Author Archives: Mel

Chandrayaan-2 to the moon!

On Monday 22nd of July 2019, the Indian Space Agency ISRO has successfully launched the moon probe Chandrayaan-2 into Earth orbit. Where Apollo 11 took a few days to reach the moon, Chandrayaan-2 will take at least 7 weeks and is scheduled for landing on September 6. Why does it take them so long to get to the moon this time and what will Chandrayaan-2 be doing on the moon anyway?

Chandrayaan 2 and its lander Vikram and rover Pragyan

Illustration of Vikram lander and Pragyan rover on the lunar surface. Image: ISRO

Orbiting

The Apollo program was designed to transport humans and Chandrayaan-2 is a robotic mission. This means it doesn’t need the quickest route to the moon. Apollo was using the heaviest rockets ever built to get to the moon to do just that, ISRO used considerably lighter rockets, also a more cost efficient way. Chandrayaan-2 will first spent 23 days in Earth’s orbit before jettison to the moon. While in orbit, it will gain speed to make the long journey to the moon.

Landing close to the aspired landing date is crucial. Chandrayaan-2 will have to make up for lost time as the launch has been postponed by a week, caused by a suspected helium leak. ISRO is however confident that this shouldn’t be a problem and has anticipated a delay in their plans. This means it will spend less time orbiting the moon than originally planned. Then, if all goes well, in the first week of September, the orbiter will release the lander called Vikram to the surface. One of the prime objectives is the demonstration of a soft landing on the moon and operate a robot rover from there. 

The lander Vikram

Vikram is named after Vikram Sarabhai who is regarded to be the father of the Indian space program. This mission is of great importance for the Indian Space Program so this is significant. It has a camera attached but will also measure seismologic activities in the landing area. It will also measure temperatures and the variation and density on the lunar surface plasma. Also, it carries NASA’s Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA). This device can measure precisely the distance between the reflector and any orbiter around the moon. The LRA will remain operative after Vikram’s scientific operations end, they will last about 14 days.  

Vikram also carries the moon rover Pragyan, which means wisdom in Sanskrit. The rover is expected to last one lunar day, or 14 earth days, and operates on solar power. However, the rover is able to store power and has a sleep / wake mechanism so it is possible that the rover will be operative after 14 days, when the night ends on their place on the moon. Both Pragryan and Vikram weren’t designed to survive these cold conditions at night. Hence the importance of the landing date. How later the lander reaches the moon surface, the less time there is for the planned experiments. Pragyan will send its data to Vikram who then sends this data back to earth. 

On the moon surface

The rover is expected to drive 500 meters. It has a speed of 1 cm per second. The rover will map the lunar surface near the landing site, which is close to the south pole of the moon. A place relatively unexplored. Together with the orbiter its goal is to give a more detailed impression of that region of the moon. Apart from a camera it will use lasers and xray to do this. 

It’s not the first time India landed on the moon, however their earlier attempt in 2008 with Chandrayaan-1 crash landed. The soft landing attempt is therefore one of the important parts of this mission, also as it serves as a test for future missions to Mars. This doesn’t mean Chandrayaan-1 failed. It remained operative for 10 months and has detected signs of water on the moon. Hard to say it failed indeed. Chandrayaan-2 will undoubtedly secure India and ISRO their place in deep space exploration. Chandrayaan-2 has a relatively short lifespan but considering the results of their previous moon mission, the prospects are incredibly good. 

Soft landing

It may take Chandrayaan-2 a long time to reach the moon, but it will do so in an efficient way. It will hopefully demonstrate a soft landing on the moon around 6 or 7 September (2019). The lander will function as a transmission center between earth and the rover which will map the south pole region of the moon. It has 14 days to do so before the cold night kicks in. We can only hope they’ll exceed life expectancy and will make amazing discoveries. Just like their older sibling 11 years ago. 

 

My partial lunar eclipse

July 16 2019. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch and the night of a partial lunar eclipse. This is cool stuff! But as the day progresses, I more and more convince myself that I should pass the lunar eclipse. The forecast said cloudy anyway. In the evening the clouds break and I still don’t bother because I wouldn’t be able to see much in the city anyway. It’s 10:45PM and I start watching part 2 of Chasing The Moon. Well, my brain thinks I’m watching, but I’m probably partially asleep. Then, the phone rings. What the hell? I pick up and it’s my partner who is currently in the south of France, visiting her mother. Is it worth watching the eclipse, because right now she’s being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I tell her it should be. And I decide to go outside anyway.

partial lunar eclipse

How I saw the partial lunar eclipse 16 July 2019. Picture by Mel Marcik

The train station

I live next to a small train station. It’s higher than the streets so logically if I stand on the platform, I should be able to see the moon. Just like the total lunar eclipse which I watched there in the freezing cold in the early morning. I get up on the platform and just above the former station hall, now pub, and above the highway that runs parallel to the tracks, I can see the partial lunar eclipse. She doesn’t have a red glow like I expected. Behind me a woman sits on a bench waiting for her train. Another man comes on the platform, it look like he is going to stand close to me but I guess my annoyed aura scares him off.

I stare at the moon, and sometimes at the phone, being in contact with my partner far away. My eyes start to hurt. The station is very bright, and I have the squint between the lights to see the moon. The platform is more lit than my very own living room. I can hear the cars on the highway. I hear the cars down on the street below. A tram passes. I hear people laugh. At the other platform a man is making a phone call and walks up and down the platform. More laughter downstairs. Then the train arrives and the people get in, some people get out. The conductor looks at me and asks me if I join the train. I shake my head, thank him. He nods, blows his whistle and the train takes off.

