Ni-hao, y’all — Jeff here, Rocket-Scientist-in-Residence here at Take Back the Sky. I’ve been offline for some time now tending to a newly arrived future Browncoat. Last week, NASA finally announced the assignments of which astronauts will be assigned to which flights aboard which independently made American spacecraft. I’m rather surprised that no one is commenting on what’s right there in the open for everyone to see, so I thought I’d offer my two cents here. Continue Reading
In 2004, the Chicagoland Browncoats decided to hold a one-night banquet that was planned as a formal Sino-Western ball like the one in the Firefly episode “Shindig.” The event was such a hit that Browncoats decided not only that they would do it annually, but also that they would host it in a different city every year. This unique shindig, officially dubbed the “Browncoat Ball,” has moved from location to location, year after year, and has gradually evolved into a full weekend of social activities, sightseeing at local tourist attractions and celebrating all aspects of the Firefly and Serenity ‘verse.
Previous Browncoat Balls have been held in Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Austin, Portland, Charlotte, Warwick (RI), Albuquerque, Phoenix, Greenville (SC), Virginia Beach, Salt Lake City, and most recently Gettysburg, PA. This year’s Browncoat Ball will be held August 17-19 in Washington, DC.
I attended my first (but hopefully not only) Browncoat Ball last year, and after my weekend at the Gettysburg shindig, I am convinced that every serious fan of Firefly and Serenity should make it a point to attend this event at least once. While every ball is different, I hope that the following account of my time at last year’s ball might give you some idea of what to expect if you decide to go.
It’s been a busy summer for SpaceX, and this month will be no exception. One might say the beginning of August will have its ups and downs for Elon Musk and company– quite literally– with the CRS-15 mission drawing to a close and the launch of yet another satellite.
SpaceX’s Dragon will return to Earth this weekend after spending more than a month berthed at the International Space Station, signaling the end of the CRS-15 mission. The capsule is scheduled for splashdown south of the Port of Los Angeles on Friday, August 3. Should an alternative landing date be deemed necessary, Dragon’s return could be postponed until Sunday, August 5, with splashdown occuring in the same general area. Once recovered, Dragon will be brought back to the Port of Los Angeles for the unloading of any time-sensitive cargo. The remainder of Dragon’s cargo will be unloaded once the capsule has arrived at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
And on Tuesday, August 7, SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Falcon will be carrying the Merah Putih (Telkom-4) communications satellite, which will provide coverage to Indonesia and India. Liftoff is scheduled for 1:19am, EDT (5:19 UTC). The Falcon 9 that will be used for this upcoming mission previously flew for the Bangabandhu-1 mission. The Merah Putih satellite will be placed in a Geostationary Transfer Orbit, and the Falcon 9’s first stage will be recovered once again, with a landing planned in the Atlantic Ocean on SpaceX’s drone ship Of Course I Still Love You.
Peace, love and rockets…
For nearly six years now, our Twitter account (@TakeBacktheSky) has been participating in that Twitter tradition known as “Follow Friday.” It’s really not clear to us where the practice originated, but the idea of recommending accounts that others should follow (and perhaps having others recommend yours) was one that seemed like a valuable tool back when we first started Take Back the Sky. After all, the more times a Twitter handle shows up in the Twitterverse, the more likely folk will be to check out who’s behind it and what they’re all about. In the early days of our campaign, it’s likely that Follow Friday tweets actually did give us some valuable exposure, especially when we still had active online petitions asking Elon Musk and SpaceX to name their first Crew Dragon after Serenity.
But after careful consideration, we believe the time has come for us to end our participation in Follow Friday.
Elon Musk and company are ready to send another Falcon 9 into the black this Wednesday, just days after SpaceX successfully completed the Telstar 19 mission. This time the action will be on the West Coast.
On July 25, a Falcon 9 of the new Block 5 variant will launch from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission is Iridium-7, the latest in a series of what is expected to be a total of eight missions to put 75 Iridium NEXT satellites in orbit. Once completed, the mission will bring the number of deployed satellites to 65. Liftoff is scheduled for 7:39 am EDT (11:39 UTC).
The Iridium-7 mission will insert a constellation of 10 new satellites into Low Earth Orbit as part of Iridium Communications ongoing effort to overhaul its communications fleet. The first stage of this particular Block 5 Falcon 9, which is making its maiden flight, will land on SpaceX’s drone recovery ship Just Read the Instructions in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will mark SpaceX’s 14th flight of this calendar year.
Peace, love and rockets…
(Update: Shortly after this review was originally posted we received an email from Insight Editions with a message from the book’s editor regarding the issue of Mal’s and Zoe’s rank in the Independent Army. Here’s the explanation we received:
“In most of the flashback sequences and supplementary material, we know that Mal and Zoe were officially ranked as Sergeant and Corporal respectively during the Unification War. According to the movie, Serenity, however, Mal’s rank is listed as “Captain, Independent Army” (as seen on the Alliance files shown on the Operative’s screen at 36:38.) The “Criminal Record” on Page 9 directly reflects the Alliance’s files on Mal as shown on-screen.
From what I could piece together, this discrepancy in title was likely due to an unofficial battlefield promotion earned in the thick of it all during the Battle of Serenity Valley, when many of Mal’s superior officers were killed and he had to rise through the ranks and take command of around 2,000 troops. The promotion was one that would never be officially reflected in the Independent Army records (obviously, due to their surrender), but was just official enough to be noted in the Alliance records upon Mal’s post-battle processing. Of course, the fact that the soldiers in the pilot episode of Firefly (“Serenity”) still call Mal “Sergeant” during the Battle of Serenity Valley could also mean that Mal lied to the Alliance about his rank when captured… or that the Alliance later assumed that he was a Captain in the Independent Army based on the fact that he was widely known to be a Captain (of Serenity) after the war. Either way, the choice was made to reflect the on-screen Alliance files accurately in his “Criminal Record” section in this book.
As for Zoe’s rank, all my records seem to show her as Corporal, as reflected in her official Independent Army records on Page 21. So when she states on Page 20 that she was a lieutenant, well, I’m frankly not sure how or why that happened. I would love to say that she received a similar unofficial promotion as Mal in those final battles… but the truth is, as far as I can tell, it seems to have just been an unfortunate error that didn’t get caught along the way. My sincere apologies for the confusion.”
In recent months we’ve seen a number of new Firefly and Serenity products hit the market as 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios have expanded the amount of officially licensed merchandise that is available to fans. One of the benefits has been that there is a new wave of books that are scheduled to hit the shelves featuring brand new stories about our favorite Firefly-class transport ship and its crew. In February it was announced that Titan Books would publish a new series of original Firefly novels that will debut this October, but Browncoats won’t have to wait that long to delve into a book that takes a fresh look at Serenity and her crew.
This week Insight Editions will release Marc Sumerak’s The Serenity Handbook: The Official Crew Member’s Guide to the Firefly-Class Series 3 Ship. I recently had the opportunity to preview this impressive book, which reads like a manual that is a clever mixture of technical blueprints and crew members’ first-hand descriptions of Serenity’s features.