Monday, November 1, 2010

Across the World Tour: Angie Smibert's Nuclear Adventure

What Is All This?

To celebrate the launch of Across the Universe on 1-11-11, we're going Across the World with guest posts of adventures from all over the world! This is all a part of the Across the World Tour. First, read the world adventure below. Then, click through to the adventurer's blog to find a letter.

Why a letter? Because the letters--when unscrambled--form a password. And the password opens up the secret page (LOOK for it above). And on the secret page is lots of goodies--secret information about the origins of the book, hidden Easter eggs, and...a entry form to win a prize of a signed ARC of Across the Universe, star swag, and MORE.

Today's Adventurer

Angie Smibet has my dream resume. Dude. She's worked at NASA. The Kennedy Space Center!! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

On top of that, Angie's written a new dystopian novel, MEMENTO NORA, that's about a girl who lives in a world where one pill can erase all your bad memories. When Nora decides not to take the pill, though, she has to pay the price of keeping her memories.

When you're done reading about Angie's nuclear adventure, make sure to click on through to her blog and find the first letter to solve the password!

My Nuclear Adventure
I’ve never really considered myself the adventurous sort. Sure I’ve gone whitewater rafting, driven cross country, and moved somewhere without knowing a soul (not all on the same trip), but I’m no thrill seeker. I have had a few adventuresome jobs, though. I spent 10 years at the Kennedy Space Center, which did involve going to the launch pad, shooting video in the Mobile Launcher Platform, and dodging the occasional alligator or wild pigs roaming the parking lot. But when Beth mentioned this idea to me, the adventure that came to mind was a trip to the Nevada Test Site.

You see, before I worked at NASA, my job involved writing publications and planning meetings for the Department of Energy—for the environmental restoration program, in particular. That meant lots of travel, but mostly to places where the DOE (or its predecessor) had screwed up the environment or—even more fun—was planning to store nuclear waste. Manhattan project kind of places.

On one such trip, we were running a meeting in Las Vegas. We always liked to pair those meetings with a tour of a facility. Well, the Nevada Test Site is about 70 miles from Vegas. NTS is, as you can guess from the name, where the US tested nuclear devices above ground until 1963 (when we and Soviets signed a treaty saying we wouldn’t do that anymore.)

So we piled the participants, DOE and others, into a bus out to the test site. It was an hour plus ride from the hotel to the gate. Then it was another 40 minutes or so to the little town of Mercury, where the main buildings were. Did I mention that the NTS is humungous? Over 1,300 square miles of desert and mountains.

In Mercury, we picked up the obligatory radiation badges and water and set off in smaller buses. Driving across the desert was a little bit like I imagined driving across the moon. Or a nuclear landscape. It’s very barren, though we did spot a few coyotes and some mustangs up in the moutains. We drove across Frenchman’s Flat, aka Ground Zero, where the first nuke was tested in 1951. The eeriest thing, though, is the houses. Or what’s left of them. They were built to test what building materials could survive a nuclear blast.

One of the most memorable stops on the tour was Sedan crater. This mile-wide crater—which you can stand on a platform and look across—was created by a shallow underground nuclear test conducted in July 1962 as part of Operation Plowshare. It is one big-*ss hole in the ground. This program was all about figuring out how to use nukes for mining and other civilian purposes. Thankfully, Operation Plowshare didn’t go too far. There was even a plan to blow up a piece of coastline in Alaska to make a harbor.

We also went up to the top of Yucca Mountain, which was then (and now still) the proposed site of a nuclear waste depository inside the mountain. The State of Nevada has fought DOE on its location for decades. From the top of the mountain, you can see the desert floor beyond is dotted with calderas.
When we were coming back down from Yucca Mountain, though, we must have taken a wrong turn. Or the driver was confused about our itinerary. We pulled up to some facility on the side of some mountain. (You got me where.) Some guys in uniforms greeted us, all prepared to take us on a tour of this mystery facility—until they realized we didn’t have the proper clearance. Then we got hustled right out of there and sent on our way back to Mercury. Guns may have been involved. It happened so fast.

We all made it back to Vegas eventually.

Go Across the Blogosphere!
The adventure's not over yet! Go to Angie's site to find the first letter in the password to the secret page. Collect all the letters in the first two weeks of November for a chance to win a signed ARC, star-swag, and pin-buttons!

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