The Milky Way

I sit down on the bench and continue to stare at the moon. I pick up my phone and look at my Sky 3D app. According to the map I’m looking straight at the Milky Way. All I see is an overly lit platform, the train from the opposite direction arriving, the noise shields of the highway. I can see the moon partial blocked by the sun. I can actually see Jupiter. My partner says she sees Jupiter too and I wave at Jupiter. I don’t tell her this. We exchange some spiritual tinted messages. Actually, I complain about the noise and that I can’t see the Milky Way. But what I mean was, I love this city but I need space. And quiet.

The plan

I sit on the bench a bit longer and decide to head back home. In the South of France my partner already went to bed. I arrive home to a paused documentary and I check how many MBs I have left on my data plan and I decide I watch this part tomorrow during my commute which I start on that very same platform. Then I pick up my laptop and write, I write this down. Because I know I can accomplish things, and I can do awesome things ans be good at the things I love doing. If only I wasn’t so lazy. I just want to stop being lazy. So I write this now and not tomorrow or later this week. Or never.

But what I really want is to live in a place where it’s actually worth it to look up. To actually see the stars and to enjoy the wonders of space without trams ringing, cars rushing by and people laughing in the streets. I want to look up at the stars and be completely taken by the moment, to be at peace. To breath fresh air and hear an owl in the distance. Or maybe an elk. To look up while it’s pitch dark and when the season comes to see auroras. The city is wearing me out. But I still love this city. I will leave this city some day but only to have that place in space. I know I can accomplish things and I sure will accomplish this thing. The partial lunar eclipse just confirmed this.

Is there coffee in that nebula?

One of Star Trek Voyager’s best loved quotes was said in season 1, episode 6 (“The Cloud”). 75 years from home, the ship had run out of coffee and Neelix’ substitute just doesn’t cut it. The use of the replicators was confined as energy had to be saved. Then the crew approaches a strange nebula and while being far away from home, they’re still in space to explore. Captain Katherine Janeway orders to set course, for “There is coffee in that nebula.” This has been printed on countless mugs all over the world ever since. But what exactly is a nebula? And can we really find coffee there?

captain janeway

Captain Janeway enjoying a cuppa. Picture credit Star Trek

What’s a nebula then?

A nebula is a cloud of either gas, dust, or a combination of the two. They’re being held together and compacted by gravity. They’re the space’s nurseries as stars are born there and are typically found in interstellar space. The gorgeous pictures you see with nearly ever space article are often nebulae. The colours are created by the different elements within. Most Nebulae contain about 90% of hydrogen. This makes sense as stars are mostly composed of hydrogen. It’s also the most common chemical element in the universe. 

What else is in a nebula? Mostly helium and 0,1% of heavy elements such as carbon, nitrogen, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium. All these elements undergo an interstellar gravitational collapse. This causes the matter to clump together and form these amazing structures, which are typically huge in size and are very dense. You can fly through a nebula though in theory. I say in theory because one of the closest and best known nebula, the Orion Nebula, is about 20 light years away. So, if you’d be able to fly at the speed of light, which we can not and most likely never will, it will still take 20 years to get there. 

Through the pretty colours

Will flying through a nebula be a cosmic out of your mind experience? If you mean you will be mesmerized by all the pretty colours we can see from afar, you may be very underwhelmed. The closer you get to the nebula, the fainter the colours will appear. Open a picture of a nebula (or a cat, or something else) on your computer and zoom in. The more you zoom in, the more the picture becomes unclear. Pixels are causing this. Think of these pixels as chemical elements. Seen from far away, it’s clear and beautiful as the pixels are all close together. But get closer, or zoom in, they move from each other (pixels appear bigger) and it loses its focus. 

OK, that’s in short what a nebula is. The birthplace of stars which are pretty and you can fly into in. But is there coffee in that nebula? What Captain Janeway really was looking for, was energy for the replicator food dispensers. A replicator, if you aren’t into the Star Trek universe (you’re missing out by the way), is a device which is able to replicate any food you would want, if programmed correctly into the system. Wishing for Earl Grey will give you a plant. Therefore wish for a Tea, Earl Grey, Hot, if you want to enjoy a tea like a real star ship captain. 

The cloud

After a few weeks in the Delta Quadrant, energy levels are getting low and to save energy, Neelix, a Delta Quadrant alien, has been appointed as a chef on board and cooks with supplies found on the various planets they encounter. For the sake of suspense, the replicators require a certain kind of energy. When the crew detect this nebula with signs of omicron particles (we have yet to find it, but in the future they have), which they need for them, they set course. This being Star Trek, and Voyager being an exploration star ship, things of course don’t go as planned and the nebula isn’t a nebula but a life form. So in the end, captain Janeway doesn’t get her coffee, which is also bad news for the crew in my personal opinion. 

In conclusion, can you find coffee in a nebula? Only if you’re able to have a device that is able to convert the elements of that nebula into coffee. And if you don’t mistake a life form for a nebula. So, for the time being, we better keep to our earthly coffee beans and treat the ground and the people working there very well.  

The unsung hero of Apollo 11 – Michael Collins

We all know that Neil Armstrong was the first person to step on the moon. We also know he was followed by Buzz Aldrin. Most people however will fail to name the third astronaut. Some may even forget there was a third person onboard. Command Module Pilot Michael Collins is the forgotten Apollo 11 astronaut. He had the more nerve wracking task of them three. No he didn’t walk on the moon, but he knew that it was possible that he had to leave his fellow astronauts behind on the moon. 

