Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Let's Just Go To The Moon And Mine the Blame Thing

 In 1960, when he asked me what I thought we should do in Space, I told Senator John F. Kennedy we "should just go to the moon and mine the blame thing."

My opinion has not changed.

It is an opinion undoubtedly colored by the unique place I'm from, a town called Coalwood in a state called West Virginia in a place called Appalachia where it's difficult to get there, difficult to live there, but has resources that must be shipped elsewhere in order to keep our civilization humming along.

That's me, third from the right kneeling. Just us 9th grade boys
after visiting the mine where our dads worked. They made money in a dangerous profession but

raised their families, educated their kids, and sent us off to the unsuspecting
world where we did pretty darn well. Our dads were just like what miners on the moon will be like, good, robust, hearty, and daggone smart.

In other words, I'm from a place something like the moon.

West Virginians came to the mountain state in the early 20th Century attracted by the coal mining industry. It wasn't that they necessarily liked mining coal. They came so as to make money and have a place where they could raise their families. The work they did was nasty and dangerous but they still did it and did it as long as they could. After awhile, it became their way of life and they fell in love with the mountains, hills, and valleys of the rugged land.

One of my memoirs about life in Coalwood.
It was a New York Times

Their way of life is the way I think life on the moon could and should evolve.

Recently, I told Senator Ted Cruz and his Aviation and Space Subcommittee that what I want out of the space program is "Coalwood on the moon" and that I don't care two cents about who the next professional astronaut is who goes there. What I care about is opening a place where real people - plumbers, electricians, miners, construction workers, and other so-called blue collar workers - can go work, make money, and raise their families just like in the Coalwood where I grew up. Go here to see exactly what I said:


The moon I describe in Crater, Crescent, and The Lunar Rescue Company is a place where there are many Coalwoods, frontier mining towns populated by a rugged people made even tougher and stronger by the land in which they live.

My "Crater" series of novels (aka Helium-3 series).

So how does that happen? How does the moon go from being an exotic fantastic locale where only brave astronauts dare to go to a place of work for folks like those who raised their families in Coalwood? And why would the taxpayers of the United States and our partners and allies ever want to shell out even a dime to make that happen?

It is because the moon qualifies as a reasonable place for the world to expand and gather resources.

Hi there. I'm Luna, your neighbor. I've got lots of good stuff for you
if you'll come and get it.

And what are those resources on the moon that the people of lunar Coalwoods will gather for us and send back? I'll give you the usual list: Platinum, Helium, Helium-3, Thorium, etc. etc. and so forth but remember beneath every crater is the shattered remains of an asteroid. There's likely gold in them thar lunar hills and a lot else, too.

Here's another best-seller I wrote. Vice President Pence
said it was one of his favorite books. It's a little outdated but
still has some great stuff in it about why we need to go back.
And it's got adventure. And thrills. And great characters.
 And sex in space, too (not that it has anything to do with anything else).

As to the "how," it's also pretty simple. We as a nation have done the flags and footprints on the moon thing with Apollo Now, 50 years later, we need an anchoring base on the moon from which other entities, whether governmental or private, can come to, outfit themselves and then set across the lunar plains, valleys, rilles, and hills to explore and then build their roads and towns and start working and making money and raising their families and sending resources back to a needy Earth.

That's it. That's all our federal government has to do. Just build an anchor up there, one staging area and then hold onto it long enough for all others to follow and build up a lunar civilization based on gathering resources.

My clever little moon anchor as described in my 1993 (!) study for NASA

I kind of mapped that anchor out in my 1993 study: https://homerhickamblog.blogspot.com/2019/03/1993-study-of-moon-laboratory-by-homer.html

Will Americans come around to my vision?

We shall see. Right now, NASA proclaims that it doesn't want to "get stuck on the moon."

It should be so lucky.

 - - Homer Hickam

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The illustrated "Don't Blow Yourself Up" - Cats


Don't Blow Yourself Up - To order click on cover

Many readers have asked for photos to better illustrate my memoir, Don't Blow Yourself Up: The Further Adventures and Travails of the Rocket Boy of October Sky. Included in the stories are some beloved cats. Here they are.

TIKI and TECH - Siamese cat brothers who belonged to my parents and lived in Coalwood, WV during the time described in the memoir. 


