right person(s) will walk through the Briefing Room’s door and take the burden off my back.
This kind of divine intervention occurs more than you’d think! I like to believe someone up there takes pity on us poor mortals slaving away in our simulators and classrooms. Its either that or word spreads through the community that Mr. Williamson’s got that disheveled look of panic again and if something isn’t done quickly he’ll soon forgo regular bathing, shaving, and grooming until his needs are met. Well, several months ago I was near that state. My barber forgot who I was and flies provided that extra bit of air conditioning to cool me in the heat of summer.
You’re wondering what it was that put me in such a state? I answer with a question back to you. What is the cause of most of my problems? Think about it........ yes........ I see you’re catching on. I AM THE CAUSE OF MOST OF MY PROBLEMS.
Here it is in a nutshell. I started the volunteer card program in hopes the school district would give me permission to purchase rewards with Space Center money. I’ll wait until you stop laughing. ......................................
OK, got it out of your system?
I was crazy to imagine they would let me spend Space Center money to purchase modest gifts to reward our awesome volunteers but there are regulations, laws, rules and commandments scratched into stone tablets that forbid such a thing. So, now what? Volunteers were coming in daily and I was swiping their volunteer cards with nothing to offer in the way of redeeming their points. Sound like a government institution? Yes, after working for the government for 26 years I've got it down pat.
For several weeks I carried a pocket full of pennies to drop into any fountain or puddle I found. A penny into a fountain and a wish granted - Right? I stayed up late into the night out on my deck searching the skies for a falling star. I searched Ebay for a lucky rabbit’s foot someone had no further use for and spent far too long in several fields on my belly looking for a four leaf clover. The result of my quest? Nothing......
Then, one dark and stormy night a knock was hear on my chamber door. Standing in the dark stood a figure. His face was lit by the light of a single candle protected against the wind by a glass lantern. In his hand - a plastic bag.
“Compliments of Juicy Development,” said the cloaked stranger. “Continue your endeavors and your vassals will be rewarded with more.”
He turned and disappeared into the dark. A moment later I heard a horse galloping away down the lane.
Juicy Development creates applications for mobile phones (iPhone and Google’s Android). Their top iPhone applications are Talk Radio and Police Scanner. Both are top sellers on iTunes. By the way, Juicy Development is always looking for good employees, especially anyone that can program in Cocoa (Apple’s iPhone language). Contact me for further information.
Folks, I want to thank the following people from Juicy Development for pulling me from the brink by providing hundreds of dollars worth of volunteer rewards for your volunteer points (yes - those iTunes cards you all pant over).
CEO of Juicy Development. Red Cross Volunteer. Parent of two Space Center Volunteers. Scholar. Gentleman and a Good Judge of Horse Flesh.
Todd is a man that never met a computer he didn’t like. He is a friend of the Space Center and has made us the primary beneficiary of Juicy Development’s philanthropic donations.
Vice President of Development. (On temporary leave of absence while serving an LDS mission in the Czech Republic).
Product Manager for Juicy’s top two Apps: Talk Radio and Police Scanner.
Kyle has spent more money than I want to know to help the Space Center finish the Galileo simulator (and countless other things). A volunteer at the Center in his spare time and responsible for simulator design and construction since he was a real youngling.
And now troops, I can rest at night knowing that someone has my back concerning the rewards program.
Now, if anyone else works for a company that would be kind and generous enough to provide products for our volunteers as rewards for their work at the Space Center please let me know. We will take anything from candy, cookies, to movie tickets to gift cards to whatever. I can even give you an in kind donation slip from the Alpine Foundation so the product can be written off your taxes. You see - everyone wins.
And now I’m off to take a nice warm bath to relieve my aching bones. After that, I’m thinking of a British Comedy. After that I’ll sit and think for awhile and come up with something new to get me into trouble. Soon I'll be looking skyward for another shooting star.....
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Tuesday, September 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on PBS
Space Center Educator
National Geographic Bee
Monday, August 31, 2009
By Mark Daymont
From his Blog (spacerubble.blogspot.com)
Mission STS-128 finally got off the ground with the great nighttime launch of shuttle Discovery Friday night. I was unable to watch NASA TV as I usually do for a launch, as I was busy directing a flight of students in the Magellan Simulator at the Space Center. However, the NASA TV replays got me caught up on events and the flight has proceeded as normal so far.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I would like to congratulate Zac H. for becoming our newest Magellan Flight Director! Zac started training at the beginning of the summer and has worked tirelessly to master all of the ins and outs of the Space Center's largest simulator. After a period of observation and teaching, I was able to turn over the reins to Zac and he just took off! He has developed an engineer unlike any I have ever seen before and has mastered the complex computer and sound systems. Between flights he has devoted time and energy to learning music tracks and creating his own mission and music ideas. Zac has definitely gone the extra mile to learn to fly and it shows in his work.
This past weekend Zac proved that his hard work has paid off when he successfully flew several private missions that incorporated all the things he has learned, thus earning his private mission flight pass. I am proud to work with him and can't wait to see what he brings to the Magellan! His energy and enthusiasm for what he does is fantastic. From now on Zac will be a regular flight director during our weekday missions. Congratulations Zac!
Magellan Set Director
A Note from Mr. Williamson.
