Manifest Destiny, Lunar Style

It’s called the New New World of the 21st century. The Moon. That glowing white sphere in the night sky and all her virgin bounty, upon and within, will very soon become what was in the 14th and 15th centuries to the European and Asian naval empires of the time, the newest treasures of extreme profits awaiting today’s space-voyaging mega-corporations, their Boards of Directors and/or private owners and businesses, hunting with little to no restrictions… untapped, untold riches for the taking.

Fifty years after humans first set foot on the Moon, scientific discoveries within the last 3-8 years have fueled excitement to go back, particularly commercial fervor for private businesses to go to the lunar surface—this time, perhaps, to stay and mine profitable minerals and their byproducts. This therefore, for the sake of advancing humankind’s progress of interplanetary travel from Earth.

What has really stoked the flames for immediate lunar commercialization? Water.

But life’s necessary H2O isn’t the only precious treasure up there. The Moon has Helium-3, titanium in highly concentrated form, titanium ore (ilmenite), platinum group metals such as palladium, osmium, iridium, and of course platinum, as well as other rare Earth metals, including the big one: gold. Need we say anymore? Step right up, our next explorers, Lunar 49’ers, to blastoff and begin the Great Moon Rush! Que song

The New New World and History’s Lessons
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When Europeans, and to an extent Asians, discovered the North and South American continents back in the 14th – 15th centuries, what was on their agenda? Why did they arrive? Why did they stay? Why did some return to their native lands? Had everyone benefited? Had everything benefited from the Age of Colonization like the ecosystems and animals? Does there always have to be the human behavior of take, take, take? Suck out, suck out, suck out until all value is zero… of whatever remains!? Will the Moon remain?

One of the corporations almost ready to launch to the Moon is called Moon Express. They are “Redefining Possible“! Their mission is to return “…to the Moon and unlock its mysteries and resources for the benefit of humanity. That sounds noble. I’m quiet sure the naval fleets and explorers of the 14th-15th centuries during the Age of Discovery promoted the exact same message, at least from their kings and queens. Moon Express calls the Lunar treasure chest the 8th Continent. The resources awaiting humanity are, they explain…

Like the Earth, the Moon has been enriched with vast resources through billions of years of asteroid bombardment. Unlike the Earth, these resources are largely on or near the lunar surface, relatively accessible. We are blazing a trail to the Moon to seek and harvest these resources to support a new space renaissance, where economic trade between countries will eventually become trade between worlds.

As a seasoned traveler myself, the unavoidable question at any crossroads of exploration, discovery, and the business of profitable resources at any time in history is this:  can we trust humanity and its leaders to do what is best for all of humanity AND the silent giver, the Mother of More Life or Profits? 

According to Moon Express co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain, Moon Express now has all the capital it needs to land its small robotic spacecraft on the surface of the moon in November or December of 2017. Obviously this did not happen. But the company’s goal is twofold: 1) mine the moon for valuable resources, such as Helium-3, gold, platinum group metals, rare earth metals and water; and 2) help researchers develop human space colonies for future generations. Simple, right?

Maybe not. How well have humans and humanity managed and regulated survival, the greater good for the greatest number, and the treatment of this life-giving planet over the last millenia or even the last century or two?

What are the long-term plans and condition of the Moon now that we will have two planets feeding us and our machines? With so much of Earth’s current ecosystems—e.g. high & low tides—to some degree reliant on the Moon—and some of those ecosystems now so fragile due to human activity and over-industrialization—is there a real danger/risk? In the future could OVER-MINING or unregulated, unfettered industrial consumption cause further damage or exacerbation to our lunar-dependent Earth systems? Consider the environmental and human impacts of our modern strip-mining or surface-mining and dredging.

And then there’s the fact that the Moon has countless craters! New ones about every 5 to 50-years. Now WHY are there craters all over the lunar surface? Does that pose a danger to Lunar-tics? 😉

Ponder this. The Moon is only 1/8th of Earth’s mass. It’s gravity is 1/6th of Earth’s. Is that 1/8th mass beneficial or dangerous to our planet and species? With aggressive, unregulated mining of materials, what will change about the Moon after one or two decades of building our lunar-space creations and putting them into orbit—or somewhere else other than the Moon? When does the Moon’s mass/gravity begin to significantly shift? How would it shift? What effect(s) would that have on Earth?

