Contact Victor Williamson with your questions about simulator based experiential education programs for your school.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Earthlike Planet Discovered. The First of its Kind. Chances of Life 100% ?

This artist's conception shows the inner four planets of the Gliese 581 system and their host star, a red dwarf star only 20 light years away from Earth. The large planet in the foreground is the newly discovered GJ 581g, which has a 37-day orbit right in the middle of the star's habitable zone and is only three to four times the mass of Earth, with a diameter 1.2 to 1.4 times that of Earth.
Credit: Lynette Cook

By Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience Managing Editor. Space.Com

An Earth-size planet has been spotted orbiting a nearby star at a distance that would makes it not too hot and not too cold — comfortable enough for life to exist, researchers announced.

If confirmed, the exoplanet, named Gliese 581g, would be the first Earth-like world found residing in a star's habitable zone — a region where a planet's temperature could sustain liquid water on its surface.

And the planet's discoverers are optimistic about the prospects for finding life there.

"Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent," said Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during a press briefing today. "I have almost no doubt about it."

His colleague, Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, in Washington, D.C., wasn't willing to put a number on the odds of life, though he admitted he's optimistic.

"It's both an incremental and monumental discovery," Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Incremental because the method used to find Gliese 581g already has found several planets most of the known planets, both super-Earths, more massive than our own world outside their stars' habitable zone, along with non-Earth-like planets within the habitable zone.

"It really is monumental if you accept this as the first Earth-like planet ever found in the star's habitable zone," said Seager, who was not directly involved in the discovery.

Vogt, Butler and their colleagues will detail the planet finding in the Astrophysical Journal.

The newfound planet joins more than 400 other alien worlds known to date. Most are huge gas giants, though several are just a few times the mass of Earth.

Stellar tugs

Gliese 581g is one of two new worlds the team discovered orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581, bumping that nearby star's family of planets to six. The other newfound planet, Gliese 581f, is outside the habitable zone, researchers said.

The star is located 20 light-years from Earth in the constellation Libra. One light-year is about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion km).

Red dwarf stars are about 50 times dimmer than our sun. Since these stars are so much cooler, their planets can orbit much closer to them and still remain in the habitable zone.

Estimates suggest Gliese 581g is 0.15 astronomical units from its star, close enough to its star to be able to complete an orbit in just under 37 days. One astronomical unit is the average distance between the Earth and sun, which is approximately 93 million miles (150 million km).

The Gliese 581 planet system now vaguely resembles our own, with six worlds orbiting their star in nearly circular paths.

With support from the National Science Foundation and NASA, the scientists — members of the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey — collected 11 years of radial velocity data on the star. This method looks at a star's tiny movements due to the gravitational tug from orbiting bodies.

The subtle tugs let researchers estimate the planet's mass and orbital period, how long it takes to circle its star.

Gliese 581g has a mass three to four times Earth's, the researchers estimated. From the mass and estimated size, they said the world is probably a rocky planet with enough gravity to hold onto an atmosphere.

The planet is tidally locked to its star, so that one side basks in perpetual daylight, while the other side remains in darkness. This locked configuration helps to stabilize the planet's surface climate, Vogt said.

"Any emerging life forms would have a wide range of stable climates to choose from and to evolve around, depending on their longitude," Vogt said, suggesting that life forms that like it hot would just scoot toward the light side of that line while forms with polar-bear-like preferences would move toward the dark side.

Between blazing heat on the star-facing side and freezing cold on the dark side, the average surface temperature may range from 24 degrees below zero to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 31 to minus 12 degrees Celsius), the researchers said.

Are you sure?

Supposedly habitable worlds have been found and later discredited, so what makes this one such a breakthrough?

There's still a chance that further observations will dismiss this planet, also. But over the years, the radial velocity method has become more precise, the researchers point out in their journal article.

In addition, the researchers didn't make some of the unrealistic assumptions made in the past, Seager said.

For instance, another planet orbiting Gliese 581 (the planet Gliese 581c) also had been considered to have temperatures suitable for life, but in making those calculations, the researchers had come up with an "unrealistic" estimate for the amount of energy the planet reflected, Seager pointed out. That type of estimate wasn't made for this discovery.

"We're looking at this one as basically the tip of the iceberg, and we're expecting more to be found," Seager said.

One way to make this a reality, according to study researchers, would be "to build dedicated 6- to 8-meter-class Automated Planet Finder telescopes, one in each hemisphere," they wrote.

The telescopes — or "light buckets" as Seager referred to them — would be dedicated to spying on the nearby stars thought to potentially host Earth-like planets in their habitable zones. The result would be inexpensive and probably would reveal many other nearby potentially habitable planets, the researchers wrote.

Beyond the roughly 100 nearest stars to Earth, there are billions upon billions of stars in the Milky Way, and with that in mind, the researchers suggest tens of billions of potentially habitable planets may exist, waiting to be found.

Planets like Gliese 581g that are tidally locked and orbit the habitable zone of red dwarfs have a high probability of harboring life, the researchers suggest.

Earth once supported harsh conditions, the researchers point out. And since red dwarfs are relatively "immortal" living hundreds of billions of years (many times the current age of the universe), combined with the fact that conditions stay so stable on a tidally locked planet, there's a good chance that if life were to get a toe-hold it would be able to adapt to those conditions and possibly take off, Butler said.

Another Post on Space Center History.

Hello Troops,
This post was written by David Andrus, a former Space Cadet and Volunteer at the Space Center (not to mention an all around good guy). Thank you David for taking the time to write another chapter in the Center's history.

And Now David's Post:

A call for old timers' posts? You sure you want to do that Vic? I'm one of the oldest of the old and I was hoping to save some of this for free private mission blackmail or something.

How about a recollection from my first ever trip to the space center? I think the trip was in 5th grade. That would have been either late 1990 or early 1991. The trip was organized by Fred Olson who was teaching at Sunset View Elementary in Provo at the time. I didn't know exactly what it was before I arrived at Central Elementary, just that it was some sort of space camp.

I remember first coming into the briefing room and sitting down at a desk. There was some sort of mission briefing by a guy who looked suspiciously like the current space center director...but there was just a little bit less of him and his hair was a different color (sorry Vic, I couldn't resist).

I sat there in the briefing room and looked around. The thing that really caught my attention was this rather strange door. It was lower than normal and there were some letters above it. I can't remember what they said now, but they were an abbreviation for something. I was completely clueless about what those letters meant and what was beyond that door, but boy did I ever want to know (and boy was I disappointed to learn the reason for the door being so short - there's a beam or something there that couldn't be moved to accommodate the Voyager).

I recall being taken on board the ship via the transporter on the stage, and then taking the scenic route through the control room on my way to the bridge. I took my station, which was in the same position as the current sensors station, at right wing. We handled propulsion, transporters, and a few other things I can't remember now. I also remember that all of our computers were identical and we had to click on our actions all at the same time.

Ah those old Mac classics were things of beauty. Slow, plodding, tiny black and white screens. But the technical limitations weren't important. The important part was how I was drawn into the story by feeling like I was a part of the action. We'd make a change to the ship's speed and the viewscreen and sound effects would change to reflect that we'd gone from sub-light to warp. We followed our captain's orders and actually managed to make it through without dying once.

I could go on and on about my various experiences at the space center. Maybe some day I'll collect all of my thoughts and send them on. But my continued ramblings will have to wait for another day as I'm sure I've exceeded even the attention span of our illustrious leader. Maybe I'll next regale you all with the story of how the illustrious Fish and I met and started a friendship that is now over 18 years strong.

No Bucks, No Buck Rogers. Until now.

Congress Takes Action on Space Funding
By Mark Daymont
Space Center Educator / Flight Director

It has taken over a year. When President Obama unveiled his plans for NASA's new direction, it set off a firestorm of complaints, praise, arguments and confusion. For many space enthusiasts, it seemed he was deliberately shutting down our only actual plans for continuing human spaceflight and surrendering our lead in space exploration to other countries. To other advocates, his plan seemed to put NASA on a flexible path to developing the new technologies we would use in the future. To be honest, it was a bit of both. The problem was, his plan definitely would have resulted in a longer "space gap" where the US did not have it's own ability to launch humans in space, and worse, there would have been a greater number of layoffs for specialists and engineers from the program.

Late last night, just as Congress prepared to adjourn so they could return home to campaign before the November election, they finally voted on and passed Senate Bill S.3729. This last vote now sends the bill to the President's desk for his signature. Once that is done, the Bill passes into law and the provisions therein become enacted. The money will begin to flow. The actions will be taken, the direction assured.

Many members of congress were not satisfied with the Bill. Many felt it was a poor compromise of the many, many ideas that had been bantered around, argued over and revised time after time. But most felt the time was right to do SOMETHING, and get NASA moving in a direction that felt better than what the White House was choosing. The final vote was 304 for passage, 118 against, with 10 not voting.

The Bill funds one more launch of the shuttle after two that are currently scheduled. It also anticipates helping the private sector develop commercial launchers to put astronauts and other payloads into orbit.

Funding also would go for starting to develop a new heavy launcher, which would be crucial for sending Astronauts to an asteroid of Mars, but also the International Space Station.

Seven billion dollars have been earmarked for work aimed at making the new heavy launcher operational by 2016.

Climbing to New Heights

Hello Troops,
No way, not for a million dollars or all the tea in China would you get me to do this. This gives "Reaching New Heights" an all new meaning. Watch and hold on tightly. I hope these guys are paid well for what they do.

Mr. W.

Tower video

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Old Timer's Recollections.

The Original Voyager Gary Remembers.
Ahhh those were the Good Ole Days.
We've Come a Long Way Since Those Early Days :)

Hello Troops,
I want to thank Gary Gardiner, an old Space Center Veteran from the Voyagers earliest days, for this comment on yesterday's Space Center History Post. If any of you other old timers have a moment please considering a short post on your recollections of the Space Center's early days.

Mr. Williamson

And Now Gary's Post:

An invitation to old timers to post a comment? Y'know, before these reminiscent posts (including this one and the superb Space Center History posts a few months back), I didn't consider myself an old timer. But then I thought about it... did some math... and holy cow! I was shocked to discover how much of an old timer I actually am.

I attended the Space Center for the first time when I was in 5th grade. Looking back, I now realize that that was in 1992!! I couldn't believe that I attended the Space Center only two years after it opened its doors. From the star-struck vantage point of a 5th grader, there was absolutely no indication that the Space Center was that young at the time. Everything worked seamlessly... at least to my eyes, which is a tribute to the volunteers behind the scenes at the time.

That field trip in 5th grade captured my imagination and I haven't been the same since. I came back as often as my parents could afford (far too little), but I filled all the interim time with my own dreams and imaginings inspired by the Space Center experience.

I remember one camp (probably an overnighter) where we got to fly the brand-spankin'-new ISIS (the Odyssey, for all the younguns reading this). I was in the second crew to ever fly the ISIS... the other half of our group were the lucky ones to be the first.

It really wasn't until I read these blog posts that I remembered how crews used to alternate between the simulators and the classrooms. I'd completely forgotten about that, mainly because all my memories revolved around the simulators.

... Although... I do have one traumatic memory from the classrooms. Mr. Daymont was leading our group in an interactive board game that used one of those huge laser discs. Anyway, the video featured a Klingon who captured the Enterprise, and it was our duty as Federation officers to try to reclaim the ship. I was a little slow at jumping to attention when "Captain K'vok" hollered from his TV screen at us, and Mr. Daymont singled me out for jeopardizing the fate of the whole Enterprise by being self-conscious.

It's funny how everything that happens at the Space Center gets etched into your mind... whether it be traumatic embarrassment for a split-second delay, or unparalleled celebration for whooping the aliens and saving the galaxy.

Yikes, now that I'm thinking about it a whole slew of memories are coming back to me... but I'll save them for another day, since I know there are those among our readers who have attention spans the size of Twitter tweets, so I'll save my old timer yarns for another day.

-- Gary Gardiner

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pictures of the Old Space Center.

Hello Troops,
You're stepping in the Space Center's Way Back Machine to see the Space Center shortly after its opening in November 1990. The photographs are courtesy of Connor Paulson. He found them somewhere online. I'm thinking I'll do my best to describe what you're seeing. I'm sure you'll marvel at how far we've come over the last twenty years.

In 1990 the Space Center consisted of the Voyager simulator and the Briefing Room (where the Odyssey and Phoenix are today). In the photograph above you see Mr. Bill Schuler teaching a lesson on Space History. Bill is wearing a Star Trek uniform. During our early camps, Bill played Admiral Schuler. Every Overnight Camp started with Adm. Schuler's inspection of the Voyager. He'd walk up the spiral stairway to inspect the crew and the cleanliness of the ship. The crew would be smartly at attention. The Admiral scrutinized the carpet, looking for the slightest molecule of dust or grime. If found, he'd go into a rant.

"Captain. Look at this!" he'd say while pointing to a spec of something or another on the carpet. Of course the captain had to strain to see what the Admiral was talking about - which made it even funnier for those of us in the Control Room watching on the camera. "Captain, I could have tripped over that. Did you want me to trip over that pile of trash?"

Bill's exaggeration of the size of the spec of dust always caused one of the campers to chuckle. Oh, foolish child, that is exactly what the Admiral wanted. Bill worked the crew until someone laughed of snorted or made any sound he could latch onto like a bird on a power line.

The Admiral's unique homing device drew him straight to the disrespectful camper. The Admiral stood toe to toe with the the camper - bent at the waist so his nose was inches from the campers.
"Did I say something amusing cadet?" he'd sneer. Bill exaggerated the movements of his mouth so droplet's of spittle would land on the camper's face.

"Captain, this ship is a disgrace to the fleet. You're not certified to take it out of Space Dock. Get it cleaned up and get your crew in order. I'll return shortly." The Admiral walked off the bridge and down the spiral stairs. The campers always broke into laughter when they were sure he was out of earshot. That was my cue to enter the bridge and help them with the detailed cleaning. We'd also discuss the importance of staying in character - even during a grueling interrogation from the Admiral.

The Admiral would once again make his appearance and do his best to get someone out of character. This continued until the crew made it through without cracking. It took several tries, which ate up a lot of time, but well worth it. Besides, in those days overnight camps started at 5:00 P.M. and ended at 11:00 A.M. They included a pizza supper believe it or not. We had extra time to kill. In those days the missions ended for bed at midnight instead of 11:00 P.M. as they do now. They also cost $25.oo per person. Times have changed.......

In those days we only had the Voyager so half the overnight crew would be in the ship doing the mission while the other half attending classes. They'd rotate every hour or so.

Notice the big screen TV. Notice the bunks behind the TV? The Phoenix sits there today. Those bunks were reserved for the staff.

Notice the Staff Bulletin Board. Notice there about 15 places for pictures? That was the size of our staff in those days. All of them were volunteers. The most senior volunteers received a $5.00 gift card for working an overnight camp. It's because of this early volunteer staff the Center was able to save enough money to build and outfit the Odyssey (along with a $25,000 donation from US West).

I'm inviting our old timers to comment on this post and add their perspectives.

I've got a few more pictures of the old Center I'll post over the next several days.

Mr. Williamson

Where Good Ideas Come From. A Lecture from the Imaginarium

Friday, September 24, 2010

And Now, Nearly Bedtime

Another week gone. It's 11:37 P.M. and the campers are preparing for bed. I've got a few moments of peace and nearly quiet while Jon and Alex do battle in the Voyager. My shoes prop open the Briefing Room door leading to the school's hallway. AHHH, my toes are free to roam the wilderness of odds, ends and junk inhabiting the under areas of my desk.

We've had a great week at the Center. Secondary school's made up most of the field trips. I told a few Perikoi's, a couple of Cry from the Dark's and, my favorite for the week, three or four Midnight Rescues.

Bracken Funk finished the new tactical cards for the mission from his dorm room at Fresno State and sent them via the internet. I was so impressed with his work I went ahead and told the mission without knowing them properly. It was hit and miss but Jon was on hand to help. Lorraine was at video so I didn't need to focus on that.

Bracken's new cards do an excellent job bringing suspense and anticipation to the crew. These emotions springboard into the screams and shouts from which we flight directors feed. Great Job Bracken!

Strangely quiet in the Voyager right now. Jon may be telling stories in the Crew Quarters. His stories are always a favorite with our campers.

The junior high staff are in the Odyssey. The girls are tucked away in the gym under the ever watchful eye of Mrs. Houston and Metta. The high school boys are talking in the Discovery. They have their computers open and ipods playing. They can't live when unconnected from the matrix. What have we become.

And now its 11:51 P.M.

Best go to bed. I'll need to get up earlier than usual tomorrow to make the donut run to WalMart.

I just checked the school's front door. We're locked and secure. Pleasant Grove sleeps quietly at the foot of Mt. Timpanogoes, reminding me its time to pull out my pad, blanket and pillow and spend another night on the floor in front of my desk, ever vigilant - or at least until blessed unconsciousness steals me away :)


Thursday, September 23, 2010

What? More Awards? When will it Ever Stop?

OK Troops,
It's time to pause from the drudgery of your day to day routine and pay some attention to a few awesome Space Center volunteers that recently received honors during the After Meeting on the last few Overnight Camps.

Ahem, we'll get started once we can have everyone's attention. Jackie, Rachel we're waiting on you two. Please find a seat.

Rachel doesn't do Facebook or My Space or any of the other Your Business is My Business social web sites. She believes the best way to find out what her friends are doing is talk to them, face to face.

Jackie, on the other hand, prefers to keep things at a distance and doesn't like being forced into a verbal conversation covering a week's worth of news from someone that doesn't post or tweet.
"So much talk talk. It's so medieval," she was overheard saying while rummaging through the fruit on the glass display case after the camp.

Rachel had Jackie trapped in conversation. Jackie may look at ease in the photo, but if you look closely at her right hand you'll see she isn't. She's digging her fingernail into her thumb, hoping to draw blood - thus giving her a reason to excuse herself to tend to the unexplained wound.

OK, it looks like Rachel is letting Jackie out of the conversation with a traditional Harken Back Woods Hand Shake. It's the way all the Arkansas Harkens end their visiting. With the hand shake comes an invitation to "come on over for vittles and sweet cider when the meetin is done."

(Actually, I may have this all wrong. It might be that Jackie is getting her Galileo Pin from Rachel. Yep that's what it is. My bad...)

Today we celebrate the fact that Connor is still a member of the Club of the Living after the near fatal puncture of a Phoenix Pin into his neck by Phoenix Set Director Alex Anderson.

Alex is a member of the "Children should be seen and not heard" group . Actually, Alex takes their motto one step further and believes that children should not be seen OR heard, but considering the business we're in, he's had to adapt - and it hasn't been easy. It's taken a few years but I've gotten Alex to the point where he tolerates our campers and actually does a good job convincing them that he cares. He says he's living a lie every time he smiles at anyone younger than 15 but, in the interest of a pay check, his smile has become believable, although his voice sounds strained when he has to comfort a frightened small human.

You've heard in your science classes that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. It is true. Every time Alex forces himself into being agreeable with our customers, someone or something must be the recipient of the 'Reaction'. Today that someone was Connor.

The picture above was taken just before the Phoenix's pin penetrated one of the arteries feeding blood into Connor's brain. Luckily we had several EMT's on our staff that sprang into action and saved his life.

(Actually, I may have this all wrong. It might be that Alex gave Connor his Phoenix pin, shook his hand, walked over to the hand sanitizer, applied two squirts, deloused his hands, and sat down. Yes, I think that's how it went. Sorry.).

Christine comforted Eric as she awarded his Odyssey Pin. He was visibly moved by the event and covered Christine's hand with tears and other drippings. Christine was a champ and hid her stomach's retching from the watching staff. Eric pulled himself together by the end of the ceremony and asked to say a few words. Forty minutes later, we moved along to the other business of the day.
Actually I think I have this all wrong as well. My reporting of Space Center news is all messed up. I seem to be exaggerating a few facts (My inability to stay true to the facts is my one true weakness I'm told). Perhaps I should appoint reporters that will get the news right. What do you think?

Thanks Troops for all your Hard Work. Our volunteers are the best in the State and I'll challenge anyone that disagrees.

Enjoy your supper and the rest of the evening. I'm leaving the Space Center now and heading home. Dave Daymont is running a Phoenix mission. Stacy is doing the same in the Galileo, and Zac is in full swing in the Magellan. It's all go at the Space Center at 6:08 P.M. on Thursday, September 23.

Mr. Williamson

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Thank You Email. Great Job Emily and her Staff!

Dear Mr. Williamson,
I am writing to tell you about how absolutely wonderful our experience with you and your crew at the space center was yesterday for my daughter Lauryn's 12th birthday party. She had attended the center with her school last year and absolutely loved it and asked for us to take her there for her birthday. Due to a slight overcalculation of guests on my part, we had to upgrade from the Odyssey to the Voyager at the last minute and I am so grateful for you and your staff to be able to work with us so easily and to make that happen. My husband and I were able to attend also due to the increase in the ships size, and it was amazing!!!
Our flight director (I think her name was Emily) was so helpful and fun and the rest of the crew did such an amazing job! It was one of the best experiences we have had as a family and was a total blast!!! Thanks so much for all of your efforts on our behalf. We will definately share this experience with others and will continue to support the space center and all that you do for our kids.
Sincerely and with gratitude,
Mirissa R

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Friday Night Report

Not all quiet on the Western Front.

Its becoming traditional for me to post something about the current Overnight Camp before turning in for the night.

It's 11:49 P.M. The camp is heavily loaded with boys (34 boys and 5 girls). That means I have four campers sleeping in the Odyssey. Sleeping boys in the Odyssey poses a problem. It's closest to where I sleep therefore any noise they make wakes me up. I told the boys that they could talk until I went to bed - and they are.

There was a knock on the school's east doors. A dad arrived to pick up his sick son. That leaves 33. He was caught in traffic coming down from Salt Lake. An accident on the freeway.

Ah, the current conversation in the Odyssey involves how many girl friends each of the boys have. It's interesting the way they try to talk over each other to make their points.

A lull in the conversation. I think they're getting cold. The air conditioner keeps the Odyssey about 5 degrees above Absolute Zero. Such arctic conditions motivate the boys to crawl up into their sleeping bags for warmth. Soon afterwards they fall asleep, and I follow.

Overall a good crew and of course we've got a killer staff to working with them.

I'm getting a sore throat. Could be allergies.

It's 12:01 A.M. time to go to bed. The air conditioners just switched off. They do this every Friday night at midnight and turn on again ten minutes later.

Having trouble keeping my eyes open. Best surrender and see if the Odyssey boys will let me have a few restful hours before I'm up again at 5:40 A.M. to clean up before making the WalMart donut run.

Good night.

Mr. W.

Student Film Projects Shot at the Space Center

Hello Troops,
Matt Long sent this list of short films that were shot a the Space Center and posted on YouTube.
The Space Center is a favorite place for student filmmakers to shoot their school projects. They rent the Center for a specific number of hours, we provide one technician, and the place is theirs to shoot their own films.

Important! These films are the private work of others and not endorsed or sponsored by the Space Center. Their views and opinions are their own.

Mr. Williamson

Kesha + Star Wars Tik Tok Music Video Spoof!

AAT IV - A New Home

The Infinipede Space Monster from Outer Space!

Teacher Feature - September 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Progress 39 liftoff from Baikonur.

Progress 39 liftoff from Baikonur.

The crew of the ISS always needs resupply. The Russian Progress supply spacecraft are tailor-made for this mission, lifting such necessities as oxygen, food, spare parts, experiments and propellant for the station's thrusters.

Progress 39 blasted off from its base in Kazakhstan on Friday after a 2-day weather delay. After another 2-day journey, it arrived at the ISS this morning at close to 6 a.m. MDT. Using the Kurs automated rendezvous system, it was safely docked and the crew of ISS will begin unloading supplies.

On approach for docking, picture from ISS.

After the spacecraft has been unloaded, it serves as a container for waste and trash from the ISS. When full, or when the docking port is needed, the Progress craft is undocked and de-orbited to burn up in the atmosphere over the ocean.

Mr. Daymont
Space Center Educator

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why The Space Center?

The first picture of Earth from such a distance taken by the
Voyager Space Probe in 1991 as it passed Saturn.
From this image this has become.....This is our Blue Dot in Space.

Hello Troops,
I've been asked many times over the last twenty years why I created the Space Education Center. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, the answer lies in something I saw and heard that changed the direction of my thinking towards space and our place in it.

I'd like to share that experience with you. Perhaps, after watching this, you'll come to understand the power of emotion in education and how something lasting only a few minutes can change a life forever.

The three minutes I spent listening to this master teacher may seem insignificant in a life of 52 years - but they were. They inspired me to pass this reverence of what lies beyond in the darkness that surrounds us and the importance of what we have here on Earth with my students. And thus, from my sixth grade classroom in the 1980's, sprang the concepts the Space Center was built upon.

The power of Dr. Sagan's words, spoken so long ago, still impact the children that come to the Space Center to experience what is, what was, and what could be -

- if we cherish the pale blue dot in space we call home.

Mr. Williamson

"We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

Dr. Carl Sagan

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

Friday, September 10, 2010

An Entry from the Overnight Journal.

Hello Troops,
Just a quick word before turning in for the night. I'm at my desk at the Space Center. It's 11:42 P.M. so therefore it must be an Overnight Camp! Tonight we are hosting 45 4H campers. They're a great group of kids.

I just returned from checking on the High School Staff in Discovery. The room was dark and the talking robust (and if your interested in what robust means, look it up). The girls are all settled down in the Gym with Mrs. Houston, Metta and a 4H chaperon.

The junior high boys are sleeping in the Odyssey. Only McKay seems to be talking. The other five are quiet. McKay is telling a story - the plot is confusing because I'm hearing only bits and pieces. The boy campers are in the Voyager.

It's cold outside, a sure sign of Fall.

I'm typing this post on my new (gently used) computer purchased from Alex Anderson. Alex is getting a new one. My old desktop is going to the Magellan Control Room to become their Tactical Computer. Aleta, Lorraine and Sheila are happy. With my computer in their Control Room, the Magellan staff won't be borrowing Discovery's laptop every time they need to run their new tactical screens.

Jon just walked through the Briefing Room.
"Are they settled?" I asked while I typed the paragraph above.
"They're settled," he replied as he collected his laptop from the side desk.

Now its time for me to settle. I've got a pad waiting on the floor in front of my desk with my name on it. It will be sweet slumber once my head hits the pillow. I dream I won't be woken up by a needy camper. Six hours of sleep is all I ask. I'll be happy with five but will settle for four is need be.

Sleep tight.
Don't let the bed bugs bite......

Mr. W.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Today at the Space Center.

Hello Troops,
Today at the Space Center is brought to you by "The Imaginarium" located in beautiful downtown Wonderland, right next door to the Department of Culinary Inspiration, where the world's greatest chefs access the inspiration to create tomorrow's Michelin Star winning dishes.

Warren Nuila's Last Day!
Supervisor and all around good guy, Warren Nuila, spent his last day in Space Center Blues last Saturday. Warren leaves for Germany on Wednesday to serve an LDS mission. Warren worked at the Space Center for the past 7 years as a volunteer, supervisor and flight director. If you've ever flown on a Magellan Camp you probably worked with Warren.

This is a picture of Warren and his band of cut throat Orion Space Pirates as they prepare to blast their way into the Magellan's Bridge. Unsuspecting younglings, working on the Bridge, were caught off guard and quickly lost all sense of organization as Warren and the gang burst through shouting "Get them humans!" and "Shiver me Timbers" and "Aaarrgggg!"
"You're Down and You're Down and You're down. Yes you. Yes you're down and don't argue," shouted the Bridge Supervisor.

In a matter of minutes, Warren had successfully taken the last Bridge of his Space Center career. It was a moment to be remember for all that participated. I'm sure Warren basked in the joy of knowing he was once again successful, because of his cunning - not to mention overwhelming fire power.

In fact, here is a shot of Warren basking. Bless his heart. A Legend at the Space Center and the source of many a child's nightmares over the last seven years :)

Good luck Warren and Keep in Touch.

Awards Given For Excellence Above and Beyond the Mundane!

Yet once again, awards for our awesome volunteers were given at the end of a recent Overnight Camp. In the picture above you see Julie receiving her Odyssey Pin for demonstrating outstanding talent in pushing play and pause. In fact you see Julie showing us the exact thumb she uses when pushing play and pause - mirrored by Emily, Odyssey Set Director, who also uses her thumb to push play and pause.

Granted, most people use their forefinger to accomplish the same task more efficiently but that isn't the Odyssey way, according to Emily.

"You'd be surprised at what the thumb can actually do," Emily said during a recent Odyssey training meeting where the Odyssey staff had all their fingers taped together, leaving only their thumbs to control equipment and computers.

Mr. Daymont is seen here congratulating Eric and Jordan for earning their Magellan Pins. We were limited on time for the award ceremony (due to the consumption of mass quantities of Lorraine's delicious Snickers Chocolate Cake) which is why you'll see Mr. Daymont shaking both boy's hands at once, thus saving approx. 3 seconds.
"A second wasted is a second lost," Mr. Daymont is fond of saying.

Stacy, feeling the pressure of time, followed Mr. Daymont's lead and shook both Jordan and Erin's hands at the same time thus congratulating them on earning their Galileo pin. I should point out that Jordan earned his Galileo pin over a month ago but because he was already standing at the front of the room, and seeing an opportunity to be congratulated a second time for an achievement he was already congratulated for, chose to stay and receive the applause and adulation of the assembled staff. Stacy was willing to go along with the deception remembering what happened the last time Jordan was called out for getting a second congratulation. It was unpleasant, to say the least.

Space Center Staff Assist with Central Elementary School Literacy

Alex Anderson, Stacy Carrell, and Jon Parker spent part of the this afternoon unboxing and stamping reading books for Central Elementary School's literacy program.

In this picture you see Alex and Stacy unwrapping and stamping the books with Central School's address.

Jon Parker did the same from another desk. Jon worked separately because he was working at a slower pace.
"Them books is the coolest," Jon said as he carefully leafed through each book, taking time to appreciate the artwork. "Whoda thought readen could be fun?".

"OK Jon, what's your favorite?" I asked.

"This un right here," he replied opening a book about Boats. "I never figured there was so much learning about bats. Bats are cool the way they can't see worth a darn and shout when they fly so everyone in their way has enough time to clear out!"

"Jon, that book is about Boats," I said quietly, not wanting to embarrass him in front of Alex and Stacy.

He looked over his left shoulder, hoping neither one was aware of his reading blunder.

"You're right. It's about Boats and Bats!" he exclaimed.

"You gotta get up early in the morning to pull a fast one on you," I said.

Mrs. Houston Changes Bulletin Board Paper!

This just in, Mrs. Lorraine Houston was seen in the Discovery Room this afternoon changing the paper on the left bulletin board! This was done secretly. The old paper had been on the board so long most of the staff were fond of it. There was no telling what kind of retaliation Mrs. Houston would suffer if the staff found out it was her that changed the old, yellowed, stained, ripped paper. She was right to do it secretly.

The new black paper is very nice and black.

Those of us still at the Center when school got out went in and admired the new paper.

"It'll do," Stacy said. "It'll do. No reason to get worked up over it."

Everyone agreed.

Again, just another day at the Space Center.

Mr. Williamson

Scott Warner Awarded the Presidential Service Award

Lt. Governor Greg Bell Honors Utah’s Top Summer of Service Volunteers at a Private Luncheon and Presents Presidential Service Awards

Shad West

Utah Division of Housing and Community Development

SALT LAKE CITY – Lt. Governor Greg Bell and the Utah Commission on Volunteers honored three Presidential Volunteer Service Award winners with a private luncheon. A press conference to hand-out awards was held at the State Capitol on September 8th.

These outstanding Utahns contributed the most hours of volunteer service in each age category between June 1 and August 31 as part of the Utah Summer of Service. This year more than 600 volunteers participated in the program and served more than 7900 hours.

Scott Warner age 14, Jacque Baumer age 23, and Dale Greenland age 52, recorded the most service hours in their age categories over the past three months, earning both a Presidential Service Award and lunch with Lt. Governor Bell.

“It is a matter of great personal pride for me to be part of a community where there is such a value placed on volunteering and community service,” said Lt. Gov. Greg Bell. “Recognizing the best of the best is extremely important to me.”

Scott Warner, from Draper, volunteered 236 hours with the Christa McAuliffe Space Center in Pleasant Grove. He helped direct the summer Edventure program training campers how to use the equipment in the simulators, direct simulations, develop “Away Missions”, and help chaperone overnight campers. Campers at the Space Center learn history, science, and how to problem solve.

“I absolutely love volunteering,” Warner said. “I would live at the Space Center if they would let me.”

Jacque Baumer, from Orem, volunteered 315 hours with Child Rescue. She took on the enormous task of putting on the first Candlelight Serenade Acoustic Festival.

This fundraiser brought together public and non-profits all in the name of protecting children from exploitation. Baumer did everything from organize the concert, plan a community awareness campaign, and organize space for non-profits to have booths.

“I volunteer to make sure every child is safe from exploitation,” Baumer said. “We have children who suffer abuse right here in Utah, and I am passionate about putting an end to it.”

Dale Greenland, from Magna, volunteered 424 hours of his time with the Veterans Administration Hospital. Since being laid off as a regional sales manager, Greenland has devoted his extra time to the patients at the VA. He hosts the craft room, where Vets can keep their hands and minds busy while in recovery. Greenland also drives one of the onsite carts that transports immobile patients to where they need to be in the facility.

“I give my time to these Vets because they have given so much to us,” Greenland said. “The award is great, but I win everyday because of my association with these great service men and women.”

In addition to the three top volunteers, all volunteers ages 5 to 14 who logged more than 50 hours of service, and those ages 15 and older who served more than 100 hours will also be honored with a Presidential Service Award and Recognition Pin.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bracken Funk's Commentary

Hello Troops,
A thank you to Bracken for writing this take on my post concerning the criticism I received from a camper about my absent smiles. Bracken is a student a Fresno State in California and a Flight Director at the Space Center (when in Utah of course). He also plays a mean game of Basketball.
Mr. W.

To Whom it May Concern:

The creatorium's psychology division would like to announce test results of the Bossman.

Our analysts have been studying all pertinent information coming to and from Victor Alan Williamson, and would like to make the findings available to all who are interested in the facts. We assert that we are not making this up.

Evidence #C043526

We note here that this is Master Williamson in his most prime state of mind, you can see behind the smile that there is some form of brain function still occurring. The smile is real, unpretended. He is clearly happy, as you can denote from the relaxed shoulder position. May we contrast that with something only sent to us a short time ago by our spies.

Evidence #C043527

Please note the heightened position of the shoulders, and the strain in the upper right, and lower left facial muscles. Also note the difference in the eyes. In the first picture, his eyes are relaxed. Controlled. We're not quite sure what to make of these...

If that was the only difference, we would be more than happy to step back, and allow a complete and total mental analysis to happen- but the next several pieces of evidence make us wonder if he is in the proper condition to continue as leader.

Evidence #C043528

This is a photograph of our leader as a child. Besides the fact that he is wearing pink clothes (which is his favorite color... Quite disturbing really), you'll notice the brainwashing that is under occurrence... We are fairly sure that this contributes to this:

Evidence #C043529

After staring at a computer screen for several hours, he started talking on several phones (please note the other untethered comm devices behind him) and other devices asking for information regarding some alien invasion- often saying "yes, master" or "I am lowly of low, which is why I serve here with morons, rather than my true calling of traveling the stars. Forgive me, sir". Later, it is reported that he stopped speaking English all together...

Evidence #C043530

Several months ago, 2 staff members disappeared. Galo, and Kenzie.... Nobody knew what had happened to them. While listening to a sleep talking from the boss the other night, it is clear that they are within this cake. DNA testing confirmed... We are quite positive that it was on accident- however, we believe that these staff birthday celebrations are some form of ritual. The adult staff are all in on it (those older than Emily, and I, I mean). Aleta is ensuring the sacred sacrificial cap is near his head. The fire. Kyle's yelling of "Happy Barfday" (magical words). This is cause for extreme concern. When he came to sacrifice the head of our department... Here is what was captured by several of the center's CCTV cameras.

Evidence #C04531

Notice how the heart is clutched... The face contorted in pain... It would be quite a scare... Honestly. But, this isn't the only captured instance in which a staff member had feared their life. Here is the other caught on camera.

Evidence #C04532

The fear is apparent in the eyes of Chelsey is clear. The awkward seperation, and the evil smile from the boss....

And the final pieces of evidence... The strange appearance of random digits and appendages in his pictures.

Evidence #C04533/C04534/C04535/C04536

We aren't even sure what to make of these. BUT, there is speculation that it is for some form of mind control. We are terrified that something bad is going to happen if this goes on unchecked. We are submitting this report out of honesty, and caring for the state of mind of our director. If he has been taken over by aliens, then we wish to call the MIB. IF not, then, we are going to have to move a little quicker to commit him to an asylum before it's too late.

We do not blame him for cracking, if that is what's happened. We recognize that many staff members over the years have driven him into hysteria. We also know that 20 years serving children from Utah County is a nightmare for anyone... Happy Valley isn't as happy as one might think. However, something must be done as evidenced above.

Thanks for your time.

Bracken Funk
Psychological Evaluations
Creatorium Department

What a Bit of Imagination and Inspiration can bring

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

You Wanted More of Adrian Stephens - You Got It. Thanks Aleta!

This story is just for fun. Any resemblance to the staff at the space center is intentional. Any resemblance to a real space center mission is your imagination.
Aleta Clegg

Personal Log 2: Adrian Stevens, Entry 9

Harken slipped behind Angie. “I don’t trust her. I think we should shoot her now.”

“We don’t trust you, either,” Turner said. “You were the one smuggling, the one who got us stuck here.”

“And Perry killed.” I wanted to see if she’d wince or if she really was as cold-blooded as a snake.

“Perry’s greed got her killed. She overplayed her hand.” Harken didn’t seem bothered.

Angie patted the bag slung over her shoulder. “Well, if y’all got a computer terminal, I can plug this in and control Delphi from here. We’re fairly safe, ain’t we?”

“You are currently in mortal danger,” Caligula said from his prone position on the floor. “Everything in this room is keyed to my touch.”

Angie crossed her arms. “The ship is shut down, ain’t nothing working.”

Caligula laughed.

Chills ran over my skin at the sound. “Rafael knows where you are and he wants you dead. How can you laugh?”

“Rafael has been trying to kill me for months. He has not succeeded yet.” Caligula flexed his skinny arms. The strips of t-shirt ripped to shreds. He sat, tearing the bindings from his legs. “And you will not succeed, either. Give me your weapon and I will let you live. For now.” He loomed over me, waiting.

I handed him the rifle. He looked like a ninety-pound weakling, but he was a cyborg.

“Adrian!” Harken planted her fists on her hips.

“I’m not stupid, Harken.”

“Your friend is correct,” Caligula said as he crossed the room. “She is only slightly stupid. If you assist me, perhaps I will consent to offering you a position on my ship. Or I can strand you somewhere Starfleet might find you. Eventually.”

“What do you want from us, Caligula?” I ignored the hand gestures from Harken. I wasn’t going to jump him while his back was turned. We already proved that only led to pain.

Caligula tapped a code into a wall panel. A computer interface slid from behind a panel. He stuck his finger into a port below it. His eyes crossed. Information flowed over the screen. He pulled his finger free.

“Vasha has locked herself on the bridge. Rafael and his men are attempting to cut through the doors. The rest of the crew has deserted in the shuttles. The Odyssey remains. The computer systems were so corrupted by Delphi that the ship no longer functions.”

“Why are you sharing, Caligula?”

He ignored my question. “You, Adrian, have a connection with Vasha. You will crawl through the air ducts to the bridge and convince her to surrender. The rest will accompany me.” He aimed the blast rifle at my head. “Don’t attempt to double-cross me or you will never leave the bridge alive. Go, now.”

I didn’t see I had much choice. I crawled into the narrow duct.

“Move, now.” Caligula ordered the others.

I lay in the duct, wondering if I dared crawl back out. I had no idea where the bridge was. I wondered if Caligula had thought of that.

The vent cover slammed into place. Caligula melted it with the blast rifle.

I had no choice now. He’d sealed the way back. I squirmed through the air ducts, looking for the bridge.

Personal Log 2: Adrian Stevens, Entry 10

I wiped dust and sweat from my face. My elbows ached from squirming through ducts barely large enough to let me through. I squinted through yet another vent.

Vasha slumped in the captain’s chair. The bridge looked too dark. Only one station showed anything on the screen. The power outage must have taken out most of the systems. Smoke leaked through the doors leading to the bridge.

I searched for a release on the vent cover. It was molded into the wall of the bridge. I muttered swear words. There had to be a way to get it open.

Vasha’s head snapped up. She looked awful. Her hair was a mess, one eye was swollen shut. She wiped blood from her nose. “Who’s there?”

“Adrian Stevens. Vasha, what happened?”

Vasha jumped from the chair. She stood under the vent, peering through the slits. “Is it really you this time?”

“It’s me. Open the vent.”

“Why? So you can try to kill me, too?”

“I’m trying to help you, Vasha.”

She chewed her lip while blood dripped from her nose. She finally nodded, touching the release buttons. The vent cover slid to one side.

I dropped through, landing on the floor next to a limp body. I froze in shock.

Vasha kicked the body. “She isn’t dead, although I wish I’d had a bigger weapon. She’s only unconscious.”

And bleeding, I added silently. “I thought Perry was dead.”

Vasha dropped into the captain’s chair. “She’s working with Rafael. I saw her meet with him more than once.”

“Turner told me you met with him on Starbase a month ago. Convince me you aren’t the real traitor.” I shifted away from Perry’s prone body. Blood dripped through her scalp, pooling on the floor around her head. The sight turned my stomach.

“I met with him as part of my cover. I suspected Perry and Harken. I was following a lead.”

“You’re working for Williamson, too? Harken told me the same story.”

Vasha pointed at Perry. “She’s the real traitor. At least on the Voyager. This is more than just one ship. I think an admiral is involved.”

I stared. “Admiral Williamson is a traitor now? Are you insane or just paranoid?”

“Not him. But someone close to him. We were all set up.”

The door to the bridge exploded inwards. I ducked flying shrapnel. Vasha screamed. Pirates thundered onto the bridge. Smoke clogged the ducts. Alarms hooted.

“Give me control of the ship, now!” Rafael jammed a phaser into Vasha’s face.

She flinched. “I can’t. I’ve been trying for the last hour to get control back. Someone locked everything. I can’t even access the holodeck programming.”

“She’s not alone!” A pirate grabbed my arm, shoving me into the middle of the bridge. “Perry’s body is on the floor behind her.”

Rafael’s head snapped around. “Is Emily dead?” He looked worried.

“Still breathing but she’s got a huge lump on her head.”

“Get her to sickbay!” Rafael stalked across the bridge, his face twisted with rage. He stopped a foot from me. “If she dies, you’ll wish you died, too.”

“I didn’t do it,” I squirmed, trying to escape the pirate’s grasp.

Rafael raised his hand to slap me. I cringed. The ship rocked to one side.

“Tractor beam,” a pirate muttered.

Rafael whirled back to Vasha. “Get this ship running. Now!”

“I can’t! Didn’t you hear me before? I don’t know who screwed up the ship, but someone did.”

Caligula strode through the smoke, entering the bridge like a conquering general. Rafael and his handful of pirates snapped their weapons to aim at the cyborg. Harken, Angie, and Turner sidled through behind him, moving out of the line of fire.

“It’s over, Rafael. Surrender while you still breathe.” Caligula planted himself in the center of the room, leather coat flaring dramatically.

“You should surrender to me, you freak mutant!” Rafael waved his phaser.

“I’ll let you die quickly, unlike Mad Dog.” Caligula’s calm voice echoed in sudden silence.

Rafael paled. “Mad Dog is here?”

“And Del Brugado is in the hands of the Federation. You have no power base, Rafael.”

Rafael opened fire. His pirates followed suit. The one holding me shoved me away. Most of the weapons were low on power. It turned into a fistfight, with some of Rafael’s men siding with Caligula. The bridge lights flickered and dimmed as power levels dropped further. Something in the hall exploded. Smoke poured into the room, thick and heavy.

I crawled around the edge of the bridge. I didn’t want them to remember I was there. Angie caught my shoulder as I neared the door.

“The Odyssey’s still here, we can make a run for it.”

“You can make it fly?”

Angie grinned, white teeth flashing in the dark room. “She’s my baby. Plus I stole the Delphi chip off Vasha. Why do you think she can’t get this ship to fly? She ain’t got the right controls.”

Turner and Harken joined us as we crawled from the bridge. The four of us were going to steal the Odyssey back from the pirates. I questioned my sanity.

Personal Log 2: Adrian Stevens, Entry 11

We hid from a squad of heavily armed pirates in an engineering access tunnel.

“That was the fourth one,” Turner whispered. “Who are they?”

“Mad Dog’s men, probably. His ship docked just before Caligula made his move,” Harken answered.

“I don’t care who they are,” I whispered. “Let’s go while they’re distracted fighting each other.”

“Shuttle bay is right ahead,” Angie said. “Crawl through that left tunnel.”

I squirmed my way into the tunnel, trying to ignore my bruised elbows and knees. I’d crawled through most of the ship’s access vents already. The ship shook, smoke filling the vent. I coughed, my eyes blurring as I squinted through the smoke.

I found the hatch for the shuttle bay by snagging my fingernails on it. The smoke filled the vent, stifling us. I coughed, wheezing for breath, as I searched for the releases. I couldn’t find them in the dark. I finally squirmed sideways, bending myself into a knot. I slammed my boot into the vent cover. The cover popped free, clattering to the floor of the shuttle bay.

The ship shuddered, slamming to one side. I tumbled into the shuttle bay, sprawling on the hard floor. The Odyssey waited on the far side, past empty docking ports. The others scrambled out behind me. The ship rocked again, sending all four of us to the floor. The wide launch bay doors creaked as they began to slide open.

“Run!” Angie slapped my shoulder. “We’re about to lose our air!”

I sprinted, faster than I had in years, trying to keep up with Angie. Turner and Harken still reached the shp first. I grabbed the hatch as the air rushed from the bay. Turner grabbed my uniform, yanking me into the Odyssey’s airlock. Harken slammed the doors shut.

“Hang on!” Angie shouted. “I’m blowing the docking clamps.”

The Odyssey rocked as the explosive bolts blew. The rush of air from the docking bay pulled us free, yanking us outside Caligula’s ship. The power umbilicals snapped, plunging us into darkness as we tumbled into space.

I grabbed for a handhold in sudden freefall. I hadn’t been in zero G in years. My stomach churned. Turner flailed in midair, spinning wildly. Harken swam to the front of the ship, her marine training proving useful. Angie wedged herself under the command console, up to her armpits in the ship’s systems buried underneath.

The lights flickered on. The ship stabilized. The gravity field re-established itself. Turner hit the floor with a loud thump. I landed next to him.

“Got it.” Angie grinned. “Main computer, activate Delphi.”


The control stations powered one by one. The computer announced each system as it came online.

“Fully functional and ready to fly.” Angie dropped the access cover back into place.

“I think we have a problem,” Turner said. He nodded at the main viewscreen.

Caligula’s battleship hung in space, leaking flames and air from every port. Looming behind it, was a giant ship, a flying fortress armed to the teeth.

“What is that?” Angie stared at the thing.

“Cardassian battle ship,” Harken answered. “I heard rumors Starfleet captured one from the Romulans. I think we found Mad Dog’s ship.”

“Who’s Mad Dog?” Turner asked.

Harken glanced over her shoulder, her face white. “The real leader of the pirates. No one knows what he looks like.”

“I think we’re about to find out.” Angie pointed to the flashing light on the communications screen. “He’s calling us.”

Personal Log 2: Adrian Stevens, Entry 12

“Stall him, Harken. Tell him the video link isn’t working, whatever you can think of.” I waved Angie and Turner close. “Can you get Delphi to set a course? We’re going to have to run fast.”

Angie frowned. “Delphi won’t operate beyond the safe parameters. We can’t go faster than warp six. Plus, it’s going to take a few minutes to find reference points for the nav computer.”

“We’ve got a bigger problem,” Turner said. “I checked the power levels. If I’m reading things right, we’ve battery power but no reactor core. We might make it to warp speed but not for long.”

“What if we shut everything down and play dead?” Angie suggested.

“They just scanned us, too late for that,” Harken said.

“Do we have weapons? Anything?” I didn’t want to escape just to die.

“We’re going to fight that?” Turner jabbed his finger at the monstrosity on the viewscreen.

“We have to do something.”

“We’ve got empty torpedo casings and probes,” Angie said as she clicked through the controls. “I’ve got an idea. Hey, Rachel, you got things up here?”

Harken nodded.

“Buy us some time. You two, come with me.”

Angie’s grin scared me, just a little, but I followed her to deck two, Turner on my heels. She took us to the torpedo bay.

“We got extra exocomps on board. Caligula didn’t find them, I checked.”

“How are repair robots going to help us?”

“Change their programming, sweetheart, and they break things just as well as they fix them.” Angie waved at the empty torpedo casings. “You get those ready to fly and I’ll get the exocomps ready to load.”

“What makes you think Mad Dog is going to let these anywhere near him? We have to get them on board his ship to do any damage.”

“We make it look like we’re jettisoning cargo. He’ll sweep it up.”

I wished I had Angie’s confidence.

“You know, Vasha said something to me once about probe self-destruct commands,” Turner said. “We can always try to blow him up that way.”

I shook my head. “We’re going to take on that battleship with empty torpedos and armed probes. Am I the only one who thinks this is insane?”

Turner grinned. “No more insane than taking over Del Brugado’s ship with a handful of Klingons. You managed that, Adrian.”

The comm beeped. Harken’s voice came from the speakers. “Whatever you’re doing, you have about fifteen minutes to do it. Caligula’s ship is about to blow and that battleship is impatient. It’s moving this way.”

“Go!” Angie pushed Turner from the room. “Get those probes launched.”

“How many torpedos do you need?” I asked.

“Twelve, if you’ve got them.” Angie typed furiously on a keyboard.

I opened the first empty shell, loading it onto the cradle.

Personal Log 2: Adrian Stevens, Entry 13

“We’re out of time,” Harken snapped over the ship’s speakers. “That ship will be here in less than five minutes.”

I wiped sweat from my face with my ripped sleeve. “That’s the last one. Locked and loaded.”

“Sending the new instructions now.” Angie hit a final key. “We can launch torpedos any time now. Are those probes in place?”

“Turner launched them,” Harken answered. “The commander of that ship just laughed. He’s not a nice person.”

“Mad Dog?” I slammed the cover on the torpedo launch queue.

“I don’t think so. He said his name was Scorpius.”

“Well, if we’re ready, give them all we’ve got.” Angie grinned. “I’ve always wanted to say that.”

The torpedo tube shuddered as the first one shot away from the ship. Angie and I went back to the bridge.

Harken swiveled in her chair. “He’s laughing, calling us fools.”

I studied the viewscreen. The giant battleship approached our position, eclipsing Caligula’s ship. “Can you send the probes behind the battleship?”

“What are you thinking?” Turner moved so Angie could sit at the scanning station. He slid over to the weapons station, keeping the torpedos firing.

“A handful of probes aren’t going to make a dent in that thing. But they could blow Caligula’s ship to kingdom come. We run away in the confusion.”

“I’ve got a lock on our coordinates,” Harken said. “And plenty of footage of that ship for Starfleet.”

Angie sat back in the chair. “Probe commands sent. The destruct code is loaded and ready to activate.”

“Can you target the shuttle bays with the torpedos?” I asked Turner.

“I can shoot them, don’t ask me to target things. I’m a cook, remember?” Turner sent another torpedo with its exocomp shooting into space.

Angie tapped her screen. “Scorpius is taking the bait. He’s scooping up those torpedos like they were candy. Probes are in position.”

The battleshipt turned to face us. Gun ports lined both sides, aiming for our tiny ship. It’s bulk hid Caligula’s ship completely. Which meant his engines would be square on to the explosion we were about to create. We just might survive.

“Angie, we need Delphi to set our course now. Is there some kind of emergency procedure you could activate with it?” The only flaw to our plan that I could see was our ship getting caught in the shockwave. We’d be ripped apart.

Angie typed rapidly on the computer. “I’ve got a course set to Starbase fourteen, but I don’t think I can override the safety protocols, not without pulling the whole thing from the computers.”

“Scorpius just gave us thirty seconds to surrender or he’ll open fire.”

I took the captain’s chair. It felt right. I was the one giving orders. “Everyone, hang on. Send the destruct code, Angie. Harken, go ahead and connect to the viewscreen.”

Scorpius’ face filled the main screen. He was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen, angry Klingons included. Warty green scales covered his face. His eyes were yellow with vertical black slits for pupils. Gold chains dangled from the spikes growing from his skull.

“You amuse me with your antics,” he said. “You will surrender. You have no choice.”

Angie whispered, “Code sent.”

I sat taller in the chair, straightening my filthy uniform. “I think you’re the one with no choice, Scorpius. Tell your master we’ll find him. If he’s lucky, we’ll let him surrender instead of killing him.”

Scorpius barked a laugh. “The arrogance of Starfleet amazes me. You have no weapons, limited supplies, and yet you threaten me.”

“You have exactly ten seconds to surrender, Scorpius.” I motioned to Harken to cut the connection.

The screen flickered back to the giant battleship and its massive guns. A giant flare of burning gas and debris erupted behind it, engulfing the battleship. The lights on the Odyssey flipped to red.

“Warning!” the main computer said. “Warp core breach detected nearby. Activating emergency procedures.”

The ship banked sharply, engines whining as they were activated. The ball of flame spread, closing the distance.