Good job Zac. May I add one thing to this remarkable tribute payed to you by your Set Director. Don't forget your belt! I'm getting tired of reminding you. Appearance Zac... Appearance ;)
From my balcony on the top turret of the Fortress of Solitude I see a haze blanketing Utah Valley. That means fire or desert dust carried in by a strong west wind. If its fire then Utah is on the receiving end of another California import. Isn’t it enough that Utah has become the sanctuary for thousands of Californians escaping across Nevada’s desert for this oasis of civility? Why must they bring the smoke from their fires with them? May I remind everyone that we don’t need lessons from out of state visitors on the correct way to pollute our air. We do well enough on our own thank you very much.
I’m actually pleased so many move to Utah every year. If they keep coming our home values will increase. Maybe we can recoup some of the losses we’ve taken because of this little bump in the road called The Great Recession. It’s gotten so bad I hesitate to open my investment's quarterly reports fearing the depressing news will dampen even more my strained optimistic mood about the world we live in. By the way, is it just me or have you noticed a general sense of pessimism in the food, water and air? Everyone I know seems to be afflicted to one degree or another by pure unrefined negativity.
Now, I consider myself an optimist and sit at one end of future’s teeter totter. I know several that sit opposite on the pessimistic side of this handy playground example. Most times our numbers are fairly equal. There are enough like me that balance the “glass is half empty” crowd opposite. Lately I feel myself and those with me, starting to pick up altitude as more and more scoot down the plank toward the other side.
I’ll give you an example. Yesterday before leaving the Space Center I was stopped by a member of Central’s staff.
“Come here, I’ve got something to share with you,” he said while curling his index finger as one does when you want someone to follow. “I don’t know if I should be sharing this or not but I think you’d like to know.” He said as we turned down an empty hallway.
I leaned up against the brick preparing myself for Earth shattering news. My mind sped through the possibilities. I started with the Swine Flu, wondering if it mutated and killing half everyone it infects. While my secret bearer glanced up and down the hallway to see if anyone else was within earshot, my mind walked carefully across a mental tightrope to the other extreme - the possible news that an asteroid large enough to snuff out mankind was discovered and the government decided not to inform the general public to prevent mass panic. Of course, I then understood why I was being told. I would be one of those considered too important to die and would therefore be given special instructions on when and where to gather at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado for a briefing and then journey with all the others sharing my uniqueness, through the Star Gate to Earth 2 in some far distant corner of the Galaxy with instruction to continue the Human story on another shore.
“A friend of mine was at a wedding reception yesterday and was talking to another friend of someone who’s husband is a policeman. Well, he told his friend who then told mine that he was called to Washington for special training on what is about to happen. He told this person that after hearing about this unspoken event that he didn’t want to remain a policeman and decided to begin looking for other work. Well, what do you think?” he asked, searching my face to see if I understood the gravity of what he had just shared.
At that moment I felt myself rise higher out of balance on emotion’s teeter totter. What does one say when confronted with news like that? If its true then why look for other work? Surely everything we know and love is about to be pulled from us. Surely he implied mass rioting and looting and, according to this person, possible cannibalism......... .
“Well, I’m glad I live in Utah Valley,” I answered.
“Why is that?” he questioned. "Even people in Utah Valley will do unspeakable things if they are hungry... well you know what I mean."
“The reason I’m glad is because at least here in the center of Mormonism there is another governing structure in place if civil authority breaks down. That’s what I'm saying.”
It was the most positive thing I thought I could say at that moment and still remain respectful of his feelings. In reality I wanted to say that I didn’t belief a word of it and thought that it, along with all the other things I’ve heard whispered around the water cooler and spread over the internet was just the wailing of the doom sayers, who I might add, have always been here, living among us. During good times they generally remain silent and if pushed to the wall will tell you the world is doomed to destruction but they never know when this will happen. When times are bad, like now, they emerge from their basements into the sunlight, rubbing their eyes in an attempt to adjust to the beautiful world around them and a to the light of a kind warm sun shining on all equally and justly.
In the end I turned the conversation’s direction into something benign. Moments later I was in the Battlestar warping for home grateful another week at the Space Center was over and even more grateful for a day off to recharge and rewit myself for more of the same.
Friends, as I’ve said before and will say often. This world has been scheduled for destruction ever since man first looked into the stars to try to read their messages for the future. Yet are we not all still here?
Do I believe the world will end some day? Yes. My religion gives me an answer to that, and if I wasn’t religious then the answer is still yes. Nature will see to the Earth’s demise. One day the sun will bake the planet as it expands its diameter into old age.
So, we are doomed no matter what. I suppose its all a matter of time, isn’t it?
Until then, I need more of you to slide down the teeter totter to my side and lets balance out those that see darkness , doom and despair around every corner.
Listen, we got ourselves into this mess so we need to get ourselves out of it. Let’s become the force for good by setting the proper example to the next generation. Let’s borrow money only when absolutely needed for major purchases. Let’s stay out of debt even if it means giving up our rabid desire to keep up with the Jones. Let’s live within our means even it means wearing those pants and shoes a bit longer before spending money to replace them. Let’s spend more time together as families building righteous walls. Righteous walls protect us from the real and observed darkness that exists and has always existed in this world, yet open to let in the good and beautiful. Let’s use the power of our voices and speak out for what we believe, be it republican , democrat or independent. Let’s put muscle behind our voice by becoming involved in community affairs. Volunteer for a local charity. Volunteer at your school. Volunteer to work for a candidate that shares your core values.
Here is one voice that says the world is good but can be better. I see possibilities and to me, the future looks bright if we get involved with others of like mind and make the world the place we want it to be. We’ve one life and one planet to live it on in the vastness of space. Get educated, get involved, and believe the best is still to come.
