On A Mission To Mars

One step for a man I watched
when I was only 26
and knew I’d live to see the day
Magellan set a foot on Mars.

I would be a lucky one
to see the great ship’s mighty sail
capturing the solar breeze
to take us to that distant shore.

This summer it will be 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed Eagle on the surface of the moon.  July 20,1969.  Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface six hours later; Aldrin joined him 19 minutes after that. They spent about two and a quarter hours together outside the spacecraft, and collected 47 pounds of lunar material to bring back to Earth.    Michael Collins flew the command module Columbia alone in lunar orbit while they were on the Moon’s surface. Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21.5 hours on the lunar surface before rejoining Columbia in lunar orbit.

Columbia had been launched from Earth on a Saturn V rocket.

The Saturn V was launched 13 times from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with no loss of crew or payload. As of 2018, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status, and holds records for the heaviest payload launched and largest payload capacity to low Earth orbit which included the third stage and unburned propellant needed to send the Apollo Command/Service Module and Lunar Module to the Moon.

The largest production model of the Saturn family of rockets, the Saturn V was designed under the direction of Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolph at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Von Braun, who rained V2 rockets on London for Adolph Hitler, was forgiven for his past when he joined the American missile and rocket program during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Von Braun never designed the Saturn V simply for a moon landing – it was designed in his mind to go to Mars.

I was 26 years old that summer of ’69.  The ’60s had been a rough decade. The Kennedy brothers and Dr. King had been assassinated and the Vietnam war was raging yet we all knew after Tet there would be no “victory.”  Nixon had been elected and it would be years more before there was finally a peace of sorts.

The Soviets had been the first into space and the first to land anything on the moon.  John Kennedy had made it a national undertaking to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth.

Now it seemed the space race with the USSR was over.  Americans were tired but still had Watergate to look forward to and Nixon’s resignation.

Those of us who grew up space geeks and rejoiced in ’69 at the moon landing. were certain we would see a man on Mars in 20 years.  We were to be sorely disappointed.

It hasn’t quite turned out that way;
No longer do we dream great dreams
passing homeless in our streets
leaky pipes; rusted beams.

Once we were a mighty race
no great dream beyond our reach;
so small a people we’ve become
distracted by celebrity.

NASA, the government’s space agency, was under the direct control of the President and not all Presidents were particularly interested in space exploration.  Richard Nixon, for one, had little interest in going to Mars.  We had won the race to the moon he turned the agency’s attention to a new mission  the space shuttle.

After having gone to the moon the public at large soon became bored watching the shuttle circle the globe endlessly before landing like an airplane in the desert.

Two shuttle disasters, Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 caused NASA to grind to a virtual halt.  “What was the purpose of low earth orbit “space” missions?” asked the voters.  And so we arrived at the point where supply missions to the International Space Station were launched on Russian rockets in Kazakhstan.

Oh we launched space telescopes, robots to Mars, numerous satellites (both communications and spy) and assorted missions to comets and asteroids – but for decades no one spoke seriously about a manned landing and exploration of Mars, let alone colonization.

Why go to Mars?   Wouldn’t all that money be more useful right here on Earth?  We as a species tend to think about today and tomorrow – not about a world 50 years from now.  And we never think in terms of a thousand years.

Why go?  Well reason one is to ensure the survival of our species.  Putting humans on more than one planet will help ensure we are still around thousands if not a million years into the future.  The dinosaurs roamed our little blue planet in total dominance for 165 million years.  All that is left is their bones.

There may be life on Mars.  Maybe.  Its discovery would go a long way in understanding how life arises and offer definitive proof that we are not and maybe never have been alone in the universe.

Besides, we are explorers, born in the footsteps of Galileo, Magellan, Da Gama, Amundsen – it is in our nature.  It is not only a matter of ultimate survival as a species, it is a matter of policy.  If we do not go, someone else on this planet will.  There is no better way for America to demonstrate leadership in the 21st century.  Besides, overpopulation and ultimate scarcity of resources makes Mars the most potentially suitable planet to colonize.

A thousand years from now there could be an entire new civilization on Mars.