Michael Collins on flight in Apollo 11. Picture NASA.

Before Apollo 11

Michael Collins already had been in space before taking off in Apollo 11. Three years prior to that famous take off, on July 18, 1966, he and John Young took off with Gemini 10. Gemini had to rendevouz with two Agena Target Vehicles and Collins had to perform two EVA’s (spacewalks), the second one on his own. He became the first person to do two spacewalks during one mission. He also became the first person to visit another space vehicle in orbit. These are quite some accomplishments, all prior to the Apollo program. 

Collins was training already for Apollo 9 but started to notice that his legs weren’t working as they should be and that his knees started to give away. He went to see the doctor, even though he didn’t want to because he knew what this meant. And indeed, he had to undergo surgery for cervical disc herniation and had to wear a neck brace for three months. He was removed from the Apollo 9 crew but as he had trained well, he was made capsule communicator for Apollo 8. There he directly communicated with the Apollo 8 crew during their historic flight which brought us the famous earth rise picture. The recovery went well and he was assigned to Apollo 11, the mission that would, if the previous didn’t fail, land on the moon. 

Training

Michael Collins wasn’t to land on the moon. He often trained separated and differently from Aldrin and Armstrong. It must have been tough to prepare mostly alone. That said, his fellow astronauts may have trained together and relied on each other blindly, they never became close in a more friendship kind of way. Strange for two people who would share this once in a lifetime moment together, travelling in quite the small spaceship. Collins also wrote about 18 different rendezvous possibilities, also those that failed. That book ran a 117 pages. He also designed the mission patch. 

His main training was of course operating the Columbia module. He had to make sure the module would remain in orbit around the moon, run system checks, perform moon observations and stay in contact with mission control. But he also had to make sure that Armstrong and Aldrin not just landed safely, but he had the task of taking them back home as well. And if anything should go wrong, he was instructed not to be the hero but return home. Alone. 

The risks

We all know how the mission ended. Armstrong and Aldrin landed safely on the moon, spent 21 hours on the surface and made it back to the command module Columbia and went home safely. We know that, but they weren’t so sure. The lunar module had been tested over and over again and the astronauts had trained numerous times. But they were never able to do it on the moon or similar circumstances. No one knew exactly what these circumstances would be exactly because no one had ever been there. 

If the thrusters weren’t working properly, Armstrong and Aldrin could have ended up in lower orbit around the moon for all eternity without Collins being able to do anything to get them on board. Or they would crash back on the surface. Another possibility was that the Eagle would miss it’s target and shoot into space to Pete knows where. Either of those scenarios, the two astronauts would survive until the oxygen ran out, unless other malfunctions occurred or madness had driven them to other drastic measures. There was a 50/50 chance, the three astronauts calculated among each other, that only Collins would make it home. A terrible thought to carry around. 

Feeling lonely

It weighed heavy on Collins’ mind but he performed his duties with great professionalism. But he admits that releasing the Eagle to the lunar surface was a nerve wracking experience. He told the other two to remain in constant contact with them in fear of losing them. The communication was broken 30 times while Collins was on the far side of the moon. Contact to ground control was also broken during that time. 3 billion people on the other side of the moon, and who knows what on Collins’ side. These were the hardest time for Collins, he was indeed the loneliest man in the world, a figure of speech. Anything could happen during that period, and he just wouldn’t know about it. 

The moment Armstrong and Aldrin left the Lunar surface were the hardest. This was it. This was the moment that would determine whether Collins would fly home alone or as a team. He wasn’t the only one aware of this. President Nixon had a speech ready in case the two moon walkers wouldn’t return home. “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.” it starts. It’s a beautiful and respectful speech which luckily never had to be used. 

Forgotten astronaut

No one was more relieved than Collins. He said that he would have fulfilled his duty and would have returned home, rather than taking other drastic measures, which wouldn’t have been a strange thing to do under these circumstances. He would have been known as the astronaut that survived the fateful Apollo 11 mission, the survivor of men’s first exploration of an alien world. Now he is the forgotten astronaut. I think it’s safe to say that Michael Collins wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. 

Update about updates

Lately I’ve been updating far too little. Far too little for my own liking, even though I do know what I want with this blog. I still haven’t been able to commit to it as much as I should. Also my twitter activities have not been like I had intended it to be. Partly I think it’s fine, I’m human and I have other things in my life than just space and aliens. And partly it’s still fine but something changed in a way I didn’t expect. 

blogging

image credit Pixabay

The big change

The very last argument I had not to come out as agender was this: I didn’t want to put other people in a situation they didn’t ask for. I didn’t want people to deal with the fact that I was neither male nor female and that they had to adjust to that. I’m Dutch and there isn’t even a word for the singular they. Enby? (nb = non binary) I just didn’t want to confuse people but my wife said it was bollocks. It’s my life, it’s who I am. And I should show that, or at least tell people why I was looking into top surgery. Fair enough. 

So I came out earlier this year and everyone I spoke to was very accepting. Sure, some had no idea what agender was, but I was happy to tell them. Language is a struggle, as at work I’m sometimes called a lady (the rest of my male colleagues is then called gents in the same sentence), but that’s a language thing. Online I think it went well too. I wrote a piece on relating to Data of Star Trek The Next Generation as I started to realise that me being agender is part of that. It was fantastic. 

