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

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mark and Logan Honored and Mr. Williamson Caught Accepting a Bribe from a Fan.

Space Center Fans Waiting outside the Center deliriously hoping to catch a
glimpse of Mark and Logan. Mark and Logan are the Space Center's
newest teen idols after receiving their awards on Saturday.

Hello Troops,
Celebrity is a burden many of our volunteers carry after being honored at one of the Space Center's post Overnight Camp meeting's.

"Before today I was just, well you know - Mark," Mark said after receiving both his Odyssey and Galileo Pins. "Listen to those screams. How am I going to get home in one piece?"

Mark receiving his Odyssey Pin from Christine, Odyssey's Set Director

Mark getting his Galileo Pin from Ben Murdock. Stacy, The Galileo Set Director, was absent.

Stacy was on the program to award a Galileo Pass Pin to Mark. However, at the appointed time Mark had no choice but to accept the award from Ben Murdock. Stacy was unable to get to the meeting. Crowds of Mark and Logan's admirers, along with Pleasant Grove's paparazzi, filled the parking lot and blocked every entrance into the school.

Luckily one of the younger volunteers saw Stacy's head bobbing up and down over the crowd near the flag pole while watching Mark and Logan's screaming fans from the school's front doors.

"Mr. Williamson!" the volunteer shouted from the foyer. "I see Stacy near the flagpole. She can't get through the mob."

I looked for myself. The volunteer was right. Stacy's green flight director shirt was spotted in the sea of delirious teenage fans. I organized a posse of older staff and volunteers to push their way through the crowd to collect her.

"Its a madhouse out there," Stacy said breathlessly after having been half carried, half dragged into the school. We sat her down on one of the foyer's benches with a cup of hot cocoa. Erin put a blanket around her shivering shoulders. She apologized to Mark for missing the awards. Mark understood. He knew her experience was soon to be his when his ride home arrived to collect him.

"Am I in time to give Logan his Galileo Award?" Stacy asked.

"Are you up to it?" I asked.

" I am," she replied. "Logan worked to hard for me to delegate this to someone else. I'll push through the pain. Help me up."

We helped her stand and walk to the Discovery Room.
"Stacy's here," a voice shouted.
Applause rang out when she walked through the classroom's door. Stacy stopped for a moment to accept the staff and volunteer's appreciation of her harrowing ordeal before walking to the front of the room to meet Logan.

"There's hundreds of screaming girls out there calling out your name," she said while pinning the pin on Logan's lanyard.

"Welcome to my life," Logan responded. "How to you think I got these?" Logan held out both arms. Partially healed scratches covered each arm from elbow to hand. " Your life is no longer your own once word gets out you're going to get a Space Center award."

"Amen!" shouted many of the gathered staff and volunteers - each having lived through their own ordeal of getting an award.

Stacy Awarding a Galileo Pin to Logan.

I stood and made an announcement after Mark and Logan were honored .

"Troops, today we say goodbye to one of our own who will be leaving for an LDS mission to Argentina." I paused to let the news sink in. Everyone in the room stared at Abram. Abram waved from his chair in the back of the room.

"Abram, we have a card for you and a small gift." I called Abram to the front to receive everyone's gratitude for a job well done.

Abram started at the Space Center while in junior high. Over the years I was impressed with his can do attitude and good naturedness with the students, staff and volunteers. They don't come better than Abram. We all wish him the best in Argentina.

Thank you Abram!

Isaac bearing a Brib... hummm a "gift"

And finally a confession which could land me in a spot of trouble. Last Thursday a young man named Issac arrived with friends to attend the Phoenix's Open Mission, flight directed by none other than the Space Center's very own Dave Daymont.

Isaac walked up to me while I was seated at my desk and slipped me this note. Attached to the note was real American money. Yes, I'm talking about real American money - none of that phony Canadian stuff. On the note he'd written that he was a regular reader of The Troubadour and had read how easy it was to bribe me with a Diet Mt. Dew. The note went on to say that the cash was to be used for a Diet Dew.

I say this could land me in a spot of trouble because of my position as an employee of the Alpine School District - a government organization. We don't take kindly to the bribing of government officials in this republic of ours, so I hesitated to accept the card and money. But in the end I confess to accepting the "gift". How could I turn down such a heartfelt offer from a young Space Center fan. I only hope the judge feels the same way if any of you turn me in to the authorities.

Now let me emphatically repeat that giving gifts to government officials is frowned upon in our American culture. However, until our elected leaders in Salt Lake and Washington decide not to accept all the freebies showered on them by lobbyists and political action committees, I'll feel perfectly fine accepting the occasion soda from a well wisher wanting to grease the palm of someone who could make or break his simulator mission :)

Thanks Isaac. The Diet Dew was delicious and thank you for being a regular reader.

Mr. Williamson

Friday, January 27, 2012

The House is Full

Our Space Center house is full tonight. Forty-five space campers arrived at 7:00 P.M. for our weekly Overnight Camp. The 45 campers are joined by Twenty six staff, making a grand total of 71 souls in house. Can you imagine that? Seventy one people are here for just for this camp. Most of them are in various stages of going to bed.

There are 31 boys and 14 girls. The girls are in the gym. The boys are sleeping in the Voyager and Odyssey. Well, sleeping may be a wishful thought at the moment. The six boys assigned to the Odyssey are far from asleep. Stories are going back and forth, each boy tries to be heard by speaking louder and louder and louder still. I've been in the Odyssey once already asking them to quiet down. It lasted for a few minutes before the cycle started again. I'll go in again before I go to bed.

Jon just brought a boy to my desk. His mother is coming to pick him up. He's here with a group of eight friends for an overnight camp birthday party. Evidently she didn't know this was an overnight camp. The family made plans for Saturday so she's on her way from Salt Lake County to pick him up. It's 12:25 A.M. I guess I'll be up until she arrives to pick him up. This gives the six boys in the Odyssey a reprieve. They'll get another thirty minutes or so to tell their stories before I give the order for silence and sleep.

