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The Knights of Afghanistan


Just another day in Afghanistan, fighting dragons and repairing my government issue chain mail. Check out the above video of these two historical reenactors. We have a lot of free time to develop hobbies out here. Some of us build things, or paint miniatures. So smoke cigars every night and a few play D&D. Then you have guys like this who take their playtime seriously. I have to hand it to these guys, they had some great showmanship for two people wrapped in leather and steel in 110 degree heat hitting each other with bats. Bravo.

TIME: Speaking of history, fighting and time in general, I09 had a great short article detailing “The first Time War“. It did exist, in the 16th century, in fact.

SONIC: What does it sound like to take the original 1963 Doctor Who theme and slow it down to a whopping 20 min. Its a sonic experience you have to hear to believe.

NASA:  With all the space shuttles in museums, NASA is dead, right? Wrong! Huffington Post blogger, Lauren Lyons is doing her part to educate the masses with her blogpost “5 Popular Misconception About NASA” Did you know that public opinion polls show Americans believe that we spend 20% of the national budget on NASA? Or that NASA is part of the Department of Defense? Get the facts by clicking the links above.

With only 38 days left in theater, I am getting really excited about coming home.

Business and Science, The Future of SEDS

When you think of the kind of students a space club recruits, you probably imagine membership that is heavy on STEM, fields like engineers and geologists, astronomers and rocket scientists. If you looked at the make-up of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, for the most part you would be right. In fact, what SEDS needs more than ever is a heavy dose of business majors, pre-law undergraduates and aspiring marketing professionals.

Why does SEDS need students from Sandra Day O’Connor, W. P. Carey and the Herberger institute? Isn’t SEDS all about inspiring the scientists and engineers, the people who will develop the technology that reaches beyond Earth? We all know the reason we don’t have a base on the Moon or a colony on Mars is because of a lack of advanced technology. Or is it?

Today every student walks around with a computer more advanced than what Buzz and Neil had in their capsule. NASA has had schematics for nuclear powered engines, engines that could take astronauts to Mars in a matter of months, since the 70’s. The life support systems onboard the ISS today would still be recognizable to the engineers of Apollo. A lack of technology is not holding us back.

English: President Barack Obama tours SpaceX l...

English: President Barack Obama tours SpaceX launch pad with CEO Elon Musk, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The true log-jam holding back a flood of space development and exploration is economics. Elon Musk , founder of SpaceX, didn’t build a rocket company from the ground up because he had a revolutionary engine. What he had was a revolutionary business model, that instead of nestling subcontracts within subcontracts for rocket parts like Boeing and Lockheed, he would build everything in house. With this economic model his company ran so lean that in just a few short years he beat industry giants for NASA contracts so old they could have been called fossils.

Peter Diamandsis, who made his wealth as an Intel entrepreneur, understood humanity would never step beyond low earth orbit without an economic incentive. With the X-Prize Foundation he uses cash rewards to encourage competition in achieving technological goals such as landing a rover on the Moon and developing a handheld medical device that can diagnose medical issues like a live doctor. His company, Planetary Resources, is working to establish water and fuel depots from near Earth orbit asteroids, while also recovering their vast platinum group mineral wealth.

Each of these novel technologies, each of these steps into space, is wrapped in a business plan, marketed to the public or angel investors, and has teams of lawyers opening the frozen realms of space law. We need lawyers, who dream of space development, working to change restrictive laws that make private space ventures prohibitive. We need accountants and business people to take our engineering or science ideas and make them profitable and viable. We need marketing gurus to design our kickstarters and hunt out angel investors to fund our enterprises. In the end, we must boldly go where no SEDS-er has gone before, into the schools of law and business to seek out professionals and undergraduates passionate about the final frontier.

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Do all of it.

I hope you enjoyed that little video. Seriously, that kinda stuff gets me up in the morning. Anyway, time to restart this blog and come out of hibernation. It really feels like my life has been on hold out here in Afghanistan too. My trip to Florida started the thawing of my connections back in Arizona out of stasis. The ASU Lunabot team was participating in NASA’s competition while I was there. I got to hangout at Epcot and Magic Kingdom with April Davis. I helped fund ASU-SEDS High Powered rocket. I’m really ready to go home now. There is so much to do when I get home. Buy a house. Buy a Car. Enroll in my next semester. Fall in love. Raise my Son. Build a Rover, a Rocket, a Tractor. I’m so excited to do all of it.

Sol 77 : Thank you!

I received two of the best presents of the season this last week, and I invoked the unspoken deployment rule. I get to open anything that comes here without waiting for Christmas. 🙂

My parents sent me a Celestron Telescope, model 127 EQ. I have already used it to look at the moon and the moons orbiting Jupiter.  Yesterday I also got another surprise, a NASA cycling jersey from ThinkGeek. I love it, and I’m going to put it to good use at the gym.

I also hear that a few of my friends at ASU and in ASU SEDS are sending care packages. I look forward to these gifts of “meat and electronics”. Thank you all!

Red Mars 09 The Crucible

Sol -11 : Mars One

Did you hear that seductive and silky British voice tell you the same thing it told me? 2023! That sure is ambitious, dangerous, and difficult. It also is beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking. Could we do this?