Now make it so.
I'm finished and stepping off my soap box. Sorry for the length of this rant. If you know me you know I can be long winded.........................but I hope interesting......... (don't answer that).
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I drift in and out of unconsciousness most evenings while watching TV. Last night I blanked out during an awesome episode of 'A Touch of Frost' (a BBC import from England found on Netflix). I know it was good because I drifted off once during the show. If its 'so so' I'll mentally disappear four or five times during the 90 minutes. Each time I wake up I rewind the DVD to the last memory point and rewatch. Last night the phone woke me during my first bout of unconsciousness.
"Bracken wanted me to call," I recognized the voice. I wondered why Megan Warner was calling. A moment later, once sufficient blood reached my brain to force me into situational awareness, I put two and two together. Megan works for me at the Space Center. She was calling at night. She was running a mission in the Phoenix. The clues led me to the conclusion that something was wrong at the Space Center.
A couple extra drops of oxygenated blood brought another memory to mind. Megan was going to open her mission call after her mission. I told her to call and tell me the news. It became clear.
"OK, where are you going?" I asked while sitting upright in my Lazy Boy recliner.
"Something, South Korea," she answered. I wrote 'something' because I can't remember the exact name of the mission. It sounded like she said Dijon, which is a fancy french mustard.
"South Korea! You're a stone's throw from your brother in Japan."
We spoke for a few more minutes and I let her go.
Today, I have the pleasure of announcing to our Space Education Center family that Megan Warner, the Set Director of the Phoenix Simulator and long long time employee and friend to all received her LDS mission call to Something, South Korea. I dont' know exactly when she's entering the MTC because I forgot to ask, which might be something I should know as her employer.
Some of you are scratching your head wondering where in the heck is South Korea. That wouldn't surprise me considering the sorry state of geographical education in this nation. Let me help.
OK, We are in the United States.
If you go west toward California you will eventually walk into the Pacific Ocean. If you get into a sail boat and sail sort of north west you'll eventually pump into either
Russia, China or Japan. South Korea is west of Japan and borders China. There, you got it?
Congratulations Megan on your mission call from all your friends at the Space Education Center.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Another milestone reached today. As of noon I officially finished booking all the elementary schools in the Alpine District. Once again the Space Education Center will meet its obligations.
Now I face one of the most difficult tasks required of me each year. What do I do with all the non-Alpine District schools? There are too many of them and not enough open dates. It is a problem I’ve dealt with for the last seven or so years but its getting worse. Every year the Alpine District opens more schools. The District is exploding in the Lehi / Eagle Mountain areas. The thousands of new students enrolling every year must be accommodated. Every new school I book takes one non Alpine school off the calendar.
Here is a typical phone call from a non Alpine teacher....
“Hello. Is this Mr. Williamson?”
“Yes it is.”
“This is ........ from ........... school. I’m wondering if we can book our yearly field trip.”
“Well, I’m currently booking the Alpine District schools. I should be done with them this week. Next week I’ll start working on schools out of the district.”
“So I’m calling too early?”
“Just by a few days. I’ve taken your name and number and will get in touch with you next week.”
“Will there be anything left over for us?”
“Well, its getting tight. Our district is growing larger and larger every year. Every new school means a loss to an out of district school. I can’t make any promises. I wish I could.”
“So do we Mr. Williamson. So do we.”
“Well, I’ll call you next week.”
“Please do what ever you can for us. Mr. Williamson. We’ve been coming to the Space Center for nearly 15 years. Our students are so excited to finally reach the 6th grade because they know they’ll get to go to the Space Center like their older brothers and sisters. Its all they ask about the first day of school. You’ve become an institution in this school. It is a tradition that must continue. It means so much to the kids. I just wanted you to know that. Please do what you can for us.”
I hang up and sit back in my chair. I know what the calendar looks like. I know I only have a few days open and several schools on the wait list. A wait list that grows daily. Last year I took the cowards way out. I wrote a letter explaining my situation to the schools I couldn’t accommodate. This year I’ll do the same.
Some schools will not let their Space Center field trip disappear. They are willing to book after school field trips. These fantastic teachers will bring their students on their own time, after school to ensure they get the experience. My hat is off to them. They truly go the extra mile for their students.
Last year we accommodated every school that wanted an after school trip. Yes, it meant we worked four missions a day instead of our normal two but if that teacher was willing to give up their time I felt obliged to do the same. We will offer the after school experience again this year. I hope more teachers will take advantage of it.
Well Troops, here we are again. We prepare for another year. We clean the ship and prep the computers. We prepare our uniforms and costumes. We brush off our scripts and ready new ones. We update the web site and then, on or around September 14th we open our doors wide and welcome Utah to the Second Happiest Place on Earth!
A few months ago I was nearly rear ended by a teen driver. I saw him coming up quickly behind me at a stop.
He was texting on his phone. Luckily his buddy saw my car, yelled and they skidded to a stop.
In a post a few days ago called "The World is Too Much With Us" I talked about a need many have to remain connected to the matrix 24/7. I know at least one of you out in the matrix disagreed according to your comment.
I'm all for an open discussion but don't just write 'Bogus'. Give me reasons why my comments were 'Bogus'.
So...... I claim once again that there are many times a cell phone should be turned OFF. Disengage from the matrix. Reengage with the immediate world around you. If you're in a move, watch the movie. If you're in school, listen to the lesson and do your work. If you're at work, work. If you're at church, worship. And if you're driving, DRIVE.
