2009 Editorial Index

 

Jan 09 Welcome David Robinson

 

Note: From January 23 to March 27, 2009, I was recovering from a set of accidents that left me in the hospital and nursing home with two broken legs. During that time the publication of O.C.Space was suspended. Publication was resumed for the May 2009 issue. Because of continuing health and other life issues, publication has again been suspended.

 

May 09 Time For Action

 

Jun 09 Obama Space Policy

 

July 09 Taking Longer Strides

 

Aug 09 And That's the Way It Was

 

Sep 09 The Augustine Commission and Our Future in Space

 

Oct 09 A Passion For Space

 

Nov 09 Reentry to the Real World

 

Dec 09 Across the Universe on a Long and Winding Road

 

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"Welcome David Robinson" January 2009

by Michelle Evans

 

Hopefully you have noticed that we have begun our new year here at the Orange County Space Society with a slight facelift for our publication, O.C.Space. All our masthead and column artwork, even the tiny calendar graphic, has been updated to kick off 2009. For those who know me well, they realize I like to tinker with things every now and then. I have thus changed artwork at various intervals when I think a change is in order. This is the first time in years where I have done so for all major graphics throughout our newsletter. Feedback from our readers is greatly appreciated.

 

The major centerpiece of this new look is the masthead artwork seen at the top of page 1. I have always used graphics that shows the beauty and awe of human space exploration, be it on the Moon, Mars, or elsewhere. Our current artwork shows a human expedition about to disembark from their interplanetary vehicle and make their way to the surface of Mars. It is a stunning piece of art from the imagination of David Robinson.

 

I have followed David’s work for many years and finally had the chance to meet him a couple years ago when he was in the local area for the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles. At that time, I approached him about possibly using his art for OCSS, but as many of you know, there were other things happening with me that caused this idea to be left on the back burner for a while. With all that behind me, and a new year looming, I felt it was about time to re-contact David to see if he would be willing to work with us and allow OCSS the use of his artwork to grace our front page each month. Graciously, David agreed, and also would like very much to work with us in the future as other art needs surface.

 

I want to personally thank David for giving us permission to use this first piece of his space art. I very much hope that we will be able to pass along more to our subscribers in the future. I heartily recommend a long visit to David’s web site where you can browse through many, many images that concern themselves with future human space exploration:

 

www.bambam131.com

 

Here you will see photo-realistic images of various designs that could easily be on the drawing boards of NASA, if they were actually given enough money to move ahead properly with various ideas to get to other planets, especially Mars. I personally see his designs for spacecraft as some of the best ideas since Kubrick released 2001: A Space Odyssey.

 

Below, I have included a second taste of David Robinson’s art which shows the landing module from our OCSS masthead art after the module has landed on Mars and the crew has placed its first steps on the surface.

 

Here we can see the stark beauty of his images and only imagine what it will one day feel like when these are replaced by real in situ photographs.

 

Welcome David, and thank you.

 

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"Time For Action" May 2009

by Michelle Evans

 

The past three months have been a literal nightmare for myself and those close to me. Twelve weeks ago from the moment I sit here writing this column, I was lying in a hospital bed in extreme agony, awaiting surgery to both my legs. A simple slip and fall had injured my right leg, but medical incompetence led to the breakage of the left, along with putting my actual life into jeopardy due to neglect during the course of my recovery. Neither the injuries nor the medical nonchalance that led to great harm, I would wish on anyone.

 

Several things weighed heavily on my mind right from the beginning of this odyssey. First and foremost was the impact on my wonderful spouse, Cherie, but close behind this was my great worry of what would happen to the Orange County Space Society. I had felt for a very long time that I had maybe taken too much upon myself, such as the newsletter writing and publication, as well as being in charge of most all the displays and other events we worked on. With me out of the picture, how would everything get done? The newsletter alone I knew to be a great stealer of time due to my obsessive compulsive nature to make sure it was always pixel perfect.

 

O.C.Space is our primary vehicle in which all of us communicate to one another throughout the United States and around the world; keeping up to date on all the chapter events even when located on another continent. That is the wonder of OCSS, that we have such a far-flung diversity in our membership. The support we receive from so many people who are too far away to come join us each month is what makes us the best organization in the world for space exploration education and advocacy. It is you, the members, that know the value in what we do, even when you can only be with us vicariously through the newsletter and email messages.