Losing our Moon or disfiguring it so drastically that it is clearly changed and changing things here on Earth may not have been a question 10-50 years ago, but it should be now. We have always known that our Sun will eventually turn into a Red Giant star and consume or utterly vaporize Earth and the Moon anyway, so take solace in that.

However, we have also always known that the Moon’s orbit is slowly moving away from Earth, by about 4-centimeters per year. A very small unnoticeable amount to 3 or 8 generations of humans. But to 100 generation descendants? Two hundred? Those are unavoidable consequences. Now, presented with the possibility of mining the Moon of all her resources—or to say, all her mass-causing gravity—with little to no forethought of that effect, do we need to concern ourselves NOT of our Sun becoming a Red Giant, but with humanity changing the Moon’s effect/benefit onto Earth? What will 30 or 50 years of aggressive mining and removal of lunar material do to the metaphorical rows and rows of gravity dominoes?

And without the Moon, or its perfect pull right now, Earth’s varying axis/tilt would be more severe, and climate effects would be a lot more severe than they’re already becoming! Does the Moon deserve a lot more respect and awe than we presently give her (and Earth actually) and less What can you give me right now for as cheap as possible or completely free!?

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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A Soap Box Legend in Parts

Have you ever been in those situations as an adventurous kid or bold young teenager where your friends enthusiastically encourage you to do something you are not quite sure you want to do or should do?

This is what happened to yours truly one day with two boyhood friends testing our new streamlined modification on our self-built go-cart. The amount of time the three of us spent on R&D (research and development) for this brilliant enhancement had to have been at least 4-5 minutes! What could possibly go wrong?

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

The racing era? 1974 – 75. I and my race-buddies were 11 to 12 years of age. The BM-501 (Bat Mobile 500 v1) was a two-axle chassis with an old wooden toy-trunk nailed down to the wooden chassis. The toy trunk was 2-ft (H) x 5-ft (L) x 2-ft (W), and kept us Speed-Racers tucked fairly tight inside. It had 10-inch rear wheels (from common toy wagons) and 5-inch front wheels, typically found on lawn-mowers of the day. The front steering was cleverly accomplished by a rope attached near both front wheels with a 75-80 degree turning-range, centering hinge that held the front axle to the chassis. Pull the rope’s right-side, turn to the right. Pull the left-side, turn left. The engineering alone that went into this marvel of motion was the talk of the neighborhood, yes by parents, but most importantly the girls! We were heroes to be… in our own eyes!

Yes, we were truly becoming sexy Demons on Wheels.

My childhood home was in a hilly neighborhood. Ideal for Demons on Wheels. My house was a two-story split level home where the driveway went from our street, down the side of the house, turning rightward to a larger driveway for two cars, garages underneath the first floor, and a grass lawn the remainder of the rear property (see image below).

Dallas childhood home-driveway

My actual childhood home and driveway today – Google Maps 2019

After about 40-50 runs starting at the crest of our driveway (see red arrow), my racing teammates, Keith and Greg, and myself wanted a bigger challenge and more speed. We weren’t going to make legends for ourselves or to the girls unless we impressed. We pondered our choices and opportunities.

Keith had always been the bolder of us three. He had a gallant disregard to normal, whatever was convention he’d push it. There was one race on the lower BM-501/BMX track we thought he’d never recover or regain his courage, if it’s really courage. Some girls argued it was idiocy, but we couldn’t abandon our daring friend over some silly girls opinions. What do they know about soap box engineering and racing? Besides, doing things with Keith usually made Greg and me look and sound cool too. More on this later. Suddenly Keith had an ah-hah moment.

What if we start in the Lowery’s driveway, he pointed, cross our street, then onto our driveway and down? Greg and I considered the path, the dual hills offering more speed, and likely much further in the grass through our rear lawn. Further than any man had gone before! Unanimously we yelled YES! It was an exceptional idea and we patted Keith on the shoulder and high-fives all around.

Dallas childhood home-driveway_2

The new proposed race track to better speed and legendary fame!