I would go, there is no doubt in my mind, and this fits Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX’s time frame too. Are we really considering this, this crazy wonderful dream? My mind is too blown right now to even give a really good write up of this company and its potentials and pitfalls. I’ll have to sleep on this and do some more research. I have to ask you though, wouldn’t it be beautiful if this was the beginning, if we could really say that humanity was now pushing for the stars, that it is happening in our life time and that we could participate in it?

What if ten years from now, the first Mars colonists were leaving earth to make a home on the red world? Don’t you want to be a member of a species capable of achieving that?

Perpetually in Awe. Todd.

Sol -17 : Only Half a Martian Year

I think we all wish we could be as cool as the Mars rover, Curiosity.  Who wouldn’t want to be trailblazing in a new and strange land, ‘doing a science’, or forging ahead against the unknown. Afghanistan is surely an unknown, strange land; a land where as you may know, I will be spending the next year. I feel some kinship with the Mars Science Lab. Unlike MSL, though, I will get to come back home from my desert wasteland. With all the things Curiosity and I will be learning this year I have decided to blog the whole experience. In keeping with my new perspective, and because counting days makes me feel like i’m making chalk marks on a a prison wall, I am going to chart my journey by counting Sols. I want to remember what I love about humanity, as I have come to understand that I may be encountering the worst of humanity on my trip.

We’re on Sol negative 17, or seventeen days from when I sign my orders and commit to my deployment. Today I worked on my list of online mini-courses the navy has ordered I take in preparation. I got my hearing tested and I’m learning some Dari.  I’m learning everything I may need to know about an M4 Rifle, which is the weirdest thing to stick in an online course, and that says a lot after what I’ve found available online from ASU.  The rest of the week I’ll be learning about the M9 pistol, Army core values and a bunch of other mind numbing but potentially life saving topics. That is Sol -17 through -14.

Also the computer is in the shop, so I’m posting this from my family’s HP. The repair guy thinks its a hardware malfunction, and we can fix it before I leave. The error is most likely in the RAM, but the processor and the hard drives are not being ruled out. It doesn’t make sense this would be a software issue because it happened before and after the whole system wipe.

Here’s a few links I want to throw at you, first is a collection the best photos from MSL posted on the WSJ.  Secondly, here is video experience out of 1969 of Armstrong’s landing on the moon from Space(dot)com. Lastly,  here is the track for the night: Cthulhu Sleeps by Deadmau5

Its only half a Martian year. Todd.

An Education (part 2)

When I came home to Arizona in 2010 after 5 years overseas, my wife and I had decided to switch roles. I was disillusioned with college and she seemed ready to pursue a degree in medicine, her newest life goal now involved becoming a medical doctor. I was going to get a blue collar job and earn money while she jumped into college. Maybe in the future, when I figured myself out, I would go back to school.

My family was determined, though, to convince me otherwise. In my spare time I was getting involved in the podcasting community online and I was having middling success in internet broadcasting. It was fun, I found a topic that I enjoyed talking about and I would spend my evenings doing research and producing a 2 hour weekly show which I published on iTunes. My father thought this was fantastic and thought that I could pursue a degree in New Media production, maybe even at ASU’s Walter Cronkite school. He convinced me to take a few credits at Glendale Community College while working, just to keep my transcript growing and moving in some direction.

But I was still winding down. I felt horrible. I was spending a lot of time online in game worlds. I was without passion. My marriage was falling apart.

When I was unpacking boxes from our last move, in a few that had sat in a closet for months ignored, I found something that would change all that for me. It was an old briefcase, maroon in color with a broken handle. The combination on the locks was 0-0-7 and it was beat up and scuffed from years of abuse I inflicted on it as a kid and years of moving from location to location as an adult. Inside this briefcase was a collection of all the paper spaceships, maps of terraformed Martian landscapes, model planetary rovers with deployable solar panels, random NASA themed LEGOs along with samples of all the unabashed dreaming and geekery I had saved for my future self in one poorly sorted mass. It made me think, when did I give up on all this stuff? What made me give up on my dreams? When does a child stop wanting to be an Astronaut and settles for a cubicle? This was why I was unhappy.

This time capsule saved through the years had served its purpose. It gave me back mine. My purpose was to study, train and step foot on the most beautiful landscape I have ever set eyes on…the surface of Mars. I made a connection to my dreams I had as a child and fused it with my adult ambition.

I walked onto campus last September with a bruised heart, but a burning conviction that what I was doing was right. I had a shine in my eyes when I walked my school halls despite the personal adversity that was assaulting me at home. I had become a single father and I lost a good deal of my friends during the divorce, but every day my support system and the number of new friends I gathered to me grew. They could see my passion, even if sometimes it was a bit overwhelming.

It is one year later. The passion is sustained, it a bit tempered by a high credit load. I passed some classes, I failed some, and some of those I came back in the spring and knocked out of the park. The important thing is that my successes are encouraging, but not essential to my drive. My failures teach me lessons but no longer discourage me from my goals.

Onward, upward, the future is unknown but exciting .