,Why are we even considering such a journey? In a word: life. We want to go there to see if we can find evidence of life, a second genesis, and if we don’t find it, we want to establish new life on Mars—our own. Some say that the problems of Earth should be dealt with first, that we are too immature as a species and should wait a while until we “grow up”, but here is the thing: for the first time in history a species on Earth has the knowledge and technology to ensure its own survival by seeding life on new worlds. To ignore this opportunity for some philosophical nirvana to come first could be considered as irresponsible as our environmental abuses. If there is a planetary crisis, such as the asteroid impact 65 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs, and we do nothing, then we will have lost it all.

A proto-type plan for the exploration and colonization of Mars already exists – Antarctica.

First come the explorers – the first humans who land in a suitable place identified by satellites and then return.  Next, the necessary technology, equipment and housing is sent in advance, awaiting the first members of a Mars base.  The manned base is designed to determine how to live on Mars, with rotating engineers and scientists, much like the numerous national bases in Antarctica with rotating staff.

We are in a position because of our technology to scout from afar, send the equipment first followed by a manned mission to assemble it all creating a Mars scientific base.

In addition to the scientific bases at the south pole, there are now tourist facilities – bases of operation where no scientific research is conducted – existing only to host adventurous tourists.

Buss Aldrin has spoken enthusiastically for a Mars mission – and now a Mars mission has its own corporation.   SpaceX and Elon Musk.

How long until we see the light?
How long until we are deserving
of all creation in our reach
there twinkling in the darkest night?

In dreams I’ll make the trip alone
sometime in a future distant
setting foot on other worlds
to see what had been planned for us.

Its mission – “to design and launch advanced rockets and space craft, to revolutionize space technology with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.”

Its Falcon Heavy rocket is now the world’s most powerful and its Dragon space craft was the first commercial vehicle to deliver supplies to the International Space Station wand return cargo from the space station to Earth.  It was originally  designed to carry humans and further modifications are underway with the first test flight scheduled for this year.

Musk has stated that SpaceX plans unmanned missions to Mars carrying necessary equipment as early as 2022 with a manned mission as early as 2024   The time frame has NASA shaking its collective heads.

The key to the plan, according to Musk, was the development of a reusable rocket – one which can land vertically from space.

There are still dreamers in the world. I may not live to see it, but I wish them luck.  This old man is rooting for you.

Watch the video.



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Remembering the ISIS Fangirls

A re-post from February 24, 2015 when it happened and an update

A couple of days ago three “straight A” teenage girls, two 15 and a 16 year old, in the U.K. boarded a plane at Gatwick and headed off to Turkey, indicating that they were on their way to Syria to join ISIS.

This has set off a round of breast beating among British liberals. How could this happen? Who is to blame?

Meanwhile British anti-terrorist squads and Turkish police are combing the Syrian border areas trying to save the young darlings.

All three girls left their homes at 8am on February 17 and met at Gatwick Airport, where they boarded a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul.

Nice. ISIS fan girls.

We can always blame Twitter.  One of the girls had over 90 Twitter connections with terrorist groups.  Twitter helped these girls connect with other gleeful fans of snuff-video beheading, cage-burning and the hobby sport of hurling gay men to their deaths from towers. Let’s blame Twitter.

“Some people must be wondering if the parents are to blame. They appeared on TV this week, some clutching teddy bears belonging to their little blossoms, presenting them as easily confused delicate ingenues. This differed, to my mind, from the cool-headed, elegantly pulled together, determined young women I’d watched the footage of on CCTV. Not silly kids wagging off school, but calm, considered, A-grade students who have researched their trip, found hundreds of pounds in funds, booked flights and headed towards earth’s closest vision of actual hell.”

The families are adamant that there were no signs that their daughters were plotting. Two of the fathers interviewed on British T.V. were holding the teddy bears of their little girls. One would like to ask what exactly was the turning point which drove the three teen-babies to rush off to join the killers in such a hurry that they forgot their stuffed toys. My mom and her KGB friends knew what I was doing at 15 before I did.

Of course, there’s a strong case to be made that fleeing abroad in search of Isis is simply a severe case of teen rebellion. I guess when they come home from a couple of years of aiding and abetting murder all will be forgiven? I wore a leather jacket like Marlon Brando and combed my hair like Elvis. And we thought we were bad.