Unexpected impact

I feared my surrounding would struggle but they are fine. Sometimes they ask me questions but I see that as part of acceptance and I’m happy to talk about it. The biggest impact of me coming out as agender was not on my surroundings, it had the biggest impact on… me. I found myself in a situation of Fuck It, I’m doing this. So I dove head first into the LGBTQIA+ culture, something I probably already had but now I did it consciously. Other non binary people became visible and this was truly inspirational.

A whole new world opened up to me. I got my first binder, then got a decent one (which I’m calling ‘my second skin’), am on a two year waiting list for my surgery. And my head became a mess. Not in a negative way, but it’s been quite exhausting. It’s been a big change and I didn’t see it coming. I do see the irony in that. 

As I was busy with fitting into my own skin (and I still am), I was also tired. I started to slack writing, I enjoy learning online but didn’t have the strength for it any more. What I did manage was creating a new wardrobe, read and watch a lot of Star Trek, visit Sweden and finally declared my unconditional love for it (opposed to really, really REALLY loving Sweden), finally learned that dark hair suits me way better than blond and pastels, and I got a new task offered at work, one that suits me a lot, namely data control (numbers, not the android). 

LGBTQIA+ in the mix

I also realised that my space twitter became more LGBTQIA+ rights than space adventures. This is absolutely fine, it’s my twitter, it’s who I am. But I started it to communicate with space and alien folk and added Star Trek and cats to the mix. Does LGBTQIA+ mix well? Of course it does! But I really want to add more space, more aliens, more cats, even more Star Trek. I wanted to do something with my twitter and my blog. It had a purpose. And I just wasn’t doing it. 

Of course I had a lot on my mind this year. But that’s not all of it. I can do something when I really want it. But it needs not just a purpose, it needs an urgency. Trust me, I had coaching to figure that out. Eventually becoming a space writer and communicator doesn’t work. Becoming stupidly knowledgeable about Scandinavian UFO and alien cases eventually isn’t enough either. Eventually doesn’t spell urgency.

I want it, yes. I want to stop working in an office, sweet talking to terminal operators and skippers to please do their job at the agreed time. But to make that change, to work on that, I need more than ‘I want something else, possibly somewhere else’. I need a plan. One that could work. And it works when I want it and put my mind on it. I just need the right plan. The urgency. 

Here come the Swedes

Hello Sweden! While Sweden was winning from England in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, my partner (a bigger Sweden supporter than I am, she is nearly flawless at Swedish. My passive Swedish is great too, just don’t ask me to do anything else than order a coffee and asking whether this includes a refill, which to be fair is a great survival skill) and I were chauvinistic about the win and were overly annoyed by the Dutch commentator who, like many commentators, didn’t like Sweden at all. You see, the Swedish men didn’t lose 7-0 from the Dutch a few years ago which meant the Netherlands failed to go the the men’s FIFA World Cup. The Dutch never gotten over that. But never mind, we generally don’t like the Dutch either. 

Plus, on a more serious note, the climate change in the Netherlands it quite worrying. We’re both anything but sun worshippers and would both be considered suffering from summer depression. So 35 degrees is not ‘nice weather’ as the forced opinion in the Netherlands is, but it’s hell to us. We’ve celebrated midsummer (midsommar is a Swedish national holiday).This day marks the days getting shorter again, hurrah! And with the global climate change, how will the Netherlands even cope when sea levels do rise? It takes 5 minutes by train from where I live to the lowest point of the Netherlands, 5 metres below sea level. 5 metres is a lot! We thought about Sweden. We should climate migrate. 

Dreams and urgency

Dreams we had for like forever. But what happens when you start looking at how much it really costs? We’ve been dreaming of visiting Portland, Oregon for years as well and never really did something because we were sure we couldn’t afford it. Until we actually checked flight and hotel prices. We’re flying in two months. I don’t believe we’re living in a small village close to Kiruna by next year, but the things that need to be done (driver’s licence anyone?) aren’t really that much of a financial obstacle, if you have an urgency. Unless we win the lottery of course. I’ll be buying a ticket this afternoon. 

So, I have emigration plans, that’s cool. I realised that living in nature, in peace and quiet, and be semi self sustaining isn’t just a dream, but it’s something we can actually do. And we both love the city of Rotterdam, but these two introverts are really in need of a quiet life. We want two chickens for the eggs and a pig as a pet. Cool, cool, do what you must. But does this involve this blog and my space twitter? Yes, it does and it does big time. Because if I live in a village of 238 inhabitants in the North of Sweden*, chances are that I won’t get a job at an office. Hurrah! But I still need to work. So this blog finally has a destination. I finally know what I want to do with my plans. A real purpose. An urgency.

*or anywhere else in North Scandinavia. As long as it’s in the North, Scandinavia and provides a clear view on the skies and auroras

Thank you

I know I’ve struggled with blogging before and have pledged commitment time and time again. But never with a purpose such as this. I’m a certified science writer for Pete’s sake! The time has come to do something with it. And with many things in my life, if I really want it, really really want it and have an urgency to lead me (climate migration, leading a self sustaining life), then I know I will make this happen. Of course this blog may undergo several name changes again until I find one that fits and sticks. But it’s the contents that ultimately matters. 

I want to thank all my space and alien followers on Twitter for putting up with me for the past half year. You’ll get what you deserve now. I also want to thank all my new LGBTQIA+ friends, you’re an inspiration and I’ll continue to be on your side. And I would like to thank you in particular, you who has read all this. I’m happy to take you with me on this journey. 

