On March 31, the UK Firefly and Serenity podcast Sending a Wave announced that it was coming to an end after twelve years of keeping Browncoats around the world up-to-date on all the latest conjurings in the Firefly fandom throughout the ‘verse. Sending a Wave will always be very special to all of us here at Take Back the Sky, because the podcast was the first media outlet to interview Jeff and me (way back in the 2012) about our efforts to convince Elon Musk and SpaceX to name their first Crew Dragon Serenity. Not only did our interview on Sending a Wave spread the news of what we were doing to a worldwide audience, it also gave our campaign a level of legitimacy in the Browncoat community that it hadn’t had previously. This was especially crucial to the success of our first online petition to SpaceX, which ended up with thousands of signatures from every continent except Antarctica, accompanied by comments in multiple languages.
About a year later we had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Scott, co-creator and host of Sending a Wave, in person at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con in June of 2013. At the con that weekend, Wendy interviewed me again about my work as the event coordinator of Pittsburgh’s Can’t Stop the Serenity charity screenings, and together we attended the Firefly panel that featured Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite and Gina Torres. Wendy is a lovely woman who is tremendously knowledgeable about science-fiction and the film industry and an absolutely fascinating person to talk to. One of my favorite things about Wendy, both as a podcast host and as a friend, is that her “BS-meter” is finely-tuned, and she’s not afraid to call anyone out if their story has the odor of a fabrication or a retcon. (If you don’t believe me, you can hear her give me a much-needed history lesson upon our first meeting in Sending a Wave Episode 93: The One with Dragons!)
When I heard about the end of Sending a Wave, I contacted Wendy to ask her if it would be okay if I achieved some closure of sorts by bringing things full circle and interviewing her about what had been great run of a groundbreaking Firefly and Serenity podcast. She graciously agreed, and on April 28 we spent nearly three hours on Skype talking about everything from the podcast itself to geek culture, science-fiction of all kinds, Joss Whedon, CSTS, the current state of the film industry and even American and European politics. As you can guess, that conversation meandered in many different directions. The following is a transcript of questions Wendy answered that were specific to Sending a Wave:
Since the earliest days of this site, I have written annually about a very somber week in the space community. That week begins today, with the anniversary of the flash fire that occurred on the launch pad during an Apollo 1 test 51 years ago, killing astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Tomorrow will mark the 32nd anniversary of the mid-launch explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which claimed the lives of astronauts Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Francis (Dick) Scobee, Ronald McNair, Mike Smith and Ellison Onizuka. Just four days later, on February 1, we will see the 25th anniversary of the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated during re-entry with the loss of astronauts David Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, William McCool, and Ilan Ramon.
Over the years I have written so much about these men and women, their bravery, their sacrifice and their willingness to give their lives if it meant that humanity would come one step closer to a future in which living and working out in the black was a regular part of our daily existence. (If you’d like to read any of it, simply search this site’s archives for any given year in the months of January and February.) As this week of remembrance approached again this year, I realized that I really didn’t have anything new to say that hadn’t already been said about them. I felt that at this point, if there is any one thing that bears repeating, it is that they should be remembered as heroes. Big. Damn. Heroes. Every one of them.
So this year, I would simply like to call your attention to how NASA has decided to honor these astronauts, the crew of Challenger in particular.
After an impressive slate of achievements and historic firsts in 2017, SpaceX will kick off the new year with the launch of its still top-secret Zuma mission on January 5, 2018. The clandestine government payload, which was to have launched on board a Falcon 9 November 15 of last year, was delayed due to a payload fairing issue. That issue now appears to have been resolved, and a Falcon 9 is scheduled to take Zuma into the black this Friday, with a two-hour launch window opening at 8:00 PM EST. At this time the weather is 90% GO for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) in Florida.
Not much more has been revealed about this mission or its payload since we first previewed it back in November of 2017. While it may seem unusual for anything that an Elon Musk-owned company does to have so little fanfare, it’s doubtful that we’ll have to get used to it.
SpaceX is set to have a spectacular 2018, starting with the planned maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy, which could happen as early as late January. The Falcon Heavy already caused quite a stir on social media when it briefly went vertical for fit checks at LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center at the end of last month, and Musk’s claim that its first payload would be his own Tesla Roadster has only added to the hype surrounding what will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world. We’ll be discussing the Falcon Heavy and its inaugural launch in more detail in the near future.
But the SpaceX milestone that we’re most anticipating in 2018 is the launch of the very first Crew Dragon, which will finally take US astronauts back out to the black from American soil for the first time in seven years. That launch should happen sometime late this summer or early in the fall, and when it does, we hope that the capsule will be named Serenity, after the Firefly-class transport ship in Joss Whedon’s TV series Firefly and its follow-up motion picture Serenity.
2018 marks our sixth year of lobbying SpaceX to name its first Crew Dragon Serenity, and if you’re a Browncoat (or if you just agree that it would be a good name), you can still help us bring our efforts to fruition. All you really need to do is write a brief letter to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, along with company president Gwynne Shotwell, urging them to christen SpaceX’s first manned spaceship with that name.
In the meantime, you should be able to watch a live webcast of the Zuma launch at spacex.com and on SpaceX’s YouTube channel on January 5. Coverage should begin approximately 20-30 minutes before liftoff.
On behalf of everyone here at Take Back the Sky, may your New Year be filled with peace, happiness, prosperity, and of course Serenity!