Only known photo of one of the Siamese, either Tiki or Tech, displaying typical Siamese behavior of climbing up on things

GATO - Homer got Gato along with his sister in Salt Lake City the summer of 1967 as a gift for a friend. She named him Nephi and the sister Amelia. Homer ended up with Nephi who was renamed Gato. Gato was a beloved friend who went everywhere with Homer. He died in Germany in 1981.


Young Gato at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah 1967

Young Gato outside on Dugway Proving Ground, Utah 1967

14 year old Gato, Germany, 1981


BC - Technically not a cat, BC was known as a banana cat in Vietnam. BC lived with Homer at the Oasis, a firebase on the Cambodian border, in 1968, even through a battle during the Tet Offensive. Homer had to give BC away to a medic who was glad to have him.

BC on a sandbag

Homer and BC at the Oasis, 1968


PACO - Paco was Homer's cat from 1986 well into the 2000's. He was a special cat who shared his life with Homer and his wife Linda during most of Homer's NASA career.

Paco after SL-J, the Japanese space mission for which Homer was the training manager. Gato is wearing a Ninja helmet given to him by the Japanese space agency after Paco saved the mission.

Paco on his favorite rock beside his house in Huntsville. He often waited there for Homer to come home from work

Paco with Homer's novel Back to the Moon - He was a character in the novel


Thursday, January 27, 2022

The Purposeful Adventurer: The Illustrated memoir "Don't Blow Yourself Up"


Click on cover to order Don't Blow Yourself Up

"The Purposeful Adventurer" part of the new memoir Don't Blow Yourself Up covers Homer Hickam's adventures underseas including his diving on the World War II U-boats U-352 and U-85 discovered off North Carolina's Outer Banks. His primary dive companion on many of these dives was Army Captain Dave Todd.

Diver Dave Todd inspects the U-352 tower. I had placed our scooter in the open hatch after exhausting its batteries

Diver Dave Todd inspects the hold of a World War II torpedoed freighter

Conning tower of the U-85 off Cape Hatteras

Homer Hickam and Dave Todd with scuba gear to dive World War II U-boats and other wrecks

Divers Dave Todd and Homer Hickam

Homer's other diving adventures carried him to Isla de Guanaja in Honduras. His main companion for these dives was his girlfriend Linda Terry (LT). his good buddy Carl Spurlock often went along.

Neysa Holland, Carl Spurlock, Homer Hickam, Linda Terry (LT) treasure hunting on Guanaja

Casa Sobre del Mar, our home away from home in Guanaja. It was built and owned by Ivey Garrett. Sadly, it was destroyed by Hurricane Mitch.

A long climb but worth it - the waterfall in Guanaja

Carl Spurlock, Linda Terry (LT), and Homer Hickam at the UAT

Linda took this shot of Homer Hickam looking up at black coral while visiting the Cochinos in Honduras

The slate used during Homer Hickam's emergency decompression in Guanaja

The back of the slate used during the emergency decompression

A view of Homer Hickam's beach on Guanaja, Honduras.

Our wonderful divemaster in Guanaja - Gilbert Wood

Friday, December 31, 2021

NASA Man: The illustrated Don't Blow Yourself Up



After requests from readers for more illustrations in my new memoir Don't Blow Yourself Up, I am writing a series of blogs with photos and maps.  This one covers Part 4 of the memoir titled NASA MAN which includes my career with NASA from 1981 to 1998.

I was hired by NASA while I was still in Germany working for the Army in Grafenwoehr, the big training base in Bavaria that is used to train combat units. My job was to manage the work needed to keep the base operational. NASA wanted me to come and help the Spacelab Program Office keep track its many work orders and inventory by computerizing the system.

Spacelab rested in the cargo bay with a connecting tunnel.

This I did until the Challenger disaster. I was in Japan negotiating with their space agency for a Spacelab mission when Challenger and her crew were lost. I returned and worked on the solid rocket motor redesign for awhile, then asked to transfer to the Mission Operations Lab and became a payload crew training manager. I also worked in NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Simulator as a diver helping astronauts to work underwater on various space missions. Water provided buoyancy and simulated microgravity.


Homer Hickam in orange wet suit working with astronaut in Neutral Buoyancy Simulator

 During this time, I volunteered to design and manage the construction of a small neutral buoyancy tank at Space Camp in Huntsville. We called it the Underwater Astronaut Trainer (UAT). I also designed a suit that students could wear underwater just like real astronauts. With my company Deep Space, we trained Space Camp/Academy students in the evening.

Linda Terry and student in the UAT suit around 1989. I am top left. Linda is LT in the memoir. We were married a decade later.