 

So to lose that connection through our newsletter was something I never wanted to see happen. Due to my other commitments, I had recently been attempting to offload some of my OCSS burden to other members already, when fate intervened and made it imperative to find a way to make this all work in my absence. It has taken a lot, but I think that things are now starting to come together. Here in your hand or on your computer screen is our first issue of O.C.Space since January. The February, March, and April issues were lost in the maelstrom, and I can only apologize for that happening.

 

Now we are back, thanks to Greg Little. He is a longtime columnist to our newsletter and should hopefully be familiar to everyone in OCSS with his monthly “To the Stars” column on page 6. Greg is also a newspaperman and knows how to do this sort of work, so I could not have asked for a more perfect replacement for myself in that regard. He knows his job, he knows space, and he really loves doing this newsletter.

 

I know that when I first came aboard OCSS, 15 years ago this coming September, I recall vividly how I read our newsletter with great anticipation each month, but also, as a writer, I really wanted to get my hands on it to leave my own mark. That eventually turned out to be the case, and I hope that you all have enjoyed my tenure as the editor and head writer for our publication. But now it is finally time to turn over the work to someone even more qualified than myself. I have the feeling that Greg has been chomping at the bit for a shot at doing this, since he and I share many of the writer’s sensibilities about this sort of thing. So, for that, I am extremely grateful.

 

Please help Greg make this an even greater publication than it has been in the past under my tutelage. This is your organization and I know there are many who are great at putting together articles and taking photographs themselves on various events and other things space- and OCSS-related. So join in. Write an editorial so you don’t have to listen to me each month. I want a more varied organization, a more robust OCSS than we have ever had before. To make that happen we need everyone to want to get involved in any way they feel comfortable. But don’t ever be afraid of taking chances. Just because you might not think you can write is no excuse to not give it a try. Go for it!

 

I am still recovering from a very long and dark journey that nearly ended my life. I have dealt with difficult challenges and prejudices to walk again, when I had thought this might never be possible. This gives me a new outlook knowing such adversity can be overcome. There have been times I was afraid I had seen the last of OCSS, and with it many of my friends, but now I can see the rebirth of O.C.Space, and with it, the Orange County Space Society. There is hope and excitement for us all in the future.

 

Thank you all for your support during these past trying months. Your friendship has meant more than I can ever express. It is great to finally be back.

 

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"Obama Space Policy" June 2009

by Michelle Evans

 

Early in the presidential campaign the most vocal opponent of human space exploration was Barack Obama. His initial plan was to cancel the Constellation program and take the money and give it to education programs instead. He neglected to realize at the time that cutting out the things that inspired people to get a decent education—science, technology, and the future—would basically negate anything he might plan to stimulate education (see O.C.Space, June 2008).

 

Later, he appeared to have an epiphany about this subject that completely changed his attitude. There was controversy at the time though as to the genuineness of this change of heart since he made it while trying to sway voters along Florida’s Space Coast. At that time he agreed that the idea of shutting down the Space Shuttle program, and moving forward with all due speed to bring Constellation on line, sending us back to the Moon and onward to Mars, were the proper and best course of action to maintain America’s leadership in space.

 

Even as late as February, well after taking the oath of office, he reiterated his support for these goals, saying it was unacceptable that in the near future astronauts from the United States should have to hitch a ride to space aboard a Russian spacecraft. Constellation—components of which consist of the Orion 6-person spacecraft, Ares 1 human-rated booster, Ares 5 heavy lift booster, and Altair lunar lander—should be accelerated to make the gap between the end of the Space Shuttle era and the beginning of Constellation as short as possible, hopefully only about three years.

 

As we all remember, Obama really hit the ground running. Well before he became President, he was filling his cabinet, naming heads of agencies, and anything else he could do to speed up the transition from the Bush Administration to his own. He was taking the mantle given to him by the American people to quickly change course and bring the entire country back on track. Unfortunately, one major thing remained, and still remains, undone: the naming of a new NASA Administrator.

 

Mike Griffin was arguably the best head of NASA in quite some time. He was a consummate engineer and yet knew how to handle the political side of things as well. It was hoped by many in the space community that Obama would retain him, much as Clinton had retained Dan Goldin after he was appointed by a rival republican, President George H.W. Bush in 1992. This was not to be and Mike Griffin was part of NASA history come last January 20th, the moment Obama stepped into the White House.

 

Hopes for a quick succession were soon dashed, and now more than four additional months have passed, months that create a worsening tide against which to fight forward with our next generation human launch hardware. The acting administrator of NASA, Christopher J. Scolese, is unable to move forward in any significant way because it is frankly not his job to do so. So we all sit on our hands and wait, as the Obama Administration gives less and less priority to NASA and our future.

