Space Sunday: launches, names, and departures

A remarkable shot of the SpaceX Demo-2 Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon, due to launch on May 27th, 2020, on the pad at Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Centre. It was taken at an altitude of some 650 km above the surface of the Earth by the Maxar Worldview-3 satellite. Credit: Maxar Technologies (formerly DigitalGlobe)

If all goes according to plan, the United States will make its first crewed launch from its home soil since the space shuttle programme drew to a close in 2011.

On May 27th, 2020, shrouded in additional safety protocols to protect crews from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster should lift off from the company’s launched pad – leased from NASA – at Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida. Aboard the Crew Dragon vehicle at the top of the rocket will be NASA veterans Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley, who will be heading to the International Space Station (ISS).

The primary goal of the mission – referred to as Dmeo-2 by SpaceX and SpX DM-2by NASA – is to confirm the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle is ready to commence operations ferrying crew to and from the ISS. To this end, NASA has contracted SpaceX to provide the agency with 6 Crew Dragon launches to carry four astronauts at a time to and from the ISS; the vehicle is actually capable of carrying up to seven per flight, but NASA will use the additional capacity for light cargo and equipment bound for the ISS.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley discuss the upcoming Demo-2 commercial crew test flight after arriving at the Kennedy Space Centre May 20. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

In addition to flying crews on behalf of NASA, SpaceX has also been contracted by Axiom Space to fly one Axiom professional astronaut and three private astronauts at a time to the ISS for periods of around 10 days at a cost of US $55 a seat. However, these private astronauts are not necessarily space tourists: Axiom is committed to developing the world’s first fully commercial space station.

As a part of this, the company entered into an agreement with NASA to dock three of its own space station modules to the ISS to kick-start their station development, with the first module potentially being launched in 2024. These modules will be used to host experiments and research by Axiom and their partners; following the retirement of the ISS (around 2028), Axiom plan to launch their own power and thermal module, airlock system and habitation module to replace the ISS facilities.

Not that SpaceX and the Crew Dragon won’t be involved in space tourism; the company has also partnered with Space Adventures to provide sets to fly up to four space tourists at is time on orbital flights lasting between three and five days. These will have an apogee three times that of the ISS and higher than the Earth orbital altitude record set by Gemini 11 in 1966.

Astronauts Douglas G. Hurley (l) and Robert L. Behnken in their futuristic (and vacuum-capable) space suits designed by SpaceX, posing alongside their Tesla (what else?) crew vehicle during a full launch dress-rehearsal on Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

In the meantime , this first crewed flight with see Behnken  and Hurley rendezvous with the ISS the day after launch (May 28th if the launch goes ahead as planned). The docking will be carried our autonomously – as will the majority of the flight, although the crew can fly the vehicle manually at any time, including the docking. Once at the ISS, the crew and vehicle will remain there for around four weeks, before making a return to Earth.

Hurley and Behnken arrived at Kennedy Space Centre on May 20th, ahead of the final flight readiness review (FRR) for the mission, which took place on May 22nd. This cleared the mission for its planned launch after an extensive review of all the Crew Dragon’s systems, notably its parachute system, which has been a point of concern for NASA after the parachutes had to go through a complete redesign and a rapid series of tests in the lead-up the the flight.

Following the FRR, SpaceX proceeded with a standard static-fire test of the Falcon 9’s first stage engines in readiness for launch, which the booster completed successfully. On Saturday, May 23rd, crew and vehicle went through full launch dress rehearsal. This will be followed by a final series of tests and checks on both the booster and Crew Dragon vehicle in the lead up to the launch, which is currently scheduled for 16:33 EDT on May 27th. It will come just over a year since Crew Dragon made its first (uncrewed) flight to the ISS in May 2019.

