Cimmerian Timeline Part 43

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Mars’ Oasis has a very brief history within my campaign. It is a monarchy founded by Romans who traveled around the dark side of the flat world. After the city’s founding the people of Mars’ Oasis fought the other desert inhabitants for space, notably the blue dragons, the undead of the Lich Shade, and formian ant people. This section covers the founding of the city. I drew on the already existing myths surrounding Romulus.

716BCE: A whirlwind absorbed Romulus, taking him to Olympus by the side of his father, Mars. The Roman Senate ruled in Romulus’s place until a successor was chosen.

715BCE: The Roman Senate selected Numa Pompilius as Romulus’s successor. Numa enacted a series of reforms to make Rome a more pious and peaceful city. His first act was to discharge the 300 Celeres cavalry that served under war-loving Romulus. The Celeres left Rome in anger, heading northward out of Italy.

714BCE: Proculus Julius, the tribunus celerum and leader of the Celeres, took the cavalry group over the Alps and westward through Gaul. As they traveled they raided settlements for supplies.

713BCE: The Celeres arrived in Erytheria. Proculus Julius sought advice from the Hesperides on what their company should do next. The nymphs prophesied that the Roman cavalry should continue heading west to gain glory.

712BCE: Proculus Julius led the Celeres aboard six ships and sailed into the Atlantic. A ship was lost in the ocean storms before the group reached Atlantis. The Celeres dined with Oceanus and Tethys. Unfortunately the Titan couple’s hospitality was violated when the Celeres slept with the Oceanid daughters of Oceanus and Tethys. The Romans fled to their ships with their Oceanid lovers. The men and nymphs sailed westward towards the edge of the world.

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NASA is Hiring

I am soooo jealous.
I am soooo jealous.

NASA made an interesting announcement, they’re looking for new astronauts!

This came as a surprise to me as I’d thought NASA had discontinued all manned missions.

As far as I know the halt on manned missions happened for two reasons, funding is tight and NASA is an obvious thing to cut and we already did the man on the moon thing so why go again?

As to the funding, I’m not sure what’s going on there. Regardless, the missions NASA is planning are scheduled ten years out so the funding situation could be entirely different then.

But what are the new missions?

Not going to Mars like Mark Watney in The Martian, but almost as good!

NASA will be landing an astronaut on an asteroid.

There are a group of asteroids called “near-Earth asteroids” that have orbits around the sun pretty similar to Earth’s orbit.

A couple of the near-Earth asteroids are as big two kilometers across (about a mile).

Before landing a person on an asteroid, NASA plans to land a rover like what they did with the Rosetta space probe on a comet. Then a manned mission will commence in 2025.

I don’t know which asteroid NASA will be landing an astronaut on, there are a whole bunch to choose from. Regardless, this appears to be the next step in manned space exploration.

NASA hopes this will be a stepping stone to manned missions on Mars.

In addition to the work on the asteroids, astronauts are spending longer amounts of time on the ISS. They’re doing this so we can see what precautions need to be taken when someone is in space for years at a time.

A mission to Mars would take a year or two, so we need to be prepared for how someone’s mind and body reacts to being in space for that long.

So enough about why NASA is hiring astronauts, how do I get the job?

If you’re like me, upon hearing the news that NASA is hiring you immediately looked up the qualifications they’re looking for.

They want someone with at least a Master’s degree in science or engineering. I’m working on that, so good so far.

The next big qualification is 1,000 hours of logged jet plane fight time.

If you’re paying for lessons and rental time on a plane that amount of logged time would cost upwards of $50,000. So you either have to be really serious about flying jets recreationally, a commercial flyer, or a member of the airforce.

There are a few other qualifications, but nothing as big as those two.

Obviously I don’t meet that requirement, but maybe some kid is reading this and is thinking, “If I get a Master’s in physics and learn to fly a jet then I’d be ready to apply to be an astronaut by the time NASA starts doing missions to Mars.”

That’s the word from the space world!