 

Within this short time, it has become apparent that even the worst case scenario of Orion will probably be optimistic. We may have more than a five year gap between American human spaceflights, and even that is still more than six years away. How much would you like to bet this gap slips easily much further down the line? Amazingly enough, this extended gap appears to be right on track with what Obama wanted from NASA in his first anti-space exploration policy at the beginning of his campaign. This is both extremely disappointing and truly dangerous, as far as our leadership in the future goes.

 

In addition to these problems with NASA being off his radar, Obama also has a long range plan for NASA that is evident within his out year budgets. The 2010 NASA budget request ($18.686 billion) is actually higher than that for the Bush Administration, but that is primarily from stimulus package money. Further out, the NASA budget actually decreases ($18.631 in 2011, $18.613 in 2012, and $18,607 in 2013—a $3.760 billion decrease over the Bush budget for NASA over the same period) This is just at the time when it is most needed to bring Constellation to fruition.

 

The primary result of what Obama has done so far, after just these few short months, is to gut the Constellation program of any extra money needed to bridge the gap following Space Shuttle. In response, NASA has already shut down any work on the follow-on programs that have anything to do with getting people beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) and to the Moon. We have been stuck just hundreds of miles at most above our planet since December 1972. The hope was to have the first new landings on the Moon by 2020. That is now already a pipe dream that may never happen at all. Altair work has stopped, as has any thought of a 6-person Orion spacecraft. The Moon is now out of reach yet again. Mars is nothing but a fantasy.

 

We must try to get across to this administration that NASA is still fundamentally important and that guidance and money (and a new administrator!) needs to be forthcoming very quickly, or else there will be no turning back. Russia, China, Japan, Europe, and even India, may soon outpace anything the Americans will be capable of. We will have thrown ourselves out of contention for any possibility to be anything other than a backward, mud-bound civilization. That is not what I want for my future, and I hope it is not what our members want of theirs, too.

 

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"Taking Longer Strides" July 2009

by Michelle Evans

 

If we can send a man to the Moon…

 

How many times have we heard this said about so many different things? And yet, the most telling answer to any of those questions would actually be: “Why can’t we send a man to the Moon?”

 

We sent twelve men to walk on another celestial body, and we did that for the first time, 40 years ago this month. Unfortunately, it was just over three years later that we did this feat for the very last time. Instead of a bright, shiny future with all of us using our own personal rocket packs to get to work, and taking vacations in orbital hotels or skiing the polar caps of Mars, we instead live in a world where none of this is even remotely possible. What we accomplished in such a short time, so long ago, is now beyond our reach.

 

I was lucky enough to have actually seen the accomplishment of Neil and Buzz walking on the surface of the Moon, live on television, in front of billions of witnesses. The entire world stood still for a day as the events played out. It didn’t matter if people agreed with the accomplishment, there was a moment when it didn’t matter, because we were doing it. All of us were transfixed by the ghostly black-and-white images transmitted at just ten frames each second across a quarter million miles of empty space. The war in Vietnam, civil unrest, poverty and blight, conflicts and protests around the world, seemed to not exist for a fleeting moment in time.

 

Let’s look at the world of 40 years ago. Our population stood at just over 3.5 billion people worldwide. Unemployment in the U.S. stood at a low 3.6 percent. Russia and America joined 100 countries in signing the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Muammar al-Qaddafi overthrew the Libyan king and established an Islamic republic. Senator Ted Kennedy got drunk and ran his car off a bridge, killing Mary Jo Kopechne (and getting a two-month suspended sentence for the act). A half million people gathered in a pasture in upstate New York to listen to some music at a place called Woodstock. The Federal Communications Commission banned all television advertising of tobacco products. The Stonewall riots took place in New York City, beginning the modern era of the gay rights movement. In Cambridge, England, the first in vitro fertilization of a human egg occurred. And Public Television debuted a new show called Sesame Street.

 

Today, we have 6.8 billion people inhabiting our planet, unemployment is over 10 percent, the world economy is dying, some American citizens still don’t have equal rights, and we can no longer fly human beings to the Moon.

 

Bring back 1969!

 

No matter the problems, as evidenced a couple paragraphs previously, the one major difference in 1969 over today is that people actually had optimism about the future. Today we are constantly told what we cannot do, what we cannot accomplish, what we must be satisfied with. Personally, I don’t buy it for a second because I lived through 1969, and I know what is possible. As Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan is very fond of telling people, “I lived on the Moon for three days in 1972. Don’t tell me that anything is impossible.”