Peace, love and rockets…
SpaceX plans to launch its thirteenth resupply mission to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral, Florida this Tuesday, December 12 at 11:46AM EST. A Falcon 9 rocket will carry an unmanned Dragon capsule into the black loaded with supplies, equipment and science experiments, including NASA’s Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) as well as a fiber optic payload. SpaceX will also attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 at the LZ-1 landing site at Cape Canaveral.
This is SpaceX’s first mission since indefinitely postponing the “Zuma” rocket launch that was to have taken place at LC-39A at Cape Canaveral last month. SpaceX indicated that it had some concerns stemming from a payload fairing test for another customer (the “Zuma” mission is supposed to launch a clandestine payload for an unnamed government agency), and that it was standing down until engineers completed their analysis. At this time that mission has yet to be rescheduled, but there are no such concerns for this launch.
According to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, Tuesday’s launch of the Dragon will also be the first time that both the orbital rocket and the capsule are being re-flown. SpaceX has successfully reused Falcon 9 boosters on multiple occasions, and has already sent a reused Dragon capsule to the ISS, but this will be the first mission for which both the rocket and the capsule are flight proven. SpaceX has made reusability a priority for several years now, both in an attempt to lower costs and in order to take a significant step toward the day when frequent, perhaps even daily, launches both to and beyond Low Earth Orbit are commonplace.
A crewed version of the Dragon space capsule is scheduled to make its first manned test flight in the latter half of the coming year as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and as you probably well know by now, it’s this Crew Dragon that we hope will be named Serenity after the Firefly-class transport ship in Joss Whedon’s cult-classic space western TV series Firefly and motion picture Serenity. (If you want to know how you can help us make that happen, visit our Take Action page.)
In the meantime, the unmanned, flight proven version of the Dragon will begin its journey to the ISS on Tuesday, and you can watch the mission unfold live online. SpaceX’s webcast of the launch will go live at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel approximately 20-30 minutes prior to liftoff.
Peace, love and rockets.
Hey, everybody. It’s Chris Tobias, co-founder of Take Back the Sky. I usually don’t post on our blog under my own name, but I feel the need to take personal responsibility for this one, and by that I mean both for what I’m about to say and for the social media post that gave me reason to say it.
On November 25, I tweeted an article by the Smithsonian on Take Back the Sky‘s Twitter feed about Mike Hughes, a self-taught rocket scientist who designed and built his own rocket, which he planned to launch this weekend with himself as a pilot. My comment on the tweet was: “This is the #Browncoats spirit!” You can still see the original tweet on Take Back the Sky‘s Twitter feed. It has not been deleted, and we have no plans to do so.
That in and of itself is relatively innocuous, but that’s not the whole story, of course. You see, Mr. Hughes was going to all this trouble because he was hoping that it would help to prove his belief that the Earth is flat! The article also stated that afterwards he planned to run for governor, which is somewhat eccentric, to say the least. I thought it was obvious that my admiration was solely for his gumption in designing, building, launching and piloting his own rocket. I should have known better.
This morning I got an e-mail from Take Back the Sky‘s other co-founder, Jeff Cunningham. He wanted to know if the tweet got the same amount of attention on Twitter that the cross-post had generated on our Facebook page (it hadn’t). According to Jeff, my posting of this one article had generated more discussion and comments than 99% of the other things we’ve ever posted to our Facebook page, and most of it wasn’t very positive. When I tweeted “This is the #Browncoats spirit!” I was referring to the fact that Mike Hughes was willing to do something against seemingly impossible odds because he believed strongly in a cause, even if the majority didn’t agree with him. But when I looked at the comments on Facebook, it was obvious that people were focusing on the fact that he believed in a flat Earth and was not a proponent of science, even though he was obviously making use of science in order to accomplish what he had set out to do.
In his e-mail Jeff made it clear that he did not see how Mike Hughes’ flight, or the Smithsonian‘s coverage of it, advanced an anti-science agenda. The Smithsonian is the last institution that either of us would accuse of that, and Jeff and I agreed that should be quite evident in the tone of their article. While I was relieved that he understood the motivation behind my posting it, he was obviously concerned that now some of our followers might actually believe that we were anti-science (despite over six years of statements to the contrary on this site, as well as Facebook and Twitter) just because we praised this man’s actions, even if we were viewing them independent (no pun intended) of his motivations. So I decided to take a closer look at the comments, and was very disappointed by what I saw.
This Monday SpaceX will launch the Koreasat 5A from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The South Korean communications satellite (anyone who keeps up with the daily news knows North Korea prefers to conduct their own launches nowadays) is scheduled to be carried into the black by a Falcon 9 rocket on Monday afternoon. The launch window opens at 3:34 p.m. EDT (1934 GMT) and extends to 5:58 p.m. EDT (2158 GMT), if necessary.
The satellite will be deployed to a geostationary orbit 22,300 miles (35,800 km) over the equator. As has practically become standard operating procedure for SpaceX, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will land on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean after its work is done.
The mission will be SpaceX’s 16th of the year, and it will also mark the 44th Falcon 9 flight since June of 2010. Elon Musk’s company continues to demonstrate its reliability as it gears up to return US astronauts to space next summer on board its Crew Dragon, a ship that we hope will be named Serenity after the transport ship in Joss Whedon’s cult sci-fi classic Firefly.