Monthly Archives: May 2012

More Time: Clocks Mechanical and Biological

I realized recently as I was cleaning up around my workspace that I never (at least I don’t think I did) took pictures of this little clock that I made. I actually bought these terrible tasting candies just because I liked the container and knew it would make a good clock! The innards are a standard battery powered clock mechanism, and I cut down the hands that came with it to better fit. The raised numbers are hand sculpted out of polymer clay and glued in space.

Speaking of time, since that seems to be the theme today what with birthdays and chronovisors and clocks, I think it’s pretty cool that devices like the iPhone can be hacked to act as remarkably accurate heartbeat monitors. I have two apps on my phone using two different techniques to achieve this. The first has you hold your finger over the lense of the camera, and then turns on the camera’s flash/light which causes the finger to illuminate. The phone then watches for the subtle changes in colour as the blood pulses through your finger to measure your heartbeat. The other app is analogous, but instead of using your finger just watches your face, which apparently pulses and fluctuates in tone enough with each beat of your heart that the little camera chip in the phone can actually detect your heartbeat, and from my testing it appears to be very accurate, which I have to admit surprised me. I’m guessing then that there are many animals capable of seeing this in humans and other critters.

My heartbeat is generally a healthy mentronome-like 60 BPM or just slightly below. About a two years ago it was slower, about 45 BPM, but I think it might have been my previous medication artificially slowing it down. Anyway, I actually installed this software because I was curious what effect my central apnea had on my heartrate, if any, since I assume they’re both part of the autonomic nervous system. I was somewhat disturbed to see that when I am having an issue with central apnea, my heart rate becomes highly errattic, fluctuating wildly and quickly and chaotically between 30 BPM and 100 BPM for a few minutes, and then settling back to its normal clock-synchronized tick-tocking… I have so much stuff I still want to do and see, so I really hope I don’t die in my sleep (or while I’m awake) some day soon, although I have to admit there have been many nights where I feel extremely off-balance in terms of my basic bodily functions and worry about it. I’m not at all afraid of dying and I have had a wonderful life, but I’d really rather have quite a bit more of it! (That said, ask me during my most painful periods and I think I might be more inclined to give you a “just let it end NOW” answer, haha).

Anyway, I just shipped all my pending Etsy shop orders and now it’s time to get cleaned up so I’m ready to go out for birthday sushi with Caitlin. I am, as almost always, covered in manufacturing grime and in dirty clothes, and I’m also a little more dirty than usual from getting Caitlin’s 1973 Mach I Mustang (a previous birthday present) ready for summer driving — although she is considering trading it in for something smaller, more modern, and more practical.

How close are we to a “time viewer”?

As you know, I have a soft spot for modern mythology of the sci-fi sort. I enjoy it much more than mythology of the supernatural sort because unlike stories about gods and ghosts that are simply impossible, it is possible to at least believe that the stories in sci-fi myths are at least possible to some extent. And I think that makes the stories a great deal more compelling and gives one much more to think about — and of course it also means that even if the myth is false, similar events could easily unfold in the future.

In addition to things like a secret mission to Mars that I talked about yesterday, a tale I enjoy is that of the Chronovisor, a time-viewer said to be capable of tuning in to lingering electromagnetic radiation and displaying any point in time on a television-like screen.

The story of the Chronovisor (if you speak Italian you can watch what appears to be a show about it here on YouTube) was first publicized by Roman Catholic priest Francois Brune, who had interviewed its alleged creator, scientist and fellow priest Father Pellegrino Maria Ernetti. Ernetti had a legitimate academic career as a respected expert in ancient music — so he had a lot to lose academically for telling crazy tales — and was also a prominent exorcist for the Vatican — so on the other hand, maybe crazy tales and Ernetti had always gone hand in hand. In any case, one day while working with Father Agostino Gemelli at the Catholic University of Milan working on hardware to filter harmonics out of Gregorian Chants, they thought they heard the voice of Gemelli’s father coming out of the device. Theorizing that just like a telescope allows you to “look into the past” by showing you light that was created many years earlier, or a “live” television broadcast may actually be showing you something that is not happening at that moment but seconds in the past because of delays in the electromagnetic signal reaching the viewer, that somehow their device had accidentally picked up on an “echo” of an event from the past, Ernetti began investigating the possibility of applying this phenomena in a more dramatic fashion. He claimed that he assembled a team of a dozen scientists and engineers including Wernher von Braun (presumably due to his alleged experience with the “Nazi Bell” machine, particle accelerator meets dimensional gateway generator, that some believe jumped through space and time from 1945 Germany to 1965 Pennsylvania) and Enrico Fermi (the Italian physicist central in developing the first nuclear reactor) to create the device, which worked as designed. However, the Vatican and the science team felt that the machine’s ability to completely eliminate privacy and to tune into any moment and any place put the world at far to much risk and dismantled it.

Before dismantling the device though, Ernetti claimed to have viewed many historical and biblical events, and when asked for proof of the device, he first provided the text of Thyestes, an unpublished play by Quintus Ennius from 169 B.C., which he said he transcribed while watching it in Latin on the Chronovisor. Most academics call this text a fraud, but it’s difficult to prove that absolutely. However, he followed this up with more dramatic proof, a photograph of the face of Jesus Christ as he was being crucified, which he said he’d created by photographing the screen of the Chronovisor!!! Of course, as an atheist, who does not even buy the notion of a non-supernatural historical Jesus, his is where the story breaks down for me. And unfortunately it also breaks down here for Ernetti, when in 1994 it was realized that the photo bore a remarkable similarity to a wooden sculpture of Christ for sale at the Sanctuary of Merciful Love in nearby Collevalenza, Italy. During his life he refused to comment on this matter, until on his deathbed — at least according to an anonymous letter sent to Brune’s publisher, from someone claiming to be Ernetti’s relative — he admitted that the photo of Christ was a hoax but that the Chronovisor was real and had worked.

Brune personally did not believe this letter, and as a devout Christian assumed that the similarity of the sculpture to the photo was due to the fact that the sculpture was said to be based on an actual vision of Christ, so “of course it looks the same, duh!”. I lean in the other direction, and my version of the conspiracy says that if the Chronovisor worked, it revealed the falsehood of the Christian religion — and of all religions — to Father Ernetti, who in a desperate attempt to hold onto his wavering faith, created the fake photo of Christ.

* * *

Because of my enjoyment of the Chronovisor story, it was with great interest that I read a recent article in Popular Science titled “In New Quantum Experiment, Effect Happens Before Cause“, referring to a brain-bending article in Nature Physics called “http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nphys2294.html“.

Using four photons, we can actively delay the choice of measurement—implemented through a high-speed tunable bipartite-state analyzer and a quantum random-number generator—on two of the photons into the time-like future of the registration of the other two photons. This effectively projects the two already registered photons onto one of two mutually exclusive quantum states in which the photons are either entangled (quantum correlations) or separable (classical correlations). This can also be viewed as ‘quantum steering into the past’.

In short, one team does something, and the other team checks its effect to see what they did. The brain-bender part comes in when you find out that the “results” part comes before the “doing” part, or at least appears to. There have been a few experiments that at first appeared to violate classical causality (the notion that cause must precede effect on the timeline) but were later shown to not quite be so physics-shattering. The jury is still out on whether this experiment involves actual “time travel” or at least Chronovisor-esque “time viewing” or not, but it’s possible, and every month a new experiment comes out that seems to take us closer and closer to retrocauality and viewing through time.

The part that made it really exciting to me was learning that defense contractor Lockheed Martin had patented and has been developing (with some DARPA funding) something they call Quantum radar (there’s a relatively accessible research paper you can read on it called “Remote-Sensing Quantum Hyperspace by Entangled Photon Interferometry“). As I understand it, it’s a viewing device that at a minimum allows you to instantaneously view any place — so a remote-sensing device that can over potentially massive ranges and through intermediate matter view whatever you’d like. In addition to the military applications that Lockheed Martin is investigating it is being considered for applications such as giving advanced warning of solar flares to better protect satellites and electrical grids. However, the research paper points out that using it as a geography-unlimited viewing device is only the tip of the iceberg, and that it should be possible to use it to “remote-sense distant quantum properties of past, present or even future hypersurfaces of spacetime … by exploiting causal and relativistic loopholes”. That is, it is quite literally the Chronovisor, a device that can show you any point in space and time. And Lockheed Martin wants to build it…

Oh what will the Vatican say about that?

Happy Birthday to Caitlin

Big happy birthday to Caitlin!

Quite a while ago she gave me permission to use her wisdom teeth (appropriate for her reaching a “wise-old age”) that have been sitting in a jar of alcohol since she had them yanked out. So for a birthday present I spent some time welding and carving metal (this is all hand-formed, not cast like most of my rings) into a ring that holds the tooth along with a pair of moonstones.

Here are four more pictures of it:

Click click to zoom.

Sorry for my lack of posting recently. I keep meaning to make these long rambling entries like I did yesterday but I just haven’t for one reason or another. I expect at some point I will have a lot to say about the Chronovisor and time-viewers because the potential reality thereof has been on my mind (and I assure you they are more real than Mars missions, unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it). And I’m happy to say that it’s only a month until my daughter is back for the summer and that always gives me lots of excitement to write about.

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Manned Mars Mission AKA “I WANT TO BELIEVE”

Modern mythology about secret missions to Mars abound and I admit capture my imagination far more than they should in an otherwise skeptical person. The Manhattan Project, America’s wartime project to develop nuclear weapons, employed more than 130,000 people, cost $26 billion in 2012 dollars, operated across numerous sites and a huge amount of real estate, and consumed 15% of all the electricity being generated in the country (to put it into context, about 20% more than all of New York City). It was arguably the largest Western black project and was very successfully kept secret, but there have been many other extremely large black projects kept secret as well in the recent history of the military-industrial complex. Is it so crazy to wonder if a secret Mars program is possible?

** Speaking seriously for a minute, yes, it is crazy. Unlike Moon bases, which were developed extensively by both the Army and the Air Force in the 1950s, Mars was never eyeballed by the military nor are there even dubious military applications for the planet. I can construct a logical fantasy that convinces me that there was a secret Moon program and like I said, we know there was — for example Project Lunex which the Air Force intended begin construction by 1967, and even earlier, the US Army’s Horizon Lunar Outpost which they wanted to begin in 1965 and have operational by 1966, beginning with a staff of twelve men. Kennedy scrapped both of these secret programs when he replaced it with the Apollo Program scientific PR exercise. As a point of trivia, the Apollo program cost $200 billion in 2012 dollars ($19 billion per moon landing). The US Army budgeted their Horizon Outpost of 1966 as costing $43 billion in 2012 dollars. Since I’m sure you are wondering how accurate this estimate might be, I will mention that NASA only went over their Apollo budget by less than 20%, so their estimates weren’t terribly unreasonable. The Air Force’s Lunex was a slightly bigger base with a staff of 21 airmen, and they figured their base would cost $54 billion in 2012 dollars. I’m assuming these figures do not include operational costs, but even if those sound like big numbers, if you assume that in 1965 the US had a population of 195 million, and about 65 million of those were taxpayers, then you only need a $100 a year from each of them if you spread the investment over ten years, and that doesn’t include corporate taxpayers. It’s not hard to hide those kinds of dollars amounts in a budget as large as the US’s — for example, in 2010 the Pentagon publicly committed $50 billion to classified projects, and that doesn’t even count money that gets moved under the table. And hell, with the size of the military spending in general, it’s very easy to hide things — after all, the Iraq war cost the United States at an utter minimum $800 billion and climbing (and that number is arguably $3 trillion or higher).

Anyway, I’m getting myself distracted with politics and “I wish we’d made different choices” dreams. The point I wanted to make is that even if I could convince myself there was a secret military moon program, and can build up good circumstantial evidence for it, I can’t convince myself there was a secret Mars Program when I’m being level headed… Not that it doesn’t take some pretty far-out thinking to believe the moon has strategic military value, but there’s no absolutely reason to keep a Mars program secret unless you start moving even farther into conspiracy land, for example, the idea that the Cydonia region really was constructed by intelligent life, and a secret advance program was sent there to investigate and/or destroy the evidence. But whatever the reason, let’s keep talking about secret missions to Mars.

End of speaking seriously**

When we review modern Mars mythology, the first mission that needs to be mentioned is the joint German-Japanese mission using a large Haunebu III dreadnaught. Quoting from Half A Century Of The German Moon Base 1942 – 1992 by Vladimir Terziski (of the so-called “American Academy of Dissident Sciences”):

According to the authors of the underground German documentary movie from the Thule society, the only produced craft of the Haunebu-3 type — the 74 meter diameter naval warfare dreadnought — was chosen for the most courageous mission of this whole century — the trip to Mars. The craft was of saucer shape, had the bigger Andromeda tachyon drives, and was armed with four triple gun turrets of large naval caliber (three inverted upside down and attached to the underside of the craft,and the fourth on top of the crew compartments).

A volunteer suicide crew of Germans and Japanese was chosen, because everybody knew that this journey was a one-way trip with no return. The large intensity of the electro-magnetogravitic fields and the inferior quality of the metal alloys used then for the structural elements of the drive, was causing the metal to fatigue and get very brittle after only few months of work. The flight to Mars departed from Germany one month before the war ended — in April 1945.

It was probably a large crew, numbering in the hundreds, because of the low level of automation and electronic controls inside the saucer. Most of the systems of the craft had to be operated like these on a U-boat of that time — manually. Because the structurally weakened tachyon drives were not working with full power and not all the time, the trip to Mars took almost eight months to accomplish. An initial short trust towards Mars was probably used the strong gravitational field close to Earth, after th at the craft was “coasting” for eight months in an elliptical orbit to Mars with its main drives turned off. Later trips to Mars by the joint Soviet — American craft in 1952 and by the Vatican craft of the Marconi project from Argentina in 1956 reached Mars in only two to three days, because their drives were working during the whole flight: accelerating in the first half and decelerating in the second. Smaller Kohler converters were probably used to power the systems and life support equipment on board. I do not have any information at the present time about any artificial gravity capability on board the craft, but that could have been easily done with the large anti-gravity drives of the ship.

After a heavy, almost crashing landing, the saucer slammed to a stop, damaging irreparably its drives, but saving the crew. That happened in the middle of January 1946. The crash landing on Mars was not only due to the crippled tachyon drives of the craft — it was also due to the smaller gravitational field of Mars generating less power for the tachyon drives; and also due to the thinner atmosphere on Mars, that could not be used as effectively for air breaking as the Earth’s atmosphere could. The craft was shaped as a giant saucer — a form that is very efficient as an air brake, when it is entered into the atmosphere with its Huge cross section perpendicular to the trajectory of descent.

Holy techno-babble and Black Sun fantasies Batman! As fun as those stories are, I would be shocked-beyond-shocked if there’s a bit of truth to flying saucer trips to Mars by the Nazis let alone the Vatican, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s the earliest and best-established secret Mars mission in the chronology. But outside of there not being a shred of evidence for any of the story, perhaps more importantly, the underlying technology simply doesn’t exist, and is very far removed from everything we believe could exist. As advanced as German aerospace was, unfortunately they are no more likely to have succeeded at true space travel than Jules Verne. They both had good ideas — after all, the space guns been shown to be a workable and highly efficient technology capable of launching mass into space for a fraction of current costs — but couldn’t realize them any more than Leonardo da Vinci could actually build a helicopter even if he could think it up. The Russians also gave serious thought to Mars missions starting with MPK in 1956, but since they never figured out how to make the N1 (their heavy lift rocket equivalent to America’s Saturn V) do anything other than explode, they couldn’t lift enough mass into space to launch a Mars mission no matter how badly they wanted to and how much time they spent at the drawing board.

The Americans on the other hand actually did have the technology to get to Mars, so in their case it’s much easier to fantasize because you don’t have to imagine them doing something arguably impossible like in the case of the Soviets or the Nazis. In the late 1967 there was a government document published called The Report from Iron Mountain (which may or may not be a hoax — the fact that President LBJ tried to have the document suppressed and major figures such as John Kenneth Galbraith — who you may remember was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000 by Clinton — have supported its legitimacy suggests it is real, as does its prophetic nature) which concludes that war or a substitute for war is required for governments to maintain power, and that true peace is not in the interests of the economy. The report recommends creating “foes” for the public to fight, terrorism and illegal immigrants for one portion of the populace, and out-of-control pollution (ie. global warming) for the remainder, and to conglomerate wealth into the controlling classes in order to bring back a socially acceptable modern version of slavery. Sounds familiar? Just a hoax, don’t worry. Don’t listen to me anyway, I have a big lump of calcium building up in my brain and can’t be trusted.

A related report went further and predicted that these plans would eventually fail, and that the powerful and wealthy elite needed to put in place a set of three alternatives in the case of a social apocalypse. “Alternative One” called for the elimination of huge parts of the population, with the catastrophe to be blamed on either terrorism or pandemic. “Alternative Two” called for the building of immense underground bunkers, to protect the ruling class in seclusion while the surface population thinning was happening. Finally, “Alternative Three”, in case of a major catastrophe on Earth, called for moving a “Noah’s Ark” cross-section of the population to underground bases Mars as a survival colony. The documentary based on the book that revealed this — first claimed to be real, then claimed to be a hoax, then claimed to be real but using re-created footage — was aired in 1977, and it included what was said to be footage of a 1962 landing on Mars to scout for this underground survival base.

Gotta love the bit at the end (starting at about 1:47). Sure beats Apollo 18. If that video breaks in the future you can download it here. There’s so much great kookiness to find on this subject on YouTube, whether it is the the so-called Wikileaks footage of a grey alien (local copy), leaked footage of astronauts exploring an ancient base or city on the far side of the moon (local copy), or leaked footage of a human or humanoid female mummy found on the moon (local copy). How does anyone get anything done?

Anyway, lest I distract myself again.

Even though the author was quite clear it was fiction, the conspiracy community ate it up, Mae Brussel saying on her saw that “she’d had the shakes for weeks” and called it “the most important book I’ve read in many, many years”, others calling it “grey disinformation”, and readers writing him letters with comments like “you told the truth, but now you’re terrified to admit that truth because you’ve been warned off by the CIA”. I won’t waste too much time pointing out how silly this conspiracy is — after all, you have to imagine a radically destroyed and inhospitable Earth to believe that Mars is an easier place to live on!!! I also think that 1962 is rather ambitious for a Mars mission by the Americans, even with Russian help (as “Alternative Three” was said to be an international effort). If you’re wondering, in most telling the Mars part of conspiracy ends with this first visit to the red planet. I guess they came to their senses and decided it would make more sense just to enslave the 99% a la The Report from Iron Mountain.

Perhaps you’ve already done the math in your head and know that by my math, the earliest it’s actually conceivable for a Mars mission to have occurred is 1972 — forty years ago this year. I believe “Alternative 3″ is fiction, and I don’t think that it’s possible that we could have landed on Mars prior to the seventies, but at this point it at least becomes possible. As to why, well, I can’t think of any reason to do it and keep it secret other than the government having a genuine worry that the public missions (for example Viking in 1977, which sent back photos of Cydonia, the famous “face on Mars“) were going to find something destabilizing, and about the only thing that I can put on this list is alien ruins on Mars. There are a lot of people who believe they are there. If you are one of them, well, your circumstantial evidence for a 1970s Mission to Mars expands. On that note, let me post what is alleged to be leaked footage of the 1972 mission to Mars:

Moving out of conspiracy and fantasy into the real world now…

Planning for a Mars Mission began in 1948 with Von Braun’s plans which he presented to the Americans in a series of iterations in 1952 (with a crew of 70, probably the largest and most ambitious mission ever proposed!), 1956, and 1969. There was easily as much excitement and as much serious planning for 1970s Mars missions as there was for 1960s moon bases. In addition to Von Braun’s missions, generally involving convoys of ships based on rocketry he’d initially designed for the Nazis at Peenemunde, which were presented in popular mainstream magazines of the time, another early proposal was presented to the public by Disney in 1957 (but initially created for the US Army Ballistic Missile Agency), Ernst Stuhlinger’s massive but beautiful ion-engined ten-ship mission to Mars.

None of those missions ever had a budget estimated, and even though Von Braun’s proposals did get more conservative over time, they were all extremely expensive and required a lot of launches to lug an incredible amount of hardware off the planet. Incidentally this is one of the reasons I’m so excited about asteroid mining actually starting up — the possibility of manufacturing all this equipment outside of Earth’s gravity prison. Addressing this launch issue, Boeing proposed building a new massive launch vehicle capable of lifting everything required for a Mars Mission, slated for arrival at Mars in January 1972, in a single launch, bringing with it not just simple exploration equipment, but gear for the start a permanent base and settlement including a nuclear reactor to be installed on the surface of Mars. Also in 1960 and also slated for a 1971 launch, NASA did their own in-house study which used existing launch vehicles (the Saturn V, which most Mars missions from that point on used) but new nuclear propulsion systems and was the first to seriously consider radiation exposure issues. A few years later, in 1963, NASA designed a second version of this mission using traditional chemical propulsion systems.

Most of these missions are “true” missions to Mars where there was a stay on the planet’s surface, but both the Americans and the Russians also studied the possibility of flybys (the first Russian flyby, using only a small ship and only a single N1 launch, included a flyby of both Mars and Venus, as did some of the US proposals). In 1962 NASA asked for proposals for three contractors, the smallest being a long rotating craft (to create artificial gravity) from Lockheed. It was small enough to be put up in two Saturn V launches, but NASA actually was encouraging the contractors to design on the heavy side because they were looking for an excuse to fund the Nova booster, the planned follow-up to the Saturn V. General Dynamics under visionary Krafft Ehricke went much bigger, as big as many of the missions designed to set up bases on Mars, and needed four times as many Saturn Vs — eight — or just two Nova launches. It actually went into orbit though, and there was some possibility of a lander even though it wasn’t officially requested. Aeronutronic was in the middle, lifting its equipment with a single Nova launch, intended to be on its way to Mars in July 1970. Three years later NASA had Douglas design a flyby mission — they saved some development money by using their Manned Orbiting Research Lab space station as the basis for their hab module. Also in 1965 NASA did an in-house profile for a fly-by using existing Apollo hardware to save costs — bits of the moon ships, launched by the Saturn V (over six launches). It would not have been easy for the crew of three to stay sane with two years in such a tiny little vehicle! Even though the moon landing was yet to happen and America was completely enthused with space, the insiders could read the political writing on the wall and after so many glorious missions had been scrubbed, at this point the Nazi Peenemunde crew — Heinz Koelle and Wernher Von Braun — and their American compatriot Max Faget pointed out that if they didn’t pull a rabbit out of their hat soon, “we’ll never see a Mars expedition in our lifetime.” The very last flyby mission was proposed in 1966 by NASA in-house, the JAG Mars Flyby, a small tight mission requiring only four launches and existing hardware, but it was also not to be.

By the way, if you’re thinking that if you aren’t going to land, you might as well just send a robot, it’s important to note that half of all the robotic missions sent to Mars have failed, maybe it’s not entirely hasty to have a human along after all.