Have a nice World UFO day

Knowing too much is dangerous. If you spread this knowledge it’s even more dangerous. We all know this rings true. And the media is reminding us ever so often that when you spread sensitive information, you will be punished. Whether this is entirely OK is a whole different story. Don’t we have a right to know that the world leaders of this world, whom we may or may not have elected, which election has been fair or not, having secrets from us? And if we have read the leaked information, aren’t we a thread as well? 

I want to believe

I know a bit or two about aliens and UFOs. I will not claim to know it all and have the ability to name all sightings and have all the names of who is who in ufology. This is mainly because I tend to observe from the outside first before deciding to dive into the story. Also, other people are way better in the study of UFOs than I am. Some people may be even professionals. Me on the other hand simply believe. 

It starts with a I want to believe. If I stumble upon a case that nibbles on my curiousity then I want to believe the story. Has Belgium really been invaded by UFOs a couple of nights in the 1990’s? That I want to believe. The most important question I had was Why are they there? No offence, but Belgium is hardly a place of interest. Sure, EU headquarters are there but the UFOs weren’t checking out Brussels. Nor were they trying to find out why their fries are so incredibly tasty or looking for the waffles recipe. Actually, the most iconic photograph of this phenomenon has been a hoax. Some clever prankster made a pretty realistic photo of what very much looked like what everyone else had seen. 

That means the photo is fake. Case closed? I know that most likely it weren’t UFOs and perhaps some military planes were tested because who will care what flies over a small country such as Belgium (no offence). The file about this case is massive however and knows stories far beyond the photograph. This indeed remains filed under the I want to believe pile. Are the people who have reported sightings and the people who have investigated the sightings in danger? No and they never were. 

Betty and Barney

I’d like to think I know a fair bit about the Betty and Barney Hill case and not just because I read the book. Here’s a case that continues to intrigue. Betty and Barney claimed to have been abducted onto an alien spaceship. Betty seemed to have handled it better than her husband Barney. She decided later in life to talk openly about it. It may have damaged her credentials because this is a case that is not just well documented but sounds solid, even if it may sound impossible for most standards. Was Betty Hill a thread? Hardly. Are people who support her and know and believe her story a thread? Hardly. Dismissed as slightly crazy at best. 

Individuals who have witnessed or experienced something incredible aren’t a thread. Nor are they in danger, that is to say, in danger from any government force or beyond. Whether they are in outer worldly danger is a whole different story. Logically I would say they’re not. But anyway, that’s not what I want to talk about here. What of someone who has worked at let’s say Area 51 or associated comes forward and tells the world what they have seen and worked on. Now that’s another story. They actually have information that they shouldn’t have. Sure, you shouldn’t have seen the UFO, but you don’t know how it works. Some people may know this. And they shouldn’t talk too much. 

Bob Lazar and area 51

Someone who did is for instance Bob Lazar. His records of where he went to college are seemingly entirely erased. Track him and you won’t find him in the files where he claims to have studied or worked. And that will make any person suspicious. Why lie about that right? In the case of Lazar they haven’t been able to erase everything and he is traceable, even if it is unconventional (his name appears in a printed phone book from the university. Which comes to show that it’s not always a bad thing to keep things in your possession too long.). This is a man who knows a lot. He is able to tell you how your typical UFO may work. His information and story about element 115 is unchanged for 30 years. 

Is he under surveillance? You might say so. When he talked about classified information on tape, even without the immediate purpose to expose this to the world, his house was raided. The FBI was looking for ‘some specific papers’. Whether they found them is unclear to me, but I suspect they’re not. To Lazar is was another crazy chapter in his life after coming out, anonymously at first, about his research at S4. His life and that of his family, has changed. Here is a brilliant man, he builds rockets on motorcycles and doesn’t blow himself up while riding them, who has done some incredible research. And he believes we have a right to know. Some people disagree and unfortunately for him and the rest of the world, these people seemingly possess quite some power. 

How UFOs fly

When does someone know too much? Lazar has shared his knowledge but probably not all of it. He tells us about the Gravity Propulsion System inside a UFO and will tell you that it flies vertically and not horizontally as often pictured. This doesn’t sound very aerodynamic but he explains and it makes sense. He knows these things. He has told about these things. The people who have listened to him, and think that what he says makes sense and believe him, will automatically know these things too. Of course they lack all the technical details, minor and large. Are they knowing too much as well? Do they have to be afraid that their homes are being raided as well?

Well, no. Because they have not been inside the department that is doing ‘stuff’ we shouldn’t know about for whatever reasons there may be. And it’s incredibly easy to dismiss these people as crazy. Chances are that you are reading this and if you’ve come this far you think ‘But Mel, do you really believe all this? Do you really believe in UFO? I thought you were smarter than that.’ You may think that and it wouldn’t matter that much. But since the 1950s and certainly since the 1960s the entire UFO phenomenon has been ridiculed. It was scientifically investigated at the same time. Most people will think twice by saying they believe something to be true about UFOs. No one wants to be told they’re stupid after all. 

Nothing new

But people who have worked at Area 51 and related places, who have worked for the government investigating strange aerial phenomenon, that’s another story. Reporters who are digging too deep could be at risk as well. Everyone who is capable of harming the current system of capitalism is at risk. That’s not you reading this and me writing this. The group of civilians who could do this is way too small. But before they start to grow in numbers, it’s best to silence the ones who know. It’s nothing new. Nikolai Tesla claimed that electricity was a power source that comes for free. It’s possibly to provide every home, luxurious and slums alike, with a simple but effective tool that will provide unlimited power. Well, that is a blow for capitalism isn’t it? Tesla, a brilliant mind, therefore had a rough life. 