 

For human beings, it truly should be that for our civilization, nothing should be impossible. At least not yet. In other words, we have a long way to go before we might run into barriers to what we can or cannot do. We should continue to strive to reach those barriers, because as we have found time and again, the further we reach, the further the barriers recede. And as a corollary to that, if we do not reach, if we do not strive, those barriers will descend upon us, clouding our world, our judgment, our very souls.

 

President Kennedy told us at the infancy of the Apollo program that it was “time to take longer strides.” We have forgotten that legacy, and where has that gotten us? We have those that believe we never could have landed people on the Moon, and they believe this because of the everyday evidence all around them that it would be impossible for us to do so today. How could we possibly have done so 40 years ago? For all those literally billions of people alive today who were not firsthand witnesses to arguably the most significant accomplishment of humankind, I can actually understand their doubt and pessimism.

 

It is time to put that legacy again to the test. Are we a human civilization that can accomplish great things, or are we meek and compliant, willing to listen to those naysayers who tell us that dreams are impossible and that we should be happy with our present existence? If you are like me and have direct memories of Eagle touching down and Neil hopping down the ladder, then remember what it was like in 1969. If you weren’t born yet, then please believe those of us who saw it all happen before our eyes. People wept and hugged and “knew” that nothing would be impossible ever again. That is the legacy of Apollo 11, the idea that we are not done for yet, that we have the ability to regain what we have lost, and to move forward out into the cosmos, becoming a true spacefaring civilization with untold numbers of worlds to explore and settle in our limitless future. It is time to look upward again.

 

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"And That's the Way It Was" August 2009

by Michelle Evans

 

The space program never had a better friend than Walter Cronkite. During the 1960s he had such exuberance for spaceflight that I think he single-handedly helped raise the enthusiasm of the rest of America. He set up his desk for the earliest launches, and was there right through those first giant leaps. It is a sad irony that Cronkite passed away just days prior to the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing.

 

Never meaning disrespect, I personally used to call him Walter Concrete because of his usually stoic attitude. It got so bad that oftentimes I would have trouble when I had to correctly say his name, because to me he was always that concrete pedestal you could count on to be there no matter what transpired.

 

I recall vividly the very first time I ever got to the Kennedy Space Center when I flew down for the launch of STS-7 in June 1983, to watch America’s first woman be rocketed into space. Unfortunately, Walter was no longer anchoring the news and I never had the chance to meet him personally (a great regret!), so he was not there with us. However, one of the first things I saw when arriving at the press site was the big metal, plywood and glass boxes that had been constructed to house the various news agencies. NBC. CBS. ABC. I was immediately drawn to the box on stilts that was for CBS. I climbed up into the cubicle and imagined what it must have been like as Cronkite sat there and gave us his commentary during countdown and launch. I sat in the chair he sat in and wondered at the things he had witnessed and reported on to America.

 

One of my favorite spaceflight memories of him was in November 1967 when the very first Saturn V, the unmanned Apollo 4 mission, took off from launch complex 39. Walter had always been known to be pretty much unflappable as he covered whatever the world threw at him. One of the rare occasions when emotion was seen was when he had to announce the death of President Kennedy in 1963. But even then, it only took seconds for him to regain his composure. On that day, four years later in Florida, he was nestled in his enclosed booth with a giant window behind him to see the 363-foot tall rocket. At ignition, there was no sound since it took nearly 15 seconds for the 7.5 million pounds of thrust to make itself heard three miles away. He reported the beginnings of the launch as he always had. Then, the sound caught up to him and the rest of the people in the bleachers and other news booths. Being above the ground even amplified it more. His booth started to shake and the ground seemed to belong more to the San Andreas fault of California than the stable swampland of Florida. He exclaimed profoundly as the rocket rose majestically. The very heart of his being was being thrust up into the sky, along with the rest of us that day. Luckily, Cronkite was not hurt, but he could have been severely injured since that giant window pane actually cracked, but luckily did not break, under the intense sound and pressure of what it had witnessed that day. He never noticed this bit of trivia until much later after the crackling of the engines had finally died away over the eastern horizon. His “concrete” demeanor had definitely been shattered, as I never recall seeing or hearing it happen at any other time in his career.

