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Interview with a Starship Captain

Interview with a Starship Captain

I had an opportunity to interview Captain Thomas Jackson, captain of the Science Ship Maria Mitchell, currently assigned to retrieve an extended stay science team from Beta Hydri Four. He’s just come off a successful mission in the Eta Cassiopeia system where he and his crew of the Maria Mitchell stopped a centuries-old plague being fueled by a Pegasi privateer. Welcome, Captain Jackson.

Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

The pleasure is mine. I’ve had people asking me about you, your past, what makes you tick. I hope you don’t mind if some of these questions get a bit personal.

starship captain
Captain Thomas K. Jackson

I’ll let you know if you cross a line.

Great. So, Captain Jackson, you’ve been in the North American Space Administration for twenty some years now. What drove you to the stars so to speak?

I’ve always had a fascination with space, as long as I can remember. It seemed natural to go in that direction.

What did you study in college?

I’m an alum of Caltech, California Institute of Technology. My focus was aeronautics.  I met a friend, Dr. Scott Gregory, there, and he has been my ship’s astrophysicist for several years.

You’re from South California. Did you have a typical childhood?

We didn’t always live there, but after my younger sister was born we stayed put. I love the ocean. I spent every summer on the beach, camped on the beach, and I was a very strong swimmer. That’s how I ended up at Caltech. It’s still a private university, and I was awarded an athletic scholarship, on their swim team.

Is that why you joined the navy? You love the ocean?

I love flying. It was a means to an end, at least in the beginning.

So, Captain, what moved you to change from planes to rockets?

Just out of school, I was an intern, briefly, at the Jet Propulsion Lab, and went to Luna Colony on an assignment. Once you see the Earth from space, you are changed, forever. It’s indescribable. You can never go back to the ordinary again.

But you did.

I can’t say flying ion powered fighters off a carrier deck is ordinary, but I was in the navy until an accident ended my service.

Care to elaborate?

I had a mishap landing my vehicle on the deck and was injured.

Sounds like this is something in your past you would rather forget about.

You could say that, yes.

So, I’ll move on. You went from the navy to the space administration?

I joined the space program as a lieutenant but was bumped up to commander pretty quickly, then to captain. I left the navy as a captain so I was glad to have my rank again. Love a challenge, ordering people around (laughs). Not much more challenging than exploring deep space.

You were pretty young to be given a ship.

I took my first command in 2149. I was 37. That’s not so young. Just ask a teenager. Do you have a coffee service here?

The captain and I took a break and walked to the cafeteria for coffee.

So, back to the formal questions. Tell us, please, was there ever a major turning point in your life?

When I left the navy for the space program. And when I met my wife. And when I met my daughter.

Is there anything your parents did that you think significantly affected who you are today?

Absolutely. I suppose you want me to tell you what it is. My father is a dry alcoholic, but he was pretty wet when I was young. That will change the way you see things around you. Now my mother, she’s a gem. She insisted that I be friendly to everyone, to look for similarities, not differences. I think that serves me well, most of the time. I married a woman from another world, and that’s about as different as you can get.

Your wife, Rianya, is from Beta Hydri Four. She is the love of your life?

She is.

It must be difficult to captain a starship and have a family aboard. Are there other captains in the space administration with families?

I’m unique in that category. I dislike exposing them to the dangers, but we are all happier together. Missions are simply too long to be apart. There are dangers on Earth, as well. You can’t avoid life.

Indeed. What’s next, Captain? Do you still have any goals to reach for?

I’d like to see my daughter join me in space one day, not as a passenger, but as part of my crew.

If anyone can make it happen, it would be you. Thank you again for taking time to talk to us.

If you want more information, please click and enjoy!

Solar Eclipse Fever? Mark your calendar for 2024

Solar Eclipse Fever? Mark your calendar for 2024

Total Eclipse of Sun and Corona Photo by Fred Espenak, 1999

Once in a lifetime solar eclipse? Maybe not. 

Nature’s rarest celestial spectacle, a total solar eclipse. Now that you’ve seen it on television and heard the awe of the spectators, you wish you’d been able to work it out. For a variety of reasons I was content to see a 72% eclipse from my home in Las Vegas, alas, for the single hour that would have been needed to watch, it rained. And it really rained, like big, black, storm cloud rain.

Rain might not seem such a big deal to most, but we have sun about 350 days a year here. It’s why I have a 10.5K solar array on my roof, why my bath towels are kind of stiff from drying on the clothesline six months of the year, and why I expected that in this valley my odds (no obvious Vegas pun intended here) of visibility were about 34:1 in favor of sun.  In fact, even with rain, at some point the sun will appear even on those days. And, I was right. The clouds cleared around noon, well past the entire event in the southwest part of the country.