I offer this video on the dangers of texting while driving. You may have seen it. It is making its rounds on the net. It is graphic. That is a warning. I present it as a warning not to be distracted when you drive. Not only do you endanger yourself and your passengers but you endanger the lives of others on the road - and I'm one of those others.
Common sense. You've got it. So use it.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Tiny? Black Holes? How could a back hole--something so massive and powerful--also be so tiny? Imagine a black hole a billionth of a billionth smaller than the mass of our sun...the universe could be filled with these ancient remnants of the Big Bang!! Read the following article posted on the PBS TV program website Monster of the Milky Way to discover more about the hunt for tiny black holes.....Amazing!!!!!
Space Center Educator
National Geographic Bee
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Excellent job to our staff for the successful completion of our last Super Overnighter of the summer season. Canada was run unexpectedly. Four of the 18 campers had already done “A Matter of Honor” when they came earlier the summer on a three day camp. The staff enjoy running Canada. It has several excellent parts for acting - and great acting rolls is all they ask for.
Our summer season ends at the end of September. We have four more overnight camps and several private missions. We hope to open for school field trips by September 15th. I’ve got to get as many schools in this year as possible. The Alpine School District is growing larger every week, especially in the Lehi and Eagle Mountain communities. Each new student means the loss of another place I can give to schools outside the District. I may only have a few days to give to non Alpine schools by the time I get all our schools booked. Once again I come to my yearly problem - how do I select which schools will be given the few remaining slots? I hate to tell teachers we have no room in the inn but unfortunately we are about to fill and the truth is the truth - we will have no room at the inn.
I need to take four classes per day instead of two. The only way to pull that off is to build more ships. To build more ships I need more money and strangely enough, everyone wants to hang on to their money in this economy. Given that fact, we will muddle along as we have for 19 years. What more can we do?
THE WORLD IS TOO MUCH WITH US
Last night I attend the my sister’s production of Dancing Under the Stars” at the Scera Shell in Orem. Needless to say the evening was fantastic. The Center Stage dancers were amazing (proudly said because of the fine performances of my nieces - the DelGrosso sisters).
I took my seat on one of those white plastic chairs on the lawn and enjoyed the night air. That’s when I noticed the first problem. When I leaned back the back of the chair started to buckle. I know I carry a few extra pounds but not enough for the back of a chair to curve too the point where I could embarrassingly topple backwards out of my chair and into the lap of the older gentleman sitting behind me. One glance up and down the rows around me and I noticed others were exerperienceing the same problem. After a few minutes you get the hang of it. You learn not to lean back too far.
I noticed the first five rows of this outdoor theater had green plastic chairs. The green chair back support was noticeable more extensive than my white chair's. Of course, you get what you pay for don’t you? If you want to sit in luxury you pay for the green plastic chair. I’ll remember that next time.
A rather wealthy family sat in front of me. You can smell people with money, cant’ you? And if your nose doesn't give them away their appearances do. Perfect haircuts with highlights (as opposed to my Dollar Cut special. Highlights not needed thanks to my gray hair), perfect clothes (as opposed to my ....... I don’t remember where or when I bought my clothes. Yes its been that long), shoes in fashion (as opposed to my black trainers supplied yearly at Christmas by my sister) and brilliant white teeth (again as opposed to my off white chompers thanks to too much diet coke).
The show started. Dance after dance crossed the stage. Now, I’m no expert on dancing although I took dancing lessons at the church when I was in the 9th grade. The lessons stopped after two weeks. The Branch President’s wife couldn’t take the pain of us stomping on her toes while she patiently tried to teach us something latin. I didn’t want to take dancing lessons anyway. The way I looked at it - everyone was a winner. She got out of teaching and we got out of dancing. Now, back to the point - I thought the dancing was fantastic. Then, part way through the first half of the program the teen age son pulled out his phone and began texting. When finished he’d slip the phone back into his pocket only to pull it out again a few minutes later to read the incoming telegram.
A moment later the dad (who was sitting in front of me) pulled out his iPhone and started checking him email. As if that wasn’t enough, he answered several of them while glancing up from time to time to see what was happening on stage.
So, here you have a stage full of performers (one of which was probably theirs) and the dad sitting there conducting business on a Saturday evening with his iPhone. You want to say something but I’m afraid there would be no one left on this planet that would back me up. It seems every year more and more people are becoming addicted to information. They think they need to know what everyone is doing and when they are doing it. Look at the ridiculous things people post on their Facebooks.
“I’m watching TV”
“I’m on the toilet”
“I’m wondering if anyone out there likes me”
“I’m bored. Can someone play”
“I had pot roast tonight. A piece got stuck in my throat. I coughed it out. I’m a different person now because of it”
What people should be Tweeting is
“I’m addicted to information and can’t help myself. I need to know what everyone around me doing because if they are doing something interesting I want to be part of it because I lost the ability to entertain myself and if I really told the truth I hate my own company so I’ll sit here and type everything I’m doing hoping someone will recognize it as my pathetic call for social recognition and..... and....... that’s about it. Maybe I said too much? Is anybody out there? Please respond and say that you like me.”
Nobody really cares what you are doing 24/7. There is such a thing as too much information out there on the web. Sometimes personal feelings are best left personal. It is best not to appear too needy. It has a way of turning people off.
And, it is OK to turn off your phone. I know you can do it. Detach yourself from the matrix and feel what its like to be free again. Do it. I dare you.