 

On the negative side, I will let you know of one major complaint I always had about Walter during his coverage of the Apollo 11 landing. It is a complaint I share to this day with pretty much any news person covering a launch. After the Eagle finally touched down, Cronkite is famously shown as speechless for one of the few moments in his career. He pulled off his glasses and wiped his eyes of the water that had began to form there, uttered an “Oh, boy!”n and that was about it for that momentous moment in history. Later, however, when Armstrong was coming down the ladder and was placing his first step onto the surface, Walter had again found his voice. In fact, he found it so well, that we almost missed Neil’s famous first line on the surface. Armstrong was methodically telling us all exactly what he was doing, but Cronkite jumped the gun and told everyone that he was off the Lunar Module and onto the regolith, when he was not yet there. This over exuberance to report on the facts had his words nearly drown out what Neil was trying to say.

 

So, no matter how much we admired Walter Cronkite for all his decades of dedicated reporting on the space program, wars, assassinations, and all the rest; no matter the documentary programs of You Are There, the 20th Century, or the coverage of the Vietnam War or Watergate that literally changed the mood in America, there was at least one moment when he really should have just let the actions speak for themselves.

 

I guess in retrospect, I can’t really fault him even for that. For all of you who were there and saw this moment that changed history firsthand, we all were rather overwhelmed with what was happening before our eyes. Tears formed and ran, emotions were up and down the spectrum, and Walter was there to give expression to those huge numbers of people around the world who couldn’t report on it as he did. What he did was a great job, and he did it for a very long time. After he retired, Walter Cronkite said he regretted leaving as he truly and immediately missed the excitement of the news desk. Who could blame him for not having the world — the universe, actually — at his fingertips?

 

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"The Augustine Commission and Our Future in Space" September 2009

by Michelle Evans

 

There is a vocal national debate currently raging in this country concerning the future direction for a major policy of this presidential administration. This policy will fundamentally affect everyone in America, as well as their children, and future generations. In mid-August, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that President Obama is personally invested in making sure that this policy is voted on and approved by Congress at the soonest possible date. He even joked that Obama would orbit the Moon if he thought it would help get a deal on this bill!

 

As many of our readers and members are aware, the Obama Administration ordered a complete review of all space exploration programs in the United States. That report was presented at the end of August. Since January 2004, our national policy has been to extend human spaceflight to the Moon and to use that as a stepping stone to Mars and beyond. Is this what we indeed wish to do, or are their other ways to accomplish what we must in space? That is the mandate of the Augustine Commission.

 

Unfortunately, when President Obama made the comment he did about going to the Moon in order to get his referendum enacted by Congress, this had nothing to do with space policy or the Augustine Commission. It was his way of saying he would do anything to pass health care reform.

 

The Moon is such a fanciful goal, after we relinquished our hold on it nearly 40 years ago, that today it is again used to exaggerate the idea of what someone might do, because we all “know” it cannot be done in reality. Has it truly come down to this, that we have given up on ever doing more than going endlessly round and round the Earth in low orbit? The Augustine group was told by Obama that they were supposed to stay within budget guidelines when reporting on what could or could not be accomplished in space. Is it possible to continue the effort started just five years ago to return to the Moon, to leave the cradle of Earth? Under our current and projected future federal budgets, that goal is impossible.

 

Over the next decade, NASA’s projected budget is to be a total of $80 billion. That sounds like a lot of money. We should be able to do just about anything with that, right? Unfortunately that is not the case. In 2004, the White House projected a funding level of $108 billion, as that would be required to meet our goals. Now, Obama has decided NASA’s budget will not rise above approximately $18.6 billion a year. This precipitous drop of 30 percent from the projected budget means our reach can no longer exceed our grasp. We must think small and mundane as lofty goals disappear—possibly forever.

 

I once had a friend that told me the Bush Administration was out to kill human spaceflight, and that was Bush’s cynical reason for announcing the goal of returning to the Moon, because that would be too much for the nation to allow. And yes, there were problems with the NASA budget at that time, but these are nothing compared to the shortfalls happening now under the current presidential administration.

 

Norman Augustine and his 10-member panel of experts did achieve the goal of getting the White House to accept ideas that could exceed the projected out-year budgets, but in the current climate, does anyone seriously think these will be adopted? Instead, in just a few months time we dump twice NASA’s decadal budget into the hands of a company like AIG. What do we get from all that money? Simple: A place to send more money. Yet with NASA, if given those dollars, we could change our future from planet-bound to spacefaring. Which goal would you rather see? Which is a better way to spend taxpayer revenue? Which method gets more bang for the buck? Which method insures future civilization?

 

As Augustine put it recently, “Unless additional money is added to the program, there’s a very tough tradeoff to be made.”

