Call it the "Great Moon Rush." The race is on to launch the first privately funded lander to the moon by the end of the year. That's the deadline for an international contest where the winner takes home the Google Lunar XPRIZE's $20 million grand prize.
The competition requires the winning team's spacecraft to land on the moon and maneuver (hop) at least 500 meters to another landing site, and beam high-definition video, photos and data back to Earth. It marks a return to the moon for the first time in 40 years.
For the space startup Moon Express, based in Cape Canaveral, it's full speed ahead. Their lunar lander is the MX-1E. The size of the fictional robot character R2-D2, the spacecraft is designed to ride to a high Earth orbit on the top of a commercial rocket where it'll fire its engines and head to the moon.
However, Moon Express will not utilize the Cape Canaveral complex as a launch site. They've found a better deal. It plans to launch the MX-1E on an Electron rocket from U.S.-New Zealand company Rocket Labs. The vehicle is scheduled to make the first of three test launches from a pad in Auckland, New Zealand in March. Four other space teams have their launch contracts in place to compete for the Google Lunar XPRIZE as well.
In an historic ruling Moon Express became the first private company to win U.S. government approval to fly a commercial deep space mission. Moon Express submitted an application to launch missions beyond the Earth orbit to the U. S. Federal Aviation Administration that took months to work its way through a number of other government organizations.
Director James Brennan told Michele Ragusa she was born to play the role of Mame Dennis. She thinks he just might be right.
"I just love her zest for life. I'm all about that myself, enjoying life to the fullest, having a good time and making everyone around me have one as well," says a vivacious Ragusa in a telephone interview from Plainfield, New Jersey home.
After starring as Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello Dolly! last season, Ragusa returns to Vero's Riverside Theatre in the lead role of the classic Jerry Herman musical Mame, which runs from March 7 through 26.
Ragusa nails the free-spirited 1920s New Yorker, taking to the role with gusto. With a mighty voice and a brash sensibility, Ragusa superbly conveys Mame's ravenous optimism in such numbers as "Open a New Window" and "We Need a Little Christmas."
Directed and choreographed by Brennan, the company will be headed by Ragusa whose extensive Broadway credits include Young Frankenstein, Urinetown, A Class Act, Ragtime and Cyrano.
Linda Rydson's roots run deep. Her great-grandfather built a home in Melbourne in 1906. Growing up near Baltimore, her family visited the place several times a year.
"We would often spend the day at Ocean Park Beach," recalled Rydson, a resident of Melbourne Beach for 30 years. "I knew that historic house on the bend and was always intrigued by it."
Back in May 2003, a realtor friend alerted Linda and her husband Mike that the legendary "Pinky Brown House" was going on the market. They met with owners George and Cheryl Schmidt and fell in love with the original sand chimney, fireplace, French doors, longleaf pine floors, exposed beams, and a courtyard that features a coquina fountain, all paying homage to the beach town's eclectic history.
The couple purchased the home that would become the luxury B&B Port d'Hiver for $550,000. It offers a dazzling view of the Atlantic, but came with strangely tilted hardwood floors.
"The floors were uneven, one side of the home raised about four inches above the other," recalled Mike Rydson, a former mechanical engineer at Harris Corporation. "Linda thought it was sort of quaint, but I thought if people have two glasses of wine they would tip right over."
Each year from December through March a remarkable event takes place. North Atlantic right whales migrate to the warm, calm coastal waters of the southeast Atlantic coast to give birth and nurse their calves. Then in the spring they head back north to feeding grounds in the Bay of Fundy between Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
Some come within a couple hundred yards of the beach. Mothers can be seen schooling newborn calves, while juvenile whales frolic nearby. One of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, North Atlantic right whales reach lengths of up to 55 feet and can weigh from 40 to 70 tons. Mostly black with whitish patches on the head and belly, they have a graceful and deeply notched "fluke," or tail. Two blowholes on the top of its head give a distinctive V-shape to a right whale's spout.
In the early 1900s whalers, ironically, tagged them the "right whale" to kill. Residing in shallow coastal waters the whales stayed close to land and swam slowly. Easy to harpoon, they tended conveniently to float after they died, thanks high levels of blubber, which whalers turned into valuable oil. Even more valuable was the baleen from its upper jaw. A tough yet flexible material in long strips that was finely fringed, it was coveted for everything from buggy whips ( "I'm going to whale on you") to corset stays and umbrella ribs.
Say hello to Kiefer. He's a talker, or should I say squawker. The handsome white cockatoo accentuates his conversations with frenetic head bobs while madly flapping his wings in upward scoops. Kiefer tends to get his point across. Native to Maluku Islands in Indonesia, this 18-inch high bird has resided at LuAnn Apple's non-profit parrot rescue and rehab facility in Melbourne Beach for the past 16 years.
Known for their bright plumage and intelligence, parrots are the third most popular pet in the U. S. Cockatoos, in particular, have strong personalities that can get them into trouble.
"These birds are so misunderstood," Apple laments. "They are friendly and loving birds, but people give them up because they scream or screech too much. They are sociable and curious, can learn tricks and be trained. An isolated cockatoo will instinctively call out. But if you keep a cockatoo in an environment with other people or pets, he relaxes, making him a well-behaved avian companion."
Apple has been working with cockatoos and other members of the parrot family for the past 35 years. She grew up in Valley Forge, Pa., and knew little about parrots when she moved to Ft. Lauderdale in the late 1970s. There she met a cockatoo that pulled at her heartstrings and soon Apple developed an affinity for exotic parrots.