If you want to read more about the process for hiring astronauts check out these two links: NASA’s Info Site, NASA’s Hiring Site

-GoCorral

The Martian Movie Review

The-Martian-movie-poster

I tried to go see The Martian a week after it opened but it was sold out. I went home and watched Time Lapse instead.

I have since been able to see it. I was squished into the corner seats of a full theater, but I got to see it!

As you’ve probably already guessed, a movie that continues to sell out show times two weeks after they’ve opened are probably worth a look.

In The Martian, Mark Watney is trapped on Mars. He went there with five other astronauts to do astronaut stuff. Due to a storm the team needed to do an emergency evacuation while on the red planet. Mark was hit by some debris, blown away, and his biomonitor goes black. The team presumes he is dead and rockets off the planet, leaving Mark behind.

Mark awakes with a broken biomonitor and a suit leaking oxygen into Mars’ thin atmosphere.

The rest of the movie is two parallel storylines. On Mars, Mark struggles to survive on a planet that is essentially unihabitable. He deals with getting oxygen, water, food, and a radio up and running to contact Earth.

On Earth, NASA realizes that Mark is still alive and they come up with several plans to rescue him (one of which succeeds, surprise!).

The movie is all about how space exploration works and the dangers associated with it. Everything has to be just right to get to Mars. Everything has to be just right once you’re there. As Mark says, “Without the water reclaimer, I die of thirst. Without the oxygen reclaimer, I suffocate. Without food, I slowly starve to death. And without shelter from the atmosphere, I’d just sort of implode and die.”

The movie is all about how Mark prevents those things from happening; but, of course, things break over time. That’s why NASA has to rush to save him.

The movie contains many technical aspects about space and planetary eporation. I only felt lost when Mark described how to turn hydrazine fuel into water.

I think that’s a big part of why the movie is so successful. It’s able to describe how space travel to Mars would work in an easily understood manner.

A lot of people are focused on landing a human being on Mars as the next big space mission, with projects like Mars One in the works. That interest also contributed to the film’s success.

Plus, Matt Damon is just on point throughout the movie.

I picked up the novel written by Andy Weir that the movie is based off of. The writing style is technical and gets into Mark Watney’s flow of consciousness. The plot of getting a supplies and a rocket to Mark takes a backseat in the book which also leads to little character interaction. Just Mark against Mars.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far Weir’s writing has reminded me of CS Forester. If you liked the Hornblower series, The Martian might be the right book for you.

If you liked the movie… I think the movie is better so far. It removes very little from the book, but adds a lot of emotion and feeling that can’t be captured well in written prose. I am still enjoying reading the book, but I’m not sure if everyone else would like it as much as I am.

As for seeing the movie, I’d recommend that to everyone. I would’ve loved to see this as a kid imagining being an astronaut. And The Martian makes all the principles behind space travel simple enough that I think everyone, incuding five year-old GoCorral, can learn something.

-GoCorral

Mars’ Oasis

Mars' Oasis

Mars’ Oasis is a large settlement of 50,000 people in the Shacklack Desert. The city is built around two oases, a large one full of water, and another minute oasis full of a magical liquid called dythalid. When objects are immersed in dythalid for an entire month they acquire magical properties, while the dythalid is consumed. Metals that go through this process become dythalidium and have the same properties as dragonsteel. Plant material that goes through the process becomes dythalidare and has the same properties as ironwood, but can still be consumed for 1d8+3 healing for each serving eaten. Minerals that go through the process become dythalidem, a crystal that radiates blue light as well as enough heat to protect against cold temperatures as low as 0˚ F. Other liquids that go through the process become dythalidos, a liquid that explodes under pressure or when the smallest spark touches it. Dead animal products that go through the process become dythalidon, a virtually weightless substance that still provides ample sustenance if consumed.

Naturally, the liquid is unbelievably valuable. An equal amount by weight is needed to change an object into a dythalid substance. Dythalid is sold by the government of Mars’ Oasis for 1,600 GP an ounce to citizens of the desert. It is sold outside of the city for more, but this is illegal and carries a very severe punishment that is kept in vague secrecy. Civilians are terrified of this punishment but the fugitives who sell dythalid to outsiders think the worst that can happen to them is starvation in a prison cell.