In the UAT suit

I also went up to New York and trained David Letterman to scuba dive and work in the UAT helmet for a show that unfortunately never happened

In 1989, I was assigned to Japan to help train the first Japanese astronauts. This began many adventures there and I met many wonderful Japanese trainers, engineers, and astronauts

Takao Doi, Momoru Mohri, Homer Hickam, Stan Koszelak, Chiaki Mukai

Spacelab-Japan Training Team. I'm 3rd from left 2nd row.

After Spacelab-Japan flew in 1992, I worked on the Hubble Space Telescope repair mission in the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator. To prepare for the astronauts to train, some of us engineers went underwater in the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) suit to work out the procedures. It was the first use of Nitrox, a mixed gas that some feared would cause the "suited subject" to catch on fire. To make sure it was OK, we volunteered to go into the suit.

Homer Hickam in the EMU suit working the HST repair procedures

After SL-J and HST, I wrote a Tech Study on how the USA could go back to the Moon. NASA had no interest in going and engineers were restricted from helping me but I did it, anyway, by disguising it as a study of the South Pole Station. This study is still on the books and available to the managers and engineers as we finally go back to Luna (let's hope that remains true).

My clever little moon anchor as described in my 1993 (!) study for NASA

My study can be seen here: https://homerhickamblog.blogspot.com/2019/03/1993-study-of-moon-laboratory-by-homer.html


I also got to meet a very special person and give her a tour of the Spacelab module in our Payload Crew Training Complex. Hello Olivia!

Olivia Newton-John and Homer Hickam

Afterwards, I was assigned to the International Space Station as the payload training manager. I was one of a team of NASA managers and engineers sent to negotiate with the Russians to figure out how we were going to build the station and train the cosmonauts and astronauts.

I had an interesting time in Moscow and the environs and made many friends

With a replica of Sputnik 1 and shaking hands with a cosmonaut

In 1998, I retired from NASA. I had 30 years of federal service and it was time to let younger folks take over. I also had a new writing career!

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Homer Hickam Vietnam Service Area - Photos/Maps to Accompany Memoir: Don't Blow Yourself Up


This blog presents maps and photos to accompany the portions of Homer Hickam's memoir Don't Blow Yourself Up that cover his service in Vietnam.


Google Earth Map of Vietnam today. It is considered part of Southeast Asia


South Vietnam (aka The Republic of Vietnam) was divided into four areas by US forces during the Vietnam war.  II Corps comprised the area known as the Central Highlands, a very mountainous, heavily forested region. Hickam served entirely in II Corps. While he was in Vietnam, the 4th Infantry Div. and the First Cavalry Div. were the two largest American army forces in the region, the 4th with headquarters near Pleiku, the 1st with headquarters near An Khe.

If you look below the large word SOUTH on this map, you will see the coastal city of Qui Nhon. This was a staging area for the US Army during the war and supplies were carried westward by truck convoys to American and South Vietnamese forces. Look westward from Quih Nhon (to the left) and you'll see Pleiku, the capital of the Central Highlands area. Follow the road north from Pleiku and you'll see the town of Kontum. Keep going and you'll see Dak To. Follow the road south from Pleiku, you'll see the town of Ban Me Thuot. Follow the road west out of Pleiku, you'll see the Cambodian border. Nearby was the Oasis Firebase. Follow the road east from Pleiku, you'll see the Mang Yang Pass. Nearby was Blackhawk Firebase. These were the primary locations Hickam served in the Vietnam War. Hickam flew into Cam Ranh Bay, a giant American base on the sea. In this map, at bottom left, it is designated Ganh Rai Bay.


 This is a closer look at the area from Kontum in the north to Ban Me Thuot to the south where Hickam served.  Except for brief air hops in and out, he did not serve in or near Saigon.

This is a GoogleMaps map of the Central Highlands of Vietnam with "Dragon Mountain" shown. This was near the location of Camp Enari, the base camp of the 4th Infantry Division.

Artillery Lieutenant Rick Terrell, Texas A&M graduate who taught Hickam how to call in artillery on the flight over to Vietnam

Lieutenant Nick Jarrett at the Oasis. Nick taught Hickam how to lead his men.

Homer Hickam after a day on the road in Vietnam

Hickam with his banana cat he named BC

Muddy lake of a work area at BMT that had to be drained one way or the other

Hickam at shot-up gas station in Ban Me Thuot