Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Of Meteors and Astronauts (Part 3)

Sunday night I arrived in Tucson and checked into my hotel for the night. By Monday morning, I was on my way to visit Dr. William Hartmann, Senior Scientist at the Planetary Sciences Institute. Space collectors may know Bill from the several books he has authored. Bill is a prolific writer as well as an accomplished artist, who has written and illustrated several popular books like "The Grand Tour," "Out of the Cradle," and "A Travelers Guide to Mars."

I met Bill at his studio around 10AM and I received a tour of his studio located just behind his home. It is filled with the artwork of many other astronomical astists like Pamela Lee, Chesley Bonestell and Ron Miller.

I was at his studio to see the latest in a series of commissions on the birth of the Moon. Besides being an author and artist, Bill is a planetary geologist of some renown having originated the theory on the origin of the Moon as well as the origin of basin forming impacts on the Moon.

The painting above shows Bill with the latest commission that shows the state of the Earth and Moon some 40 minutes after the initial planetisimal impact.

After the tour of Bill's studio, we drove through the suburbs of Tucson to PSI's main offices. As a PSI donor (all donations are welcome), I received the dollar tour of the building. Bill and I posed for the camera in the main lobby of their new building. I added that southwestern landscape painting to our art collection.

By the way, the two paintings directly behind us are also paintings done by Bill of various stages of the impact that created the Moon. They were done for magazine covers and are for sale. The prices are very reasonable and all you have to do is contact Kim Poor at Novaspace (Bill and Kim, you owe me for the plug) and he will make all the arrangements.

After our meeting, I headed over to Novaspace and found Kim, Sally, Linda, Lisa, Stephanie and Rob busy at work getting ready for the Cernan signing that was happening on Tuesday morning. Kim and I traded war stories until about 5PM (and yes, I found a beautiful Bob Eggleston original painting of the Earth in the gallery that now resides on one of the few remaining walls in my home) until Gene Cernan arrived at the studio to help me certify several artifacts purchased from Gene since last year.

Kim afforded me the chance to sit with Gene for about three hours to certify various items from my collection. We sat and discussed many topics that ranged from Gemini 9, Apollo 10 and Apollo 17.

The one thing that struck me about Gene was his memory of events on the lunar surface. We talked about the fact that 33 years (to the day) had elapsed since his launch on Apollo 17 and sometimes memories of specific events fade with time. Gene was very good at responding to my questions. It impressed me that he had such good recall.

Gene took the time to pose with some of my purchases from his collection. The above photograph is of a complete flown Apollo 10 lunar module checklist. I cannot thank Gene enough for the time and effort that he spent with me.

On an aside, Gene looked very good and was really chipper during my time with him. He was a riot at dinner. The whole evening was very educational to me. I learned a great deal.

Gene was on a roll and we finished up signing and certifying several artifacts from his missions during our three hours together at Novaspace. Then I took Gene and the Novaspace crew out to dinner where we all traded stories for a few more hours and then it was time to head back to the hotel to pack for the flight home.

On Tuesday morning, I packed up the suitcase which was now full of rocks, books and other various items acquired during my travels across Arizona and hit the road.

I made a quick stop at Novaspace to say goodbye to Kim, said a quick goodbye to Gene Cernan and thanked the staff for a great time the night before. Before I end, I must thank Sally, Stephanie, Linda, Lisa and Rob for their time and attention during my stay. They were real troopers. Kim gets a special thanks for listening to me for about three hours (I thought the time went fast, but I was doing the talking).

While I am thanking people there is one other person that I have to thank. Cece Bibby and I were talking on the phone during my ride down to Tucson. I got a bit lost entering Tucson and she (while in Georgia) got out her map of the USA and guided me to my hotel. I might still be driving around looking for the damn place if it had not be for Cece's guidance.

Then it was time for the hour and half drive back to Phoenix and the flight home ending a wonderful weekend of Meteors and astronauts.