The boy is gone. It's late and time for bed. The Odyssey is quiet - a good sign. Nope I spoke to soon. The Odyssey's Old Time Revival is starting again. Time to get things calmed down. It will be a long day tomorrow.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

50 Years Ago Today - Ranger 3 Misses the Moon

Artist idea of Ranger probe traveling through space. This replica of Ranger was used at the Parade of Progress Show in Cleveland Ohio in 1964. I would love to find out where this is today. Perhaps the Smithsonian?

Fifty years ago on January 26, 1962, NASA launched an Atlas-Agena B rocket from Cape Canaveral. Lifted beyond Earth orbit, Ranger 3 was set on course to begin our epic reconnaissance of the Moon. On board were not only experiments to test the functionality of the Ranger series of probes, but also a Seismometer capsule which would roughly land and begin studying moonquakes. The craft itself was intended to crash into the surface of the Moon, as engineers had not yet devised a way to softly land a spacecraft on the lunar surface. A camera would send images of the lunar surface back to Earth before the expected crash, and instruments would make radar reflections of the surface, measure the altitude from the surface, and study gamma rays while in space.

Side view or Ranger 3.

Power for the craft was provided by two solar panel wings providing energy to a 1000-watt capacity battery. A large communications antenna was attached to the base. In a way, Ranger 3 appeared much as most of our satellites of the period would look.

Atlas-Agena B lifts off from Cape Canaveral.

The Ranger 3 mission did not go as planned (surprise!). The booster guidance system suffered a malfunction which caused the spacecraft to speed up beyond the planned acceleration. The mid course correction failed, and the spacecraft was unable to relay data and information clearly. Ranger 3 missed the moon by about 22,000 miles. Eventually, some data was received that helped engineers fine-tune the design for the next mission. Ranger 3 itself kept on flying- it eventually began to orbit the Sun, and remains out there to this day.

Science fiction fans may remember that the TV series "Buck Rogers" used a space-shuttle derived design as Buck's spaceship, which was named "Ranger-3."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Dark Tuesday

Hello Troops,
Some people say the sun stopped its forward motion toward night. Others reported seeing strange objects in the sky. Psychics worldwide stopped whatever they were doing for the briefest of moments. Each heard the same something - an unnatural whispering in the fabric of human consciousness.
"There is a disturbance in the mechanisms of the universe" one psychic from Montreal texted to a friend in Wolverhampton, England.

Scientists are reporting these strange phenomena are the result of a massive solar storm spewing radiation across space at 4 million miles per hour.

"The solar radiation is coming in contact with Earth's magnetic field. This contact is causing worldwide feelings of incompleteness," a scientist from the National Academy of Sciences said during an interview on tonight's NBC News with Brian Williams. "It is the way the radiation affects the firing of the brain's nerve cells."

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City had twice the number of people in attendance at evening Mass. "I haven't been to Mass in years," one woman explained. "There is something about this night that bothers me and I think the best place to be is church."

What happened during the early evening hours of Mountain Standard Time to cause so much uneasiness? How was the normal universal routine altered? The answer may surprise you.

Mr. Williamson left the Space Center at 5:20 P.M. !

I'm sorry if this unannounced and abrupt change in my daily routine upset so many. It was never my intention to do so. You see, today was one of those weird rare days at the Space Center. We didn't have any after school missions. Not one of our five ships had a booking. No bookings meant I could actually leave the school having put in ten hours instead of my normal eleven. The whole thing seems to fantastic to be true, but I promise it is. I left the Space Center at 5:20 P.M. I can't believe it myself.

Perhaps there are no absolutes in this universe.

And How About a Few Things from the Imaginarium?

"Run for your lives, the Dalaks are coming!"
Rachel's urgent Facebook Message.

You must forgive Rachel. Yes, I'm talking about our Rachel. The Rachel you know who flight directs the Odyssey and Galileo. She has evidence that two of science fiction's greatest human nemesi are making appearances - perhaps in your neighborhood.

What is causing our normally calm and unflustered Rachel to panic so? See for yourself below.

This Dalak sits and waits for the arrival of The Doctor. If the boy had any smarts, he would high tail it out of there. Who in their right mind would ever purposely put himself between The Doctor and a Dalak? It is suicide, pure and simple.

This English city's council government was smart enough to put up warning signs to alert the people of their pending extinction. A Dalak on the loose is a recipe for community disaster on a monumental scale.

If Dalaks on your doorsteps aren't enough of a bother, what about the latest bellows from Rachel's Watchtower? Yes, the Weeping Angels are on the loose in some of our cities. Don't blink. Trust me on this. Don't Blink! And whatever you do, don't look away.

Yet More for Tonight

Many of you good readers of The Troubadour know my one great weakness - my adoration of the Human Imagination. Tonight I pay tribute to two wonders of modern imagination.

Behold what the human mind is capable of doing when given freedom and incentive.

Always take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. Exercise your imagination whenever possible. Step out from the teaming masses. The air is fresher and the view, breathtaking.

And Finally, The Other Mary Poppins
"Scary Mary"

Solar Storm Hits Hard Today

False color image of Sun. Solar flare developing in upper right section.

A massive CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) should be hitting the Earth right now. Traveling at about 1400 miles per second, the solar energetic particles are hitting the Earth's magnetosphere (our shields) and interacting with high-flying orbital satellites. A storm this strong hasn't hit the Earth since 2005. There were concerns that some aircraft traveling at high altitude over the Arctic circle would have to divert. Our main concern is that some satellites may suffer damage or loss of signal quality during the event. Skywatchers with clear skies can be looking for magnificent aurora.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Noises of the Night

Hello Troops,
It was 1:00 A.M. I was tossing and turning, hoping to find a comfortable position on a thin pad held rigidly in place by the school's hardwood stage floor. I stared up at the ceiling. Two banks of stage lights hung precariously overhead. I though for a moment about the 'Big One' predicted to shake Utah to its knees sometime in the near future. I wondered what those lights would do if that massive earthquake broke loose that second. I envisioned two possibilities:
  1. All would be well because Central Elementary was built in the 1950's and people knew how to build quality schools in those days.
  2. I wouldn't survive because Central Elementary was built in the 1950's and people didn't build earthquake resistant schools in those days.

