Friday, July 02, 2004

Why Mars? Prize Arrived

I got my prize for the Mars Society's Why Mars? essay contest today - it included not only the autographed book, but the To Touch The Stars CD and a mousepad. They also extended my membership another year, so the combined total is around $90 - not bad for Honorable Mention. The CD is both moving and funny, depending which track - I'm very impressed - it's not just more lame filk. I was in tears driving to it more times than I care to think about, and the song "Dog on the Moon" is now the must-play for many friends and relatives. It's very cute and funny and slightly Dilbertesque.

Ego Return Vehicle Lands (Hard?) July 8
The ERV contest announcement of a winner is July 8. While from the start I did not expect to win, and I know my competition includes an aeronautics program at a university, the full impact of loosing finally has hit home since the actually gave us a date on which it would probably happen. Of the original twelve entrants, I was confident I would at least beat SOMEONE, and was both pleased and disappointed that only five finished. It was rough work, especially when a lot of the math was unworkable until two weeks before the deadline (after six months of running this race). I have a feeling anyone I thought I'd beat has already dropped out. While in that sense, it is an accomplishment just to finish, and that puts me in the top half in itself, any victory I'd feel from that is slightly dampened in that "twelve teams started, only five finished" will probably not be noted by anyone but myself and the seven dropped-out teams. I hold out hope that I will at least beat SOMEONE, but with one winner and no mention of how they will rank the other four, I'm just not sure.

The contest emphasized creativity over math, and boy, did I! One could even accuse me of some creativity with the math, since every time (as was happening even at 10:30 the night before the contest deadline) the math said "This won't work" in some known area of the ship, I had to borrow weight from some area I could not accurately calculate to make the difference. I have a feeling that the lower stages of the vehicle went from being made of aluminum, to composite, to pure magic somewhere along this process. This fact was made clear in the "I can't work this" section of the report. All the same, it was heartbreaking to have to design something that slowly became more science fiction as the process continued. I just wish I could have come up with more ways to make the crew area lighter. I think a lot of the same techniques could have been used along with some "dorm room tech" of stacking the bedrooms on top of each other or something, but that would have meant a total redesign. Maybe if they have another contest next year, I'd have a leg up on that. Or I may just do it for myself.

July 8, I find out. July 8 I'll stop with the tension and get on with the disappointment or glory, or most likely some mix thereof. The Mars Society leadership is nothing if not gentle to its base. They know this whole thing is driven by people's excess energy, and they do as much as possible to feed that rather than cut it. If you are wondering, given the title of this blog - no, I won't stop writing on July 9 or after I present my paper in August. The next project is lecturing to Mensa in October, then I'll start the science fiction novel work that lead to me entering the ERV contest to begin with. Those vehicles are nuclear, though, and a bit of pure magic powering them is more acceptable in a sci fi novel.

The other paper, called "Saturn Direct" is stalled a bit at the moment with work and other demands. It's been a rough week. I saw dad, had a big fight with my best friend at work. All better now, but emotionally exhausted. This weekend is Cornerstone Music Festival, so I'm looking forward to being awash in Christian Nerdom at the Imaginarium tent. I want to also go to Flickerings - the filmmakers tent, but I'm not sure how much time will be available for that.

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