And now I’m done. I’m climbing off my soapbox. to let someone else climb up and rant about something else in this world that ticks them off. You may disagree with me and go ahead but please do it in a phone call or in person, NOT in a text! ;)
Friday, August 21, 2009
The Voyager's door is directly in front of me. I'm sitting at my desk typing (a statement that goes without saying since words are appearing on the screen before me). I'm hearing multiple voices, mostly children. I hear Kyle Herring's voice as Flight Director.
"Quiet on the Bridge," the Captain just shouted. I'm thinking we've got a crew of chiefs and no Indians. Typical for a Space Center mission. Everyone wants to be in charge. Everyone wants to be where the action is. Once in awhile one camper amazes us by staying at his station, doing his job, no matter what is happening around him.
The staff are busy around me. They are getting into costume and discussing the next scene. I know what's coming. The younglings don't. I wrote the story. The mission is evolving toward a climax. There will be shouting. There will be panic. The ship's command structure may disintegrate as the captain cowers under his desk leaving his junior officers to face the overwhelming natural and unnatural forces seeking to destroy the Voyager and what it represents.
Landon stopped by to say hello before setting sail for Logan where he attends USU (I know. We forgive him. It is the only Christian thing to do when someone turns from the light to the darkness). And what happens when the staff of yesteryear return for a quick hello?
We draft them back into the service!
Yes, Landon was ambushed by the rest of the staff before he could escape through the front doors and into the dark. He was carried kicking and screaming into the Voyager's control room, tied to a chair and 'told' his reactivation clause was being invoked. He WOULD be acting during the main scenes at midnight. Landon is smart and knows when to fight and when to surrender. He surrendered to our overwhelming force and succumbed to our will.
There is no escape from the Space Education Center. NO ESCAPE. Some have tried only to be caught near the electric fence disguised as an innocent hedge surrounding what appears to be a neighborhood elementary school called Central.
And now it is 10:34 P.M. The mission is progressing well.
We are running USS Canada, a mission I wrote years ago as an overnight mission. It is told as a Super Overnighter today. It is a favorite of the staff.
The first two days of school went well. The children are well behaved as they test their new teachers to see where their breaking point is. Once they know their buttons and how to push them, I expect the honeymoon will end between teacher and student and the long war over their minds will begin. I'm hoping it will be a good year.
And now I'll end this post. Thank you readers for visiting the blog on a regular basis and showing your support for the Center whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Several of you sent emails requesting information on the Galileo. I'll take a moment and being everyone up to date.
- The Galileo is back at Scenic Services in Lindon where it is being reassembled by Kyle Herring and his team.
- Chairs and desks are being installed. Touch screens, computer and network cables are being installed. Additional work on the power system is being done.
- The Galileo will be brought to the Space Center September 14th and parked next to 'old' Galileo. Equipment from the current Galileo will be installed in the new Galileo.
- The current Galileo will be taken apart. We are trying to find a buyer. We'd to find it a good home.
- The new Galileo will open for missions once the computer programs are written.
- I'm guessing the Galileo will open for missions around the middle of September.
- The Galileo officially opens on November 8, 2009 as part of the Space Center's 19th Birthday Celebrations!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
It doesn’t take a seer to imagine what’s happening throughout the towns, villages, and hamlets across this vast Alpine School District. Children are filling their backpacks with pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks, calculators and rulers in preparation for tomorrow’s first day of school. Clothes are spread out over beds while boys and girls make the most important decision of the day - what to wear. Does this match that and does that go with this? Some mothers stand by as consultants, others wouldn’t attempt to get involved in a clothes discussion with their teenager - It’s too risky. Dads are blissfully and permanently excluded from ‘What to Wear’ discussions. Most men are not blessed with the correct rods and cones in their eyes to see the subtleties of fabric and color required for clothes matching. Best to stick with what we know best; sports, electronics and television.
I dreaded the first day of school as a child. I dreaded what my new teacher would be like. I dreaded the thought of learning new math. I mourned the loss of my freedom. No more carefree days spent on my bicycle exploring the streets and avenues of Rapid City, South Dakota. No more lazy afternoons at the public pool. No more long walks home from a day of swimming with my friends. No more treasure hunting under the bleachers at the ball parks. No more sugar stops at the Dairy Queen on Cottonwood Lane filling up on 1 penny Red Vines with our 'under the bleacher' findings.
The end of summer meant an end to our summer backyard sleep overs, and with them went our double dog dare midnight romps through our Canyon Lake neighborhood. Those early 1970's midnight adventures bring fond memories of my gang and I. We prowled our turf - finding imaginative and unholy matchings of toilet paper with trees, cars, fences, bikes and other things best left unmentioned as per instructions issued by the Rapid City Police Department.
We made our own fun in those days. You had to. There were no DVD’s or video machines. There were no iPods or computers. You got up, put on your swimming suit and Tshirt, did your chores, scrounged for money in your mom’s purse or between the couch cushions and hit the road with your friends on your bikes. If we had enough money we cycled several miles to the Kresge's at Bacon Park. Kresge's had a diner with 50 cent hot fudge sundaes. If you got bored waiting for the pool to open you cycled to the spillway on Canyon Lake Dam. Who needed a Lagoon when you had a mossy, slimy dam spillway to slide down? What a blast it was tumbling down the spillway into the creek below, then crawling back up, sometimes making it and others slipping and toppling back down - taking your friends with you.
It was important to our mothers to come home for dinner. As soon as supper was inhaled we were back on our bikes, setting a course for the dirt hills. The dirt hills were magical. We split into teams, staked out our forts and proceeded with vicious and sometimes bloody dirt clod fights.
