Planet Waves Weekly by Eric Francis
Copyright © 2003 all rights reserved by Planet Waves Digital Media.

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Customer Service - Chelsea Bottinelli | (206) 463-STAR (7827)

For Friday, February 7, 2003 | Version 3.1

Mother of Invention

Dear Friend and Client:

Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as the newborn Aquarius New Moon and an odd collection of planets arose Saturday morning over Texas. Disaster came during the astrology of a magnificent and unusual beginning, a moment of invention and innovation, not a sad ending. So it seems truly strange that what we witnessed had such a sense of loss and finality. There are no words that can console the families who lost their loved ones, souls unique in all the universe, and from the sound of things, wise, old souls at that. We shared bonds with them through cultural identity, through a fascination with space travel, through our society's reverence for science, and as people we could relate to as individuals. How many of us wanted to be astronauts when we grew up?

When Challenger exploded in 1986, I was a student at SUNY Buffalo. Ron McNair, one of the astronauts involved, was a Buffalo alumnus, and was carrying a flag from our university, no doubt to be flown, upon his return, as a message to students of what is possible. It was to be not merely a message of pride, but one of accomplishment; he was the second African-American to fly in space. Keep studying calculus and keep dreaming. Despite the odds, it's really possible. We all felt a kinship to him. We knew that familiar flag had burned.

Tonight, from a recent visit to, where I take the pulse of the media, one thing is clear to me. On Tuesday, the same day that George Bush allegedly mourned the deaths of the seven astronauts, it was soon back to business as usual selling the war. What is this? When we lose our best and brightest and most brave, we don't even stop for a day, close the banks and schools, and reflect? He can mouth the words of respect, barely able to keep the boyish grin off his face, but the country does not actually show that respect. It is too inconvenient to feel, and if we did feel, we might not feel like bombing Iraq. I felt the same way when 9-Eleven happened. K-Mart did not close for an hour. Money kept changing hands. When President Kennedy was murdered, anything and everything stopped, and for days. It was unthinkable to so much as ride a bus or go to the movies. The movies were closed, anyway. You sat at home with your family and mourned.

Astronauts have slipped a long way down in respectability since John Glenn addressed a joint session of congress after orbiting World Earth, a privilege usually reserved exclusively for the president, and sometimes for heads of state. We have come a long way down since senators and congressmen bawled their eyes out as he pointed to the gallery and introduced his parents, his aunts and his wife Annie, calling her "the rock."

Today, the day of the official state memorial, Secretary Powell was selling us a war, at least having done us the service of delaying it this long. It is so disgusting as to defy understanding.

Despite this callousness, for many people around the world, Columbia will leave an indelible mark in the onrush of time. We will remember where we were, what we were doing, what we were feeling when we heard. But it also marks a point of change that is way too large to see now. We are still too close to the event to see the process of history clearly. It may be difficult to see even in hindsight, with Columbia only vaguely associated with the sequence of events it triggers. The astrology tells us more of the story than any speech or NASA investigation. These exist for one reason only, which is to obscure a deeper truth that's a little too scary for most people to sit with.

Two weeks ago, I began a discussion of Saturday's New Moon, which was conjunct Neptune, as well as the Centaur planet Asbolus and the asteroid Hidalgo. This was my summary from the Jan. 24 edition:

"On the first day of February, there is a New Moon in Aquarius. Astrologers will notice that it's in a close conjunction to Neptune. The basic elements are: Sun, Moon, Neptune, Aquarius: this could be describing a social process of some kind, what you might think of as an activation of the effects of slow-moving Neptune (illusion, delusion, drugs, denial, mysticism, compassion, spirituality, and the power of images on the subconscious -- such as television and film) in Aquarius (the population, collective ideals, ideals in general, the mass media, the intellect, group thought, the Internet). Neptune in Aquarius, which began in the late '90s, vibrates with idealism and reeks of false ideals. True, there is always a mass brainwashing campaign underway, but we might expect to see some kind of change or shift when a New Moon shows up right there."