I know I have told this story before and I will keep on telling it. Just because astronomy and physics are interests of mine, doesn’t mean I can’t and shouldn’t believe in what some people may call silly stuff like UFOs. As long as people are being silenced and intimidated for the things they know and may or may not yet have said, I say we should be aware of the greater picture. We should continue to explore the stars, of course, make progress on our planet. But UFOs are very much real. Believing so may result in being called dumb. But if that’s the case, well, so be it. 

Meet Fl4k, the non-binary robot

Gearbox announced the release of Borderlands 3 for September and ever since I’m a passenger on the hype train. I love the entire franchise, it’s a first person shooter looter, for its incredible story, its wit, its sarcasm, its humor, its surroundings, its characters… Basically I love it a lot. And when the four vault hunters were introduced, I called dibs on Fl4k. I knew nothing about the character, only that they seemed to be a robot and has animals with them, according to the nickname Beastmaster. The siren, soldier and not sure yet character are cool too, but I’m going to start with Fl4k.

Fl4k

picture credit Gearbox

Diversity in the game

It’s not really a surprise. With Borderlands 2 I was instantly drawn to Zer0, still my favourite. He’s a 4 fingered assassin, probably an alien. Nobody knows for sure. With the pre-sequel I played Claptrap, the annoying one wheeled robot. Don’t be fooled by his reputation, he’s ace. I also love Wilhelm. Sure he’s a baddy but he’s addicted to metal augmentation, which turns him into half human, half machine. Choosing a character in the original game was a lot harder. They’re all human after all. So of course for Borderlands 3 it had to be Fl4k. But what I didn’t know, Fl4k has an additional bonus. A huge bonus.

The franchise introduced Fl4k as non-binary and use the pronouns they and them. Fl4k is an AI roaming the planets (and looting and killing wherever they go) searching for themselves and their only companions are three beasts which they care dearly for. So, they aren’t just metal and unsocial, they’re also non-binary (and unsocial) like I am! Of course this is a match made in heaven, them being a hunter class is even an bonus to the bonus!

Sexual innuendos

Borderlands has a great history of not giving a shit about gender roles and sexuality. Characters such as the soldier Axton are openly bisexual. Moxxi is as well, as she discusses her girlfriends and husbands alike. Sir Hammerlock is gay, as is professor Nakayama who has a major crush on the main villain Jack (and is rejected as well). Zer0 is also rumoured to be non-binary after all, even though he’s always been assigned to the he/him pronouns. The creators of the game have spoken of Zer0 as they/them recently. The thing is, even though Zer0 sounds male, we don’t know whether he/they/she is.

With all the innuendos flying out and about, the characters sexual preferences are not an issue anywhere in the game. Janey openly flirts with vault hunter Athena but not with the other characters (spoiler, they’ll end up together, not in the game perse but in canon). It’s all treated normally, just like it should be. As long as the media represents the LGBT+ community as something to emphasise on, it’s never going to be treated as natural. But Borderlands is doing this. And so is Star Trek Discovery by the way. It’s refreshing and it is needed as well. Normalisation is one thing, representation is everything.

The critics

One may argue why they made the robot non-binary and not a human being. It’s also something some people complain about and I do get it. It would of course be nicer to have a human representation of non-binary people in the game (Zer0 isn’t human either but unassumingly he/they/she is flesh and bones). But I have to compliment the people of Gearbox. To have an AI as your non-binary character is the kind of humor you expect from the franchise. And they speak normal about it, use they/them, treat them as an equal to the other vault hunters. I think it’s great.

This is the gaming community of course. And gamers come in all shapes and sizes. Even in an open-minded franchise such as Borderlands, bigotry lives there too. Of course people (probably white males living with mammy) are complaining that the gender agenda has now shoved into their faces in the gaming world as well. Why oh why do they need to deal with this shit in there as well. Well, because you little shit, and I quote Mr Torgue, Reasons! The world isn’t all white and the world isn’t all male and the world isn’t all straight.

Representation matters

This is what Borderlands does a really good job at: representation. And that doesn’t please everyone. For the first two Borderlands games, you could choose between three males and one female character (if you count Zer0 male). The pre-sequel vault hunters were 2 women, a (male assigned) robot and a man. And with Borderlands 3 the choice is two women, a man and a non-binary robot. The baddies are twins (brother and sister) and what is new in the game is that they enemies are male and female. Before that the enemies that were giving you XP were all male and I get that because it’s easier to program and design that way. But now you have male and female enemies and it just is a whole lot more realistic that way.

Borderlands remains an absurd world of shooting looting, with crazy guns (guns on legs everyone?), absurd humor, funny dialogues, and amazing design. I would have started with Fl4k regardless of their gender. But just the fact that they are non-binary makes me love the franchise just a little bit more. Everyone is welcome in Borderlands. Well done you people at Gearbox, you are amazing and never change that.

UFOs exist and this is what you should know

Of course UFOs exist. They always have been and probably always will be. If you can’t identify a flying object, then it simply is an unidentified flying object. It’s that plain simple. But what is an unidentified flying object? Well, it’s unidentified so we don’t know. It could be a secret military object, with or without alien technology hailed from the 1947 Roswell incident, it could be an extraterrestrial object, with or without aliens inside or something completely different after all. We. Don’t. Know.

More and more “mainstream media” are now reporting that military people have been seeing these objects and are now coming forward that they’ve seen them. Or rather, it’s made public. Some newspapers and news sites have picked up this story. Some don’t. It’s not the first time reports are coming out that unidentified objects have been seen by military people and pilots. What is different this time? The outcry from the UFO community. And it is not helping one bit.

In your face!

“Booyah, in your face I told you so!” is never a good look and this rings true in this case as well. It looks like people within the UFO community are celebrating that finally they have mainstream coverage. And that disclosure is now happening. And that’s a good thing of course. But they are also harassing news outlets that haven’t covered the story (for reasons, I suppose) and are harassing the science world with “Hey, why aren’t you saying anything now, you twats?”.

It is not pretty.

I know the UFO community has worked hard on making ufology acceptable, to be accepted for their belief that UFOs are out there. In cases of mainstream exposure like this time (it has happened before mind you), you hear them say that it’s always been about the unidentified notion, not aliens persé. I’m afraid that this last thing isn’t necessarily true. If ufology was only about the notion of unidentified and willing to unravel secret military on-goings, aliens would never ever even been mentioned.

Hassle the cattle

Okay, here’s the thing. UFO has a nasty name. It’s been ridiculed for decennia. It stands for believing in little green men from outer space with funny antennas on their heads. It stands for greys only here to hassle the cattle and anal probing humans. UFO stands for crazy people. This is a problem. It is a real problem. Because believing in extraterrestrial intelligent life, believing that it might be possible that they know about us and have been here already, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re crazy.

I believe it’s possible. I believe UFOs have been seen by military people, pilots and other people. It may be secret objects, it might be extraterrestrial. I don’t know. I think it’s good that media is writing about these things without making fun of the subject. It’s highly refreshing. It’s good that people who would never look for these stories, can read about this. And if it’s highly secret stuff, we may want to know about it at some point, right? It is however not a good idea to harass other people that they’ve been stupid. Just because you’ve been labeled stupid doesn’t give you that same right. No one has that right.

Story of the century

The news item that people from the Navy have seen UFOs is not the story of the century. The story of the century is either that the UFOs are indeed 100% confirmed military flight planes capable of destroying half the Earth with one single shot being kept a secret for over half a century, or exotic life forms stepping out of these UFOs. If not, it’s a news story, an exciting one that possibly leads to more information about these objects, but by no means it’s “the story of the century”.

The news items are normalising UFO sightings and that is a positive thing and an incredible step forward in what may indeed lead towards a possible story of the century. The behaviour by groups of UFO people harassing people and shouting Booyah I told you so is damaging this leap forward. Am I saying that ufology is currently damaging their own progress? Yes I do.

Hard work is paying off

Credit where credit is due because the UFO community has been working hard at being taken seriously. And they have succeeded in some aspects actually. News outlets have been reporting more about UFO related stories in a normal and matter of fact way. Documentaries on the subjects have been exposed to an incredible large audience by for instance Netflix and bookstores are more and more stocking books on the subject. New books will even be reviewed in newspaper without completely slamming the subject down. It’s more that we (yes we, because in a way I’m UFO people too) could have ever hoped and dreamed of. Don’t ruin this with the first sign of success.

What also bothers me, and has always bothered me, is the slamming down of ‘these science people’. ‘These people’ apparently are the enemy. I won’t deny that science can be quite degrading towards the subjects of UFOs and aliens. At the same time science, and astrobiology in particular, is more than ever working on definite proof that we’re not alone in the universe. No, they’re not looking for evidence of UFOs. They’re looking for life forms. Which also could be the news of the century.

Stay classy!

Is that it though? Does the UFO community want to be the ultimate truth as the news of the century and is science search for alien life threatening this? It’s a ridiculous question. But so is the harassing of ‘these science people’ only because they’re not investigating or acknowledging UFOs. Investigating UFOs is the work of ufologists, doing science is the work of scientists. These two can coexist and essentially help each other. I’m looking in both directions in this case.

Even though I’m incredibly annoyed by the behaviour of ufology these days, I will continue to follow. Because it’s not just about slamming down science, newspapers and each other for that matter. It’s the continuous quest for recognition. The serious (and less serious) investigations that are still being made. It’s the reporting of sightings and the research of these sightings, sometimes saying it’s just been a satellite (or 60) and sometimes saying it really can’t be explained.

Keep at it UFO people! But, for everything that we stand for, stay classy. Just stay classy and be polite and point people to the new findings, not harass them for not paying attention at this time. That will get us another big step forward. The current state of ufology, I’m afraid not. Don’t ruin what you build up so passionately is what I’m saying. I know you’re just passionate but you also know I’m right. Stay classy guys!

Join the starlink express

Ever since Elon Musk’s Space X has launched 60 starlink satellites, people have been talking about it. Some think it’s amazing and others think it’s the beginning of the end. Whatever your opinion is, it’s got you talking. It has everyone talking and that is priceless publicity. For free. 

What is starlink exactly?

What is this starlink business anyway? What is it good for? Musk’s goal is to supply everyone on the world with internet. He wants global coverage and with global coverage he means global coverage. From Time Square in New York to the local fata morgana in the Sahara Desert, you will be able to get online. Granted you have a operating phone or other device with internet access available. In 2015 numbers showed that 56,1% of the human population have access to the internet. That’s little over half the people. If you only look at the developed world, 81% of the population has access to the internet, this means, 1 in 5 people doesn’t. With these Space X satellites everyone should be able to log on.

In time that is because 60 satellites alone won’t do it. In total an impressive 12,000 starlink communication satellites are needed to reach that goal. Their operational orbit is 550 km, these first 60 started their climb into this orbit at 440 km since being launched with a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on May 23. It takes about 90 minutes for them to make one orbit. And despite the company’s initial claim that they won’t be that visible, the train of satellites have since been visible even to the naked eye, giving away an impressive show.

Satellite overload

Impressive or not, one may wonder if these satellites aren’t polluting the skies. Stars are hardly visible at some places in Europe due to light pollution, but the starlink train is a clear trail in the skies right now. They will get fainter once they reach their final orbit, but long exposure astronomy photographers have already complained about the trails the satellites make in their photo’s. Many worry that ground astronomy will get increasingly harder with these satellites up in the sky.

Hang on, aren’t their already many satellites orbiting the Earth? Indeed they are. Around 5,000 satellites are currently orbiting our world serving various purposes. Will these 60 really make a difference? You may think they won’t. But these 60 were already more visible than others, also because they are lines up like a train. They will scatter with time and be less visible that way as well. But these 60 are the first of 12,000. That’s more satellites than already are up there!

It is getting crowded

And Space X isn’t the only one launching high numbers of satellites. Cubesats or minisats are the future. Small satellites which are lighter and therefore cheaper not just to produce but also to launch. Which means more people and companies are able to launch their own satellites and Space X is by no means the only company who wants to provide World Wide Internet Access. Smaller companies like for instance Hiber have the same ambition and are already working on it, having launched several satellites already with for instance Space X.

It’s already crowded up there, it will get a whole lot more crowded really soon. For instance, ISRO (India Space Research Organisation) successfully launched 104 satellites by a single rocket on 15 February 2017. Only 3 of them were of Indian origine. And they weren’t all claiming to start an global internet revolution. This is also potential trouble for the International Space Station, orbiting the earth with an altitude between 330 km and 435 km . All these satellites in itself have to make sure they don’t collide with each other, one doesn’t want to think about what happens when they bump into the ISS.

What will the future hold?

Satellites do a lot of good things for us, they tell us where we are, give us access to the internet and they monitor the Earth. It’s all good data. But we may have to think about the price we are going to pay for that. Are we ruining the night skies? Are we making ground astronomy impossible? Do we really need all these things up there? Isn’t it possible to lower the amount of satellites and collect the data just a little bit slower? The starlink train didn’t just give free publicity to Elon Musk’s latest idea, it also gave us something to think about. We love technology. But maybe, there is a limit? Or do we want to pay the price and create a visible satellite ring around our planet?

I’m afraid there is no way back now and only time will tell how far we will really go. And if we indeed will be a better species because of it or become the polluters of the universe.

I’m a content writer

For all my life there was one thing I’ve always wanted: being a writer. I wrote a lot of things. Short stories, long stories, music reviews, music reviews of music that didn’t even exist. I wrote so many blog posts in my life and I wrote even more letters. I come from a time where letter writing was still a thing. With those letters from people from all over the world, you sent some FB’s (short for Friendship Booklet), in which you penned down your name, address, your interests and decorated it with stickers and anything you could think of. That’s how you were able to meet your new penpal. That’s before social media and GIF images indeed.

Where I am

Move forward 30 years. I don’t write letters anymore but keep in touch with people I would never have known over Twitter. I have at least three unfinished books on my drive. A dozen unfinished stories. I have many more stories in my head. I have this blog which I really should update a whole lot more than I do. Professionally I have an office job, something my younger me would never have approved. But the mortgage (younger me: ‘You have a what??’) needs to be paid. In this job, I’m known for my on point emails. My emails have turned down many costs. It’s all good and well. But I still want to be a writer.

How do you become a writer? It’s two things and one is easier than the other. First up: you write. If you write something down, you’re a writer. It’s really as simple as that. And how come I don’t feel like a writer? That’s when the second thing comes rolling in: finish what you start. And I’ve never been good at that. What if when I finish something it’s actually good? For twenty years I’ve held myself back by the fact that I’m scared to make my dream come true.

A new human

Well, no more. I’m a new human. I’ve decided to live like the person that I am, a non binary being disapproving many things that seem normal to a lot of people. I’ve taken a new name (online) and a new look. So why not a new profession? I’m going to be a (content) writer! This is what I want and this is what I’m going to do.

In order to be a (content) writer, I need to write. I need to show what I’m capable of. I need to be bold and offer my services. But most of all, I need to write. I’m dedicating three days of my commute to writing again. Without connecting my chromebook to the internet. So yeah, I need to edit all my writing errors later at home. But who cares. Going back and correcting every red line is just distracting. I want to write write write!

Blogs, space and agendas

I’ll be updating this blog a whole lot more, and as it’s a space blog, it will be about that. It’s about content right? Soon I’ll be launching my agender agenda blog as well. This will be a Dutch blog about being non binary in the Netherlands. I’m on that journey as well and there’s a lot of things that need more attention. But that’s for that blog. This is space!

So hello, here’s to new beginnings. It’s time to be what I want to be. A writer. It’s never too late to throw your career and life around. I hope to look back at this entry in ten years time sitting on my green balcony in Gotenburg, Sweden, with a smile on my face. That I’m a successful content writer and possibly an author. And that my partner and I moved to our beloved Sweden. Dare to dream. I’m finally going to live it.