Those were the good old day of my summers........
Now, its time for school. Summer is over so we put summer things away and get down to business. I urge all of you to work hard in school. Set good goals and do everything you can to reach them. Remember, you’re in school to learn and teachers are there to teach. It is a partnership. The vast majority of teachers really do care about you and your grades. They want you to succeed but can’t force you. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. That saying applies to you and your education. Drink deeply. Satisfy your cravings for knowledge. Learn to think and reason so you can become a productive member of society. That’s is all we ask. Is it too much?
Remember, us old timers are not going to be around forever. You will grow up and take over for us. That can be frightening. Do a better job than we are doing in the way you care for this country and planet when its your turn to make decisions. America’s best years are before us, not behind us as many might say. Find a way to make the world a better place because you’re here......now.
Enjoy this year. Make new friends. Grow and develop into the kind of person you want everyone to think you are.
And to our young volunteers and staff - I’ll see you here in the trenches.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
From high atop Mr. Olympus they came in a shimmering chariot called Galileo. These immortals landed in a small obscure hamlet in a place called Utah. Their quest was to live among us and learn the mortal ways. At Zeus’s bidding they were commanded to give the children of men a moment of time in a silver chariot forged in Hephaestus' fire.
Hundreds of mortals experienced the Galileo, this Olympian Chariot of Fire. Its true immortal identity hidden and its glory diffused so as not to overwhelm their senses - thus causing them to immediately transfigure and reappear on the golden, windswept Elysian Fields.
The Olympians took mortal names and form. Referring to themselves as Kyle, Stacy, Taylor, Emily, Jon, Megan and perhaps others whom I never saw. And so they lived for days with us.
Now they are gone. The place where the Galileo stood is empty with no marker or stone to commemorate the supernatural event which transpired there. The immortals have returned to Olympus to make their report to Zeus.
Are we not all blessed for their visit? For in the end, the memory of what we saw, heard and touched will remain with us until the last breath leaves our lungs and the boatman appears at our bedside to ferry us across the dark waters of the river Styx to join our brethren in the land of eternal twilight.
Friends, I want to thank Kyle Herring and those that responded to his call (Stacy Carroll, Taylor Thomas, Jon Parker, Megan Warner, Emily Perry, Spencer Robinson and others whom I may not know about) for assistance. They performed the impossible. They worked tirelessly, nearly around the clock to prepare the Galileo for the Utah County Fair this past weekend. The ship was dismantled and trucked to Spanish Fork, then reassembled under a canopy. This was the first time the Galileo was dismantled, then reassembled. Much was learned and changes will be made. We learned a large truck with a hydraulic lift is a necessity (their broken backs, ribs, fingers, heads, and spirits all agree). We learned setting the Galileo up on asphalt is a no no. The ball bearing wheels created divots in the pavement as the daily temperatures climbed. We relearned the lesson about never trusting Mother Nature. This was an event requiring dry weather. Instead we got rain three of the four days we were down there.
I was there Thursday afternoon when the Galileo officially opened for tours. There were many excited children waiting in line. The tours continued over the weekend, one after the other, in an endless stream of the curious. Questions were answered and pamphlets distributed.
Every evening the staff went home to sleep except for Kyle. Kyle couldn’t leave the safety and security of this new simulator in the hands of Fairground security. Kyle decided to sleep in the Galileo Wednesday through Friday nights. That is dedication. That is the definition of going the extra mile. There is nothing more I can do than to say “Thank you Kyle,” and leave it at that.
Kyle made a video journal of his Fairground sleeping experience he posted to his Facebook account. I’m included them in this post. (Reminded me a bit of the Blair Witch Project.....)
Once again, a sincere thank you and congratulations to our Space Center team for pulling something off I thought couldn’t be done in the short amount of time we had to do it.
Troops. The Daily Herald did an article on the Galileo at the County Fair (included below in this post). The article appeared in Sunday's Paper.
New mobile flight simulator debuts at Utah County Fair
Kira Johnson - Daily Herald | Posted: Sunday, August 16, 2009 12:10 am
With the neon blue glow of overhead lights purpling her lips, the low ceiling making her look abnormally tall, flight director Emily Perry grins at 11-year-old Colin Collyer who's currently perched in tactical.
"What we do is we take people just like you and we give you guys a mission objective and we send you off into space and each one of you has a position," she says. "We give you these jobs so that you and your team can fly around and blow stuff up and you save the universe."
Perry, 20, a Provo resident studying history education at BYU, is giving a tour of the Galileo Mark VI, The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center's newly commissioned mobile flight simulator, which is two weeks shy of final completion. The Galileo Mark VI, built with the help of a team of BYU students, is meant to replace the Galileo Mark V at the Christa McAuliffe space center, located at Central Elementary School in Pleasant Grove.
The space center staff spent this past week on its debut flight, a trip to the Utah County Fair in Spanish Fork.
"We needed to test the moveability of the center," said concept creator and manager David Kyle Herring. "We thought it would be a great opportunity to test it and show it off and maybe even raise some money to help finish the project." The space center is still about $5,000 short of their final goal.
Collyer, his Dad, Brian, and his two sisters, Regin and Bryn, are seated in leather chairs bolted to the floor facing a large flat-screen monitor mounted in the front bulkhead. At each of the stations where the Collyers sit, brackets mark where future touch screen monitors will convey information pertinent to each simulation. Behind the bridge of the ship is a short compartment flanked by a pair of padded bunks.