Solar eclipse of 1979

So the last chance I had was in 1979. I will tell you, without too many age revealing details, I happened to be on a school campus at the time, sometime around 8:15. I used the pinhole method, a hole in a paper cast upon another sheet of paper. My classmates thought I was nuts for even caring. I was probably the only person that day who bothered, or cared, that in the sky above us something extraordinary was occurring, in real time, and that tiny little grey crescent, as it changed from fat to thin to fat and whole again, in the past had confirmed Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, in 1919.

And as sad as that experience might sound, I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve been nerdy since before they invented the term, and I’m not surprised to find myself writing scientific fiction stories, hoping to instill the same feelings of amazement and cosmic unity in my readers as I embrace. I call this a natural worldview. Only a handful of humans have ventured beyond our stratosphere, and only as far as our moon.

The speed of light is 186,000+ miles per second (300,000 km/sec), or 6.71×108  per hour. I seared that number into my brain prepping for a science club contest between high schools. A photon of light can circle the Earth 7.5 times in one second. Light travels between the moon and Earth in less than two seconds. It takes light 8 minutes to get from our sun to Earth. My point is, space is big, and that’s an understatement.

Next total solar eclipse in United States
Texas to Maine 2024

April 8th, 2024, we have another coast to coast total eclipse, but instead of west to east, it will be south to north, more or less.

 

 

 

 

 

annular solar eclipse 2023
Oregon to Gulf of Mexico

An annular eclipse, where instead of the corona you see a ring of fire, will occur shortly before that, on October 14th, 2023.

 

It works like this: the Sun is 400 times +- larger than the moon. It is also 400 times farther away from the moon than the moon is to Earth. For a deeper explanation, go read this Popular Science blog. No sense in reinventing the wheel here. And since the moon moves away from Earth a few centimeters each year, before another billion years pass, a total solar eclipse will be a thing of the past. Of course, none of us will be here to lament the demise. We are on the planet, conscious, sentient, intelligent, at the best time since life began.

I wrote about humans on another planet experiencing a solar eclipse, not a total eclipse, but one in which three moons converge to cast their shadows and block out the star, Beta Hydri, and this defining moment in their lives brings a new beginning and hope as they patiently await rescue on a planet that, like Nature here, doesn’t care for the life forms; they simply must use their brains to stay alive, and the solar powered escape pods are pretty helpful, too. If you want to check that book out, just pop over here and you can find it on Smashwords or Amazon as an eBook, or in paperback if you prefer. Paradox: The Alien Genome, the first novel of the Captain Jackson Adventures series.

novel alien genome
Five Star Rated, Paradox: The Alien Genome

Until the next worthy news item, wear your sunscreen. Those UV rays are Naughty Nature at her most wicked!

We’re over the Hot Hump – NOT

We’re over the Hot Hump – NOT

It sounds worse in Fahrenheit

HOT

110 F is just too hot. I’m not complaining, much, when I think of Houston and it’s climate change woes, but I was wrong to say the weird heat was over when I wrote this last month. It’s one of the worst years for heat records ever. I hope that those who deny climate change will take a look at Houston. As if New Orleans wasn’t bad enough a decade ago, century-class droughts, record heat, glaciers melting… truly, this is a sign that we need to change our old ways at the same time we embrace new technologies. August has been full of contradictions.

I don’t think it’s going to be enough to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, although that is a critical factor. Humans will need to look at social issues and personal living habits. North America uses more resources per person than any other nation or continent. We use more gasoline, run more air conditioners, throw away more garbage, and waste water and food at a criminal level.

Carrying Capacity – it’s not hot in Alaksa

Or is it? It’s hot enough in Greenland to melt glaciers. The United States is home to about 5% of the Earth’s population but uses 20+% of the world’s resources. Try to imagine if all other nations, people, were to consume and waste at American levels. In a very short time, regardless of the source of our electricity generation, we would still experience shortages of critical resources – water, food, a reasonable standard of living.

And neither can human behavior be legislated, although sometimes it helps – seat belts in cars, paying for plastic bags, financial incentives for reducing energy use. It’s still not enough. Most of us live in the cities and suburban communities where we can’t have so much as a chicken in our back yard to give us a few eggs and some fertilizer for our tomatoes grown in patio pots. It’s these small efforts than can lead to big change. And they can be simple, easy, and require very little change in everyday life.

Container Gardening

A Challenge

Reduce your water waste by one gallon a day – 30 seconds less showering or shutting off the water when you brush your teeth.

Plant a food plant – an herb on your kitchen counter, a cherry tomato, or a fruit tree

Turn off the light when you leave the room – better yet, keep them off and open the window blind for natural light.

And below is what I wrote last month, apparently more with a hopeful heart than a critical mind. Be wise, be safe, be happy.