It was a truly unusual combination of planets that were activated during that lunation. Added to the mix were Asbolus, a Centaur with the ability to see through psychic fog of the kind so often described by old Neptune, and with associations to manipulation and magic: television, for example. And there was Hidalgo, who helps us see through complicated, usually invisible systems of cultural lies. Then, Columbia comes in for her final approach and 38 miles above George Bush's personal ranch, she shatters and rains down debris, both human and technological. Hearing news of this, and imagining its occurrence, was entering one of those moments that you knew could never happen, but which you always knew would, and which suddenly did.

A layer had been peeled back from the façade of the world. Something real had happened. We suddenly had an image of the times in which we live, where 'routine' space travel turns out to be not so routine. There was at the same time a story loose in the With no spin control by the White House possible. They had no clue how to handle it. Bush got on television an excruciating four hours after the loss of the ship to tell the nation what everyone already knew. What were they doing during those four hours? They may have convened focus groups and done fast surveys. No doubt they were on the phone with their Madison Avenue publicists. The key issue was damage control: how not to let this come back to Bush, how not to let this distract the bombing of Iraq agenda, how to turn it around, how to get a grip on the ball. Or, at the very least, how to get a piece of the action.

This was clearly not good news for politicians. No terrorist could be implicated. Don Nelson, a NASA veteran with an impeccable reputation, who was involved with the Shuttle program since its inception, was on the air. He was saying that prior to retirement he had warned the space agency repeatedly about the need for an escape system as the Shuttle fleet grew older, and that he had never been more concerned about the safety of astronauts. The report about the chunk of debris hitting the left wing during liftoff leaked to NBC. The compulsory patriotism that has gripped the media since 9-Eleven was nowhere to be seen. There was a cultural process in action.

But reading, and reading, there were big pieces missing from the story.

I knew I had to talk to one person: Dr. Karl Grossman, full professor of journalism at the State University of New York and my brother investigative reporter. Karl's specialty is the space program -- in particular, the nuclear space program, which he's tracked for 17 years. He is the author of The Wrong Stuff, an expose on the dangers of space shots where nuclear payloads are involved -- such as space probes and satellites. I had one question for him: Was there an RTG aboard Columbia? An RTG is short for radioisotope thermoelectric generator. They consist of a lot of plutonium, which, when it decays, makes heat, which is then used to make electricity. They are extremely dangerous and most of the time, pointless. Another branch of NASA works with some of the most impressive solar technology ever developed.

Some of you will remember the Cassini Space Probe issue of 1999. An RTG was the specific issue with Cassini, which was launched from Earth, sent to Venus, and then sent back past Earth to 'slingshot' or kind of bounce it off the Earth's gravity, eventually heading to Jupiter and Saturn. This maneuver was designed to allow the craft to pick up a lot of speed without using additional fuel. Had that probe accidentally entered the atmosphere, 24 pounds of plutonium dust would have been scattered onto every continent and latitude. Given that one-millionth of one gram is enough to induce lung cancer, that's a lot of plutonium. Thanks to protests largely instigated by Karl Grossman, NASA engineers doubled the distance of the flyby as a last-minute precaution. And for a long time there were no more nuclear space shots.

I got through to Karl Tuesday morning. I asked him how he responded when he heard the news. He said that he was sitting in the same chair reading articles in recent editions of Space News and LA Times about an expanded space nuclear program that NASA is now promoting. It is called the Nuclear Systems Initiative, and its purpose is to RTGs as well as nuclear-powered propulsion systems for rockets. It is old wine in new bottles; these are old ideas that are being given new life under the current Bush administration.

I asked about the possibility of an RTG aboard Columbia.

"There is no way to know for sure," he said. As for the loss of the ship, "It is a lesson in what can happen when something reenters the atmosphere."

