Rock-It Sigh-Ants

Yet another late blog post. I know; I know.

As promised last week, here is my report on the LibertyCon 29 Space Update panel.

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Les Johnson once again hosted the Space Update (formerly the NASA Update) and covered quite a lot of material in 50 minutes, despite a couple of videos failing to play during the presentation.

I took notes. Any misinformation or errors in this post are purely my own.

DAWN: This probe on a mission to the asteroids Vesta and Ceres has provided a wealth of information. The probe uses a solar-electric propulsion system and is only the second deep space probe to use this system. the propulsion system works by using an electromagnetic field to project charged particles. This allows it to go much further than a chemical propulsion system can on the same amount of fuel. Of course, this system is not practical for use in the outer solar system (beyond the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter), since it relies on solar energy for its power source. The further from the sun, the less efficient solar energy is.

One of the discoveries which caused some excitement laid to rest the notion that several bright spots photographed on Ceres might be crashed alien crafts. Instead, the spots are highly reflective magnesium salt deposits. Of course, researchers have yet to determine how they came to be where they are.

NEW HORIZONS: This mission to the dwarf planet Pluto launched in January 2006 but almost did not happen at all. The craft, which uses plutonium pellets for fuel, had a very narrow launch window in order to make its rendezvous with Jupiter for a gravity assist to reach its destination. Plutonium is highly controlled and was not in production at the time, production having ceased after the end of the Cold War. The White House almost didn’t give the approval in time to make the window. I thought it humorous that they had to use plutonium to reach Pluto.

For those who wish Pluto would be returned to full planet status, it’s probably not going to happen. For now, Pluto will remain classified as a dwarf planet; especially since several new objects in this category have been discovered in the outer solar system, and many more are being extrapolated even now.

New Horizons discovered that Pluto is not the frozen rock it was once believed to be. Rather it has proven to be volcanic and geologically (or Plutologically) active with multiple types of ice besides water ice.

Les also informed us that the most accepted pronunciation of Charon is “share-on,” but since it is a name from ancient Greek mythology, and no one alive knows exactly how ancient Greek was pronounced, “chair-on” and “care-on” are also acceptable.

JUNO: This probe was actually the first to use solar power in deep space exploration. Jupiter, it’s target, gets only one sixteenth of the light Earth gets. This meant much more efficient solar cells were required, and all of the probe’s systems had to be designed for low power.

JUNO and CASSINI, the current Saturn probe are expected to complete their missions and go dark around the same time. When this occurs there will be NO orbiters active in the outer solar system. This is due to the plutonium shortage and current NASA budget sequester.

Mars  exploration is alive and well, however. Spirit is still taking readings and functional; it’s just stuck/immobile. Opportunity and Curiosity are emulating the Energizer Bunny. They keep going and going. The drawback to the Mars rovers is lack of communication when Mars’ orbit takes it opposite of Earth with the sun between them. Currently it is impractical to build a relay system to keep communications open. The designs for such a system will be revisited as communications tech becomes smaller and cheaper to build, however.

ISS (International space station): Currently there is a one year mission underway to study the effects on the human body of extended time in space. This is vital to future plans for manned exploration beyond the Earth and Moon. This is a controlled experiment using identical twins: one on the ISS and one planetside. This is NOT the first time someone has spent a year or more in space, however. An unfortunate cosmonaut spent more than a year on MIR because the USSR fell shortly after he reached the station. It took that long to get things politically organized and settled down enough to send a rescue mission up.

BIGELOW EXPANDABLE ACTIVITY MODULE (BEAM): This inflatable compartment is currently being tested on the ISS. Instruments will monitor changes within the compartment. It will not be used by live crew until the testing and vetting are completed, and it is deemed safe.

HUBBLE  is still going strong… for now. It is finally nearing the end of its mission. It has undergone many repairs, but it was declared Hubble would not be repaired again the next time it malfunctions. The CHANDRA X-RAY OBSERVATORY is still going strong and delivers more data than Hubble.

My notes mention the SPACE X FALCON 9‘s launch and first stage recovery, the SPACE X DRAGON capsule recovery, and BLUE ORIGIN. However, I didn’t take notes which give me context for these; sorry.

Gravity Wave Astronomy has been born with the detection of gravity waves and the collision of black holes. I suspect there may be more news on this new field of astronomy in the coming years.

KEPLER is another mission which keeps on going. 1284 new exo-planets (planets orbiting other stars) were discovered in just the last few months. Nine of them might even be capable of supporting life. The Kepler Orrery III was mentioned during this segment.

The NASA SPACE LAUNCH SYSTEM (SLS) will be used early 2020 to launch a mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s larger moons. While smaller rockets could perform the same task, they would take around 7 years to get the probe to its destination. The SLS can get it there in 2 1/2 years.

NEAR EARTH ASTEROID SCOUT will be a secondary payload on a future SLS launch. The scout will be comprised of a 6-unit cube satellite and will deploy 4 21ft booms to spread its solar sail. It is designed to keep going until it breaks after its primary target is reached.

Well kiddies, that pretty much covers the Space Report for this year. I hope you found it informative.

 

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Captain’s Log: LibertyCon 29

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“Let’s Bitch at Brandy” Closing ceremonies and feedback session

First, my deepest apologies for the tardiness of this blog post. MULTIPLE errands and distractions to deal with when I got home from LibertyCon 29.

I really needed this past weekend. BEST. CON. EVAR! Seriously! I saw old friends and met online friends in person for the first time. Welcome to the family! You know who you are! I saw the best book sales at a con I’ve had since ConNooga two years ago when I sold 8 books. My total for this con was 13 books sold! I sold out of my copies of Blood Curse. I almost made a profit on this convention. (It’s local and I go home every night instead of getting a hotel room, so that cost doesn’t figure in. Hotel and food expenses are the main reasons authors almost NEVER make a profit at a convention.)