After only about 10-15 runs between the three of us, hitting the street from the Lowery’s driveway, hopping the crest of our driveway, then making that sharp right turn to eventually slow in the grass to a stop, surprisingly the walls of our wooden toy trunk in which we sat began coming apart. The constant repeating G’s we wheeling demons were pulling in that right-hand turn was just too much force for that wooden box frame. A serious dilemma confronted our youthful, brilliant engineering and racing skills:  A) Can the box be repaired? If not, B) do we find another lesser hill to ride affording driver safety, but sacrificing the roar of the crowds and girls wooing? Or C) do we just remove the four crumbling walls and sit on the flat bottom so that our fans could see every inch of our beautiful, skilled bodies? How were the new Niki Lauda, Jackie Stewart, and Mario Andretti of soap box racing going to handle this challenge?

It was determined by our consortium of advanced brains that the wooden trunk-walls were irreparable. We did not have the same carpentry skills, glue or nails to repair it to its original specifications. “A” is out of the question. What about “B”? It was soon deduced that if we moved to some other hill in some other neighborhood we would lose our fan-base—which were our giggling nearby girls and sisters. Also, we’d have to involve the Racing Commission and Safety Board, i.e. our parents. “B” was most certainly out of the question. It would have ruined our racing careers!

“C” it was! We went about refitting—rather dismantling—our fine machine of motion and in less than 20-minutes BM-502 was ready to roll into the annals of history.

Once the three of us topped the Lowery’s driveway, looked down to the street, down my driveway, and the back pavement off in the distance, a flashback took us all by the necks! HOLD ON GUYS! Greg mumbled with timidity. The three of us remembered when we once rode our dirt-bicycles with knobby-tires down my driveway, over different sized jumping ramps for Cool-points, and then skid our rear tires to screeching halts. Only the last time the three of us did that was when Keith didn’t stop with a screeching rear tire. Instead his chain came off his rear sprocket when he landed his jump.

Keith kept going and going, jumped our grass embankment Dad and I had built at that corner of the back pavement to deter eroding of our manicured grass and topsoil by rainstorms and runoff. Keith later told us, with some vehemence, he was not trying for double Cool-points as we accused, he was scared shitless. He jumped off his bike to save himself from almost certain death or a face-plant into our old, massively huge Oak Tree… just before our aluminum fence (see image below). Or if you avoided our Oak Tree, six to eight feet further was a very, VERY busy 6-lane Dallas Boulevard called Westmoreland Blvd. Make it that far into traffic and you have a serious mess moms and dads won’t be happy about. I would think the drivers of those cars too after glimpsing a flying kid go by, with bicycle (and parts?) or no bicycle, just before impact.

Dallas childhood home-driveway_3

The jump and hill to death by oak or bodily dismemberment.

Keith then had another ah-hah moment! This is different guys he consoled, I had 2-wheels and no chain. He pointed down to the untried BM-502, We have four wheels and no chance of a missing chain!” he said with confidence. Our three engineering brains acknowledged his well-made point. Who’s going first? Greg asked breaking the silent pause. More silence and looks at each other. Then Keith said I came up with the idea of the faster better track. It’s you two’s turn.

My sense of duty and honor began to gnaw at me inside. After all, it was my driveway, my street, my fast go-cart, and I knew this faster track like the back of my hand. I knew what had to be done. I’ll go I said with some sort of unknown cranial sharpness and courageous spirit.

Resemblance of BM-502

A close resemblance of the legendary BM-502, but a totally flat seat and bigger rear tires not shown.

I mounted BM-502 for its maiden voyage. Keith went down to the street to monitor any traffic coming either way. Greg went all the way to the back of my house to witness racing history being made. I waited for Keith to give the all clear. In my head I imagined the transition from the Lowery’s drive into the street and that slight verge to the left much like Olympic bob-sledders do just before the starting gun or beeps go off. Up the crest of our drive and small lift off the ground, now the speed goes higher—must make that right-hand turn sooner and firmly at these speeds, I said to myself—and Keith yelled CLEAR! I moved my hips to get comfortable, lifted my feet onto the front axle with the steering rope in both hands and she began to roll immediately. Two seconds later and there was no turning back.