Dythalidium is used by the nobles of the city, but is too expensive to give to the soldiers who could easily desert and sell their armor and weaponry for a fortune. Select super soldiers, called the Dythalidee, are chosen to be guards of the Dythalid Oasis from birth. They are always extremely exceptional in every aspect, resistant to mental corruption, have psionic abilities, dythaldium weapons, dythalidare armor, and know all the secrets of dythalid. No Dythalidee has ever fallen in combat.

The city needs food to survive. A little grain does grow around the oasis, but the people need water to drink as well as for irrigating crops. There isn’t enough water for livestock and people to drink, so few beasts are kept at Mars’ Oasis. A special fruit bearing cactus known as sithica grows throughout the whole Shacklack desert. It is poisonous in its normal form, but if soaked in dythalid one of the fruits can support someone for a week. The sithica fruit is the only known substance that does not consume the dythalid in its incubation period. These fruits are the staple crop of Mars’ Oasis.

The government of Mars’ Oasis is based around a caste system. The lowest caste is slaves, next servants and laborers, moving up to merchants, craftsmen, artisans, and specialists, then nobles and other people from rich or powerful families, the final caste is the royal family who has control over the Dythalid Pool. Taxes go through the castes. King Mero III taxes the nobles, the nobles tax the merchants, the employers tax the servants, and the owners take everything they can from the slaves. King Mero decides where the money goes, usually into the army.

Mars’ Oasis needs a good army. It has a constant struggle with the desert environment as well as the other inhabitants of the desert. Bavastatner, the oldest of the blue dragons, lived in Shacklack and his progeny are one of the biggest problems for the people at the oasis. A dragon slayer’s guild has come into existence to deal with the problem. They provide free weapons to the public whenever the city is under attack and King Mero III himself is an accomplished member of the guild. Brass dragons also help against their worst enemies, but only when required.

An enormous formian hive has been set up in the desert. The hive has 25 queens and almost 10,000 workers in it. These outsiders are seeking to enslave the other humanoid species of the desert. To counter the ant encroachment Mar’s Oasis has welcomed a group of Dionysus missionaries. The chaotic clerics are able to keep the lawful formians away from the city proper whenever they decide to attack.

Previously, undead were an even bigger problem than the blue dragons. In the east of the desert a powerful lich lived in an enormous stone monolith surrounded by legions of undead. The people of Mars’ Oasis, never knowing the lich’s true name, called it the Bane. The Bane sent huge armies of undead to attack the city every few years. The Bane didn’t seem to have any particular goal beyond getting more corpses to make more undead to attack the city to make corpses. It may have wanted control of the Dythalid Pool, but the pattern of the attacks were never aimed at that area or any specific area of the city.  Recently the Bane was defeated by the exiled members of the Alliance. King Mero III planned to reward them, but ordered them to leave the city when he discovered that the exiles welcomed an undead in their midst.

Prior to the defeat of the Bane, the mages and clerics of Mars’ Oasis had been thinking of different tactics for driving the undead off for centuries. The most basic tactic is using lots and lots of clerics to turn and destroy the undead. The most effective tactic the mages have created so far is the rot reaver. It is a monster that eats and controls undead. It is a little on the black side of magic, but it was seen as necessary to fight the thousands of undead that attacked the city. With the defeat of the Bane, the mages of Mars’ Oasis are now tweaking their rot reavers to prepare for a conflict with the dragovinians.

Other dangers that threaten the city include lamias, manticores, dragonnes, basilisks, sphinxes, hyenas, giant insects, braxats, dune stalkers, sun giants, asabis, brown dragons, stingers, harssafs, witchknives, and all different kinds of lizards. These creatures never attack in large groups and are usually just one rogue monster that has got the suicidal idea that it can attack an extremely militaristic civilization on its own and survive.

Mars’ Oasis’s army has 3,500 people on active duty patrolling the city, making weapons and armor, and out in the desert killing any monsters they can find. The men are all able to turn undead due totheir clerical or paladin training. They all wear at least breastplate armor and carry masterwork bows and weapons. All of them are trained for killing undead and desert monsters. Their other equipment includes a bead of dryness to store water, cold weapons, potions of healing, holy water, and an oil of gentle repose to be applied immediately upon death to prevent being turned into a zombie or other undead monster.