“If the sight of gay men plummeting to their deaths excited you so much that you went and spent five years aiding and abetting the homophobic carnage, forgive me, but I don’t want to come across you in Bethnal Green Tesco Metro. I can’t imagine that time spent hanging out with horror-movie ghouls who hate Britain, gays, democracy, the rights of women and religious freedom will have done much good for your personal development.” So says Grace Dent, writing in the Independent.

So what is ISIS offering to entice these silly little girls? I mean, was it the beheadings? The crucifixion of Christians in Raqqa? The reports from Kobani of raped and mutilated six year old female corpses in the streets? The image of a submissive Jihadi bride to a big, strong executioner boy friend?

I recently read an in-depth coherent article on what ISIS is and what it offers some:


While in the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team”, author Graeme Wood argues that, on the contrary,  ISIS is not only Islamic, it is very Islamic – in the most medieval tradition. Failure to understand the differences between Al-Qaeda and ISIS will lead to serious strategic errors by the United States in combating ISIS.

Think Christians who not only believe, take every word literally but then implement every word – from stoning for adultery to keeping slaves to killing idolaters while preparing for the Apocalypse.

“If al-Qaeda wanted to revive slavery, it never said so. And why would it? Silence on slavery probably reflected strategic thinking, with public sympathies in mind: when the Islamic State began enslaving people, even some of its supporters balked.

Nonetheless, the caliphate has continued to embrace slavery and crucifixion without apology. “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”

Awaiting the Army of Rome.  Carefully chosen words indeed.

So as Grace Dent said in the Independent: “I’d go as far as to say you shouldn’t be allowed back into the country ever, when surely there are dozens of other bloodier, more depressing places that suit your lifestyle choice better. However, I’ve asked my liberal friends what we should do and they all wring their hands and say after some mumbling, “Nothing.”

So give me a call when you’re bored with all the stoning, crucifying and beheading. I’ll meet you at Heathrow Arrivals with your teddy.”

And these folks haven’t had their pasports revoked yet.  You know.

Like Ed Snowden.



Well yesterday one of the three ISIS fangirls indicated she wants to return to Britain.  Seems she is sitting in a refugee camp in Raqqa, 9 months pregnant and wants to go home.  No questions asked.

“When London teenager Shamima Begum fled Britain with two other schoolgirls in 2015 to join the Islamic State, it shocked a nation. Now, she wants to come home.

Begum, 19, is nine months pregnant and living in a Syrian refugee camp. She says she doesn’t regret leaving Britain but now wants to return to give birth to her child.

“Now all I want to do is come home to Britain,” she said in an extraordinary interview with the Times of London.

Ben Wallace, Britain’s security minister, told the BBC on Thursday that Begum could face prosecution if she returns Britain.

Begum fled to Syria in 2015 when she was only 15 years old. She vanished during Easter break along with Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, two other schoolgirls from the Bethnal Green area of east London. The trio traveled from London’s Gatwick Airport to Turkey, and then made their way to Syria.

The case stunned Britain. The young women were bright and came from seemingly stable and happy families. Their fleeing was seen as a warning of the lure the Islamic State could have for young Western women.

Sultana is thought to have died in an airstrike in 2016. The fate of Abase is unknown.

Her father, Hussen Abase, told Sky News on Thursday that the girls had “made a mistake” and should be forgiven.

“I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago,” Begum said in the interview with the Times.

Begum said that when she arrived in Raqqa, she went to a house for brides-to-be and “applied to marry an English-speaking fighter between 20 and 25 years old.” Within 10 days, she was married to a 27-year-old from the Netherlands. They had two children who died of malnutrition and disease.

She said life in Raqqa was mostly “normal,” although “every now and then there were bombs and stuff.”

She also said that she didn’t regret going to Syria and wasn’t fazed when she saw the severed head of one of the Islamic State’s victims.

“Anthony Loyd, the Times correspondent who tracked Begum down in a refugee camp in northern Syria, cautioned about judging her too quickly. He told the BBC she was a “15-year-old schoolgirl who was groomed and lured to the caliphate, and four years later, with that background, she is an indoctrinated jihadi bride.”

He also said that she “had no regrets, she was calm and composed but she was also in a state of shock — she had just come out of a battlefield, nine months pregnant, many of her friends dead through airstrikes and all the rest of it.”

It is my understanding that the local British tabloids have not looked too kindly on her request for sympathy and understanding.

I will leave it to my British friends to comment.


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Death of the WhiteRose – February 22, 1943 – A Re-Post

A  re-post – Originally posted  in February 2010

Core Members of the White Rose – Munich 1942 – (l to r) Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.  Arrested by the Gestapo and guillotined  on February 22, 1943.

The notorious Nazi Judge Roland Freisler was practically spitting venom.

“You are a traitor!!”

Sophie quietly replied “Well someone had to be first. What we wrote and said is believed by many others. They just don’t dare to express themselves as we did.”

Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans and good friend Christoph Probst were on trial for their lives in Freisler’s “Peoples Court”. It was February 22, 1943 in Munich, Germany.

Freisler was enraged. “We are at war!! Did you not hear Reich’s Minister Goebbel’s call for total war!! Sophie and the others had been arrested by the S.S. the same day as the speech.

“Everyone in this room knows that your war is lost! None of you is brave enough to say it!”

Sophie was 22 years old; her brother Hans about 3 years older. The three on trial constituted the core members of the anti-Nazi “Society of the White Rose” and were co-authors of six anti-Nazi political resistance leaflets. The leaflets were produced on a manual printing press and distributed surreptitiously, first at the University of Munich where they were students and eventually as far away as Vienna.

Sophie and her friends grew up as the Nazi’s were coming to power; by the time she was an adult they had a strangle hold on the nation. There was only one acceptable world view – the Nazi view.

Sophie was raised a Lutheran and was devoutly religious. It was mandatory to join the Bund Deutsche Madel, the League of German Girls and for her brother Hans to join the Hitler Youth. Both had to perform six months “national service” in order to have any chance of attending university.  Sophie did hers at a metal plant.

Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl

It was the time during her national service that made Sophie think long and  hard about the current political situation.  She began practicing passive resistance.

When her long time boy friend Fritz Hartnagel was conscripted into the army and sent to the Eastern front, Sophie gave him two volumes of the sermons of John Cardinal Newman, an indication of how important religion was in her life. The White Rose was founded by Sophie and her anti-Nazi friends after they obtained and read a copy of a stern anti-Nazi sermon given from the pulpit by Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen, the Roman Catholic bishop of Munich, a member of one of the most prominent noble families in Germany.

Meanwhile, Sophie’s boyfriend Fritz was writing home to her about the atrocities on the Eastern front.  Fritz was assigned to General von Paulus Sixth Army.

Sophie was horrified by his reports of the cold blooded murder of captured Russian soldiers and Jews in every town entered by the Wehrmacht. Her correspondence with Fritz delved deeply into Cardinal Newman’s “theology of conscience” and how an individual must act under a dictatorship.

The leaflets of the White Rose urged the German people to resist.  Obviously having anything to do with these leaflets meant almost certain death.

Monument on the floor of the University – stone leaflets

From the very first leaflet –

Isn’t it true that every honest German is ashamed of his government these days? Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes—crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure—reach the light of day?”

The core members and half a dozen others left the leaflets around the campus of the university, mailed them anonymously around Munich, carried them by hand as far away as Berlin and Vienna, left them in public places where they would be found by passersby. Meanwhile part of the group, lead by Willi Graf began a graffiti campaign around Munich, spending his nights painting “Freedom!” and “Down with Hitler!” on public buildings.  Willi had been forced to “volunteer” and spend his summer in Poland – he was becoming a doctor – and he saw with his own eyes the Warsaw and Lodz ghettos.  He came home and told the others.

This small group of German youth, who grew up under the dictatorship had rejected fascism and militarism and supported a belief in a federated Europe of tolerance, justice and peace – the Europe that hopefully would come.

From the second leaflet –

“Since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way. The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals. Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty”

The Gestapo was in a frenzy to track down whoever it was printing and distributing the leaflets as they had caused a sensation. No one in Germany had read anything like this in years.

The fifth leaflet was composed by Hans Scholl and warned that Hitler was leading Germany into the abyss; with the gathering might of the Allies, defeat was now certain. The reader was urged to “Support the resistance movement!” in the struggle for ”Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of criminal dictator-states”. These were the principles that would form “the foundations of the new Europe”.