Before I knew it I was across the street and up the driveway crest with all four wheels off the ground! Keith let out a big roaring YEAH! as I came down. The girls gasped in awe. It seemed like slow-motion, but then I was at the next decline at the right-side bushes. No time to think of the past, girls, and what was behind me. My speed picked up quickly. It felt like 100-mph if not 45. I was at the large back pavement, time to turn right. It HAD to be quick and firm or else the oak of death or Westmoreland splat awaited me. I pulled the rope from the right, hard! That’s when everything went into a blur.

I no longer had my feet on the front axle. I no longer had the BM-502 under me. I did still have the rope tightly grasped in my right hand, pulling still I’m sure, hell… nothing else was as it should be or as I had just imagined it. The girls began screaming. About that time came the unbending, unforgiving, hard concrete on my left arm, then shoulder, then hip and butt. As if that wasn’t enough, then came the left rear wheel up my back, over my head and past me as I continued skidding, rolling across that aforementioned pavement. When my raggedy-Ann body finally came to a halt I wondered what have I lost, broken, and which time-space dimension had I entered. But suddenly that didn’t matter. The pain from all over my body started reaching my still foggy, oozy brain. I let out a few big screams of my agony and defeat.

I do remember up ahead of me the BM-502 had come to a rest upside down and wheels still spinning. The scene was sheer carnage I’m sure. The girls didn’t know what to do or what to say. They weren’t about to touch anything!

Greg ran into the house to get my Mom. Keith ran down from the top of the driveway to see what remained of this once great race driver. At least that’s what he told me later. When Mom hurriedly arrived she yelled What on Earth happened!? Greg and Keith very carefully and cautiously considered their answers as I laid there in pain and a trail of skin behind me. Mom checked my arms, elbows, butt thighs, knees, all the typical areas that get torn-up on concrete pavement crashes. I need to get you into a baking soda bath and cleaned up. Come on. she concluded. What happened?

Keith and Greg finally answered with their excellent, well-thought out account of events. Dwain didn’t stay on the go-cart. Even the NTSB would have been astonished by that crash-site assessment. Mom pressed them for a more… precise picture as she helped me to the bathroom for the tub and bandages. The two geniuses rethought their first answer, considered more and explained again. Well Mrs. Miller, we didn’t consider what might happen when we removed the four walls of the toy-trunk and started up higher at the Lowery’s. I think Mom responded with Forget it. I’ll just ask the girls.

Oh my god, that was the WORST possible thing she could do! Our reputations would go down the toilet, a worse fate than death-by-oak or the Westmoreland splat. How were we going to regain our former glory?

After the Day of Wipe-out the BM-502 lost its appeal along with more damaged parts. Nor did we dazzling mechanics have much motivation for a BM-503 GTE we had also dreamt. We learned in the end, it wasn’t the Oak Tree of death or launching into Westmoreland Blvd. traffic that was to be feared. It was our ignorance and inflated egos—and sketchy physics—that were to be most feared.

Like many a man before us our lofty self-perceptions for legendary racing status, below-average engineering skills, less than sufficient forethought and testing, and hordes of female race fans blinded us. We were no match against natural laws of velocity, gravity, distance, acceleration, deceleration or impact, and pain. The famous words of Captain Sully come to mind:  Brace for impact.

Thus ended the three almost famous soap box racing careers of mini-Niki Lauda, mini-Jackie Stewart, and mini-Mario Andretti before they even got off the ground. Well… I guess in some cases into the air (what goes up) and into the ground (must come down) in a sundry of pieces and parts. An elusive concept for boys it seems. 😉

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Returning the Stolen Artifacts

As a young boy, Donald H. Miller of Orange Township in Rush County, Indiana had enjoyed digging up arrowheads, military uniform-buttons, and whatever else he could find from the past. It did not make any difference what time-period and apparently it made no difference to him if there was probable ownership or property rights attached to his finds.