Fueled by that thought, my late night pessimistic strand led me to think about the gym's massive air conditioning / heating unit which sat directly overhead on the roof. One good jolt would bring the whole thing crashing through the roof and right onto the very spot where I slept. I thought of moving but didn't. There are times in life when the occasional risk must be taken.

Right in the middle of my 2012 disaster movie playing in my head, a noise from the gym shifted me back to the hear and now. Below me on the gym floor were fifteen space campers sleeping on our quality creaking cots that like to collapse without warning. Twelve or so of the Space Center's male staff and volunteers ranging in age from 13 to the twenty something occupied the stage with me. One of the campers started to cough. The first cough broke the silence and was quickly followed by a series of three or four coughs in a row separated by a couple of minutes. Each series of coughs pulled me back from those few minutes of shut eye I desperately needed. I debated whether or not I should wake him up to get a drink. My hesitation paid off. After twenty minutes or so, that part of the evening's performance of Noises of the Night came to an end on its own without my intervention. It was nearly 1:30 A.M.

I turned over on my flimsy pad. My old unyielding bones complained about the hard floor. I adjusted my pillow and tried a different position. My unsatisfied bones continued to object. I layed on my back and closed my eyes. I thought of the alien invasion predicted by one of the SyFy Channel's UFO reality shows. I wondered if the Grays with the bulging almond shaped eyes would take an interest in my fleet of startships, show mercy, and allow me keep my brains off their supper menu or decide not to replace my consciousness with one of their own in a weird body snatching scenario.

Right in the middle of that thought another noise pulled me back to the here and now. It was a gurgling accented with the occasional snort. One of our young campers was snoring. After chaperoning our Space Camp for twenty one years, I've come to realize that everyone's snore is distinct - like fingerprints. Many times I've been tempted to record the more interesting snores with the intention to send the sound bytes to some professor of linguists for analysis. Such a study might answer a nagging question I've wondered about for years. Do snorers snore with a regional accent? If so, then it was my believe that this boy's snore had a definite southwestern tonality and pitch.

The snores ended abruptly when the boy sleeping next to the snorer shoved him. "Stop snoring!" he whisperyelled.

Shortly after 3:00 A.M. The Noises of the Night woke me with a crescendo of Dreamtalking. One of the boys on the far end of the stage burst into audible babble. His dreamtalk might have been religiously motivated - something akin to speaking in tongues because I couldn't understand a word of what he was saying. I reached for my flashlight. I found the boy sitting up in his cot. He looked into the light. I held him in the spotlight while he finished his thoughts and fell back into silence. I switched off the flashlight. I closed my eyes and counted sheep to the sounds of the heating unit on the roof.

At 5:00 A.M. I awoke to the sounds of the hardwood floor. One of the volunteers was up on his way to the bathroom. Each step caused the floor to creak like the timbers of a old wooden sailing ship riding the waves of a building storm. A few minutes later I heard the sound of a flushing urinal. The bathroom door opened. "Don't do it!" I thought. I didn't want him to reenter the stage through the hallway door. Of course he did just what I didn't want him to do. "Here it comes," I thought. The metal sound of the door's crashbar latch snapping and clicking into the locked position rang throughout the gym. The cymbals had their moment in our nighttime symphony.

A couple boys woke up just before 5:45 A.M. and started whispering. They provided the Noises of the Night with its closing piece. I turned my flashlight in their general direction. They quieted right down. I was done for the night. I got up, left the stage and prepared to make my early Saturday morning WalMart donut run.

All of us who have worked at the Space Center over the last two decades have grown accustom to the Noises of the Night. These performances have good and bad weeks. This weekend's performance was good thanks to the absence of one tune I despise with a passion. It starts with a wrenching guttural sound followed by the sound of liquid splattering onto the gym floor. I refer to it as "Vomit in F minor". Its absence from this week's playbill makes me grateful for life's simple blessings.

And so, we move into another week. I want to thank you campers for coming to the Space Center and serenading us with your renditions of the Noises of the Night. There would be no Symphony Hall without you. And a Thank you to our great staff and volunteers.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Delta IV lifts SATCOM to orbit

Delta IV components. Credit:

Here we go... For the first U.S. launch of a satellite this year, United Launch Alliance (ULA) sent a Delta IV rocket into the Florida skies from Launch Complex SLC-37B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Forty minutes later, the WGS-4 satellite separated from its stage and began orbiting. The Wideband Global Satcom 4 is a military satellite, first in a series of ten that will form a Defense Satellite Communications System. Other countries included in this defense system include Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

ULA operates Delta launches from Pad B of launch complex SLC (Space Launch Complex) -37.

SLC-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Historically, SLC-37 (originally LC-37) was used to test the first Saturn 1 and thereafter launched over a half dozen Saturn 1 and Saturn 1B rockets during the Apollo program. All of these Saturn rockets were unmanned, but were part of the testing required to make sure the equipment was ready to put astronauts into space and on their way to the Moon. Later, during the 1970's the complex was demolished. The complex was later rebuilt to launch DElta and Atlas advanced rockets for government missions. The Delta IV and Atlas V are in consideration as launch vehicles for the upcoming Orion space capsule.

Closer view of SLC-37B. I took this photo while standing at Launch Pad 34, location of the infamous fire onboard Apollo 1. Inside the tower can be seen a Delta rocket being readied. Photo taken in May 2011.

Last Apollo mission to lift off from LC-37B, was Apollo 5. This was an unmanned mission on a Saturn 1B rocket, designed to lift a test version of the Lunar Module into orbit without a crew.

Apollo 5 test mission patch.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Space Center's New Summer Missions are Announced!

