Ship’s Blog

Enhanced Reality

Viewing posts from the Enhanced Reality category

Mattel’s “Man in Space” flies aboard Soyuz Blue!

Sharp eyed readers of Soyuz Blue, Volume Two, have noted that toy that Colonel Molotov hangs at the top of the space capsule for luck is a famous American astronaut.

The year was 1966. The US was finishing up project Gemini and preparing for the first Apollo Moon missions. The Mattel toy company rolled out an action figure based on the latest designs available in Life, Jane’s Aviation, and Nasa publications.

He was Major Matt Mason, who lived on the Moon with his buddies in a sleek transparent base with a lot of cool plastic hardware. The crew had color coded space suits. Matt looked fashion forward in classic white. Sgt. Storm made a bold statement in red, while civilian astronaut Doug Davis prowled the moon in chrome yellow. Lt. Jeff Long was clad in blue. Jeff was African-American and a member of Mattel’s team almost two decades before Guion Bluford became the first black man in space.


As a toy the Major and his subordinates left something to be desired. Their wire joints had a tendency to snap, and paint would peel off of their black “plastizol” bodies. For astronauts, they broke rather easily.

In the early Seventies, after the peak of interest in the Apollo missions faded, Matt and crew were rebooted as sci-fi adventurers and teamed with a rogues gallery of aliens. The toy line was discontinued in the mid seventies, ironically just a few years before the advent of Star Wars.

Matt Mason is actually rumored to have flown on several Space Shuttle missions as a mascot.

Read it for yourself! Buy the novel on Amazon:

Journey to space starts on the DC Metro Orange line.

That really is the Arlington, Virginia Orange Line in the opening pages of Soyuz Blue.

And those really are the stations you visit until you pass beneath the Potomac River, where our heroine, Dr. Elizabeth Floyd, is trapped in a crowded commuter train by a power outage.

The DC metro is the second busiest metro system after New York, with an average of 727,000 trips per workday. The rail system has received numerous design awards, including the American Institute of Architects Twenty-five Year Award for “architectural design of enduring significance that has stood the test of time.” The open and airy stations are a lot of fun for the illustrator to draw.

But these vaulted spaces can lull the rider into a false sense of security before plunging him or her into a dank and crowded metro car. Metro has a troubled history in the past few years brought on by insufficient funding and lack luster maintenance. Riding the metro everyday is a constant source of uncertainty. There are always problems; you just hope it is on the other person’s train. The only criticism I have received on this scene is that “ The train driver in a real situation would not have been so communicative. Generally you’re left without a clue as to why you are not moving.”

A funny place to start a story about a journey to the International Space Station? Not if your heroine is claustrophobic.

Hey Washington! Did I capture the real Metro experience? Read it for yourself! See samples on Amazon:

The signature building that Baikonur Cosmodrome should have.

Launch site of the:

first artificial satellite…

first manned space flight…

first woman in space…

first multiple cosmonaut spacecraft…

Yet for all of the pathfinding missions this installation has seen, the architecture of Baikonur remains functional and dreary. For Soyuz Blue I took the liberty of creating the signature building that the spaceport SHOULD have, given its dramatic history.

This fantasy building is a combination of Russian constructivist Vladimir Tatlin (Monument to the Third International) and Eero Saarinen (who did the soaring Dulles Airport Terminal, and the classic TWA terminal at JFK ) .

My structure has sweeping curtains of glass that twist up into a double helix that towers 26 stories above the Kazakh steppes. The atrium displays notable spacecraft and probes and features a large relief of Sergei Korolev, the chief designer himself. Offices and meeting rooms are scattered through this steel and glass monument to human aspiration and spaceflight.

Careful readers will notice that I have also taken a few liberties with the Cosmonaut Preparation Area, which in real life really DOES sport a persian carpet on the floor (Russian definitions of clean rooms are a bit more liberal than NASAs!). My preparation room also has a Persian rug.  But the Louis XIV paneling and moldings are my invention and a tribute to Astronaut David Bowman’s final hotel stay in 2001 a Space Odyssey.

comonaut prep ceiling

How nerdy do you want to get? Russian space hounds will also notice the diesel locomotive that rolls the soyuz rockets out is not Russian at all, but in fact a West German V200 diesel hydraulic. I chose the V200 because it has great postwar design lines that complement the 1950’s rocket feel of the Soyuz launcher. I also enjoyed putting a free market capitalist locomotive deep in the heart of the old USSR.

V200 locomotives were finally phased out of service in the early 2000s after a very successful run of almost 50 years.

Read it for yourself! Buy the novel on Amazon: