Launchpad, Day Minus One

Rachel Swirsky • July 12th, 2010 @ 8:22 am • Launch Pad, Uncategorized

I tried to post this yesterday, but the website crashed on me, so expect this post to be followed up with today’s Launch Pad post.

Several months ago, when I went to Orlando for the Nebula Awards, my husband and I received a piece of mail from NASA. “Hey!” shouted my husband, waving the unopened mail. “It’s our tickets to the shuttle launch!”

“Not necessarily,” I pointed out. “It could be materials about launch pad.”

“You mean…” said Mike, pausing significantly, “We’re getting _two_ pieces of mail from NASA?”

He has been boasting about this achievement at work ever since. Apparently, it impresses his coworkers no end.

I arrived in Denver this morning at 9 a.m. by plane. Marjorie Liu and I met up in the airport, and waited for Carrie Vaughn, who drove us to Laramie, Wyoming, where we have each been given a dorm room with two raised beds, ethernet, paired sinks, and a fan. Our lounge–which has luxury wireless–overlooks evergreens pushing into the distance, and behind them, rolls of purple, green, and brown hills.

This is where we’ll stay while we attend Launch Pad.

What is Launch Pad? I’ll cheat and quote their website:

Launch Pad is a free, NASA-funded workshop for established writers held in beautiful high-altitude Laramie, Wyoming. Launch Pad aims to provide a “crash course” for the attendees in modern astronomy science through guest lectures, and observation through the University of Wyoming’s professional telescopes.

Yes, I get to go to a free class in which awesome scientists will teach me awesome things about astronomy.

OK, it may not be as cool as being taught prognostication by the soccer match predicting octopus, but it’s a close second.

After showing us to our dorm rooms, Jim Varley, one of our instructors, took us out to lunch at a local place in downtown Laramie, and explained some of his goals for the workshop.

“We want accurate science in fiction,” he said. “It’s easy for people to get misconceptions in their heads about what science is and what’s real. These misconceptions can be really persistent. People learn the wrong thing, or just come to the wrong conclusions. For instance, I once asked my students, how often is the moon visible during the day? They said it’s not visible during the day, only at night. This tells me where they’re at. We want fiction that accurately represents science, so that even if it’s a werewolf novel, at least the phases of the moon will be right.”

Having obtained my classmates’ permission, I’ll be blogging about the classes, mostly focusing on the science rather than the setting. I’ll be blogging my class notes, in a way… although y’all won’t get to see my doodles.

See you tomorrow!

(Edit: It occurs to me that I should thank Jeff for letting me guest post on his blog. Thanks, Jeff!)

2 Responses to “Launchpad, Day Minus One”

  1. Dylan Fox says:

    I am SO green with envy right now. Also, I want to have the Jim Varley’s babies because the course is a wonderful, wonderful idea.

    I’m looking forwards to your notes! Thank you so much for sharing :)

  2. Tor.com / Science fiction and fantasy / Blog posts / Rachel Swirsky liveblogs Launch Pad says:

    [...] are there really people who think the moon isn’t visible during the day? What, do they never look up? [...]

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