Skyler and Emily's killer hound "Safari" patrolled the school's hallways
during our meeting. Always on the hunt for KAOS agents.
She is trained to bite and ask questions later.
"Who's a good dog then?"

Monday, January 16. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A School Holiday.

The Space Center's staff of dedicated Set and Flight Directors arrived at the Space Center this holiday Monday morning under the ruse of having to do court directed public service hours for delinquency. On my direction they had their shoes untied, hair messed up, heavy dark facial make up (for females), low riding jeans (for males), and all smacking chewing gum to give the impression to any KAOS spy lurking in the trees and bushes that nothing of importance was happening at the Space Center. Once in the building the staff's anti social costumes were exchanged for proper student attire.

Why the deception? We didn't want our advisories to know today was the day we approved our summer schedule and either wrote or reviewed our summer camp stories for the summer camp season of 2012.

9:00 A.M.
Meeting with the Phoenix staff and the Programming Guild. There was a discussion concerning new Phoenix Cocoa controls.

10:00 A.M.
Breakfast meeting.
Delicious donuts, bagels, orange juice, milk and chocolate milk were on hand to get everyone's brains ready for the schedule presentation. We bid farewell to Alex Anderson who is leaving for an LDS mission on Wednesday. The applause for Alex's years of dedicated work was heart felt. Tissues were on hand for those who needed them. Counsellors waited in the room next to Discovery for anyone who needed psychiatric help to overcome the Alex addiction (over dependency on his unique computer skills necessary to keep our ships running).

Alex will be missed.

After Alex's tribute the meeting turned to the new summer missions. All five simulators need new missions for the summer. Today was the day for them to be written or revised. Just before I brought the writing sessions to order a sound was heard on the school's roof. Jon and Miranda were dispatched to investigate. Both stopped at the Magellan's armory to don vests and phasers. I feared the possibility that KAOS agents might be hovering over the rooftop air conditioner listening in, waiting to steal our intellectual property for their organization's diabolical purposes.

"Just the wind of an approaching storm," Jon reported. We stood down from Red Alert.

"Break into your teams, write or revise your new Summer stories and meet me again for lunch at Noon," I directed.

I met with my Voyager team consisting of Emily and Jon. We discussed several cool and innovated concepts we'd like to introduce in our Voyager mission; I'm not at liberty to discuss them in this open forum for reason's given in the paragraphs above.
Ideas flowed. Opinions were given. A decision was reached.

I left Emily and Jon to make copies of the mission while I jumped into the Battlestar to collect lunch from Little Caesars.

"Six of your delicious, mouth watering pizzas please," I asked the cashier. She smiled. I noticed she had gold fillings on her back teeth. Curious an American would have gold fillings. Gold fillings were more an East European practice.

"Spasibo," she replied. At that moment she knew she'd blown her cover. She had just used the Russian word for Thank you.

"You mean 'thank you' don't you?" I replied reaching for the phaser I always keep strapped to my ankle. She jumped over the counter, pushed me to the floor and escaped into the windy wintry morning. I felt obliged to pursue but stopped when I heard a banging sound. The KAOS agent had the store manager and cashier tied up in the walk in cooler.

12:00 Noon
Lunch was served in Discovery. While the staff feasted on pizza, chips and a delicious assortment of beverages (Sprite, Root Beer and Diet Coke) each simulator made a short presentation outlining their new summer story. The excitement in the air was thick enough to cut with a knife.

12:30 P.M.
The official meeting ended. The staff had the option to stay and continue to work on their own time or leave. Most stayed, realizing that once the creative juices start to flow, stopping them abruptly could be dangerous - leading to dementia, dizziness and slurred speech.

Nicole and Zac reviewing the Magellan's new summer story
Stolen Honor (Working Title)

Megan, Wyatt and Miranda reviewing the Phoenix's new summer story
Rules of Succession

Christine, Adam, Devin and Josh reviewing the Odyssey's new summer story
Star Crossed

Matt, Ben, Rachel and Stacy reviewing the Galileo's new summer story
The Galileo Incident (Working Title)

Stacy hiding her computer screen from my camera. The Galileo staff are very protective of their work. Our staff share a competitive streak - each working hard to outdo the other in the summer camp ratings.

Emily and Jon reviewing background information on the
Voyager's new summer story
The Hunt for Horace

Your Space News Updates.

Space Junk News - The Fall of Phobos-Grunt

Phobos-Grunt in assembly phase.

It's the end of another sad tale of Russia's attempts to investigate the planet Mars. Phobos-Grunt was launched on November 9, 2011 on a mission to explore Mars' moon Phobos and bring back samples to Earth. Instead, rocket failures on the probe left it in a perilous orbit around the Earth. Repeated attempts to correct the problem from Russian mission control were useless.

The orbit of Phobos-Grunt was unstable. Scientists hurried to predict where the probe would eventually crash back to Earth. Last night the answer was discovered as the craft entered the atmosphere and crashed to the surface somewhere in the Southern Pacific, about 1200 kilometers from Wellington Island. Chile is the owner of the island. No reports of the crash or any damage have been reported. There were worries that the toxic fuels on board the probe and some of the heavier instruments would survive enough of the burn-up to pose a threat to anyone near the crash site.

According to NASA records, this is the most recent of 17 failures by the Russians to explore Mars. They seem to have better success probing Venus. I think Mars hates them. Actually, it just shows how incredibly complicated and difficult it really is to send probes to other planets. We often take these explorations for granted.

ISS during Expedition 27. That's shuttle Endeavor docked at the top.

Meanwhile, up in space the ISS crew performed a maneuver to change the station's orbit slightly. They had two good reasons. Firstly, they needed to prepare for an upcoming rendezvous with a supply craft delivery of cargo. Second, and of slightly more urgency, they needed to dodge some junk.

Back in 2009, one of the Iridium satellites collided with a derelict Russian satellite. The resulting fragments scattered around the Earth. This particular fragment, about the size of a grapefruit, would pass uncomfortably close to the ISS. By performing the rendezvous maneuver now, the ISS has completely dodged the space junk.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Brother Alex Departs for Penn's Land. Another Troubadour Leaves the Troope.