 

Oh, yes, the worst of the heat has passed in Las Vegas. That means the Star Trek Convention next week will be pleasant. Those of us who have actual wool twill uniforms, field jackets as part of our costumes, or show up in prostheses such as Borg, Tellaxian, Vulcan, Andorian (my personal favorite), Orion (wait – they won’t overheat in their costumes), Ferrengi – you get the idea, will not swelter making our way from the parking lot of the Rio to the Convention Hall.

Desert Mummy
Don’t worry, it’s a dry heat, they said.

Dressed as Janeway two years ago, I thought I was going to pass out several times from the heat. How did the actors stand it under the hot set lights hour after hour? 24th Century Trek uniforms gave me a new appreciation for the rigors needed to make our favorite shows! Cosplay takes on an entirely new meaning when it’s 105 F outside. I know you’d all love to see me in my Janeway persona here, but my image files were misplaced when I adopted a new laptop this year. I’ll find it eventually.

Science Fiction –

one of my favorite subjects. Living in Las Vegas we are subject to temperature extremes. From the coolest night to the hottest day, it would not be unheard of to range more than 100 F (17 on a January night, 117 on a July day) but fortunately that hasn’t actually happened in the same 12 month period. I believe 90 F difference, however, is expected. To that point, it is easy to imagine environments that wouldn’t necessarily be hospitable to human life. This explains why virtually all aliens that come to Earth end up in Nevada, including those from the World of Roddenberry.

Shatner, Bakula, Stewart, Mulgrew, Brooks
Left to Right, Shatner, Bakula, Stewart, Mulgrew, and Brooks as Kirk, Archer, Picard, Janeway, and Sisko.

If you’re a Trekker, you may want to subscribe to the blog here and get updates, not only about Trek, but about the real world of astronomy, astrophysics, and aerospace. I’ll tell you when a new book is about to come out, too. If you would be interested in being a beta reader, please get in contact with me (go the Contact Me tab at the far top right).

I hope I may run into you at the Con this year – I’ll be around the last day, so if you’ll be there, send me a note and we’ll meet up for a cuppa Earl Grey or Coffee as you like!

See You Out There!                                                                             H S Rivney  

 

Migrating, Stand By

Migrating, Stand By

Followers, I’ll be migrating to a new platform in the next couple of weeks so please be patient for more fun science stuff, space adventures, incredible insight and a campaign for several bottles of extra strength aspirin.

What was your first Sci Fi novel?

What was your first Sci Fi novel?

Or did you3944447 watch Star Trek, Star Wars, Battle Star Galactica, Space: 1999? What introduced you to the wonders of science, and fiction?

My first exposure was Robert Heinlein’s novel “Orphans of the Sky”. By high school the SBS stories had become to easy, and although I liked them, I needed more meat in a story if I was going to spend my time with it.

Investigating the stuff from my parents’ bookshelves, I decided murder mysteries were too macabre and science fiction was hopeful, or at least futuristic. And I took to it. Mutants, secret  and restricted zones, a generation ship on its way to Alpha Centauri,  a discovery worth risking your life for. It’s currently a 75 year old story and hasn’t lost any appeal over the years.

5captains

A best friend also introduced me to her passion – Star Trek, which took a little longer to warm up to, but not long. And then Star Wars came along with a gaggle of other television shows and movies in the science fiction genre.

I remember where I was when the first space shuttle landed, STS-01. I, and many other readers, were in the public library, watching the event on a large television – probably a 32″  CRT mounted in the wall above the check out desk, where, we signed a small card, had the book rubber stamped with a date, and were expected to return it on time without an email reminder. Yeah, I’ve been around a while.

Shuttle
Shuttle

I even worked in a library, and frankly, I enjoyed it. The quiet, the books at your fingertips, pushing the cart and refiling by the Dewey Decimal, which I think has followed the CRT into oblivion.  But I digress., waxing nostalgic over the “way it was” when now I use a computer on my coffee table that has as much power as all the computers of the space shuttle and mission control combined. I have a global library at my fingertips, in seconds, and my writing is part of that colossal container of information and entertainment.

So remember what sparked your curiosity, what did it for you? It’s a rhetorical question, for your mind only.  The Mercury 7? Apollo 11?  The Enterprise? Mir? Images from Hubble?  Skylab? Beating the USSR to our moon? Kennedy’s declaration for the 1960s? Darth Vader? So many of these cultural icons in our civilization must have a meaning, a statement about humans, that curiosity will drive us where humans have never gone, and we will never stop reaching for the stars.

 

A New Novel: Symbiosis

A New Novel: Symbiosis

saturn
Saturn. Enceladus, embedded in the rings, is an ideal habitat, at least underground.

I’ve been busy. While Captain and Rianya Jackson were in voluntary exile on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s loyal moons, hiding Zalara from Earth’s medical community, I documented their next adventure in space.