 

These sentiments were echoed by America’s first woman in space, Sally Ride, who said, “I think part of our job is going to be to not let the administration put NASA back in this box, and to make it clear that if you want this program, you have to pay for this program. You can’t stop cutting corners, cutting back costs. It’s very difficult to find an exploration scenario that fits within the very restrictive budget guidance we’ve been given.”

 

Panel member Christopher Chyba, a Princeton University professor of astrophysics, said the administration should embrace the goal that human spaceflight should be the expansion of civilization across the solar system. “This sounds terribly ambitious and dramatic,” he stated “but if that is not the goal of human spaceflight, what the hell are we doing?”

 

“Humans have an extraordinary ability to function in complex environments, to improvise, and respond quickly to new discoveries,” said Steve Squyers, Principle Investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover program, and Augustine member. “Robots, in contrast, do best when the environment is simple and well-understood.” Case in point is that the Opportunity rover has traversed only about 10 miles on Mars in over five years of operation. Squyers pointed out that, “this is less than the distance covered by two astronauts in their lunar roving vehicle in a single EVA on Apollo 17.”

 

It is time to stop thinking of the Moon and beyond as fantasy. It is time to make it a part of all of our futures. I sincerely hope Obama is listening.

 

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"A Passion for Space" October 2009

by Michelle Evans

 

It has been a long, hot summer and I for one am looking forward to the autumn season, which brings with it cooler weather and the various holidays that finish out each year. Without a doubt, my favorite of these holidays is Halloween. It is a day where we can all be exactly who we want to be; to show off our passion about whatever it is we feel strongly about; or just to have a blast!

 

When thinking about Halloween, one of the things that usually comes to mind are horror movies like Frankenstein or Dracula, or any of hundreds of other movies that invoke the feeling of the season. Some are great, others ridiculous. Some are just too serious with way too much blood and gore, no matter how fake we know them to be. However, there is one movie that always stands out on the top of my list for the Trick or Treat season. A movie which many regard as the worst movie ever committed to celluloid, but which I adore for one simple reason: the passion I spoke of at the beginning.

 

That movie is Edward D. Wood, Jr.’s production of “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”

 

Okay, okay, you can all stop laughing now! You can also put down your cell phones as you don’t need to call 911 and have me hauled away in a straightjacket to an asylum for the insane (although I’m sure many people would like to do just that!). I really am serious though when it comes to passion. Yes, it may be the worst movie of all time, but the one thing that Ed Wood had was passion, and it shows in every inch of film he ever shot.

 

In “Plan 9” we have the “perfect” blend of sci-fi, action, horror, and lots more. An alien race (which happen to look exactly like us except that they wear funny costumes left over from “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!”) has come to Earth and wants to take over (what self-respecting alien race doesn’t want to do that?). The commander in charge has decided to utilize Plan 9 from their conquering worlds handbook. This plan involves the resurrection of the dead to use these zombies to conquer the whole planet. To test out the idea, they start in a small cemetery in Hollywood, raising a couple of newly dead from the ground. Appropriate to playing the living dead was originally slated to be Bela Legosi of Dracula fame. Unfortunately, Bela died after Ed had shot some simple establishing footage, and he had to be replaced, so the legend goes, with his wife’s chiropractor.

 

The rest is movie history with flying saucers and the undead scaring the bejezzus out of Hollywoodinians, including the local police and a couple of airline pilots. Eventually, the Pentagon must be tapped for its expertise in handling the alien menace, as shown during a tense scene in Washington, D.C. with a Santa Fe railroad map on the wall to show the location of the attacks!

 

Can it get any more hokey than this? Probably not. But the fact that even though Ed Wood made lots of films, he never truly seemed to catch on to how to make them so his supposedly serious movies were not laughable to the general populace. For Ed, none of this truly mattered because what he really had a passion for was making movies. It never dawned on him that he was rotten at it. He didn’t care. He loved the movies and wanted to be a part of that so he kept making them. That’s what passion is all about. Maybe if he had someday gotten more than the $1.98 budget to make one of his movies, he could have done something more mainstream, but who would remember him for that? He was the very best at what he did—making bad movies!

 

We all could use the passion that Edward D. Wood, Jr. had. It takes passion to survive in our everyday lives. It takes even more passion to follow our dreams wherever they may take us. His legacy shows us that anything we dream could be possible, as long as we have the passion to do it, no matter what others may think. He was and is an inspiration to me for what he accomplished with his passion. I wish he were still with us so I could tell him how much influence he had on my life. I wish his passion could be captured in some way to inspire others who can’t find their own. Maybe you need to indulge yourself and sit down this Halloween to curl up with a softdrink and some candy and popcorn as “Plan 9 From Outer Space” unfolds across your television screen.