It's a tight space, made to stimulate the imagination and approximate what it feels like to serve onboard a space shuttle.
Originally the Galileo Mark V was built in 1999 with a life expectancy of three years, said set director Stacy Carrell. Ten years and nearly $40,000 later, the center is finally ready to replace the original with a lighter, more tech savvy version. With the help of a team of manufacturing engineering technology and mechanical engineering majors at BYU, the space center team has designed a module that can be taken off campus.
"The simulator is the most sophisticated one that we have so far," Carrell said. "We're using a lot of new technology that we've never used before, upgrading things and advancing things, taking what we've learned building other simulators and bringing them to this one."
The BYU team of seven students who built the frame began the process last September as a capstone course.
"When we were finished we had a structural skeleton that could be taken apart and put back together so it could be loaded on a trailer and hauled around," said Terri Bateman, a part-time faculty member in the mechanical engineering department.
Bateman was the faculty mentor for the capstone team that constructed the frame.
"When we first started working on the space ship program, Kyle told our team that we should experience the missions ourselves," Bateman said. "I recognized right off the bat how complex this program that they've put together is," she continued. "There are TV screens that are telling you what to do, there's lights and sound. Each child has their own computer. It's really complex all the things they've put together to make it a multi-sensory experience."
The Galileo is the only one of five simulators at the center that has the exterior representation of a space module.
The other four are built into the school campus, one of which doubles as a computer lab during the day.
When finished, the Galileo Mark VI will take the previous module's place in the school's cafeteria.
Together the five simulators can handle up to 60 students a day.
This trip to the fair was the first time the ship had been disassembled, moved and reassembled, and already the team is learning that the new model poses its own set of challenges.
Victor Williamson, the center's director, said the Galileo is merely an extension of a student-driven program that has been working for years to enhance the learning experience by simulating real-world situations.
"Instead of a unit taught out of a book, now there are simulations where students are thrown into experiences that are as close to real life as possible," Williamson said. "It takes longer to teach in a simulation, but the learning stays much longer than when it's taught in traditional methods."
The space center has hosted nearly 220,000 students, teachers and parents over the past 19 years.
"We put these kids in these adult roles, and they have adult situations," Herring said. "We do a really good job at throwing problems at them and doing it in such a way where we don't overstress them out. We have made kids cry before. There's a lot of stress on one of these missions because they have to work as a team."
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Aleta Clegg, desk slave for the space center Supreme High Commander of the Universe, and guest blogger
Personal Log: Adrian Stevens, Quartermaster - Entry 8
Del’Brugado spat curses as he retreated. “Take them!” He shoved his men our way.
They hesitated. Anyone with a touch of sense facing five angry Klingons would turn and run. Del’Brugado’s men had no sense. They muttered threats as they slowly advanced.
I raised the rifle and squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened. The marauder grinned, showing a prominent gold tooth. I charged forward, slamming the rifle butt against his teeth. He staggered, holding his now bleeding mouth. One of the Klingons picked him up, tossing him into the bulkhead. He crumpled to the floor.
I switched my hold on the rifle, grabbing the barrel. Another marauder ducked Rakrr, picking me as the easier target. I swung the rifle, crunching the butt into his skull. He dropped.
Another one grabbed me from behind. I kicked, scraping my boot along his shin. He howled and jumped but he didn’t let go. I tossed my head back, cracking it into his chin. He swore. I kicked again. He grabbed my elbows, pinning them back. He lifted me off my feet. I wriggled like an angry cat, kicking and screaming insults, too angry to feel the pain.
Another pirate attacked me, thinking me helpless. I landed my boot in his belly. He reeled into a Klingon fist and went down.
The man holding me shifted his grip just enough I could slip free. I turned on him, clawing his face and kicking his shins. He retreated with his hands held protectively in front. Hruk’Tal clobbered him from behind. I kicked him as he fell.
“Small, but fierce.” Hruk’Tal nodded his approval.
“Duck!” I launched myself to the side as a marauder opened fire.
Hruk’Tal roared as the beam bit into his arm. The thick sleeve of his coat smoldered. He spun, fists and feet flying. The marauder disappeared under a heap of angry Klingons.
“Clear for the moment.” Herring’s crisp voice cut through the sudden silence.
Hruk’Tal lifted the limp marauder. “What shall we do with these?”
“Lock them in a storage closet.” I slapped the closest door control panel.
“Kill them,” Rakrr growled. He spat Klingon insults and kicked the nearest unconscious body.
“They may have information we can use.” Herring stroked his chin. “We lock them up for now.”
Hruk’Tal motioned the Klingons to gather the marauders. “We kill only in the heat of battle.”
They shoved the pile of limp bodies into the storage closet after stripping off any useful weapons.
“How do we keep them from escaping?” Rakrr asked. “I see no lock.”
“Like this.” I wedged a knife stolen from a marauder under the door controls, popping it clear. I twisted the wires inside until they tore free. “No one’s going through that door until they put those back.”
“I trust you know how?” Herring raised his eyebrow.
I shrugged. “We leave that to Carroll and her crack troops. Where are they?”
The ship rocked.
“The ship is under attack. Now is the time to strike!” Hruk’Tal slammed his fist against his chest. “Today is a good day to die.”
“Not if I can help it,” I muttered.
The lights turned red. Sirens wailed through the hall. We staggered as the ship lurched. Smoke billowed from vents overhead.
“Shields are down,” Herring observed.
“We shall take the bridge.” Hruk’Tal raised his head and howled his battle cry.
