Archive for August, 2007

Dandridge Cole: In the Words of his Best Friend Roy Scarfo

It appears that my last article ‘Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids, the Pioneering Work of Dandridge M. Cole’, has attracted quite of bit of interest amongst space enthusiasts far and wide. I was especially surprised and honoured to receive a letter dated August 9th. It was from a very close friend and associate of Dandridge Cole’s – Roy Scarfo.

Great post on Dan Cole, A very dear and missed friend.

Roy has had a very long and distinguished career as a space artist, writer and futurist. He also coauthored Beyond Tomorrow with Dan Cole. This book is one of the great classics of a whole body of literature devoted to speculation concerning humanity’s future in space and the possibility of creating a spacefaring civilization. I am happy to report that several copies of this book were recently found in pristine condition in a warehouse and are available for purchase courtesy of Roy Scarfo.

I am also honoured that Roy has accepted my invitation to submit a guest blog. So with great pleasure, and a very special thank you to Roy, I would like to present without further delay Roy’s submission to the Discovery-Enterprise.


I have been asked by Alex Bonnici to submit a guest article concerning Dan Cole for the “Discovery Enterprise” blog. I would first refer the readers who are interested in the life of Dandridge Cole to first read two posts on my blog The Future in Space for a little background.

One post is titled ‘About Dandridge Cole‘ and the other post is ‘Mechanism of Resurrection.’

Dan in the early sixties was considered the most futuristic thinker living at the time. Articles on him appeared in most of the prominent magazines and newspapers throughout the world. Our association began at GE’s Space Technology Center in Valley Forge, PA, at the time considered the largest private facility devoted to space research in the world. We were both employees there. We worked on many projects together but it’s hard to remember what they all were. Our major project together was the book “Beyond Tomorrow” published by Amherst Press in 1964. We would meet in the evenings after work in my office at GE and discuss the various chapters one by one, page by page, word by word, for a period of over a year. Our discussions took us to every area of space exploration and life and beyond.

Our work together gave us a handle as “the weird couple” because of the way-out material we were producing together. Today many of those concepts are as common as soap. The majority of our work together was done outside our regular responsibilities at GE, although sometimes they overlapped. We would meet almost daily for lunch at the cafeteria and afterward walk and talk during the rest of our lunch hour. This went on for years.

Our personal lives were usually never discussed, and therefore, I knew little of Dan’s personal life. Last year one of Dan’s daughters from Michigan contacted me wanting to learn more about him since she was very young when he died. We met at our home over lunch at which time we both learned something new about Dan.

One thing in Dan’s life of which he was most proud was his service as a paratrooper with the 597th Airborne Engineers during WWII. He wrote many poems, music and lyrics about his experiences as a paratrooper. One follows:

To My Parachute

Copyright 1944 by Dandridge M. Cole

Lotus blossom drifting

White against
the blue,

Hearken while I humbly

Give my thanks to

Never was there flower

so fair to see;

Never has a maiden

Done so much for

As your bloom above me,

I’m floating high;

Borne by silken panels

through the sky.

When I look above

At my panels strong,

My heart fills up with

Gratitude and song.

is not a blossom,

Maid, nor setting sun

That compares
in beauty

To you, my pretty

Hear me, staunch

Angel Gabriel,

Let me down, but

Do your duty well.

me as I hurtle

Toward the ground below;

Jerk my
bruis-ed shoulders…

Never let me

Gabriel, my angel

Guardian, so

May I always find you

White against the

Roy Scarfo


I was also rather surprised and extremely honoured to receive a comment from Dan Cole’s son Stephen Dandridge Cole:

Thank you for the fine article on my father.

You mention meeting Don Cox and also the idea that it would be good to republish Islands in Space. Are you aware that something of the sort was done? In 1996 Don Cox contacted another old friend of both himself and my father, Jim Chestek, and together they published “Doomsday Asteroid” (admittedly a more sensational title!) Capitalizing on recent interest in and concern about asteroid impacts, it draws on and updates the older book.

And apropos of Mr. Zebrowski’s interesting novel, Macrolife (of which I have an early copy – perhaps I should get the new edition) I might also mention his Sunspacers trilogy and Skylife, which he co-edited. These both also reflect or allude to the realms that my father envisioned.

August 24, 2007 10:48 PM

Thank you, Stephen for your kind words. I did indeed meet Jim Chestek I was sitting next to him during Don Cox’s presentation at the ISDC in New York back in 1996. And, it was he who formally introduced me to Donald Cox.

I have such wonderful memories of that conference.


I would also like to express a very special thank you to my fellow bloggers Ralph Buttigieg and Dennis Chamberland for choosing my article for our blog’s submission to The Carnival of Space.


Rocketeers by Michael Belfiore
book review by Ralph Buttigieg

If you want to know where the future of space exploration lies get this book. Michael Belfiore tells the story of the New Space entrepreneurs, the people working outside NASA building their own spacecrafts. It starts on that dramatic day Burt Rutan’s Spaceship One became the first private spaceship to enter space and includes the stories of leading private space entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Robert Bigelow.