The name of the city, Mars’ Oasis, comes half from the oasis and the other half from Mars, the Roman version of Ares. In 700 BCE he led a group of Roman soldiers to the dark side of the world and then back around. They fought many orcs, goblins, monsters, and demons on their journey. Ares gave the Romans peace at the end of the journey in his Oasis. Out of the fires of the desert a lake arose with many desert nymphs to become the legionnaires’ wives. From those Romans and nymphs the indigenous humanoid population of the desert has sprung.

With the war between the Alliance and Xoria, Mars’ Oasis is suffering under a constant barrage of diplomats requesting that they enter the war with the Alliance.  This is due to Mars’ Oasis unique experience in defeating dragons and undead of which dragovinians are a hybrid. Until now, Mars’ Oasis declined to join the war. The milieu of threats within the desert kept the Mars’ Oasis army busy enough without having to deal with threats outside their immediate region. The situation is about to change though. The Alliance exiles vanquished the Bane and recently slew Bavastatner. Additionally, they negotiated a peace treaty with the formians. Removing the three primary threats to Mars’ Oasis frees them up to join the war against Xoria.

-GoCorral

Mars One

I read about this project the other day called Mars One.

The project involves setting up a colony on Mars for four people to live on by 2025.

Getting to the moon is hard enough. It takes like a day and a half of travel, landing is hard, getting off again is hard, and landing safely on Earth is even harder.

NASA and other government space programs have always avoided going to Mars for two reasons.

#1 With our current rockets it would take about two months to get there. Spend a week there and two months back, you need four months of oxygen. It’s not possible to transport that much so you need to recycle your air and that gets complicated. Plus there’s all the extra food, water, and fuel you’d have to bring.

#2 With that two month journey its even harder to get back. We can land drones on Mars, but we can’t bring them back.

Mars One plans to get around the first problem by establishing a minor space colony first, while also working with robots to establish a little base camp on Mars.

The second problem is tackled by… not bringing the humans that are sent there back to Earth.

That’s right, Mars One is a one way trip. That’s where the name came from (I think).

There’s a lot of logistical problems with that. I’ve casually mentioned a few (sustainable food, water, air, fuel). I’m sure there are more.

Another problem is who would want to go on a mission like this? It’s almost certainly going to have problems that could kill you. Even if it doesn’t kill you, you’re stuck on Mars for the rest of your life. Maybe more people will come later, but that’s doubtful.

Well, Mars One asked people to apply for their one way trip to Mars and got thousands of responses. Those responses have been whittled down to one hundred people.

The next step is to whittle that one hundred down to four via, get this, a reality TV show.

This was the point where I stopped taking Mars One seriously.

I looked into it a little more. Mars One is a non-profit. The project is supposedly only for the advancement of space travel. And it will help with that at least through gaining public attention if not by developing equipment for Mars colonies.

There’s also a for-profit company attached to Mars One called the Interplanetary Media Group. That company is the one releasing a bunch of press and making the reality TV show. They’ll probably make a ton of money off of that.

Is that money going to go towards funding the Mars trip? Maybe. Is it going to fund the construction of beach house real estate for the owners of these two companies? Maybe.

And the weirdest thing about all of this? Even though the reality TV show seems like an awful interview process, I’m still interested in watching it.

A previous experiment for this, Mars-500, simulated people going into a spacecraft to Mars for 500 days. Cut off from the outside world the people in the mission pretended to do all of the things necessary for going to Mars to see how they held up mentally when they were forced to be in the same “spacecraft” for a year and a half.

Mars-500 was a success, but possibly only because it was fake. As a psychological study you have to give people the option to opt out at any time. That wouldn’t be the case in a real space flight.

My point is that the training process for Mars One has to be similar to Mars-500 and I’m excited to watch that. Plus I might get to vote people out the airlock or something!

-GoCorral

PS. And here’s what Neil deGrasse Tyson has to say about it.