Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wherefore Space Station Kittinger?

Today I will use number one from the Thirty-day novel writing meme. I’m not going to use one every day, just when I feel it’s necessary. I don’t like some of the suggestions on the list, so I may be changing or skipping them to suit my taste. Example: “Which published book is it most like?” Oh, out of all of them? None I hope, but I’m writing sci-fi and fantasy. There’s gonna be similarities. For the similarities I want them to be classic, not trite. If that even makes sense. I was talking with DB about that yesterday. Should the military organization in charge of the station and the transports be naval or air force originated or a combination of both? DB said they’re always navy originated: games, movies, books…always naval. Yes, I said, but does that make it classic or trite? If I follow that line of thinking is it because it’s organic (ships on the ocean becoming ships in an ocean of stars) or because so many other people have done it and I just think of it that way.
This is another reason my projects often stall. I spend way too much time fretting over minutiae. I feel these things are important, damnit! I want to be original! On to the prompt.
1- Name of current Project and back story of the name
I’m thinking they mean title. I started this one in my paper journal a couple of days ago and stalled because that particular project is fantasy world. There’s dragons. Shut up, my dragons will be original! But fantasy novels and the accompanying titles with dragon in them are a dime a dozen. They’re flipping everywhere. I need to have a lot more of that story finished before I could decide on a title. I thought, “It’s just a working title!” but my brain rebelled and just refused to try, constantly slipping off to think of entirely non-related things. Really, that story will be a major investment in time and energy; I’ll have to create a whole world. I think I may have to start with one of the two sci-fi projects.
Name of the Project: Working name only - Space Station Kittinger.

Joseph Kittinger
Back story of the name: Ooh, this is where the fun starts! The station is named after Colonel Joseph William Kittinger II. And why?

On August 16, 1960 Captain Kittinger put on a pressure suit and a parachute kit (the two totaled about 150 extra pounds) and stepped into his flying machine – the Excelsior III, an open gondola with giant helium balloons attached. He travelled up, 102,800 feet. That’s about 19.5 miles. It is, if I understand the info on this page correctly, the mid-stratosphere in the upper levels of the ozone layer. So, pretty damn far up…especially for it being nineteen-effing-sixty in a gondola. And when he gets all the way up there? He jumps. Can you imagine, all that long, long, LONG way up in just that gondola? Towed by helium balloons? No comforting solid walls, no engine. And then to ride up all that way, past the clouds, see the earth getting farther and farther and farther…and then jump? Free falling for four minutes and 36 seconds, the falling body reaching a maximum speed of 614 miles per hour? And dear gods, they got it on film. That You Tube video has lots of fascinating bits of info in it as captions too.
Did you know this man is still alive? He went on to lots of other achievements. He’s a goddamn original.
source: Nat'l Museum of the USAF
I keep thinking about that moment. That moment when he’s standing in the gondola, looking down at earth. I wonder about the adrenalin surging through him, his clarity of thought in that moment. That moment…and then he steps off.
So that’s why I’ve named my space station Kittinger. Early in the story, Zee (the redhead running woman) will tell this story to the scruffy young man (I can’t decide on his name yet). Then, later in the story…someone will experience a moment like that. I haven’t decided who.
How’s that. Jeez, this took me two hours to research and type up. I can’t ever do anything easily.



  1. If it is worth mentioning in a book or movie, it's worth the research to get it right. I applaud the effort and time. Looking forward to the development of the story.

  2. Jessica,

    I've had LOTS of thoughts on these very same subjects. Way more information to share than what I can convey simply through these comments.

    Spaceships in the near and (plausible) mid-future (hereafter known as "pmf") will be more air crew based. Extremely highly trained officers with Primary and secondary specialties They will be the "best of the best", "the right stuff", or the people of legends.

    The reason: the shear expense of putting someone into space and keeping them alive. You simply can't afford to keep someone in space unless they are absolutely essential for the job. Each of these essential people, will have to pick up the other lesser skills (e.g. space plumber) as necessary for specific missions.

    Due to propellant constraints each trip in space will always have a "specific" and primary mission (e.g. scientific expedition to the moon Europa). Along the way and as time permits the crew may perform side activities. I would take the current missions to the international space station as an example of this. Out of each 24 hour day astronauts get extremely few minutes to do as they please.

    I do not know the actual cost of keeping an astronaut alive on the space station, but imagine you are a company paying to do so. If it cost you $1,000,000 / hour to keep them in that environment, wouldn't you demand the most pay-off from that investment?

    1. In my story I haven't gotten to the part where it's explained that the space station itself is funded by a corporation (not a greedy, monolithic corporation, a perfectly nice one) that will be mining something on the planet or asteroid the space station is on. That's who the scruffy kid is, a miner. Why can't they use robots to mine? I don't know, I'll figure it out. I don't know what they'll be mining yet, but they-dum-dum-DUM! FIND SOMETHING ALIEN while they're mining! Yeah, it won't be as cheesy as that or a rip off of Alien, I swear.

  3. I do understand the attraction of using Naval ranking and crewing structures. However, the Navy uses lots of semi-skilled labor (cooks, dry-cleaning, mechanics, electricians, etc.). Simply put, no on could afford to invest the resources required to bring all of these people.

  4. Jessica,

    It's been a while since I checked this: is Coelocanth pronounced with a soft or hard "C"? In my head, I can hear it going either way.

    1. See-lo-kanth. Or See-la-kanth if you have a hick accent. Whichever.

  5. FWIW, I recommended reading the "Stack Exchange: World Builder". I looked for a question similar to yours there today but couldn't find it.

    In a nutshell, manned colonies will be exceedingly expensive to make. The only thing that we know we can only get from space would be helium3. It is an isotope of helium that can be used in fusion power that produces less than 1/2 the neutrons (aka radiation) of other fusion fuels. You'd mine it by processing rocks exposed to solar wind.

    It's conceivable that there could be manufacturing processes that either require zero-g or high vacuum to make work. We don't know of anything (yet) that would make a space colony worthwhile - but these environments could be used for extra pure crystals, perfect ball bearings, and possibly super long nanotubes (think ultra strong fibers).

    As you stated above, alien tech would very likely make it worthwhile.

    Another possibility is exotic materials. These are materials that don't violate the laws of physics as we know them but we also haven't seen any evidence of them (microblack holes, negative matter, etc.).