“Brace for emergency speeds,” the computer said.

We shot out of the expanding explosion, streaking away at least warp nine. I clutched the arms of the chair as the whole ship shuddered at the strain. Smoke leaked from the air vents. Systems flashed red warning lights. Sparks danced over the controls.

“Stop us, Harken!”

“I’m trying,” she shouted. “Delphi’s got control of the whole ship!”

“We’re running out of power,” Turner said. “What happens then?”

“I think we’re going to find out,” Angie said. “Whether we want to or not.”

Personal Log 2: Adrian Stevens, Entry 14

The engineering pod exploded with a bang. Clouds of smoke and showers of sparks blew from the opening. The ship shuddered, slowing to a full stop. The lights blinked twice before dying. The control screens all went black. I coughed on the thick smoke filling the ship.

“Angie? Turner? Harken?”

“I’m here,” Harken answered. My fumbling hand found her sleeve.

“I think Turner bumped his noggin,” Angie said. “He’s out cold, but he’s still breathing.”

“Anyone have a flashlight?” Harken asked.

“There was one back in engineering,” Angie answered. “I don’t think it’s going to be any use now. If you could even find it. If you got another plan, Adrian, now’s the time to spill it.”

“I’m making this up as I go.” I found a chair and sat, trying to breathe through my sleeve. “Anyone else?”

“The computer blew,” Angie said. “Even if we could get power, we got no way to control it. Every system’s dead.”

“I wish I’d never heard of Delphi. I should have taken the job as a prison cook when Williamson offered it to me.” I slumped lower, laying my head on the desk.

“And miss all this fun?” Harken sat in the chair next to me. “I just hope someone finds our records log.”

“We ain’t gonna die, stop thinking that way. If we rewire the stations, we might be able to get something.”

I closed my watering eyes. “I doubt anything on this ship will ever work again, no matter what we do. We don’t have any light, no supplies, and no engineer.” I wished I had Angie’s optimism. “And if you say we still have each other, I’m going to hit you.”

The ship lurched as a tractor beam attached.

“We still got an emergency beacon,” Angie said.

Harken snarled. “How do we know that’s not Scorpius or some other pirate?”

“Because I sent our coordinates to the Voyager right after I got Delphi installed.” Angie beamed.

“And how do we know the traitor isn’t still on the Voyager? It might be Captain Herring.” I lifted my head, wondering why I even bothered to argue.

“Nah,” Angie said. “He should have smoked them out of their holes by now. We got the worst of them off the ship for him. Though I couldn’t tell which of you was the real traitor.”

I glared in the direction of her voice. “You mean this was all a setup?”

“Yep. Harken, Perry, and Vasha we planned on. Getting you and Turner was a bonus, for me, at least.” Angie still sounded just as chirpy.

“Don’t tell me you work for Admiral Williamson, too.”

“Captain Herring asked me. Of course, I had to get approval from my own captain to do it. Why do you think we made it so easy to steal the Odyssey? Herring wanted information on the pirates. He set himself up to get it.”

The tractor beam shut off. The Odyssey scraped across metal. We sat, blind and deaf to our location.

“Did you know about this, Harken?” I asked.

“Not a word. How did you find out about us?”

“Vasha isn’t the only computer genius in Starfleet.”

The lights blinked on as the external power supply connected. Turner groaned as he woke. Angie sat on the floor next to him. Soot streaked her face, but her grin was as wide as ever.

The door opened. Starfleet marines charged inside. I raised my hands. They swept the ship with their weapons.

“All clear,” the leader said. “But it looks like we need a medic. Man down.” He waved his hand. Two marines scooped Turner up and carried him away.

“Admiral on deck!” the one in the doorway shouted. The marines snapped to attention.

I didn’t bother. I was filthy, tired, bruised, and didn’t want to stand for anyone. Besides, I didn’t think Admiral Williamson would mind.

It wasn’t Admiral Williamson. It was a short man, with dark hair and a fat little mustache. He sniffed, delicately wiping his nose with a cloth before speaking. “I’m Admiral Tagus. Who are you?”

Harken saluted as she struggled to her feet. “Commander Rachel Harken, sir.”

Angie didn’t bother to salute or stand. “Evangeline Lewis, sir, computer specialist for the Odyssey.”

Admiral Tagus turned his glare on me.

I sighed as I stood. “Adrian Stevens, Quartermaster of the Voyager, last I checked.”

“And the others? I believe Commander Emily Perry and Ensign Vasha Gorubnikov were also on this vessel.”

Harken cleared her throat. “They’re either dead or captured by the pirates, sir.”

Tagus twitched his mustache. “Not the best news I’ve heard today, but not the worst, either. And the Delphi protocol?”

Angie handed him the chip from her pocket. “It worked exactly as you predicted, sir. The virus should permanently deactivate it within a week.”

He slipped the chip into his pocket. “Good. Ship programming has been changed on all Starfleet vessels.” He turned to leave.

“Wait a minute, sir,” I said. “Why are you here, not Admiral Williamson? He’s the one who gave me my orders.”

Tagus raised his expressive eyebrows. “Williamson was arrested three days ago by Admiral Earnest Weatherly on charges of treason. “

Personal Log 2: Adrian Stevens, Entry 15

Admiral Tagus motioned to his marines. “Put Harken and Stevens under arrest until we can clear them of all charges. Good work, Evangeline.”

Angie jumped to her feet. “Wait. Admiral, I think you need to see some of the files we stole from Scorpius just before his ship blew up. Admiral Williamson isn’t the traitor, Admiral Weatherly is.”

“I sincerely hope your information provides proof,” Tagus said. He turned to his marines. “Get an engineering squad up here, now. I want all computer files from this ship sent to my quarters. And escort those two to the brig. They are still under arrest.”

The marines escorted Harken and me from the Odyssey. The halls of the Voyager were marked with scorch marks and half-repaired controls.

“Someone put up a fight,” Harken commented.

“The mutiny?” I asked the marine holding my elbow.

He grunted. “Captain Herring had it under control by the time we arrived with the Admiral.”

The other guard spoke, “Everyone’s upset. It’s chaos on at Starfleet Command. Everyone accusing everyone else of treason. The Romulans have pulled out of peace talks again. The Klingons annexed half a dozen planets last week. And the Andorrians accused the Federation of breaking the trade agreements.”

We turned the corner to the brig. Captain Herring stood in front of the door, one arm in a sling. The marines saluted.

“You can let those two go,” the captain said.

“But Admiral Tagus said to arrest them,” the marine on my left said.

“They can consider themselves confined to quarters for at least the next twelve hours. I don’t think they’ll argue. The brig is full.”

“Yes, sir.” The marines saluted again, then marched away.

Harken nodded to me as she left for her quarters.

“A word, Adrian?” Herring asked.

I stayed, though I could smell smoke, soot, dirt, and days in the same uniform. I wanted a bath and sleep. “Sir?”

“Perry was the traitor?”

I glanced after Harken to make sure she was out of earshot. “Harken said she was working undercover with Perry, but Perry decided the money was better to smuggle for real. Vasha was the real traitor, I think. Things were a bit confused, sir. You may want to track a man named Rafael. He met with Vasha several times.”

Herring nodded. “It makes sense. Consider yourself restricted to quarters until I have your full report. And if it takes you longer than twenty-four hours, you’ll find yourself restricted to the brig and under suspicion of treason. Good work, Stevens.” He turned on his heel, walking rapidly up the hall to the lift.

I blinked, watching him. He threatened me and complimented me in the same breath. I’d never understand him. I shook my head. It didn’t matter, not this time. I was back on my ship, and this time, I wasn’t going to let anyone mix me up in more spy missions. No, I was going to my kitchen and I was going to stay there, cooking and cleaning until my enlistment was up in another year.

Then I was going to move to a quiet little planet and open a boutique. I’d had enough excitement to last me the rest of my life.