"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Boy Meets a Space Shuttle

When I learned I had been selected to attend a NASA Social commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope in Washington DC, I knew I needed an extra day in town. Though a longtime space enthusiast, I had never seen an authentic space shuttle in person. Last Wednesday, after taking the earliest flight into BWI Airport, I drove down onto the Capital Beltway, breezed past the road leading to my childhood home, and headed straight for the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Though I could partially see the shuttle on the far end of the museum, I decided to savor my anticipation. First I ate lunch and strolled along a terrace overlooking the vast Boeing Aviation Hangar. After this playful exercise in procrastination, I walked through the cavernous entrance and stood almost nose to nose with Discovery.

The above video hopefully gives a good sense of scale. Though 6’ 1” tall, I found myself dwarfed by Discovery. The shuttle is 37 meters long (122 feet). In another clip, I try to capture the shuttle’s height of 17m (57ft). The wingspan is 24m (78ft). I took these dimensions from a museum display, of which there are many helpful ones placed around the hangar. Discovery weighs over 73,000kg (over 161,000 pounds). And having said the weight, let us keep in mind that this bird is a glider!

One more clip for fun:

Discovery is hard to shoot. As I found to be the case throughout the packed museum, you can’t get back far enough and retain an unobstructed view. The upside is there are wonderful opportunities to juxtapose big and small, old and recent.

Look closely at the below image. Lots to consider here. At the bottom of the image is an Apollo “Boilerplate” Command Module (test unit, but the inflatable ring around it flew with Apollo 11). To its left sits a Gemini module used to test gliding technology. The gliding sail, ultimately abandoned in favor of parachute/water landing, partially obstructs Discovery (a glider design that made it into operation). Now pan to the right and see an Orbital Sciences Pegasus rocket. It launches from beneath a cruising plane to deliver small satellites into orbit. A half-century of government and commercial space ventures in a single view!

Ultimately, I sat down on a bench next to Discovery, letting the boy/romantic in me have some time to sit quietly. I thought of the Shuttle Columbia poster that hung in my room when I was a kid. I thought of how I take personal pride in the shuttle program the way my parents and grandparents take a personal pride in the Apollo moon landings. I felt renewed desire to actively participate in space exploration and advocacy.

The Space Shuttle Discovery flew 39 missions from 1984 until 2011. It delivered the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit and later flew two servicing missions. It docked with two space stations. And it was the shuttle that twice returned us to space after the tragic losses of Challenger and Columbia. Discovery was both home and chariot for heroes.

Coming Soon:
My next planned blog post will focus on the #Hubble25 NASA Social that I and 49 other bloggers took part in. That event took place on Thursday at the Newseum in Washington DC and at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Welcome Back, Bodie Troll!

Too busy! Too crowded, I said as my eyes bumped and tumbled from the title down the cover. Stripes. Suckers. Fur. Feathers. The cover overflows with a monstrous hoard, oddly vibrant yet pastel. My eyes remained unable to lock onto anything…until I reached the bottom right corner. There I saw a damsel fleeing the chaos above and behind. On her shoulder, shaking his fists defiantly at the charging throng, a lovable creature named Bodie Troll. The moment I saw these two, whom I remembered from previous adventures, the whole panel came into focus and I was giggling with delight.

Artist Jay P. Fosgitt’s cover to Bodie Troll: Fuzzy Memories! Issue 1 showcases the escapade readers will find inside. The title character heads off a new adventure, getting into trouble in his quest to be seen as a fearsome troll. He may have the black eyes of a shark but his body has all the ferocity of a lap dog. The harder he tries to scare, the more endearing he becomes. In this issue, Bodie places a bet he has what it takes to be a true predator, capturing and eating live prey. If he loses the bet, he loses his hair. And as Fosgitt’s drawing makes clear, Bodie would not look handsome bald, let alone scary.

This is fantasy storytelling, a little bit Lord of the Rings, a little bit Popeye. Frankly, Bodie Troll has every right to be stale and belabored. Especially given this is not Bodie’s debut. Yet the adoration Fosgitt has for his characters, the care he takes to make every page a visual feast, infuses the story with freshness and vibrancy. I had as much fun reading this Bodie Troll adventure as I did the original series.

There is playful, goofy dialogue and loads of physical comedy. The creatural ensemble is naturally comedic, only becoming more so as the adventure escalates. There is also an exciting, and frankly gorgeous, new character: Hokum. She is bald and beautiful and…purple. And she has it in for Bodie and all troll-kind. I mentioned playful and funny. Did I also mention action-packed?

I would not describe myself as a hardcore comic book fan, though I’ve spent plenty of time and money flirting with becoming one. When I come to this genre, it is for diversion and for tales like I loved as a young and na├»ve boy. Bodie Troll tickles these fancies masterfully. I also think Fosgitt demonstrates real storytelling prowess. He nimbly mingles themes and plot points in a fun and compelling way that lead to big payoffs in the final panels. The casual reader likely won’t feel beat over the head. The in-depth reader will be rewarded with subtle references and nifty connections.

Bodie Troll: Fuzzy Memories! gets off to a swashbuckling start with Issue 1. I highly recommend it for the fun and charm saturating every page. The issue also comes with stylistically contrasting takes on Bodie Troll via artful pinups from Kyle Latino, Nathan Pride, and Bruce Gerlach. This issue will be available beginning May 6, 2015 from Red 5 Comics.

DISCLAIMER: As a fellow writer, I am personally acquainted with Mr. Fosgitt and was given a complementary advance copy for the purpose of providing this review. How nice then that the above rave is wholly sincere!