Brother Alex Goes Forth to Serve.

The nun's chorus echoed throughout the chapel. All rose from bended knee and prayer. Master Alex, now Brother Alex, had donned the robes of the monk and pilgrim. He turned from the alter to face the congregation; and with the Bishop's blessing, walked from the alter toward the heavy oak doors and into the January day.

Our band of Troubadours gathered around the ox cart to bid our fellow Troubadour a final adieu. Brother Alex warmly shook each hand and offered words of encouragement and comfort.

"You shall do fine. My parting may be noticed, but only momentarily, like a feather drifting to the Earth. Master Matthew was an able disciple and I trust you in his great care." Brother Alex put his hand on Master Matthew's shoulder as if bestowing his powers upon him.

Master Matthew spoke. "I shall do my best to fill your place, but may I speak for all and repeat that you will be missed."

"Then that sorrow in departure is a testament to the friends and good fellows I leave behind. And now I must bid adieu. It is a long journey to Penn's Land and there is much work to do." Alex jumped into the cart. His brown woolen robes looked odd and uncomfortable upon his body. He sat in the straw, and with cross in hand, offered a friar's blessing to his fellow Troubadours.

"A final gift to you," I stepping from the gathering when his blessing was complete and placed a parchment into his hand. "May this prayer keep you in His care when the days are at their darkest. Be safe Brother, for the world outside these gates can be as dangerous as they are marvelous."

"I shall. And now Goodbye." Brother Alex tapped the shoulder of the carts man. The cart lurched forward, it's wheels rattled on the cobblestone as it turned and then disappeared through the castle's gate. Brother Alex unrolled the parchment and read.

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Sir Francis Drake (1577)

Brother Alex rolled the parchment and carefully put it into his knapsack. He stretched out upon the straw and looked into the deep blue of God's sky.

"There be a blanket beneath the staw if needed Brother," the carts man said as he shifted his weight on the bench. It would be a long trek to the river.

"I thank you, but the day is warm." There was a pause. Brother Alex sat up and watched a group of children playing near a grouping of thatched huts beside the road. He remembered his time on stage bringing story and music to hundreds of children like them from one of the of the Kingdom to the other.

"It is a good day for a journey, is it not?" Brother Alex spoke with contentment.

"That it is Brother. That it is," the cartsman replied.

On Wednesday, Alex Anderson enters the MTC in Provo to train to serve as an LDS missionary in Pennsylvania. Alex started at the Space Center as a young teenager, following in his older brother's footsteps. He quickly found his niche in the Programming Guild. From there he ventured into Flight Director. He became the Phoenix Set Director when Megan Warner left to serve an LDS mission in South Korea.

Alex's handiwork can be found on the computer screens in the Magellan, Phoenix, Galileo and Odyssey. He was a dedicated and devoted member of our staff. We all wish him the best as he serves his church on this two year mission.

Mr. W. and the rest of "The Troubadours".

Friday, January 13, 2012

My Name Revealed! The Shocking Truth Behind that Name!

The Victor Pose is Catching
Bracken Funk

Jon did what in the loft?
Bracken did what on deck 2?
Kyle spent what on the Galileo?
Alex did what to the school network?
Beverly did what to the sickbay?

Hello Troops,
Thank you Bracken for the picture and five lines of commentary (above). He labeled it "The Victor Pose". While hinting at cleverness and sparking with imagination, I must take offense at Bracken's unwarranted revelation. I've been exposed as a Victor.

Victor is nearly a dead name in the United States. Think about it. How many Victors do you know? Several, If you lived in Russia or Latin America. Well, thanks to Bracken, you all know one of the few left alive in the United States. Mind you, I'm not ashamed of my name; it just seems to date me to the mid 1950's.

My mother named me after a movie star called Victor Mature (Google it if you must). I confess to sharing several of Victor Mature's attributes (it has been mentioned that I ooze in acting talent like a blister about to pop), yet I still wait for Hollywood's call. Let me state here and now that when that call comes, I promise to take many of you little people with me. I just hope Hollywood doesn't wait too long. I'm past the age where a respectable agent would cast me as a dashing young hero; mind you, it wouldn't take much make up and plastic surgery to make it nearly so. What I could do is play someone in the throws of a mid life crisis. I do 'crisis' well with all the experience I've had running the Space Center.

Speaking of Crisis....... it has been a remarkably quiet second week of January. I'm almost ready to state that our luck has changed. Fortuna seems to be more occupied with dumping several feet of snow on avalanched Alaska than tormenting us at the Space Center.

I couldn't let this Friday the 13th pass without some kind of misfortune. For the first time in living memory I dropped a full gallon of 1% milk on the floor this morning as I put the food and drink away for the Overnight Camp. It exploded in the cafeteria's wash room. A tidal wave of milk poured out and covered the floor. Milk spittle covered the walls and my black Nikes. It was a mess. What was your Friday the 13th Story? Can you top that?

It is time for bed. The campers are all asleep as well as the staff. I sit alone, typing away, on guard duty at our Little Camp in the Big Dark Woods.

Mr. V. Williamson

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How Many Other Things Are We Missing?

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule. 4 minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk. 6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again. 10 minutes: A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children.

Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly. 45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32. 1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: *In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? *Do we stop to appreciate it? *Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context? One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made. How many other things are we missing?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Week from Heck. We Will Not Yield!

Fortuna Reviews the latest reports from the Fates as they unleash Mischief's Mayhem
on the Mortals of Pleasant Grove

"I grow bored." Fortuna sighed as she surveyed the deep blue sky. She stood up from her marble throne high upon Olympus. "What mortals are there whose luck must change?"

"How may we entertain my lady?" spoke one of her minions, an hunchbacked Imp with a twisted face and an elongated sliver of a nose. Spittle dripped from the side of his muddy red mouth. He waited for an answer. Fortuna rubbed her chin, sniffed the air then motioned the Imp to step back several paces. The lilac air fouled on his appearance.

