fb_img_1481301422079When it comes to aerospace, Ohio has enjoyed an embarrassment of riches. There is very little I can say that you don’t already know about the Wright Brothers, Neil Armstrong, and John Glenn; there’s even less I could say that would do justice to their exploits.

Since he lived here in Columbus, Mr. Glenn’s legacy is perhaps being celebrated more than anywhere else. While there was very little I agreed with in his political career (other than his epic takedown of the vile Howard Metzenbaum), his achievements as a Marine aviator and Astronaut were remarkable. It’s easy to forget exactly how dangerous the test pilot business was in those days. And to be the first American to fly a repurposed ballistic missile into orbit (which tended to be rather explodey back then)? Yeah, the man had sack. Or as the great Tom Wolfe puts it, the indefinable quality that top-of-the-pyramid aviators dare not invoke:

Real Men Read Books…So Hurry And Get These On Sale For Dad!

My publisher (the wonderful Baen Books) is running a sale this week, just in time for Father’s Day. Starting Wednesday, Farside and Perigee will be available through all your favorite ebook outlets for the obscenely low price of 99 cents. (Hint: Read Perigee first. It’s a SERIES.) This is a limited-time, don’t-miss chance to get Dad a couple of kick-ass hard Sci-Fi adventure novels to load up that new Kindle or iPad he so richly deserves.
Does Dad like to read the old-fashioned way? Amazon or Barnes & Noble can also get you the paperback version in just a few days.
So you heard it here first, kiddies. Go on, do it – it’ll change your life. Or his. Either way everybody’s happy, including my publisher. Seriously y’all, there’s some real crap out there so here’s your chance for something that’s, well, not crap.*
And don’t wait too long, the sale ends Monday, June 20th.

*Exhibit A of why I didn’t go into advertising: “buy our stuff – it’s not crap!”

Here’s some handy links:



Barnes & Noble

Google Play Books



Finally, some kind words from a dear friend: “The story is an intriguing rollercoaster ride of twists and turns, and features characters that are real enough to invite to your next barbeque.”

I’ll take that. And barbeque always sounds good.

Twits from Spaaace!!!

It’s not often you find two examples of towering space-related jackassery in the same day (at least in the places where I hang out – if you’re into UFO hunting then your mileage may vary). But thanks to a couple of long-retired government officials, we are treated to a smorgasbord of hot steaming BS.

Yet another “former Air Force officer” comes forward to confirm that yes, Virginia, there were space aliens that crashed in Roswell. In fact, it happened twice. Because I guess if something is good enough to screw up once, then twice must be even better.

Yawn. Remember the ridiculous “Alien Autopsy” TV special on Fox a few years ago? It wouldn’t be surprising if that was a big reason why some people refuse to take Fox News seriously to this day.

So let us move on to more serious fare, in this case a former NASA public affairs officer who insists there’s a dirty little secret hidden in the story of the Apollo 13 rescue. He claims an MIT student contacted the Agency and suggested, “hey fellas, why not just put them on a free-return trajectory?”

“Wow!” one imagines Gene Kranz exclaiming as he slaps his forehead. “And I could’ve had a V8!”

I’ve never had much patience with PR types and this just reinforces the stereotype. Sorry, man, but this is just clueless. And if there were any truth to it, then the whole affair was an even bigger miracle than anyone imagined because free-return was the first thing on their minds after ruling out a direct abort. The lunar transfer orbits were in fact purposefully constructed with that very option – every step of the way they had some kind of escape plan.

If you don’t believe me, read Jim Lovell’s Lost Moon or Gene Kranz’s Failure is Not an Option. Both are front-row views of the whole affair from the guys in charge at both ends of the mission. Kranz’s book has the added benefit of being a fascinating description of the evolution of Mission Control from the first days of Mercury.

An aside: being an operations desk jockey, I’m naturally disposed to the flight controller’s point of view. If you want some good ol’ fashioned gossipy dishing on certain astronaut personalities, Chris Kraft’s Flight makes for another fine selection. His accounts of certain events after reading the astronaut’s versions (either on ground or in flight) are enlightening to say the least. I’ve encountered the exact same types of interactions in my own career, from fighter squadron ready rooms to airline control centers. Kraft’s memoirs gave me the confidence to rely my own observations to spice up certain character traits in Perigee.

As they say, “don’t piss me off, or I’ll put you in my next book.”

How is it I’m always coming back to writing???

One Giant Leap

Apollo 11 Launch. Credit: NASA

Despite (or perhaps because of) today’s dreary headlines, I’d be neglecting my space-nerd cred if I didn’t point out that today is the 43rd anniversary of the first moon landing.

I was five, and completely obsessed with the whole program. My grandpa loaded me up with Apollo toys from the Gulf station, including some nifty stuff that came inside Tang jars (the official OJ of the space program). The coolest was this little plastic disc that you’d pop out of the lid and bake in the oven. It came out as a perfectly realized Apollo Command Module.

Yeah, I had a couple dozen of them. Plus models. Plus GI Joe astronauts. Plus books. So it was pretty much a no-brainer for my parents to let me stay up well past bedtime to watch the first moonwalk on TV. And I wasn’t the least bit fooled when my Mom called in from the front porch that she could see them up there on the Moon (unlike my little sister, who fell for it).

She couldn’t fool me. I had a telescope, and therefore knew better. Didn’t stop me from trying later on, though…

Our youngest has always had a fascination with the moon. Not sure why – who can explain such things? But I totally get it. When he was younger, he’d ask me if he could go to the moon when he grows up. I told him I certainly hope so. He said “I’m going to go to that moon, and smoke a cigarette when I get there”.

It’s beyond disappointing that we stopped going and have been mired in low Earth orbit ever since. I don’t want this to just be another vague story my kids hear about from their old man – I want them to see it happen again. I want them to have the chance to go – and to go even farther.

Thankfully, that may be even more likely now than it was just ten years ago. Here’s hoping my son has the chance to light up a cig on the moon one day.

But afterwards, he’d #$%@! well better never touch one of those cancer sticks again.