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    Two brave Americans may get the opportunity soon to be the first to attempt a piloted flyby of the planet Mars. Would you go?

Start: You’ve almost certainly heard about this around the same time I did, but it took a few days — and a brief comment from a friend — for it to really register with me:

Dennis Tito, the millionaire who made history in 2001 by becoming the world’s first space tourist by spending eight days on the International Space Station, has announced a project that he feels will capture the imagination of the world, and re-ignite America’s pioneering spirit. The venture is to send “[t]wo professional crew members – one man, one woman” on a 501 day flight to within a scant 100 miles of the planet Mars.

In the press release from his Inspiration Mars Foundation, Tito is quoted:

“Human exploration of space is a critical catalyst for our future growth and prosperity,” [Tito] added. “This is ‘A Mission for America’ that will generate knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration. It will encourage and embolden all Americans to believe, again, in doing the hard things that make our nation great, and inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue their destiny through STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] education.”

Audacious? Damned straight it’s audacious!

Inspiration Mars

Image courtesy Inspiration Mars Foundation

Though officially still looking at options for the technology, a study was conducted utilizing a SpaceX Falcon series rocket and one or more uprated SpaceX Dragon capsules. (The technical but relatively short “Feasibility Analysis for a Manned Mars Free-Return Mission in 2018” [PDF link] is available from the foundation’s site).

The ideal crew, according to Taber MacCallum, member of Tito’s development team, would be a married couple past childbearing years (due to the risk of exposure to unhealthy levels of solar radiation), in excellent health, and with a high degree of technical aptitude in order to handle repairs.

Being aware of all this, it still hadn’t become real to me until I learned my co-author of Red Moon David S. Michaels (well, all right, I’m his co-author) told me that he wanted to apply for the trip, but his wife has an issue with motion sickness that precluded her even thinking about it.

The very idea of going to Mars (or really, “circum-areion space,” but still, close enough to practically touch it), is a dream that for well over a decade I held very, very dear.

Mars — an Adolescent Romance

International Space Station
Percival Lowell’s Map of Mars, 1895 (Click for full size)

The Mars of my childhood was a romanticized Mars, a Mars popularized by turn of the century astronomer Percival Lowell. Lowell became an ardent proponent of the idea that a Martian feature observed by some astronomers of the time, the “canals” of Mars, was evidence of intelligence life, in the form of a vast network of irrigation canals, which one could easily imagine having been engineered to sustain a desert world. Though the existence of these features was disputed even at the time and eventually fell out of favor in the astronomical community, the damage had been done. Popular culture was infected with a fascination with Mars as an apparent abode of intelligent life well into the 20th Century.

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Red Moon's New Cover

The new cover for
Red Moon

    Start: Over the last few months, Variance Publishing has hosted on their blog a number of posts featuring their offerings and commentary by their authors, and they graciously invited me to contribute. Stanley Tremblay of Variance gave me permission to repost these here, and today’s post is the last of the three I contributed.

    This is my response to the question posed to all the Variance authors about their novels: what’s your favorite line?



What’s My Favorite Line? RED MOON

Welcome back, fans, to another Thursday edition of ‘Favorite Line’. This week’s guest is Daniel Brenton, co-author of RED MOON. Let’s let Dan do the talking…

When Stanley presented his latest idea for the Variance authors to give a little inside look at their work by asking “what is the favorite line in your novel?” … I knew I was in trouble.


I, as Desi would tell Lucy, “got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

Red Moon, the novel I wrote with David S. Michaels (or, more correctly, where I played co-pilot while he did a marathon multi-month session putting the manuscript together, skillfully weaving in a number of chapters toward the end from yours truly) has a lot of lines I consider really good ones. Being human and having an ego, I confess I gravitate toward the ones I wrote.

I can’t tell you the first line I picked because that would ruin the ending of the book.

And I can’t tell you the second, because I’d have to explain it, and the simple act of explaining that one would be a pretty big spoiler.

So here’s my third favorite line, the first sentence of Chapter 52:

You are leaving the Earth.

Innocuous words in and of themselves, but in context, they bring this sequence of the narrative into sharp focus.

The story at this point has brought cosmonaut Grigor Belinsky, the only Soviet cosmonaut to attempt to reach the Moon, to the morning before his lift-off in an untried, hybrid Moon lander.

Belinsky, blackmailed into this enormously risky mission, wrestles with himself during these last few hours before the launch to do … what he knows he has no choice but to do.

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