He was Brit's first pop star. An English actor, director, painter and raconteur, Noel Coward was known as ‘The Master’ among his friends and colleagues for his artfulness in writing plays and composing songs. His breakthrough moment in playwriting occurred with the controversial Vortex (1924) which featured the themes of drugs and adultery.
Coward's runaway celebrity reached a peak in 1930 with Private Lives. Considered his greatest success, the play took him just three days to write. It earned an astonishing £3,200 for him every week on stage, making him the highest-paid writer in the western world.
Nearly ninety years ago, Coward cleverly spotlighted human shortcomings, delivering barbs at the mores and marriages of his time. It still works today in this crisp James Brennan production with an excellent cast. Amanda and Elyot are quintessential creations of Coward in Private Lives at Vero's Riverside Theatre.
Private Lives is what every romantic-comedy strives to be: laugh-out-loud funny, sexy, rambunctious with bucket loads of bad behavior. Recognized as one of the most sophisticated, witty, and entertaining plays ever written, Brennan brings the high octane story to life with the adventures and misadventures of two couples honeymooning in a swanky Deauville, France seaside resort.
At the Café du Grand Boeuf in Paris, no menu is necessary. Why? “Because we have everything,” asserts Claude, the mercurial Maître d’.
The story unfolds in July 1961 around Victor Bullard, an expat American newspaper magnate. About a dozen years before, Victor created the finest cafe in the world that is devoted solely to fulfilling his appetite for the world's best cuisine. The staff is always available to prepare the most sumptuous of meals for just one customer, Victor. An Empty Plate at Café du Grand Boeuf is presented on the Waxlax stage at Vero Beach's Riverside Theatre through February 5.
A great connoisseur of life, love, and food, Victor is obsessed with Ernest Hemingway, and his idol's suicide — three days before the play unfolds — has clearly blackened Victor's world. When Victor who shows up at the cafe, he's disheveled and depressed. He has just returned from a Hemingway-like sojourn to Madrid and the "Running of the Bulls" where his longtime girlfriend Louise (Katherine Puma) refused his offer of marriage. Victor's response: to slowly die of starvation at his own table.
For the past fifteen years I’ve been a contributing writer to a variety of national & regional magazines, prominent daily news-papers and websites. I have written about an array of topics such as arts & culture, chefs, food & drink, business entrepreneurs, travel, history, thoroughbred racing, and the animal and natural world.
I'm currently a regular arts & culture contributor to WFIT's website (the NPR radio station in Melbourne.), Vero Beach Magazine and Florida Today newspaper on a number of topics. Over recent years my work has been published regularly in Blood-Horse, Long Island Boating World and The Hunt and PA Equestrian magazines.
I am a regular contributor to the websites JustLuxe.com and SeeTheSouth.com. JustLuxe is an online magazine featuring the best of luxury lifestyle and travel, while SeeTheSouth features truly unique southern destinations. My travel articles also regularly appear in Florida Today, Long Island Boating world and the Delaware County Times, a major daily newspaper just outside Philly.
I've also contributed a variety of articles to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the Delaware County Times, and the Montgomery County Newspapers. I have been an Arts & Culture correspondent for Newsworks, the website for WHYY-TV (PBS in Philadelphia). I have been a correspondent to ESPN.com, America's Best Racing, the Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
After spending the past two decades in Wilmington, Delaware, my wife Jane, our Toller retriever Smarty and I have moved to Melbourne Beach, Fla. Located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River, Melbourne Beach sits on the southern end of Florida's "Space Coast." The famed coastal highway A1A runs directly along the Atlantic. Melbourne Beach (pop. 3,000) offers unspoiled beaches with sparkling blue-green waters and thousands of beautiful seabirds and long-legged shorebirds.
Head north 35 miles on A1A and you arrive at Cape Canaveral, for decades our nation's gateway to exploring and understanding our universe. Today, Cape Canaveral is a hub for many of the most exciting new private space projects such as SpaceX, the rocket and spacecraft company founded by Elon Musk (manufacturer of Tesla vehicles). Upwards of 30 launches are planned in 2017.
Back down to earth traveling on two-lane A1A south from Melbourne Beach's compact business area brings you to a series of secluded and undeveloped natural beaches. Bonsteel Park's two-acre beach provides an excellent vantage point to catch glimpses of passing dolphins, while the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as the most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the western hemisphere. It's also home to the gigantic leatherback turtles.
Nearby is Sebastian Inlet State Park which connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. Its jetty break is recognized as one of the surf world's high-performance hot spots. Three generations of world-class surfers have surfed here, including 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. The 600-acre park is also celebrated for world-class fishing, and plenty of seabirds and wildlife.
Through my writing over the past decade I have traveled to spectacular destinations such as Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. and Sun Valley, Idaho; Cody, Wyoming/Yellowstone Park; Saratoga Springs, the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs and Rhinebeck, New York; Port Clyde and Monheghan Island, Maine; Avalon and Stone Harbor, New Jersey; Middleburg, Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia.
Other travel adventures have included Tampa and St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, Florida; and St. Simons and Jekyll Island, Georgia. My travel articles thoughtfully explore the history of the region along with museums, music and the arts, chefs and restaurateurs, wineries and craft breweries, outdoor and sporting adventures as well as profiling intriguing personalities of those regions.
In addition to my writing career I owned a marketing company where I represented a diversified list of clients in the areas of publicity, marketing and business development-- such as the famed Baldwin's Book Barn, Thoroughbred Charities of America and the Kahunaville restaurant chain. In another life I was the founder, publisher and editor of Life Sports Magazine.
Along with Jane and Smarty I look forward to writing about new adventures in Melbourne Beach, the "Space Coast" and other Florida destinations. That's Smarty below with his pals Willie and Nelson.