When last we left our heroes, Methos had been abducted by a group of humans working for the Daleks, and the Doctor found a strange native boy named Iktha, here on this planet that should be totally uninhabited. But Methos is in for still more surprises….. As always, if you’re just joining us now, I highly recommend starting at the beginning.
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THE SHADOW OF THE DALEKS
EPISODE FOUR: Ulterior Motives
The sullen gray skies of Riga 3 slowly dimmed as its sun, Riga, sank behind the distant horizon. It was nearly night when the Doctor and Iktha reached the settlement. It was a collection of twenty simple earthen huts, made of sod cut from the grasslands and roofed over with a complicated thatch that didn’t simply lie across the roof beams, but which seemed to have been woven tightly into layers of matting and insulation.
Iktha had followed the ravine to find his way back to the settlement, cheerfully beckoning for the Doctor to follow whenever the Time Lord paused for breath. –Children, thought the Time Lord. –Always full of such wonderful, boundless energy.
It was the joy of timelessness, he supposed. Children were too young to have a good idea of time, and thus any measure of time longer than a day could seem like forever. Plenty of time to rest later. Right now, the moment needed to be enjoyed.
The Doctor chuckled lightly as he surveyed the village. According to Iktha, these people were called “Tolloc,” and they were the indigenous people of Riga 3, although they had no name for their world and therefore called it nothing more complicated than “here.” But the Doctor felt that there was something missing. This world did not have the resources for a race as highly evolved as the Tolloc to have come into being. No, the Doctor felt they came from somewhere else originally.
First off, many apologies for the lack of posts recently; I went to an airshow over the weekend, came home to piles of work, and then got sick. But I’m back in top form now! And to kick the blog back off, here’s the launch of NROL-61 aboard Atlas V earlier today, marking the 135th consecutive successful Atlas flight. NROL-61 is a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. Nevertheless, ULA was able to stream excellent footage including rocketcam imagery up to the point of payload fairing jettison and upper stage ignition, the traditional point for ending broadcast of classified launches. (Amateur satellite hunters will find the payload in orbit soon enough, but the NRO doesn’t like to make it too easy.)
The NRO did release the mission patch, which for today’s flight features a cheerful lizard mascot named Spike clinging to the Atlas V, whose vapor trail originates in Florida.
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THE SHADOW OF THE DALEKS
EPISODE THREE: Meetings of Like Minds
“Almost there,” muttered the Doctor as he twisted his arm around inside the TARDIS console, trying to reach the inconveniently placed motherboard. He felt the daughtercard in his hand brush against its socket. “There,” he said triumphantly, pushing the card home. The vortex algorithm generator was back in place. A little testing, and he could be sure it worked.
He slowly unwound himself from the cramped position he’d been sitting in to reach the underside of the console. The diagnostics would take a few minutes to run — just enough time to make a pot of tea. He flicked the switch that would start the test procedure and strolled across the room to the sitting area.
On July 21, 2011, the Space Shuttle Atlantis rolled to stop at Kennedy Space Center for the very last time. If you want to relive that moment, here’s NASA’s STS-135 landing video. It’s half an hour long; skip ahead to 9 minutes to see the HUD video from the Orbiter, and the runway coming up for the night landing:
STS-135 was commanded by Chris Ferguson, who has since retired from NASA and now works for Boeing. He’s serving as program manager for the CST-100 Starliner program, and has dibs on the first CST-100 crewed flight; if he gets his way, he intends to retrieve the very same flag he left on the ISS during STS-135 five years ago.
Meanwhile, OV-104 Atlantis herself has been moved to form the centerpiece of a spectacular display at the KSC Visitor’s Center, where she is displayed with payload bay doors open, RMS reaching out across the room, as if in flight — forever.
On July 20, 1976, Viking 1 touched down on the surface of Mars, becoming the second spacecraft to do so, and the first to function properly upon landing. (The Soviet Mars 2 lander had crash landed in 1971, and Mars 3 had soft-landed but failed shortly after a few weeks later.) Viking 1 landed in Chryse Planitia, and one of its first jobs was to photograph its own footpad to see how dense the Martian soil was. This is what it returned:
Powered by a Pu238 RTG, Viking 1 would go on to function on the Martian surface for a staggering 2245 Martian sols (or 2307 Earth days), a record that it held until surpassed by the Mars Exploration Rover B, “Opportunity”, which as of today (July 20) has been operating on Mars for 4440 sols, and is still going – on solar power, no less, which shows how far battery technology has come since then, enabling Opportunity to keep surviving the cold, dark Martian nights.
Both of the cargo ships launched in the last week have now arrived at the ISS — Progress first, followed by Dragon. The crews at the station now have a lot of unpacking to do. Dragon carries some particularly important cargo: the first DNA sequencing system for the ISS, to facilitate more detailed study of DNA in space, allowing specimens to be studied without having to send them back to Earth first, and of course the first of two International Docking Adapters. Currently stowed in Dragon’s trunk, this will be attached to one of the two free Pressurized Mating Adapters, converting them from the old APAS system to a modernized system that will require less human interaction during docking.
SpaceX had a successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket in the middle of the night last night, and a successful landing back at the Cape:
The landing is awesome, of course, but this flight is extra important because it carries a second docking adapter after the first one was lost on the CRS-7 launch accident. Dragon is the only spacecraft capable of delivering the International Docking Adapters, in its roomy unpressurized trunk. This is a necessary step before the crewed missions can begin, currently likely to happen sometime next year.