"Surprise me," she said as she motioned for wine. The Imp clapped for wine to be served, then hobbled to the balcony to ponder her command.

"Shall I beckon Poseidon? A favor is owed to you my Lady. Our Lord Poseidon despairs to be in your debt." The Imp held out his hand to summon Lord Poseidon, God of the Seas.

Fortuna tapped her forehead. "Where is Athena?" The Imp lowered his arm and thought for a moment - pleased with his Lady's scheming.

"Athena is away my Lady. Shall we request our Lord Poseidon send a monstrous wave to wipe Athens away, that blemish upon the land is only here because of Athena's patronage? Would this not bring you great delight and spirit away your melancholy?"

Fortuna thought again. A minute later her cheeks expanded to form a sinister grin. Her pearly teeth sparkled in the midday sun. "Let us be more creative in our work. What of the mortals in that most Pleasant of Groves?"

"Oh yes my Lady, Pleasant Grove." The Imp jumped up and down. Juices from his mouth stretched to the floor forming an unbroken yellow bridge. His bones popped on each impact. "Why torment Athena when the vilest of nature's creations wistfully live their lives without regard to your graciousness in that Pleasant Grove?"

"Agreed." Fortuna held her staff heavenward. Dark swirling clouds filled the sky as she lowered her staff toward the west. A terrible wind blew from the valleys.. Lightning sliced through the tempest. The roar of thunder shook the Temple.
"Release the Fates!" she shouted. The Imp fought the wind to get to the edge of the balcony. His gray thin hair whipped around his face.

"Fates of Time and Fortune, Our Lady calls BE GONE to the westward land of Pleasant Grove."

Morris Mullen experienced the Fates as they flew over Chicago toward Pleasant Grove.
This misfortune gave him a migraine and an excuse to leave work early,
An unintended consequence.

The village of Pleasant Grove sat peacefully at the foot of Mt. Timpanagoes, completely unaware of the events unfolding on the top of Olympus so far away. It was Tuesday - the first day back to school for the students and teachers of Central School. The Space Center would soon be alive with the sound of children's voices. The sun shone bright. The air was clean and crisp. Everyone hoped the return from the holidays and the start of 2012 would be uneventful. All had high hopes for a good new year.

The Fates arrived with the morning sun, announced by the smell of mildewed wet washcloths. They swirled as a circling flock of crows over the village school plotting against the unsuspecting mortals below. At exactly the stroke of 9:45 A.M. they cast their first spell. Their spells continued unrelenting and without regards to the young or the old or the healthy or unwell for the rest of the week.

  • The Discovery room's mixer broke just before the start of the first field trip after returning from Christmas Vacation. The surge protector sparked. Fortuna was pleased. Aleta, Jon and Megan stepped in. Within a few minutes a replacement mixer was in place. Fortuna was not pleased.
  • The Phoenix's Tactical computer crashed mid flight Wednesday evening. With it went went all of the Phoenix's tactical computer stacks. The Phoenix had nothing to display on its main viewer. Fortuna was happy. Alex, Matt and Megan stepped in. The Galileo's spare Mac Mini was put into service. Many of the Phoenix's stacks were found on the Space Center's server and on several staff computers. Fortuna was not pleased.
  • The Magellan lost one of its entryway step's deck plating. Fortuna was pleased, hoping some mortal would trip on the loose deck plate resulting in a loss of blood. Jon reattached the deck plate. Fortuna was not pleased. Luckily there were no injuries.
  • The Magellan's sound system crashed before its Tuesday evening mission. Fortuna was pleased. Megan and Jon found a way to switch inputs to an open channel to restore the system. The mission proceeded as usual. Fortuna was unhappy. The Fates had to do better.
  • Half way through that same Magellan mission, the simulator's video system failed. The staff could only display the tactical screen - no video. On our tech's recommendations, Mr. Williamson purchased of two new switchers at a cost of $125.00. Neither of them corrected the problem. Fortuna was pleased. Mr. Williamson felt obliged to refund most of the group's money because of the technical errors. Fortuna was ecstatic! On Wednesday Alex and Jon made their final report to Mr. Williamson. "We need a new $600 switcher," Alex said. "Have we tried everything else?" Mr. Williamson asked, not wanting to use the nuclear solution unless it was absolutely necessary. "Well, we didn't try swapping the cable." Alex answered. Alex and Jon found a new cable. The Magellan's video system was repaired. Fortuna was not pleased. Mr. Williamson was, although spending over one hundred dollars on new switchers when the problem was a $20.00 cable gave him a night's worth of indigestion.
  • On Tuesday Stacy discovered that many of the Galileo's newly modified programming stacks were erased when the Galileo's new Cocoa programs were loaded onto the computers. Fortuna was pleased. Matt Ricks was not happy. Fortuna won one.
  • On Wednesday, Mr. Williamson realized he hadn't staffed a Magellan mission due to start in 15 minutes. The Magellan needed a staff of 10 to operate correctly. Fortuna prepared to add another point to her favor. Mr. Williamson got on the phone and arranged staffing thanks to the Space Center's awesome staff and volunteers who were willing to come in on a moment's notice to ensure the best possible experience for our patrons. Fortuna returned to her throne disgusted.
  • Megan's laser pointer sparked during one of her planetarium shows. The pointer's replacement batteries had been inserted incorrectly. The Imp took credit for that idea. Fortuna shrugged unimpressed, realizing that inconvenience was easily fixed.
  • The school's main water line broke on Wednesday. Water flooded the school's basement. The Space Center's wood shop had nearly two inches on the floor. Fortuna applauded the Fate's creativity. Fortuna marked two in her favor. Jon Parker stepped forward and took it upon himself to remove the two to three inches of water covering the Space Center's wood shop. The water wasn't clean, so Jon had to wear protective gear - rubber galoshes and rubber gloves. The air mask and face shield, while not necessary, made the event more serious.
  • Thursday, the school's cafeteria and one classroom flooded from the same water line. Four school district plumbers worked through the afternoon to track down the problem. The blockage was cleared at 3:00 P.M. Fortuna prepared to take a bow. Jon and other members of the staff stepped forward to deprive her of her victory. Jon worked most of Thursday cleaning up the water from the Space Center's basement wood shop. On Saturday the job was finished thanks to help from Spenser Dauwalder's father and his water pump. Fortuna was upset by this disasters turn of events. Jon's arms and shoulders were sore, yet there were no complaints. He is a true warrior against Immortal oppression.
  • The school's fire alarm system broke on Wednesday. The repairmen interrupted our missions with a few test fire alarms. Fortuna brushed this off as armature. The Fates rallied.
  • On Thursday the school's entire heating system failed. It was 48 degrees in the classrooms and Space Center. Fortuna was impressed. The Fates had redeemed themselves. The problem was corrected late in the day. A breaker needed to be reset.
  • One of the Magellan's backlit bridge signs failed just before the start of a mission. Mr. Williamson sent Christine to Walmart to purchase a new bulb. The light still wouldn't work. Mr. Williamson sent Jon to ACE Hardware to buy a new light fixture. The problem was solved. Fortuna gave a "ho hum...."
  • The Galileo's DMX system broke. The DMX system controls the ship's internal lights from the control area.
  • The school had no hot water on Friday. The water heating system broke.
  • A student vomited in the hallway.
  • A student brought a dead rabbit in a zip lock bag to school on Friday for show and tell. Last year that same student brought a dead puppy.
All of that in four days of school! Regardless of being on the receiving end of such bad luck, I must applaud Fortuna and her Fates for their impressive work. I pause to wonder which volunteer or staff did the deed that summoned Fortuna's attention. Was it me? Did I not sacrifice several pieces of delicious Christmas chocolate in her honor? Was this not enough?
On Saturday Wyatt queried the culprit could be "M" The Destroyer of Worlds, in a bid to unseat Fortuna. "M" denied the charge.