 

May the passion of Ed Wood be infectious, and may we all use that passion to fulfill our own dreams of human spaceflight into the cosmos.

 

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"Rentry to the Real World" November 2009

by Michelle Evans

 

It is so hard to believe that we are winding down OCSS for hibernation at this time. I truly never thought this day would arrive. It has been such a marvelous run and I sincerely hope that everyone has enjoyed the ride as much as I have.

 

The problems that arose were pretty much out of my hands, but I do apologize to everyone for the actions we have had to take. I also hope that this hibernation will not be permanent and we may all get together and share space exploration again in a year or so.

 

In the meantime, please keep the idea of what the Orange County Space Society is alive in your hearts and minds. And never hesitate to let us all know of things happening that we might wish to partake in such as events, movies, launches, and more. Just because I have to step aside does not mean that we must remain dormant. In fact, what I hope for is that someone will eventually step forward and say that they will take the reigns and start to run again, as I first did 15 years ago.

 

The future is such a bright place, and it is that way because of all of you reading this today. You helped to make this all happen, and we can do so again as we move forward.

 

For myself, I have had to take stock of my personal situation and own up to the fact that I have taken on too much burden. It has affected my health, along with my other assignments. In order to get my health back, I have no choice now but to leave. With free time that I have not had in years, I will hopefully soon be much farther along in my X-15 book project, with completion scheduled for just over a year away.

 

This brings out a great possibility that the first post hiatus event for OCSS might be a large party to celebrate my completion and eventual publication of “X-15: Wings Into Space, Flying the First Reusable Spacecraft.” It is hard to believe that 15 years have passed since I came to OCSS, yet for the X-15 it has now been over 50 years since it first took to the air to help solve the mysteries of getting people into, and back from, outer space.

 

Writing this book has been a very long term dream. I hope that all of you also have these types of dreams, and you also have the means and wherewithal to accomplish those tasks. It is hard work, and very daunting, but must be done. Those are the dreams worth pursuing. Without vision and imagination, where would any of us be? There would be no rovers on Mars, no Apollo on the Moon, we would never have conquered the air, nor crossed the oceans to explore the unimaginable regions of our own planet. Would we even still be in our caves, fearful of the night and the prowlers lurking there? Would we even be alive as a species, or simply dust. Imagination moves us all forward and we cannot ever give that up, or we will surely perish.

 

There are so many times that I look around and wonder if people have given up on that vision and passion. Have we become so complacent in our lives, expecting everything to be done by someone else? Not to worry about being responsible for our own health because some other genius will discover the cure for what ails you. Don’t waste time thinking about the technology that gets you around town or the ability to watch your favorite television show in super-duper high-definition, because someone else will invent it and sell it to you on the internet, so you don’t even have to leave home to get it. The ultimate in room service awaits us.

 

But what if everyone thinks that same way? Eventually the world will dry up and blow away. Everything will break down and no one can repair or replace them. Science fiction has shown many stories like this. We know the truth of how that could be, so don’t let it happen. Be a part of the future and make it better than what came before. Be the person who discovers something new, goes somewhere where no one has ever traversed, or maybe even write a good book that will tell people about it all.

 

For myself, I started out as an engineer in the Air Force. My field was very technical, working on nuclear-tipped missiles to save us from the so-called “commie hoard.” I never felt I fit into that world (as was a truth on so many different levels, as you all now know). My brain always was intrigued by the printed word; by being able to write something no one else had seen, and to convey that imagery to spark someone’s mind. I have had the great pleasure to share that passion with our readers of O.C.Space for over 150 issues of our publication. I hope that you have all enjoyed my articles and my editorials, and even my photographs (that is where another passion of mine awaits).

 

In so many ways, I will very much regret not sharing these stories with you during the coming time. I really do enjoy writing them as you wouldn’t believe. But it is now time to put away my keyboard for OCSS and use it finally for myself, to write the story i have wanted to write for over two decades, to share the book that is within me, with everyone. And at the same time, to give homage to the people of that research program on the X-15 that gave us so much that so many are unaware of.

 

So, give me some time to get this all out of my head and onto the screen, then sent to the publisher. This is an unbelievable adventure that awaits me over the coming year and I hope you wish me well. I will return one last time for some parting thoughts in our December issue.

 

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"Across the Universe on a Long and Winding Road" December 2009

by Michelle Evans

 

Considering everything that has transpired, and how this may be my last time to share my thoughts with our full membership for a while, it seems appropriate and a bit of fun to give you some history of the Orange County Space Society from the time I came on board.