Captain Thomas Jackson and his crew tackle a pandemic of Yersinia pestis, more commonly known as The Black Death, The Plague, or Bubonic Plague. Their new, faster ship must pick up the science team left on Beta Hydri IV, but on the way they have another mission to complete.

Trio

Time travel is the crux of this adventure – not of our intrepid friends but someone from the future, who went to the past, and ended up on the wrong planet, in the wrong time, stuck in between where he’d come from and where he was trying to go. Mostly human, the secret they find in his pocket, and in his DNA, could ruin everything in the Jacksons’ lives.

 

TZalara

 

 

 

 

Antibiotic resistance is the lesson for the inhabitants of Eta Cassiopeia’s fifth planet, affectionately called Cinco by the crew. The hairy, matriarchal Kiians play an important role, as do our favorite aliens, the green pirates of the Orion Arm, the Pegasi, specifically, Jackson’s old thorn, Dukvita.

It should come as no surprise that what started as a routine mission takes a catastrophic turn putting not only the lives of the Cinconians suffering from The Plague, but the S. S. Maria Mitchell’s entire crew, in dire jeopardy.  Captain Jackson is desperate to find a way to work with three alien species, a deadly pandemic, and a puzzling time traveler to accomplish his missions but the odds are against his success when he is held hostage on the planet, the plague breaks out on the ship, and quantum date readings make no sense whatsoever.

Buy Symbiosis At Amazon

A Trio of Super-Earths (artist's impression)
Eta Cassiopeia and her children

 

Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Giveaway

gilesemooncoverStarts today! runs through the end of January – enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Paradox: The Alien Genome. Share with those who love Hard Science Fiction, this will take you from the vastness of our galaxy to the microcosm of molecules!  Castaway astronauts may never see Earth again, which is a shame since what humanity needs most is all around them.

Enter to Win!

#amwriting #sciencefiction #startrek

5 Free Ways to Live Long and Prosper

5 Free Ways to Live Long and Prosper

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It’s the beginning of a new year, at least as far as the calendar is concerned. Actually, every day is the beginning of a new year if you stop to think about it, so I say don’t make another resolution you won’t keep. Just consider these five easy peasy things you can do to help yourself live a longer, healthier, wealthier life.

  1. Breathe. Take five minutes daily to breathe using your diaphragm instead of your ribs. By inmarianaheinzbreathehaling “through your belly button” you bring air into the depths of your lungs where it has a chance to enter your circulatory system. It also does something very important: it retrains your brain, over time, to function more efficiently with your nervous system. Do it. It’s free.
  2.  Screen Time. Turn off your phones, pads, computers, and televisions at least 30 minutes before retiring. brainwavesOur vid screens induce an Alpha Wave state of mind, somewhat like staring out into space. Brainwaves that you need for optimum sleep efficiency are Theta Waves. By turning off your video screens, your pineal gland will perceive the darkness, produce melatonin, change the Hz of the nervous system and you will benefit from a better night’s sleep. Do it. It’s free.
  3. Save Money. It’s easier than you think to save money. The benefits you reap from saving money include the peace of mind that you are not a victim, a passenger in piggybankcashyour future.
    You don’t need to save much to feel the endorphin kick when your bank statement arrives, either. Next time you want that high priced coffee drink, a box of candy, or a magazine, tell yourself “no” and set that money aside, at least in your mind, until the end of the week. Aim for $10, transfer that money from your operating account to a savings account. In a year you’ll have $500 staring back at you. Do it. It’s better than free.
  4.  Wear Seat Belts.  This is a no brainer. Besides this action being a law in most states, these things save lbuckleives. Airbags
    are good, but airbags are not good without seat belts first. In a collision you hit an airbag too hard and it can cause real damage. Don’t like wrinkled clothes? Blood is worse. Feel like it’s choking you? Adjust the frame attachment point lower, or use a belt cushion. Afraid you’ll be trapped by it? First responders will cut you out. If you’re unconscious, you won’t be able to let yourself out anyway.
    Do it. It’s free.
  5. Drink More Water. No matter how much water you think you’re drinking, it’s probably not enough. waterThe adult body is 60% water on average. Eight glasses a day is the old standard, but it doesn’t have to be pure water to count. A glass of milk counts as 7 ounces, and some juice is nearly 8 ounces. On the other hand, drinks with caffeine reduce your water intake despite their lack of nutrients. Caffeine is a natural diuretic that removes water from your body. A cup of tea may have 8 ounces of water, but you’re going to lose a couple, so it only counts as about 5-6 ounces. Do it. It’s practically free.

So five easy, guiltless, scientifically supported actions you can take every day, starting today, that will cost almost nothing and most likely save you money when you look at the reduced electricity costs and the health benefits. Of course, the old traditional “eat better, exercise, and stop smoking” are in there, but start out slow. If you can do those five things, you’ll be starting out 2017 five steps ahead, and on your way to a long life of prosperity.

What are you waiting for? GO!