Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy birthday, Skylab, Space Shuttle astronaut (and Okie!) Owen Garriott!

Owen K. Garriott, born November 22, 1930 in Enid, Oklahoma, flew on  Skylab 3 and the Space Shuttle Columbia.  He was selected as an astronaut in 1965 and his first mission was aboard Skylab 3 from July - September 1973, doubling the amount of time astronauts spent in space from the previous record.

During the mission, the controllers in Houston were surprised to hear a woman's voice coming from Skylab 3, even calling Bob Crippen by name.  She explained:

"The boys haven't had a home-cooked meal in so long I thought I'd bring one up." After several minutes in which she described forest fires seen from space and the beautiful sunrise, the woman said: "Oh oh. I have to cut off now. I think the boys are floating up here toward the command module and I'm not supposed to be talking to you." 

Garriott had recorded his wife the night before liftoff and the crew was in on the prank.

Garriott's second flight was aboard Columbia (STS-9) November-December 1983 as a mission specialist.  His son Richard flew aboard Soyuz TMA-13 in October 2008, becoming the first American to follow a parent into space.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mangalyaan, India's Mars Orbiter, sends back stunning pictures!

The India Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched their Mars Orbiter, called Mangalyaan, November 2013 and it entered Mars the following September.  India became the fourth space agency to reach Mars, the first Asian country to put a probe in orbit around the planet and the first country to do so on its first attempt. 

The cloud formation (arrow in above photograph) is seen around Ascraeus Mons, the northernmost and tallest of three shield volcanoes, known as the Tharsis Montes in the Tharsis region of Mars.

Bakhuysen Crater

Three linked Craters of Mars

Juventae Fons and Baetis Chasma - Terrains on planet Mars

Henry Hartsfield, Space Shuttle astronaut, born 1933

Henry "Hank" Hartsfield, born November 21, 1933 in Birmingham, Alabama, was a veteran of 3 Space Shuttle flights, including one of the first, STS-4 aboard Columbia.  In June 1982, he and Ken Mattingly made the final test run of the Space Shuttle program, which was the last time only two astronauts were aboard a shuttle.

His second flight was on Discovery (STS-41-D) in August-September 1984 as commander.  Its initial launch date was June 26 but at T-6 seconds before blast off, the launch was aborted.  Its mission was delayed over two months.

His third and final flight was aboard Challenger (STS-61-A) in October-November 1985.  It was the last successful flight of the Challenger.  He was commander of the only space shuttle mission to carry 8 astronauts for the entire mission. 

Hartsfield passed away in July 2014 from complications due to back surgery.

Monday, November 20, 2017

"The Day After" airs 1983

I remember watching this on my portable TV in my dorm room at Southwestern Oklahoma State.  There had been such a build-up to it in the media including Newsweek, that I had to watch it.  The Day After, which aired November 20, 1983, was a scary movie because it is one of the first to show the horrors of a nuclear holocaust and the fallout afterwards.  I think it got people thinking seriously about nuclear war with the Soviet Union and how we could avoid it. 

It is still one of the most-watched shows of all time (not counting miniseries) and garned 12 Primetime Emmys, winning two of them. 

Remembering Della Reese (1931-2017)

Singer/actress/commedienne Della Reese has passed away although the details of her death have not been released.  She retired from acting in 2014 and suffered health problems related to her diabetes.

I remember seeing her in many different roles on television.  She won numerous awards for her role in Touched by an Angel

I remember her best from her role in Harlem Nights and especially her hilarious fight scene with Eddie Murphy.

Book review - "Satan's Fire" by P. C. Doherty

P. C. Doherty’s ninth novel in his Hugh Corbett mystery series set in the early 1300’s England, involves the Knights of the Templar, and takes place just a few years before they were destroyed by greedy kings.  Doherty hints at the changing political climate in Europe as Philip IV in France and Edward I in England become jealous of the Templars’ wealth, since both kingdoms are strapped for cash.  Satan’s Fire opens with Edward managing to convince the very reluctant Templars to grant him a loan for his wars.

But strange events have occurred when the Knights of the Templar have been in the vicinity, such as an attempt on Philip’s life while hunting and ominous warnings pinned to doors.  The most bizarre of all are the reports of people killed in mysterious fires that seem to ignite spontaneously and have a mind of their own.

Edward summons his chief clerk Hugh Corbett, who longs to return to his manor in Leighton, to his wife and daughter.  Edward has received a warning and is fearful that someone is trying to assassinate him.  With extreme reluctance, Corbett plunges into the mystery of the strange fires (hence the title) and what the Templars are doing in Framlingham, their residence in England. 

The Templars aren’t shown in a favorable light and remain suspicious and aloof from Corbett and his manservant Ranulf and messenger Maltote.    But it becomes understandable when Doherty shows the shifting perceptions and the movements against their order from all sides.  They feel their existence is being threatened and have every right to believe so. There are certain splits among the Knights, which are causing tension which do not help their cause.

Corbett is one of the luckiest men on the planet since he manages to survive several attempts on his life in this book, but all the other victims were offed in one chance.  Hmm…

I like it when good ol’ chemistry is part of a novel, but not so much when it is used to kill.  Corbett finally discovers an ancient recipe founded by the Greeks centuries before after consulting old manuscripts.

On the downside once again, I read a book by Doherty and ask where is his editor? Does he even have one?  He commits several infractions that I was taught to avoid during my writing: use of passive voice, changes in point of view within one scene, etc.  Was all of it unnceccsary?

The Pointer Sisters release "Hot Together" 1986

My girls released their twelfth album Hot Together November 1986, pumping out more great music!  It was their eighth collaboration with producer Richard Perry.  Although it wasn't as successful as Break Out or Contact, it held its own. 

The title track was featured on the soundtracks to Spaceballs and Stakeout, and also part of the NBA's promotional campaign in the late 1980's.

Set Me Free was featured in the opening scene of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" starring Whoopi Goldberg.