Don Miller W9NTP-th

Donald H. Miller

Don Miller enrolled in engineering school prior to joining the U.S. Army Reserves in the 1940’s. He was later assigned to a Special Engineer Detachment in Los Alamos, NM, reaching Technician 4th Grade inside the Manhattan Project. But if you think that is an intriguing perhaps fantastical tidbit, wait until the FBI raids, investigates, and uncovers items inside his home-basement and amateur museum in April 2014. They find at least 42,000 rare and not-so-rare historical artifacts from numerous cultures around the globe. His and his wife’s collection included:

 

  • Two (believed) large dinosaur eggs laid in China
  • A wooden cowbell from Tibet
  • Over 300 arrowheads from the Western United States
  • An old dugout canoe from the Amazon River used by indigenous natives
  • An 1873 Winchester carbine believed to be used by a Sioux warrior in the Battle of Little Big Horn
  • Primitive axes carried by indigenous Indians of New Guinea
  • Spent bullet-casings from Civil War battlegrounds
  • Pre-Colombian pottery
  • Ming Dynasty jade
  • An Egyptian sarcophagus
  • A 1927 Wurlitzer pipe-organ Don would play for visitors

These were just a few of the artifacts the FBI crime detectives found in Mr. Miller’s home. What they also discovered that was not visible to visitors of his collection were around 2,000 human bones representing about 500 human beings, all of which are believed to be stolen from sacred Native American burial grounds.

Human skeletal remains that have been dug up from a shallow grave

Human remains found in Miller’s home

Don and wife Sue Miller were very active in their local church and foreign missionary work from the 1960’s into the late 1980’s then becoming short-term consultants for construction-missionary trips abroad. The couple was so serious about their missionary work and giving out Bibles to the locals that they organized Building for God International in 1979 in order to take advantage of America’s tax-exemptions, right-offs and religious traveling expenses. They also would host in their home pastors and their families from the foreign church congregations they had built. Yet, with so much concern about reaching international people in foreign lands with their personal ideology and controversial belief-system, Don and Sue seemed completely oblivious to the ethical and moral, let alone legal implications of filling their Waldron, Indiana home with precious and sacred artifacts and the remains of 500 human beings with family descendants.

Dark Rain Thom, a Shawnee descendant who served on the Indiana Native American Indian Affairs Commission under three governors, said the motives of such collectors vary, and that it’s not uncommon for collections to come to light when an elderly person dies and descendants try to figure out what to do with artifacts.

Often, she said, family members then quietly donate them to museums or arrange to return them to specific tribes — if that provenance can be determined.

Some collectors are motivated by money, as the artifacts’ sale can be lucrative, Thom said. But others with interests in archaeology or anthropology are motivated by a desire to understand the development of a culture through its art items and everyday implements. And others, Thom said, are in it for the thrill of discovery.
Indystar.com Thousands of artifacts removed from rural Indiana home” by Diana Penner, accessed March 5, 2019

But the fact remains, Don Miller was not a licensed, professional, or even sanctioned guest archaeologist or anthropologist with any university or society in the world. He was a self-proclaimed historian and museum curator of his own stolen property and appointed by his God as an earnest missionary doing his God’s work. He was not always given proper access or any permission to go into certain sites, much less leave the country with artifacts. This is the mind-boggling, appalling self-perception Donald Miller had of himself.

The FBI have already returned artifacts to Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, New Zealand and Spain to date, and about 360 artifacts have been repatriated to China. In 1979 the Archaeological Resources Protection Act forbade any sales, purchase, exchange, transport, or receipt of artifacts. In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law protecting cultural and natural resources in the U.S. And in 1990 the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act was signed into law making it illegal to buy or sell Native American remains. Over the course of his accumulation of items Don Miller purchased many, if not most of his artifacts, as well as illegally obtained and illegally brought them into the United States.

Why would someone who supposedly believes in saving non-American sinners in order for souls to leave our dead decaying human bodies and tombs for eternal life want with 2,000 bones of 500 humans? Why would a man who served in the U.S. military and took part in the Manhattan Project that ended WWII consciously and willingly break the very laws he vowed to fight for? What could possibly convince a man that what he was illegally amassing in his “basement museum” was even remotely ethical and meant (in his mind) for human prosperity, let alone his God’s will?

Donald Miller died in 2015 without any repercussions of his illicit crimes; never tried, fined, or punished. The FBI investigation and repatriation of artifacts from Miller’s home continues to this day.

Share your thoughts below about this bizarre man, his integrity, his religious beliefs and activity, and whether or not he provided any lasting legacy for future generations.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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