Returning to manned missions, also in 1963, TRW developed a Mars mission that added both aerobraking and a Venus gravity assist swing-by to the equation, saving a great deal of fuel weight, although the oddest thing to me about this mission was that it budgeted only ten days on the surface of Mars which seems a little disappointing to me — little more than a flag-planting opportunity, although perhaps that was a sign of the times. I’ll mention that during this period NASA had a lot of companies working away on smaller pieces — for example, it was expected that Ford Aeronutronic would provide the lander. A year later, Philip Bono, who had previously headed up Boeing’s earlier Mars and lifter proposal, was now at Douglas where he had another giant launch vehicle, the Rombus with a payload of almost a million pounds, but still required eight launches to lug up enough equipment to set up a base on Mars and stay there for the nearly year-long surface stay mission.

The best launch windows sat at the start of the 70s — which is when this last “leaked” video is from — but in 1964 NASA also considered a series of “UMPIRE” (Unfavorable Manned Planetary – Interplanetary Roundtrip Expedition) profiles for 1975 and 1977 where the planetary alignment was not as expedient — after all, if Mars actually became a target for humanity, it was conceivable that regular missions would be needed. Convair developed a long 800-1000 mission believing only these were feasible, but Douglas thought a nuclear rocket could get there in 200 days even in less-than-favorable conditions — not only that, but their highly cost-conscious six person mission was able to bring everything up in a single Rombus booster. In 1966, after NASA had spent some time seriously considering the less expensive flyby-style missions, they developed the FLEM profile, which was a flyby that “dropped off” a lander that aerobraked. Amazingly they managed to get this mission down to 118 metric tons, small enough to fit the entire thing into a single Saturn V launch. If any Mars mission could have been done as a black project, this is it.

Two last missions were considered in 1967, which along with the FLEM profile were the closest to actually being selected for execution. The first was the MEM mission by North American which took a four person crew to Mars using three Saturn V launches and three smaller Saturn I launches, all using modular and relatively well-established and well-understood technology, allowing them to give an accurate cost estimate of $27 billion in 2012 dollars. Also that year Boing proposed the larger IMIS mission, which took a crew of six to Mars. Boeing estimated a budget of almost $200 billion, although this covered the development and two sets of hardware and support for two missions to Mars, not just the first one.

Finally, I must include a longer version of that video of the mission to Mars, showing much more of the crew’s footage. Was it the FLEM mission?

Be sure you watch to the very end.

In 1967 Congress officially pulled the plug on Mars and committed itself to leaving Apollo as a PR win over the Russians and walking away from large, ambitious, manned exploration of the solar system. Did a mission happen as a black project? I wish I could believe it did. Going from the 1945 Nazi mission to the NASA missions of the 70s, you have a sliding scale of preposterous to extremely unlikely. But even without black fantasies, we came so close… So all I can do is be sad about how severely we humans have misappropriated our money. Almost none of these Mars missions that I’ve mentioned were ever formally budgeted like the Moon bases were — the 4-person MEM mission, I remind you, was budgeted at a scant $4 billion in 1967 dollars, or $27 billion in 2012 dollars, so that gives you at least some ballpark — but no matter what you can bet the numbers are no higher than a month or two of war. It really breaks my heart every time I think about it.

I do hope that if we go, we go to stay. One way trips. Pioneers!

By the way, when it comes to that final video, I’m quite certain that last little bit was forced there by the CIA. Now I have a great documentary called 2001 I’m going to go watch about (to tell the embarrassing truth I’m watching Top Gun, one of the best pieces of military-industrial complex propaganda since Goebbels). It’s about that time we went to Jupiter. Let a guy dream.

Ancient Astronaut Meteorite Ring (Just Finished)

I just finished making a new one-off ring — all my rings are somewhat unique but this one truly is because the ring was carved just to fit the pair of nickel-iron Nantan meteorites found in China in 1516 AD. The design itself is based on the ancient astronauts motif with the two figures being actual historical artifacts. The plane is South American from 500 to 800 BCE, and the astronaut in the “space suit” dates back to 4000 BCE and was found near Kiev. I’m very happy with the way this ring turned out, and it was sort of a whirlwind making it. The blank clay master with the mountings for the meteorites had been sitting for a solid six months, but then inspiration struck and I worked fairly continuously on it and finished it over about three days.

Click the picture to see it on my Etsy shop (or get it).