 

Fifteen years ago, Cherie and I first walked into an OCSS meeting. It was September 1994, at the El Torito restaurant bar near the University of California at Irvine. Cherie and I went to join the monthly meeting of OCSS, expecting many enthusiastic new faces to meet. What we found was one other person there that afternoon. Not much in the way of a robust membership doing exciting things for space education and all that. The way OCSS was being run at the time was that each year when they elected a new president, he would then chose some new location, date, and time for the meetings. All correspondence had to be forwarded to a new president’s address, so basically things tended to be at his whim. The main activity was taking some students to study tide pools in the Back Bay area.

 

A bit over a year later, I decided to throw my hat in the ring for the presidency of OCSS. During that time, we had expanded what we did, and had participated in several major displays and other events, including the OC Youth Expo at the OC Fairgrounds, which proved to be a huge success, and attracted many new members to our ranks. Our final meeting at El Torito boasted over 15 people, a huge increase over just three a year before. We also knew it was time for a new venue when it happened to be raining—inside the restaurant!

 

My first acts as president were to stabilize the chapter by locking down a decent day and location for our meetings, that would change only when necessary. I also instituted getting a P.O. box so our address would not change each year. What this did was to make sure that even if someone did not participate for some period of time, they would be able to find us again, no matter what. Our meeting location was changed to a private room at Hof’s Hut by John Wayne Airport, which gave us a dry and proper venue to start doing programs.

 

Things started to pick up, membership expanded, and meetings actually got crowded. Our newsletter, O.C.Space, was looking great and we were getting better every month. We even had Buzz Aldrin drop by one evening to talk of his days as an astronaut. Eventually we outgrew Hof’s Hut, and moved to a larger venue at Fuddruckers in Lake Forest. I think some of our best programs took place in that location, including one of my all time favorites, “Building Mission Control, With All Deliberate Speed,” by our very own Harry Larsen. Harry had been the head of the Philco Ford team that had bid on, and won, the contract to build the new Mission Control in Houston during the early days of manned spaceflight. Harry was a gem, and a great friend, and will always leave a hole in our thoughts after he passed away tragically, while at a screening of the IMAX movie, “Space Station.”

 

OCSS started to travel, and we eventually held events all over California, as well as in places as diverse as Arizona, North Carolina, and even Turkey! This also brought us some great members who supported us from all over the world. It was often joked that OCSS should change our name to the IOCSS, or International Orange County Space Society. At one point, we seriously entertained the idea of officially changing ourselves to the Southern California Space Society, to more fully reflect the territory we covered with our displays, programs, and other events. In the end, that idea fell by the wayside when we realized we’d have to change the fantastic and evocative logo that Robert Kline had designed for us. OCSS it will remain.

 

Our parent organization, the National Space Society, honored us with awards nearly every year for all that we accomplished, including several times where we won the Chapter of the Year Award. Unfortunately, support from NSS over the last few years has fallen away, even though we continued to expand our list of accomplishments, made possible by a truly great and wonderful membership that pitched in whenever it was necessary to do so. We also changed locations a couple more times to Santa Ana College, and then to the Discovery science Center, before our final and best venue at the Irvine Heritage Park Library.

 

And, in a very short outline sort of way, this brings us full circle to today. In my mind, I think this then is also a great time to reiterate why I call my column “Looking Outward.” It comes from my best friend in the whole universe, the one person who has stood by me for more than 28 years now, through pretty much everything you could imagine, and so much more, my wife Cherie. I now share a paragraph from my very first editorial to grace the pages of O.C.Space in the January 1996 edition:

 

“When Cherie was a child, her father took her outside on a beautiful, clear, star-filled night. She couldn’t help but gaze upward, staring at the bright points of light. She’d seen them before and they’d always held her fascinated, but tonight her father surprisingly said, ‘Look down at the ground.’ Reluctantly, she did as she was told, not quite yet understanding why. After a moment, staring at the dark dirt beneath her feet, he then quietly said, ‘Now, look up at the heavens.’ She joyfully looked upward and outward. At that point he asked her a simple question: ‘Which would you rather have?’ At that moment, the entire universe opened up to her and it has never been closed since. She looked outward into the infinite possibilities that the universe holds. The frontier where anything is possible. The frontier where we may actually have the chance to go. Given the question her father asked, I know what my answer is.”

 

And with that thought in all of our minds, I now bid you a fond farewell—hopefully just for now. It has been a truly magical journey with you all. Take care and keep looking outward!

XXXX