Will Fortuna's Fates continue their assualt this week? Has she had her way with us? Will she grow bored and move on to greener pastures and more deserving mortals? Will Jon regain the use of his arm and shoulder after hauling gallons and gallons of water up and down the basement stairs? He claims permanent damage and requests to go on Space Center welfare assistance for the rest of his life. His request was denied with a sternly worded, "Get Back to Work," from Mr. Williamson.

Although in his defense, Mr. Williamson would like all to know he rewarded Jon's extra effort to dry out the shop by buying him a large Dr. Pepper from Harts on Saturday. Jon took the gift knowing it was the best he was going to get from the Bossman.

"Jon, now that you've been rewarded with this LARGE Dr. Pepper - at not cost to you I might add - would you be willing to stay after the Overnight Camp to work with the electrician. He's installing a new spot light in Discovery and a couple new outlets in the Voyager's Crew Quarters."

Mr. Williamson's statement was worded as a request, spoken without taking his gaze off the LARGE Dr. Pepper in Jon's hand. Mr. Williamson's expectant look was painfully obvious to all. Jon could have declined, claiming exhaustion as a valid excuse. I'm please to say that he didn't. Mr. Williamson thanked him with a few more "Get out of Jail Free" cards. The staff and volunteers applauded Jon's taking another one for the team, then promptly got the heck out of Dodge before Mr. Williamson could think of something else that needed doing.

Stay tuned to The Troubadour to find out.

Back in the Saddle Again....

Hello Troops,
Back in the Saddle Again is a favorite song of mine. It was my 'bring the dead crew to life' song I used when I used to tell Overnight missions. I'm playing it again this Friday night / Saturday morning because we are back to work at the Space Center. I'm at my desk at 12:19 A.M, in the midst of 2012's first Overnight Camp.

"So this is how real people live!" I kept saying to myself on the last two Friday nights and Saturdays. It was magnificent having two Friday nights off in a row; dangerous though, I could get to like having Friday nights off, with the added bonus of a two day weekend. Oh well. Two day weekends are luxuries not meant for those of us who have to work for a living.

So much has happened this last week. Fortuna had her way with us. I'll post more on that topic either tomorrow or Sunday.

For now I bid you "Good night". I'm ready for bed.

Mr. W.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Your Space News Updates.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Meanwhile, out in space...

ISS astronauts do the interview thing.

As the world turns...

Up in the International Space Station, six astronauts and cosmonauts continue to work in zero gravity, performing maintenance and science experiments in their orbital home. While space-faring nations busy themselves with rocket launches, space politics, and capsule testing, the ISS Expedition 30 crew keeps working on the frontier of space adventure.

Comet Lovejoy as seen from the ISS.

Commander Dan Burbank was in the observation cupola at the right moment on December 22. Carefully aiming his camera, he managed to take a beautiful shot of Comet Lovejoy as it appears just above the Earth's atmosphere. Actually many millions of miles away, the comet's tail seems to float leisurely above our planet. This picture will undoubtedly become one of the iconic memorable moments of ISS history.

Astronaut Shannon Walker works on the SAME.

When the crew of Expedition 30 isn't studying the Earth, they are busy maintaining the station's life support systems, working on experiments, or exercising to keep up their health. The SAME (Smoke Aerosol Measurement Experiment) experiment is located in the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox. Using the SAME helps our scientists develop new ways to detect the difference between smoke and dust particles. This technology will help our engineers build effective detectors for spacecraft and aircraft in the future.

SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule is being prepared for a launch to the ISS.

During today's interview with and Fox News Radio, the astronauts mentioned they were looking forward to the upcoming visit of the Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft. Built by SpaceX, the Dragon will give the ISS program a new way to return valuable equipment and materials back to Earth-bound scientists. The Dragon launch is set for February 7.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Twin GRAIL probes orbit the Moon

Second GRAIL probe above lunar surface.