Crew Dragon comprises the main (potentially re-usable) capsule and a single-use service module that provides propulsion and power. Credit: Archipeppe68

Crew Dragon is intended to be semi-reusable, with each capsule potentially capable of being re-flown after refurbishment following a flight. However, the vehicles used by NASA will only be flown once each. It has been said this is due in part to a decision not to use Dragon’s propulsive landing capabilities with NASA missions, but to instead make ocean splashdowns when returning crews to Earth, exposing the capsules to sea water contamination. Even so, it is estimated the per-seat cost for launching NASA astronauts on Crew Dragon is around 40% less than the cost of a seat on the Boeing Starliner.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: launches, names, and departures”

Messiahs, music, short stories nuns and a space smuggler

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home, unless otherwise indicated. Note that the schedule below may be subject to change during the week, please refer to the Seanchai Library website for the latest information through the week.

Monday, May 25th 19:00: Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Gyro Muggins reads Richard Bach’s 1977 novel.

Donald William Shimoda styles himself a latter-day messiah. He quit his job as a mechanic to offer people the miracle of flying through the cloud-washed air between the cornfields of Illinois and blue infinity of the skies overhead. But the people want the thrill of the the flight more than they want to understand the miracle of flight or the truth of Donald’s words.

Donald first comes to the attention of fellow barnstormer and disillusioned writer Richard when the latter witnesses Shimoda dealing with a grandfather / granddaughter pair who arrive at the the makeshift farm airstrip where both men are due to fly their biplanes. Normally, it is the younger people who are keen to fly with the barnstormers, but here it is the grandfather who wants to soar in Shimoda’s biplane whilst the granddaughter is terrified by the idea.

Richard watches as Shimoda talks to the granddaughter, gently uncovering the cause of her fear, calming her to the point where she is ready to fly. Drawing close to the older man, Richard becomes friends with him, and together the two men become brother aviators, Shimoda teaching Richard to become – reluctantly – a messiah and miracle-worker in his own right.

Tuesday, May 26th,

12:00 Noon: Russell Eponym, Live in the Glen

Music, poetry, and stories in a popular weekly session at Ceiluradh Glen.

19:00: Selections from The Wind’s Twelve Quarters

Willow Widlfire reads selections from this collection of short stories by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, which the author described as a “retrospective”. First published in 1975, it brought together 17 previously published stories, four of which were the germ of novels Le Guin would later write, two of which are represented here and which between them offer insights into the origins of her Earthsea realm.

First published in the January 1964 issue of Fantastic, the short story The Word of Unbinding first introduces the islands of Earthsea as they are each subdued by the dark wizard Voll. Seen through the eyes of another wizard, Festin, the story unfolds around his attempts to stop Voll, only to have his own not inconsiderable powers be rebuffed each time until finally, Festin realises the truth behind Voll power – and the way to undo it. A way that has a terrible price. 

The Rule of Names, published in Fantastic in April 1964, takes us back to Earthsea, and to the rural island of Sattins Island in a convoluted tale of magic, school teachers, secret names, superstitions, dragons, lost treasures and unexpected outcomes. It is centred on the arrival on Sattins Island of a stranger from the archipelago, bent upon mischief-making. His target is the island’s resident magician nicknamed Underhill, widely regarded as incompetent. The stranger believes Underhill holds the key to his being able to reclaim the dragon-stolen treasure of his ancestors. It turns out he is absolutely correct in Underhill being the key to the treasure’s loss, but not in the manner the stranger anticipated.

Wednesday, May 27th, 19:00: A Nun in the Closet

What do two Benedictine nuns, a secretive man-on-the-run, a Tibetan monk, three hippies, members of the Mafia and children of migrant workers have in common? Why, A Nun in the Closet, of course.

When a cloistered monastic community of nuns inherit an old house with 150 acres in up-state New York courtesy of a mysterious benefactor, they are at a loss as to what to do. Sister John and Sister Hyacinthe are therefore dispatched to give the property the once-over and report back. A simple enough assignment, except neither Sister is entirely prepared to deal with all that they find.