I would like to extend a warm and heartfelt thank you to the concom and volunteers who make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. My biggest complaint about LibertyCon has always been not being able to go to all the panels I’d like to. This is because there is so MUCH to do and only three days of programming for Rich and Tish Groller to cram them into. This is a good problem. LibertyCon has NEVER been boring. I did miss out on learning what the LC exclusive pre-release news was from Steve Jackson Games. Steve’s panel was scheduled at the same time I’d blocked off to eat; being a type 2 diabetic, food and meds took precedence.

I scored an adorable piece of art from the art show by Jim Humble titled “Dread Pirate Kitties.” I still can’t believe no one else placed a bid on it. Almost every other piece in his cubby had at least two bids. I also picked up Stephanie Osborn’s latest book from ProSe Press, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse. It is the start of a prequel series about her version of Sherlock Holmes from her Displaced Detective series published through Twilight Times Books.

The “Convention War stories” panel, aka “One Time at a Con” gave much entertainment and a few things I want to Google: things like “LarryCon” in conjunction with “Texas Fandom” (I’m not familiar with the reference, having never been to cons west of the Mississippi); and WorldCon/NolaCon aka “The Con WorldCon Forgot.” Apparently the convention committee quit shortly before the convention, and the fans had to take over everything. That one also coincided with the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans the same weekend. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

There was no shortage of pros present. Liberty has one of the highest pro-to-fan ratios among sci-fi conventions. It was the second LC in a row to sell out. Attendance including staff and pros is permanently capped at 750 people. Brandy Spraker, the convention chair, is carrying on her father’s tradition of keeping the convention intimate and of the highest quality. I am grateful to be a part of the LC family since 2010.

Next year will REALLY be a busy one. LibertyCon turns 30! I lost track of how many times I heard jokes about “LibertyCon XXX” over the weekend. Online registration opened Sunday.

One of my favorite panels every year is the “Space Update” hosted by Les Johnson. It used to be called the NASA update, but so many private companies are involved in space exploration now the former name is outdated. I will post a separate report on this panel at a later date. A lot was covered at the panel, and it deserves it’s own post.

Friday night saw a truly nasty wind/thunder storm. Luckily, staff was able to secure the party tents for the overflow room party space. They took the poles out and laid the tent tarps flat. Otherwise, the tents would have been shredded or blown off property. Yes, the storm was that violent.

Atlanta Radio Theatre Company (ARTC) put on a wonderful production of All Hallows’ Moon by the late Thomas E. Fuller, founder of ARTC, as well as an episode of Rory Rammer: Space Marshal; “Rory Rammer and the Case of the Mummified Martian.” I had to miss the end of the production because of a schedule conflict: I had a 10 pm Authors’ Alley slot. ARTC is currently editing a production/adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I intend to monitor their FB page for the release date on that. These guys have been doing audio/radio plays since the mid-1980s. They are VERY good at what they do.

Another nifty thing about LibertyCon is you will often see GoHs and other attending pros working staff/volunteer spots. Todd McCaffrey is well known for his crepes in the ConSuite. If you attend Liberty often enough, you WILL get drawn into helping with the programming beyond just sitting/moderating panels. Tish asked me if I’d help out with the children’s costume contest next year. Personally, I believe there’s nothing like getting involved with some of the behind-the-scenes functions to give you a better appreciation for all the hard work and love that goes into make this convention such a fantastic one.

At the Let’s Bitch at Brandy (formerly Let’s Bitch at Uncle Timmy) closing ceremonies and feedback panel, it was announced that 21 attendees donated blood and 3 donated red blood cells to Blood Assurance, the charity auction raised approximately $8200USD (the final count is not in yet), and the Baen Barflies raised $366.24USD in their ConSuite tip jar. LibertyCon is and always has been a charity organization. Staff are not paid nor comped their membership. Only Guests of Honor get free membership. All staff, convention committee members, and other attending pros pay for their memberships. Any money raised above the costs of the venue/equipment/hospitality(food and drink for the consuite) go directly to the charity chosen for that year. This year’s charity was Lana’s Love Foundation which provides diversionary therapy (FUN) for children with cancer and their families.

The guest lineup was also announced for LibertyCon 30:

30 year GoH  John Ringo

Literary GoH Kevin Hearn

Artist GoH Sam deSantos

Science GoH Eliza Quintana

30 year Special GoH Toni Weisskopf

Special GoH Todd McCaffrey

Special GoH Faith Hunter

It promises to be another sold out show. I strongly suggest you get your membership now.

LibertyCon 30 will take place at the Historic Chattanooga Choo Choo the weekend of June 30 – July 2, 2017.

I hope to see you there!

Con Prep and a Book Sale!

Wow! Am I ever glad I have this week off from work!

One thing this will allow me to do is get a good chunk of work done on polishing the MS of The Daedalus Enigma and prepping it to submit. It will also give me time to return to my Sekrit Projekt, which has been on hiatus for a few months now. (I just haven’t had the energy or time to devote to it lately.)

Still, I have to decide on and print out an excerpt for my scheduled reading at LibertyCon. I also need to prep for the two panels I will be on and make sure I have everything I need for selling my books during my 3 Authors’ Alley spots.

BOOK SALE NEWS!

For the entire month of July ALL of my currently available Waves of Darkness titles as well as my unrelated short story In the Dead of Winter will be available on Smashwords at 50% of the cover price! The code for the discount is posted on each title’s Smashwords page.

If you’ve been putting off buying them because of financial reasons, now is your chance to get them at HALF PRICE!

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Blood Curse

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Demon Bayou

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Silent Fathoms

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Black Venom

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Hell’s Dodo

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In the Dead of Winter