Launched last September, the GRAIL lunar probes have finally arrived at the Moon and successfully entered orbit. GRAIL-A fired its thruster on Sunday, and 24 hours later, GRAIL-B joined its partner to circle the Moon. Over the next coupe of months, the two spacecraft will use minute bursts of thrust to align themselves into a stable orbit of 55 kilometers above the surface.

Once in their stable orbit, the two probes will maintain a communications link with each other, and measure the disturbances in altitude and separation of spacecraft to help probe the gravity field of the Moon, helping scientists to understand more about the Moon's interior.

Students in 5th through 8th grades are participating in this exploration. Each probe includes a GRAIL MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students). The cameras will receive requests from students across the country, and the returned images will be studied by students in their science classes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Quadrantid Meteor Shower Tonight!

Yes, more rocks from space. Duck and Cover!

Tonight marks the appearance of the Quadrantid meteor shower. For some time, it was not known what the source was for this small but sometimes spectacular show of rocky debris burning up in the atmosphere. Eventually it was determined that the meteors might be remnants of a rocky fragment of "2003 EH-1," a rocky Near-Earth-Orbit object which in turn may be broken off from comet C/1490 Y1. The breakup may have occurred only 500 years ago, so the Quadrantids are a fairly new meteor shower.

The meteors will most likely appear coming from the constellation of Bootes, near Polaris, at about 2:20 am January 4 (Wednesday morning) EST. It's supposedly a short-event shower, which means tit may peak quickly at about 60-80 streaks per hour. This indicates the debris lies in a narrow band as the Earth passes through. Checking weather forecasts indicate hazy skies and very cold tonight.

Here at the SpaceRubble Command Bunker, work has started this week after the holiday vacation so it's doubtful I'll be willing to witness this shower. It may depend as well on the fickle weather here in Utah. Still, the relatively brief intensity of this shower is interesting and some fireballs have been seen in past showers, so it may be worth it. Working against this is also the freezing temperatures, so if you decide to brave the danger, dress warm and be prepared to duck!

50 YA: Getting ready for Glenn's flight

Glenn in the cockpit of an F-106 trainer.

NASA passed the near year of 1962 preparing for the first flight of an American in orbit of the Earth. Astronaut and Marine John Glenn continued his training in aircraft, simulators, and laboratories as the Mercury capsule he would fly was mated to the Atlas rocket at Cape Canaveral. The flight of the mission was designated MA-6, and was scheduled for January 23rd 1962. The Atlas rocket for the flight had been designated as Atlas 109D, and the capsule was Mercury capsule number 13 (ominous?) which had been built at McDonnell Aircraft's space craft assembly plant in St. Louis, Missouri.

Training with Glenn were astronauts Scott Carpenter, who would be Glenn's backup pilot, and astronauts Deke Slayton and Wally Schirra who were training for the second Mercury-Atlas spaceflight. Glenn's flight would be launched from Launch Complex 14.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Russians ditch problem stage, launch GlobalStars

GlobalStar navigation satellites in production.

After last week's launch failure, Russia has replaced its malfunctioning third stage on the Soyuz rocket with ArianneSpace's Fregat orbital stage. On Wednesday Russia launched 6 GlobalStar navigational position satellites into orbit successfully. This is the third set of 6 launched for the system, replacing an old and failing system. The happy launch also brings relief to Russian space managers, although they still have to investigate the cause of the Russian third stage failures.

China also added to the vast assembly of satellites in orbit with the launch of a "Compass" GPS satellite. Ten of the system's satellites are already in orbit, and six more are scheduled. Their goal is to compete with the USA's GPS system.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

China plans large space program for 2012

Chinese Taikonaut in orbit of Earth. Credit: CCTV.

China continues to make ambitious plans for its space program development. There are plans to expand the Tiangong-1 space station and send a human crew to visit. There are also plans to exceed 2011's number of space launches. You can see a video of their space plans at Parabolic Arc's website :

Last year, China beat the USA in the number of space launches, 19 to 18. Each country suffered one launch failure. This was the first year China has exceeded the number of USA launches. Their space launch program has definitely improved over the old days of failures and explosions on the launch pads.

I still don't hear any mention of thanks to the USA for the technology they have improperly obtained through spying and computer espionage. I doubt we ever will.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Santa visits ISS, can't rescue Russian rocket

Santa docks at the ISS.

The secret is out: Santa has no problem dealing with world-wide travel. We knew he was able to bend time and space to deliver gifts to billions around the world in one evening, but now we have proof that the secret is in his advanced technology sled. Images are now available showing Santa docking with the International Space Station and receiving a refueling of some sort of top-secret power source. This also explains how the world was convinced to work together to build the ISS and keep it manned even during difficult times.

Santa maneuvers over the ISS after refueling.

The images come courtesy NASA and the Canadian Space Agency and a bit of computer animation magic. You can find the complete animation at Parabolic Arc:

Soyuz rockets are used both for human and satellite launches.

I'm afraid it's coal for Christmas from Santa for the Russians. On Friday, Russia suffered yet another rocket failure, this time a Soyuz rocket third stage. The communications satellite failed to achieve orbit., and apparently has crashed somewhere in Siberia. This is the fifth failure in a year and a half for the Russians, and has many space leaders concerned. The major concern from the USA is that the Soyuz rocket is also used to launch astronauts and cosmonauts to the ISS.

TMA-03M 290 miles above Africa, approaching the ISS.

The satellite launch failure was tempered by the successful docking on Friday of additional crew to the ISS. Thankfully no problems with THIS Soyuz. The additional Expedition 30 crew will bring the crew total to six on the station, and full operations will begin immediately. THe crew had been limited to three temporarily, due to delays in the Russian launches caused by previous Russian rocket failures.

Without the Shuttle program, the US is totally reliant on rides to ISS with our Russian partners, who promptly began overcharging for seats on the capsule. With the dangers now inherent in Soyuz launches, I imagine our space insurance rates will be increasing as well. One can only imagine the true thoughts of our brave astronauts who have to ride the Soyuz at these times.