Rocketeers describes the people out at Mojave building their dream. People like genius designer Burt Rutan and the pilots who became the first private astronauts. It describes companies like Xcor and their plans for racing rockets. Importantly it tells the story of tinkers like Tom Pickens, showing how individuals with modest resources can play an important part in opening up the endless frontier.

Perhaps the most impressive is Robert Bigelow. As a child his grandparents told him about their sighting of a UFO. He became convinced that advanced civilizations were waiting for us to become space faring. So after a career as a real estate businessman he used his fortune to begin a second career as a space station builder. Using his business skill he acquired inflatable technology from NASA and already has two prototypes space station modules in orbit.

My only wish is that he could have covered other players such as JP Aerospace and SpaceDev, but any book has to have limits. Anyone with the slightest interest in space exploration and development should love this book.

1000 hour day

Photo: Chris Bray

In 2005 two young Australian adventurers, Chris Bray and Clark Carter, began a grand adventure. They planned to trek across the mostly unexplored Arctic island of Victoria. Using a kayak/sled hybrid of their own design they hiked and paddled through inhospitable territory facing wolfs, polar bears and blizzards. It wasn’t just a he-man adventure either, the explorers managed to collect fossils and artifacts for scientific study as well. Unfortunately they were only able to complete about a third of the 1000 km journey.

Next year they will be back. This time with a new sled/raft design complete with huge Kevlar tyres. They will commence their expedition at their last departure point. With a 100 days of supplies the unsupported team will hope to complete their mission.:

The plan is that in May 2008, Chris and Clark will be dropped off at the finishing point from the 2005 expedition, dig up an Australian Geographic Society flag they conveniently left buried there, and continue on, carrying it to the most Westerly point of Victoria Island, still a good 700km away.

This time though, the boys have the advantage of experience and hindsight and have totally re-designed their PAC to be lighter, stronger, weirder and, Potential route for 2008 expedition – unconfirmed importantly, easier to handle over the rough terrain. Huge tractor inner tube tyres covered with bullet-proof Kevlar fabric should help prevent them sink into mud pits, break through thin ice, and let them roll easily over larger obstacles. See the PAC page for more details. They have also learnt never to underestimate how long such a trip will take and will bring 100 days of supplies with them for the continuation of their world-first adventure.

They will be traveling through lands no human has ever explored and aircraft pilots have reported seeing fossils of extinct bisons and whale bones so who knows what they will discover. What ever they find it sure sounds like a magnificent adventure!

Expedition site is here and have a look at the promotional video below.

Carnival of Space 16

Discovery Enterprise joins the carnival of space with Alex ‘s Dandridge Cole article. Visit the Advanced Nanotechnology blog for this week’s round up of the best space and astronomy posts on the blogosphere .

Space jump near

Photo: Michel Gangne, Agence France-Presse

We have previously reported on Mr Michel Fournier amazing plan to to sky dive from 40km, through that little explored region called Near Space. He failed to raise the necessary funds last year but sometime next month he will have another attempt.

After years of training, millions of pounds of funding and numerous thwarted attempts, the daredevil Frenchman is expected to make the jump over the Saskatchewan plains in Canada next month.

In the process of le Grand Saut or “Super Jump”, the 63-year-old hopes to complete a lofty hat-trick – breaking records for the highest ever parachute jump, the longest sky dive, and the highest altitude achieved by a person in a balloon.

Mr Fournier will be dressed in a £35,000 carbon fibre suit designed to protect him from freezing temperatures of -100C, as well as from extremely high temperatures caused by the air resistance created by his high-speed fall.

A re-enforced crash helmet will protect his ears from the thunderous sonic boom he will create as he breaks the sound barrier.

He will also have to spend hours before his leap inhaling pure oxygen to dispel any traces of nitrogen from his blood due to the thinness of the air at 40,000m.

Over the past two decades Mr Fournier has sold antique furniture, a prized gun collection and even his home to press ahead with his dream of completing the record-breaking dive.

He came closest in 2003, when his attempt was thwarted as his balloon burst shortly before lift-off.

“People have said I am too old, but I am very fit and have trained hard,” said the veteran of more than 8,500 parachute jumps who has followed a rigorous training regime including running, lifting weights, and yoga.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid, but I am also very excited. It really is a leap into the unknown.”

More here. Good luck Michael!

Godspeed Barbara Morgan

Today I write as a teacher in wishing Barbara Morgan Godspeed and a safe journey. You bring new meaning to the phrase – A Higher Education and carry with you the hopes and dreams of your fellow teachers throughout the world. Your voyage is just the beginning. You are finally carrying out the dream of Christa McAuliffe and are opening the high frontier of space to teachers and students everywhere. Hundreds more will follow along the path you have blazed. Your epic journey will transform our classrooms into spaceships of the imagination that transcend space and time to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers to take us on new voyages of discovery. And, I wish to close this very short posting with an Irish Blessing:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind always be at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your field,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
The Teacher in Space Project (TISP) was a NASA program announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 to inspire students, honor teachers, and spur excitement in math, science, and space exploration. That same year, NASA selected Christa McAuliffe to be the first teacher in space with Barbara Morgan as her backup. McAuliffe died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster (STS-51-L).

Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids, the Pioneering Work of Dandridge M. Cole

NASA is again considering the feasibility of manned missions to the asteroids. However, this idea is not without precedent. Scientists began seriously considering asteroids as targets of exploration in the 1960s. The leading proponent of such missions was American aerospace engineer and futurist – Dandridge MacFarland Cole.

October 30th, 2005 marked the 40th anniversary of his untimely passing. Dandridge Cole was only 44 years old when he suffered a fatal heart attack. The anniversary of his death seems to have largely escaped the notice and attention of the space community at large. This brief article seeks to redress that awful oversight.

NASA and the aerospace community owe an enormous debt to this great man. In his book ‘Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids’, co-authored with Donald Cox, he laid the foundation for much of our current thinking on the Exploration, Mining, and Colonization of the Asteroids.

Cole and Cox, from the vantage point of 1964, had foreseen the great wilderness that lay ahead of the U.S. space program after the Apollo program had achieved its objective of placing a man on the Moon. They had predicted, unlike many of their contemporises that a great hiatus laid between the first lunar landing and the eventual goal of landing men on Mars. A full decade of technological development would stall the American Space program until the super boosters and nuclear engines, needed to take astronauts to Mars, replaced the Saturn 5. Until these technical milestones were achieved, they felt that a manned mission to the Asteroids should be seriously considered as the next logical goal for the post-Apollo era.

Recently, within NASA there has been ongoing discussion of the possibility of mounting a manned voyage to a Near-Earth Object (NEO). Its advocates are certain of the tremendous scientific return of such an undertaking. Dandridge Cole was one of the first scientists to draw the broad outlines of such a mission. In the early 1960s, he studied the possibility of using Apollo hardware for a mission to Eros, during its close approach to Earth in 1975.

Cole and Cox also outlined many of the robotic precursor missions to the asteroids that have largely inspired those that were realised over the past few years (such as NEAR and Hayabusa) and those yet to be flown (such as the Dawn mission to Ceres and Vesta). In addition, they saw the importance of establishing beachheads on the Martian moons Phobos and Demos to facilitate the exploration of the planet.

In 1963, Cole wrote ‘Exploring the Secrets of Space: Astronautics for the Layman’ with I. M. Levitt. In this book they suggested hollowing out an ellipsoidal asteroid about 30 km long, and rotating it about its major axis to simulate gravity. By reflecting sunlight inside with mirrors, and creating, on its inner surface, a pastoral setting an asteroid could be transformed into a permanent space colony. Cole and Cox also envisioned that asteroids would provide the raw materials to form the basis of a spacefaring civilization. And, that asteroidal materials would also serve terrestrial needs. In their view these materials could be transported using mass drivers or linear motors. Cole’s work largely presages that of Gerard K. O’Neill by more than a decade.

A year later, Cole and Cox elaborated this idea further. They went on to consider the possibility of using asteroids as interstellar arks or generation ships. The “nomadic pseudo-earth,” as Cole and Cox called their conception, would be the hollowed out space inside a captured asteroid. The result would be a “gigantic geodesic interior chamber,” created “in much the same way as a glassblower shapes a small solid lump of molten glass into a large empty bottle.” Thus Cole, like Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Robert Goddard before him, envisaged that asteroids would be the stepping-stones paving the path to the outer solar system and beyond. Cole in his 1961 book ‘The Ultimate Human Society’ also argued that huge space colonies might evolve into new organisms called “Macro-Life” composed of innumerable living creatures. Cole wrote:

“Taking man as representative of multicelled life, we can say that man is the mean proportional between Macro-Life and the cell. Macro-Life is a new life form of gigantic size which has for its cells individual human beings, plants, animals, and machines . . . Society can be said to pregnant with a mutant creature which will be at the same time an extraterrestrial colony of human beings and a new large-scale life form.”

A Time magazine article from January 1961 provides a very interesting profile of Dandridge Cole during this period of his life.

In 1965, Cole co-authored with Roy Scarfo, ‘Beyond Tomorrow: The Next 50 Years in Space’ in which he proposed various other space projects and the use of cryogenics so that individuals could travel great distances while in a state of suspended animation.

Considering Dandridge Cole’s many accomplishments, why is there such an enormous dearth in the number of websites devoted to the memory of this great visionary? I had the great privilege of meeting Donald Cox at the National Space Society’s 1996 International Space Development Congress (ISDC) in New York City. He graciously autographed my copy of ‘Islands in Space’. We spent the better part of fifteen minutes discussing the valuable insights, he and Cole discussed in that book and how it pertained to humanity’s future in space. It is one of my most cherished possessions. In fact, I consider ‘Islands in Space’ a very seminal work in the history of astronautics and should be republished along side other great works in the field.