The near-perfect safety record of NASA belies a deeper reality, he explained. "Before the Challenger they were claiming that risk level was 1 in 100,000," he said. "Then they lowered it into 1 in 76. NASA projects an image that it's perfect. In many ways it's the gang who can't shoot straight going into space. They crucified a guy like [Don] Nelson who is trying to be an honest man. Then you mix in a bumbling bureaucracy of both corporations and the government, then to that mix you add plutonium."

Karl said that when he saw Challenger explode in 1986, he wondered what that craft's next mission was scheduled to be. It turned out to be lofting a satellite into orbit that would have been powered by an RTG plutonium battery.

"When NASA was founded in 1958, it was a 50/50 military/civilian operation. After the man on the moon program, because they were desperate for funding, NASA started working closer and closer to the military," Karl explained.

In this respect, it's my view that everything done on board the Shuttle is either an indirect rehearsal or direct preparation for some kind of military project in space, and many of its experiments have been directed at the effects of space on humans -- it furthers its own cause. We might ask what that is.

The Space Shuttle program falls under the authority of something called the United States Space Command, part of the Air Force. Much of the work that happens aboard the Shuttle is classified, leaving much to the imagination. Several years ago the Air Force published a report called New World Vistas. It reads, in part, "In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict. These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills."

General Joseph Ashy, then with the Space Command, put it this way. "It's politically sensitive, but it's going to happen. Some people don't want to hear this, and it sure isn't in vogue, but -- absolutely -- we're going to fight in space. We're going to fight from space and we're going to fight into space."

So much for the final frontier.

But that frontier just got further away. For those who see the space program as our escape hatch from Earth, from our one World Earth that we are rapidly polluting, depleting and destroying (so we can colonize and destroy other planets), we're now grounded for a while. For those concerned about the hole that the Shuttle punches in the ozone with each launch, and for those concerned about the development of space-based nuclear weapons, can take advantage of the military bureaucracy being thrown into chaos for a while. Heads will roll and launches will pause, and that will delay the destruction of the world, if only a little, and a little time can be very meaningful, especially when that's all we've got.

This event happened under powerfully Aquarian astrology, with the message of beginning, invention and breakthrough. What is it that we can create now? What intentions can we set? How about what we need most: consciousness. We need to create dedication to seeing what is really happening in the world. We need to tell the truth, but more than that, we need to stop believing lies. There's something much better available. ++

>> To be continued next week, when I'll go over the charts taking the space program back to the 1960s, and relate the myth of Icarus to the series of space disasters faced by NASA and the United States.

News and Notes

From Conversations With God

"As I have said, this isn't the first time your civilization has been at this brink. I want to repeat this, because it is vital that you hear this. Once before on your planet, the technology you developed was far greater than your ability to use it responsibly. You are approaching the same point in human history again. It is vitally important that you understand this. Your present technology is threatening to outstrip your ability to use it wisely. Your society is on the verge of becoming a product of your technology rather than your technology being a product of your society. When a society becomes a product of its own technology, it destroys itself."


To my readers who plan to attend the NorthWest Astrological Conference (NorWac), held each year at Memorial Day weekend, Planet Waves would like to connect with you in advance. Please call the office at (206) 463-7827 if you're interested. We're planning on being a vital presence at the conference and having all kinds of fun.

Radio Whack - Webcasting Comes to Planet Waves, or Vice Versa

Every Wednesday at 8:45 a.m. PST or 11:45 a.m. EST, I do a live webcast at hosted by Susan McCabe. Please spread the word.

Burning Man Plan

There will be a Planet Waves camp of some kind or another at Burning Man this year, where we will have our first official staff conference, too. If you're planning on going to Burning Man and are interested in playing with us, drop a note or a call.

Planet Waves Homepage is Updated

About ten new articles have been added to the What's New section of Plant Waves online. We were a little delayed by a computer problem or two, and then by the Columbia story.

Update: My Astrological Work with Clients

As of last month, I have closed my astrological practice to the general public and am working with existing clients, and from a waiting list that's been developed over the past few months. The waiting list remains open under several different circumstances, including referrals by existing clients. Current subscribers to Planet Waves Weekly are also eligible to be on the waiting list for personal astrological process work. If you would like to be on the waiting list, or if you already are on the list and would like to be scheduled, we need to initiate your client file. That includes your resume, a photograph of you, and a brief statement about what you are seeking from astrology at this time. All materials are strictly confidential. You may initiate the process by mailing them to: Eric Francis, Planet Waves Astrology, PO Box 2624, Vashon Island, WA 98070, or email

Why work with astrology? Because self-knowledge offers guidance, vindication and a path to freedom. It is easier to live when you have a more clear sense of who you are and what you need. What usually resides in the unconscious or superconscious -- everything from hidden traumas to undiscovered talents -- can appear right before our eyes. Astrology provides a means to understanding the process of one's whole life process. One of our great struggles at this time in history is individualization. We are told we are individuals and then forced to conform at every turn. Knowing yourself through the lens of astrology allows you to embrace your absolute uniqueness and make your decisions with that as a basis.

Recently, I have made substantial improvements to the way my office functions -- everything from a new intake process to a new filing system -- and have significantly reduced the number of sessions I'm doing in a given week. These changes are designed to provide a higher level of professionalism and organization and to allow me to serve you better. The background chart work for your initial sessions includes a thorough review of your natal, transits and two types of progressed charts, as well as all named Centaurs and planets beyond Pluto -- as well as many asteroids. As those of you who have worked with me know, I use astrology minimally within the session, or said another way, as much as you want and need. The actual basis of our discussion is the most important questions, healing needs and growth points you are working with now.

Astrology work is a form of expert consulting. I do not simply read your chart. I work with you to do in-depth research into your life and the questions you are asking. I work in a multiple session process with all new clients. The reason for this is to prevent oversights, to work in an environment that is not rushed, and to allow time for the important points to emerge in our discussion. The initial sessions are a beginning, not an end point. Astrology, done correctly and in a time of need, can help you make significant improvements to your life, including your relationships, your spiritual life, your emotional healing and the professional aspect of who you are. At important turning points, astrology can make all the difference in the world. If you have questions, I will be happy to speak to you at no charge. Please try me directly at (206) 567-4455, or call my assistant, Chelsea Bottinelli, at (206) 463-7827 and she will help you get through. Please call between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

I prefer to work in person, though I do most of my work by phone with an international clientele. If you are in the Seattle area or are interested in visiting Vashon Island to work face-to-face, please let us know. ++


Planet Waves by Eric Francis

Aquarius Birthdays

"In our culture we make an extremely rigid division between work and play. You are supposed to work in order to earn enough money to give you sufficient leisure time for something entirely different called having fun, or play. This is a most ridiculous division. Everything that we do can be turned into the same kind of play as shooting an arrow into the sky or spinning a prayer wheel." Thus wrote Alan Watts, one of my earliest spiritual influences. For Aquarius birthdays in the current days, his metaphor of shooting an arrow into the sky is quite fitting for your life. You are aspiring. Aspiration is different than ambition. It's more like play, more like a reward in itself, more like a game, but a game that's serious -- much the way that children are serious when they play. There are people around you who are poised to be very helpful and understanding of this process you're going through; there are others who you will piss off, and goody for them. The work-play division is just one of many splits that leave us compartmentalized, fragmented and ultimately unhealed. This need not be. You are one person. You are whole, through and through. Recent events have pointed you in an important direction. Follow the way, and remember, you'll remember who you are all the more magnificently when you remember that work can be play. Or rather, in these late days, that it must.

Aries (March 20-April 19)
The power of belief has been demonstrated in experiment after experiment (for reference, see The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot). We may ask, then, why we just don't work with that power and solve all our problems. The issue is that we lack faith in the power of belief. We also lack control over certain beliefs, and the ones we don't know about are the most influential of all. Pay attention these days to what you believe. Look for the deeper level, the level of faith that ultimately supports the energy and structure of belief, and without which belief would be meaningless. Here is something from A Course in Miracles text: "Why is it strange to you that faith can move mountains? This is indeed a little feat for such a power." And: "It is impossible to place equal faith in opposite directions."

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
After all that's happened, it may seem like there is no more raw or vulnerable you can become, and you may be wondering what the point is, after all. But you may have also begun to suspect just how good your life is becoming, and how much potential you really have. Do not be dissuaded by the fact that what you are experiencing and what a close partner or associate is experiencing seem to be so totally different. That does not affect you. In truth, the only truly enlightened way to exist in relationship is to recognize one another as individuals, and to the extent that this is not happening, it is very likely to happen now. Someone in your life may be feeling their oats. They may not know the most tactful or mature ways to express that power. But ultimately, it cannot be expressed over you. What you do is voluntary, and you are free to be or do anything you can imagine right now. But you have to have faith.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
You have just passed through a particularly dark spot in your solar chart (signified by the Mercury, Icarus, Nessus conjunction that we experienced Wednesday). That's a black cloud that may take a few days or even a week to fully dispel. Let it happen slowly -- you can't push fog. But another process is involved. This one dates back to around Dec. 16 of last year. You may consider Dec. 16 through about Feb. 12 to be an era of its own, including an exploration of the deep past, examining the ways that certain power structures were put into place in your life and thus came to dominate the expectations you are sure are placed on you, and an unusually conscious time of exploring those patterns. It has not been pretty. But you are about to go through two distinct shifts out of this maze, and you will see, at each of those stages, just how much you've learned.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
The expression "go fuck yourself" is at once brutally vulgar and also a fine compliment. It really is amazing how out of touch with language we are, wee people, though sometimes I forget that I don't even know how to breathe. so talking seems awfully fancy. Just what have people been saying to you and what have you been saying to them? Is anything being exposed, or covered up, by language itself? Are real feelings slipping in, and do the words you are using and hearing convey an accurate picture of the energy of your relationships? The time of Aquarius is always an important time of exchange in your life, when agreements are made and dissolved, and when real negotiations can happen on level ground. What manifests now has the power to grow. Watch your words, observe them and understand them, and what is born now will grow that much stronger.

Leo (July 22-Aug 23)
The world may feel like a new place, it may be subtle, but for sure it's real. If you have not yet noticed, you may benefit from any ways you have found that help you tune into the invisible reality all around us. Oh, that dimension! The one we all forget, but which lingers like the scent of a flower in the next room. That other world is as close to you as it's ever been, and some of what you may observe developing in what appears to be the material world is really visiting from the dream plane, the astral, or whatever you call it. Relationships, in particular, are sensitive to interaction on this level. It's as if you can vision them into their next stage of growth. This is not manipulation. Rather, it is more like being psychically sensitive to the direction of growth and change in the people around you, and following the light.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
You are growing up, again. The past two months may have dragged you by the hair through all the damage that was done to you in childhood, old wounds may have been exposed and some of your less savory personality aspects may have emerged in your relationships. If this experience has offered you any wisdom at all, I hope and pray that it included honoring the feelings of the child part of who you are rather than just trying to manage it. Kids don't need to be managed, they need to be loved. They need to know that people see them and are aware of their needs. You are likely to have discovered that you were not treated with the kindness and love that's so necessary for a person to develop in healthy ways. By now, though, it's probably clear that you still need that love. Please, give it to yourself and ask those who love you to be more demonstrative. Please be open to their gifts. You need and deserve them.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
It's been too long of a wait for something important to come to you, so my sense is that you've decided to go to it. It's almost as if you've had to go back to the past and explore an old world, looking for an event or a person that is trapped within you, though a real journey of some kind is usually associated with such deep inner reaching. You are on a direct path to meet whatever it is you are seeking. There is no way to be sure how you will feel when you get there, but if you stay open to all feelings, you will be open to your warmer feelings. This experience is, in part, a demonstration of how complicated your emotional world really is, and how difficult it can be for you to find your way around within yourself.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
You are facing an odd opportunity to work with both your highly individualistic drive to do everything your way for yourself, and a distant, perhaps potent calling to serve the needs of certain people in the world, whether it's good for them (or you) or not. I suggest you stick to your own agenda. It's entirely more honest and is the actual source of benefit for the world around you. You will get a lot more done, and you obviously have a lot, in fact, to get done. That so much in your life feels poised for sudden rearrangement need not slow you down or deter your course of action. What counts the most always changes in form and sometimes in content, and the only way to know how you really feel about what you want is to make it real and test out that reality. It is fair enough to say that what is most important to you has the greatest chance of happening. Remember that in your moments of doubt.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 22)
Once upon a time there was a Martian named Valentine Michael Smith. The man from Mars, the hero of the novel Stranger in a Strange Land, had one strange quality: he knew his power. Strange feat, indeed, on Earth. One of the most unusual powers you have right now, besides a lot of energy and an increasing sense of focus, is a desire to speak what cannot be put into words, and what you may feel would best be left unspoken. But I suggest you accurately feel the power that your words have, and can work with that power. Though you are inclined not to trust them, words are going to help you learn how to think in a more vivid way that allows you the feeling of clarity that you seek. It's fair to question the validity of any of this, and it may seem like risky business to say too much right now. But write it to yourself, read it in a month, and then decide.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
There remains the question of whether to flee from evil, and also the larger question of what evil is. It must be something. Look for it in the way power dynamics express themselves in your world, particularly with language. Look for it in the ways you have been forced to compromise your true essence for the sake of appearances, or to close a deal. You are worth more than that, and you know it, and you especially know it now. But you are also acutely aware of the two sides to your nature, and while this may be disturbing -- which side, after all, is the truth? -- I suggest you take this as an encouraging sign. Yes, it's brave, but yes, you were made to go deep into life's mysteries. Awareness is always helpful. What you feel is what you feel. And what you know, or are discovering in these very days, will only make you stronger.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
The Sun is proceeding on its somewhat complicated path through your birth sign, though last weekend's New Moon is likely to have clarified a situation that has been bothering you for some time. You seem to be caught in a quandary wherein, on one side, you are trying to figure out who you are, and on the other, trying to figure out what you want or where you want to go. Okay so they're really the same thing, but seem to be shifting back and between different forms. At any given time, one form or the other will work better. To one side, the issue seems like 'what can I possibly do with all the hurt I've suffered, and how this has pushed me away from people I want to be close to?'. On the other, it feels like cutting through a lot of deception that you didn't even know had gotten the best of you. You will work this out. It's okay to work it out by the method that feels right.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
I get up in the morning, sort out the reality of my existence, arrive at my desk and notice that it's covered with Tarot cards -- again. I wonder, am I concerned about the future? Well, why not. This is a very futuristic moment for Pisces. We are at the one month mark before the first ingress of Uranus into Pisces. Uranus is one of the slow-movers; it takes about eight years to traverse a sign, and thus marks an era (broadly speaking, the chat-room era). That Uranus is entering Pisces is one thing. That it is leaving Aquarius, your solar 12th house, is quite another. The 12th is home to all kinds of anxieties, mysterious nameless fears that make most people quite restless. Uranus is an agitator, an exciter, a revolutionary. The change from one sign to another will not be subtle. For the moment, easy does it, and read those cards with an open mind.

How do newspaper horoscopes work?

Planet Waves Weekly and are edited by Eric Francis, with help from Chelsea Bottinelli and the Planet Waves Editorial Consortium. This newsletter is $50 per year and published 48 times per year. That's about $1.04 per issue. It supports our office, pays people to host our lists and web pages, and pays Chelsea to be so cheerful to you on the phone (she would be anyway). So please subscribe! If you would like to be on our discussion list, please email with the word Vision in the subject header -- that's important. It may take us a week or so to get back to you, and admission to the Vision List is by interview only. We encourage our readers to contribute their artwork and writing to the Planet Waves project and to cultivate themselves as creative forces in the unusual and socially formative times in which we live.
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