From hippies on the lawn to suitcase stuffed with money sitting at the bottom of a well, disguised cocaine and a wounded man who has hidden himself in a closet to avoid Mafia hitmen, not to mention strange apparitions in the night, It might have been better had Sister John and Sister Hyacinthe remained cloistered in the abbey.

But it is amazing what two nuns can achieve armed only with their faith and boundless energy – up to and including a shocking revelation or two about ghosts, gangsters – and murder.

Join Caledonia Skytower as she reads Dorothy Gilman’s 1986 mystery.

Thursday, May 28th 19:00: Han Solo: A Star Wars Story

Young Han Solo finds adventure when he joins forces with a gang of galactic smugglers and a 190-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian, the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission: the Millennium Falcon.

With Shandon Loring and Caledonia Skytower. Also in Kitely –


My condolences to Seanchai Library and the family and friends  of VT TORVALAR on their loss. VT now continues to share his gifts as a storyteller and actor beyond this mortal veil.

2020 Kultivate Sensuality Exhibition in Second Life

2020 Kultivate Sensuality Art Exhibition: Barry Richez

Officially running from Friday May 22nd through Sunday May 24th inclusive (so my apologies to John and the Kultivate team for getting to it so late) is the 2020 Kultivate Sensuality Art Exhibition. As the name suggests, this is very much an exhibition of adult-themed art, so may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Located on a sky platform, the exhibition presents the artists work in a series of individual gallery spaces offered in as a motel built around set around a central square that offers the main event space.

Kultivate Sensuality Art Exhibition: PlayfulKelly

When last writing about the exhibition – admittedly in 2018 – I noted that the individual exhibitions at that time predominantly focused on the female form, with the male a little lacking, and that themes were perhaps more entrenched in a familiar take on “sensuality”: full frontal nudity, sex, and SM / BDSM, rather than drawing from a broader interpretation of the word, adding:

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this per se in an adult-themed art exhibition, and I’ve nothing against what is on display within this exhibition. However, sensuality is a broad canvas on which to paint, and opting from full frontal or direct nudity or “simple” themes such as BDSM at times  miss an opportunity to engage imaginations beyond just titillation.

Let’s face it, the most erotic and sensuous organ in the body is the mind: so it would perhaps be nice to see more artists recognise this, and play or toy with our imaginations rather than perhaps opting for the easier boobs’n’bums approach. Which shouldn’t be taken as a complaint against seeing this exhibition. As noted above, it’s a personal – and subjective – point-of-view, although I hope it may challenge some artists to consider the subject more broadly next time around 🙂 .

This blog, May 2018

Kultivate Sensuality Exhibition: ViktorSavior

I doubt those words have any bearing on the selection of art offered for an exhibition two years on, but I’m pleased to say that both the male figure gets more of a look-in with this exhibit, while there is that broader richness of general sensuality offered by a number of artists that clearly works to excite the imagination: views of stocking clad legs, the brush of lipstick coated lips on lipstick coated lips, the use of soft-focus and monochrome to add atmosphere and a subtle touch.

Of course, nudity, sex and BDSM are still to be found, but overall – and allowing for the fact I missed the 2019 event – the 2020 exhibition strikes me as a more rounded affair in terms of the breadth of art on display; and I admit I found a piece by Gina Brucato featuring a champagne bottle a particularly artistically cheeky piece in its message!

Kultivate Sensuality Art Exhibition: Myra Wildmist

Unfortunately, as I missed getting this piece out sooner, there are only a couple of events left in the show to report on. These are (times SLT):

Sunday, May 24, 2018

  • Sensuality Photo Challenge Winners Announced.
  • 13:00 – 14:00 Sinful Event with Erika Ordinary (L$2,000 Bosh Gift Card Giveaway – Adult Furniture).
  • 23:59 – Exhibition ends.

However, you still have time to visit the exhibition.

Kultivate Sensuality Art Gallery: SandyBlackCloud

SLurl Details