“What about Taylor and the control unit?” I asked Herring.
“The shuttle bay is just down the hall. With this,” he shouldered a very large phase rifle, “I should be fine. Keep them distracted, Stevens.”
“Come, small warrior.” Rakrr clapped his hand on my back almost knocking me over. “We shall avenge our fallen comrades.”
All five Klingons howled, a hair-raising chorus. They raised their weapons over their heads. I lifted the belt knife into the air and howled along with them. I wanted my own share of payback.
Someone shot a pulse of phaser fire into the hall. The six of us charged towards it, howling all the way.
Del’Brugado had at least fifty troops on the ship. It took the Klingons less than an hour to beat them all senseless. We left them locked in rooms all over the ship. Del’Brugado barricaded himself on the bridge. That stopped the Klingons.
“We cannot breach the doors,” Rakrr complained after a fourth failed attempt to beat his way through.
Hruk’Tal raised his hand for silence, cocking his head to one side. “They are starting the engines.” His forehead ridges deepened as he frowned. “Small warrior, can you open a door or just lock one?”
“I can try.” I edged forward, peering around the corner. Del’Brugado wasn’t above taking potshots at us if we showed our faces.
The twenty feet of hall stretched empty to the closed door to the bridge. I wiped a nervous hand on my leg and clutched the knife tighter in my other hand. The Klingons crowded behind me, pushing me into the open. I ran for the door, the Klingons on my heels.
I popped the cover from the controls, twisting the knife under one edge. The tangle of wires inside mocked me. I yanked a handful free. Sparks spat from the panel.
“That did not open the door,” Hruk’Tal said.
“I’m guessing,” I snapped. “I’m not an engineer.” I tapped the bare ends of two wires together. Nothing happened. I tried another pair.
“This is taking much too long.” Rakrr tried to wedge his massive hands in the door to force it. The surface was too smooth, too tightly closed.
I shoved a handful of wires into another tangle. Lightning danced across the panel. I jerked my hands back, not fast enough to avoid a shock. Smoke billowed from the wall. The door slid open just far enough for Rakrr to jam his fingers inside. His muscles bulged as he shoved it open.
Phaser beams caught him, tossing him backwards. His hair smoked as he crashed to the floor of the ship. The other Klingons charged inside.
I dropped to my knees next to his limp body. I wasn’t sure where to check a Klingon for a pulse. He twitched, muttering guttural curses. I patted his shoulder. If he was still growling, he should recover. Klingons were tough.
I dove through the door into the chaotic bridge. The Klingons were beating the bridge crew. Del’Brugado edged away from the battle. I slipped behind him.
“I really don’t like you.” I slammed the pommel of the knife into his head. Del’Brugado, leader of the Fellucian Marauders, dropped like a rag doll.
I yanked his boots off, throwing them through the door into the hall. I used his tunic and trousers to tie him securely to the railing. He glared as I finished, waking up enough to yank at the bonds. I waggled the knife under his nose.
“Nice underwear. I hope you don’t mind everyone seeing it.” I grinned at his angry scowl.
I shoved his socks into his mouth and tied them in place with his sash. “I think we won and you lost.”
“We have control of the ship,” Hruk’Tal announced. “Victory is ours!”
I joined in the chorus of Klingon howls.
Admiral Williamson steepled his fingers under his chin. I shuffled my feet, unnerved by his measuring stare.
“A most interesting report,” he said after a very lengthy silence. “Am I to understand that you have been granted the singular honor of receiving a Klingon warrior name?”
I blushed. The victory party on the bridge of the captured cargo ship had gotten slightly out of hand. Del’Brugado would never forgive us for the picture we’d sent long range to every contact listed in the ship records. The Klingons appreciated the joke.
“Klingons have a strange sense of humor, sir.”
“They claim it was your idea. They wanted you to have the credit.”
“That was generous of them.”
“They also requested you be sent as the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire.” Admiral Williamson leaned back in his chair, rocking slightly. “I am almost tempted to send you.”
“I don’t know the first thing about diplomacy. I know supplies and a ship galley.” Me? Ambassador to the Klingons? I’d start a war within five minutes of arriving.
“We found a polite way to refuse. Tensions are high enough without adding you to the negotiation table.” He tilted his head, watching me like a bird eying a juicy worm. “Captain Herring requested you as his quartermaster. You are assigned to the Voyager. The refitting is almost complete.”
The Voyager, flown by Vasha and the handful of crew left aboard, had shown up just after Commander Carroll finished installing the remote driver for the cargo ship. We’d transferred prisoners to the Voyager and set course for Starbase 14 with the Galileo and the cargo ship.
“I’m afraid the Delphi project will have to be scrapped, though,” Williamson continued.
“What was Delphi?” I asked. He seemed in a mellow mood, maybe he’d answer.
“An experiment in AI controlled ships. We haven’t got the bugs worked out yet. So, your job is safe. We still need humans to fly our ships and humans require food. You have six hours before the Voyager leaves drydock. And, Stevens, prepare for a long flight. Captain Herring is investigating the marauders. They are too well organized for pirates.”
His chair thumped back into place as he bent over his paperwork.
I saluted the top of his balding head. Quartermaster on the Voyager under Captain Herring. What would he ask of me on the next mission? I shook my head, unable to even guess.
The story will continue in a new private mission, War Games, for the Odyssey and Galileo. It should be ready to fly by summer 2010.
If you enjoyed reading this, check out some of my other stories on www.jaletac.com