The Scholls were distributing the seventh leaflet of the “White Rose” at the university when they were spotted by a janitor and turned in to the Gestapo. Evidence on their persons implicated Christoph Probst, a married member ofWhite Rose and father of three small kids.

Within days of their arrest the three were brought to trial in Freisler’s  Nazi court.   Sophie remained firm and very brave at trial.  She attempted to take all of the blame trying to save her brother and friends. To no avail.

Immediately after trial, Hans and Sophie had one last meeting with their parents.  The parents were in agony, especially her father who had raised his children as tolerant lovers of peace.  The guards then allowed Hans, Sophie and Christoph a few moments together before Sophie was led to her death, followed by Christoph and finally Hans.  She kissed them goodbye.

“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

One observer described Sophie;  “She walked to her death without flinching a hair”. The three were guillotined.

At his execution Hans said “Let freedom live!” as the blade fell.

Christoph Probst asked for a priest and was baptized a Catholic before he died.

The White Rose had the last word. Their final leaflet was smuggled to the Allies by Helmut James Graf von Moltke thru Scandinavia to London. Millions of copies entitled “The Manifesto of the Students of Munich” were dropped all over Germany.  Von Moltke was the great grandnephew of Von Moltke the Elder, the victorious German commander of the Franco-Prussian and Austro-Prussian Wars, He was a founding member of the Kreisau Circle Resistance Group and he too was executed by the Gestapo on January 23, 1945.

Willi Graf, the graffiti artist was captured by the S.S., “interrogated” for six months and then guillotined. He told them nothing.

The members of the White Rose, especially Sophie, became icons of the new Germany representing selfless opposition to tyranny. They are memorialized and remembered with public monuments, squares and streets named after them across Germany and at their old school.

Black granite memorial to the White Rose in the Hofgarten in Munich next to the Bavarian State Chancellery.

The playwright Lillian Garrett-Groag stated in Newsday on 22 February 1993, that “It is possibly the most spectacular moment of resistance that I can think of in the 20th century.  The fact that five little kids, in the mouth of the wolf, where it really counted, had the tremendous courage to do what they did, is spectacular to me.”

In 2003 Germans were invited to participate in “Our Best” – a nationwide competition to list the ten most important Germans of all time. Sophie and Hans came in 4th – ahead of Goethe, Bach, Guttenburg, Bismarck and Albert Einstein.  If the votes of young people alone had been counted the brother and sister would have come in first.

Readers of the German magazine for women, Brigitte, named Sophie Scholl the greatest woman of the 20th century.

The Scholle parents had six children, one of whom died in infancy.  Sophie and Hans were executed.  Sophie’s brother Werner was killed during the war in June 1944.  Sophie’s sister Inge would write the story and remained an active participant in the peace movement until her passing in 1998.

Sophie’s boyfriend Fritz Hartnagel was one of the lucky Germans evacuated from Stalingrad but he didn’t return to Germany until after Sophie was already dead.

Years later he would marry Sophie’s younger sister Elizabeth.





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Make Valentines Great Again!!!


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Smoldering – A Valentine For Young Lovers

Watching her walk across the room
in tight corduroy shorts;
the cords moving
against one another

is like flint striking rock
creating sparks
which make you smolder all day
for you are the wood

You smile, knowing
she too will be warm this day;
a laundry iron left on out of habit
unable to pull the plug from its socket.



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For Valentines Day – In Memoriam

Parkland, Florida

February 14, 2018



Lest we forget


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On Possibilities – For Valentine’s Day

Did your parents meet
while marching for peace
in San Francisco
in that Summer of Love?

Or on a freedom ride to Selma
sitting there on the bus
holding hands
thinking “us”?

Don’t feel too bad if they first met
under less romantic circumstance
in a laundromat or a grocery store
over by the eggs

They saw each other at that moment
each with human frailty
Did they laugh at life’s inequity
in the produce aisle of happenstance?

Perhaps it wasn’t love at sight
but each was open to the possible;
a smile might lead to something more
perhaps to love, if it came to that

Learn well the lesson of the possible;
your future might be standing there
in the next aisle,
over by the eggs

open to the possibility
of a future with you
and an adventure
to infinity.


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