Rocket Launching Ladies – Dead Deer

Rocket Launching Ladies

It took far too much time, but at least now the immense contribution made by  remarkable female mathematicians to the NASA Apollo missions is very well known. What is less well known, however, is that it was a woman who first came up with the idea of faking moon landings, and was the de facto mission controller that oversaw a success so great that many people still believe it was genuine, even today.

By the late 50s it was obvious to all that the Soviet Union was way ahead in the so-called ‘Space Race’, and Kennedy’s special advisor Marge Winkledoon felt this was a weakness he could utilise to win election, and having done so she further felt it essential to deliver on it. It was she who wrote the iconic ‘We choose to go to the Moon’ speech (JFK himself adding the Rice/Texas football gag), and when it became increasingly obvious that the States had no hope of achieving this goal, she was tasked with heading up an ultra-secret committee to explore solutions.

The USA had nether the technology nor the know-how to take a human to the Moon (and back) before the end of that decade; it simply did not exist. Even the Soviets could not have done so. One day, date unknown, Winkledoon delivered her fresh approach to a stunned committee. It was going to be very tough, it was going to need as few people in the know as possible (even most individuals on the project did not know the reality), but she was convinced she could pull it off. And boy, did she!

Those people present, had they been able to see into the future half a century later,  would never have believed her gamble could have paid off. They thought she was nuts when she uttered the immortal line that started the drive to the sham Apollo 11 mission. To a deadly silent room, deep under the New Mexican desert, she calmly stated her case.

“We’ll fake it.”

Today I wrote  between 22:11 and 22:22. I was prompted by an idea here. My other writings here. All my prompted writing here, my tweets here, and my book here.


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Mar 14th – Foolish incantations

sprite-in-a-glass-spellMarch 14th – Foolish Incantations


Ayleth had had enough. For a long time she had suspected that Fendrel, her husband, was not entirely honest. He seemed to take an age these days bringing the goats in from the pasture, when before he would spring through the door with a smile on his face and fresh flowers in his hand. It was these flowers that had led to Ysmay, but no more children had followed, and the smile on his face had faded as the flowers died.

People talked. And the wives talked to each other, and less often, but occasionally to her, about Fendrel, and the time he spent in the fields with Isabel, daughter of Iestyn the smith.

Isabel! With her black hair and dark eyes and her bodice laced tight and low at the front. All the men wanted Isabel, she could see it in their faces every time the dark-haired girl walked past, shamelessly. And now it seemed that she’d got her claws into Fendrel.

He’d denied it, of course. He denied everything. She’d tried confronting Isabel, but the girl just smiled, and looked at her in a way that made her want to look at herself.

Steps had to be taken.

Ayleth could read. This was rare, she knew. She was the only person she knew who could read, including her husband, and she kept the fact well hidden. It wouldn’t do to be accused of witchcraft, especially when she kept a book of spells hidden under the thatch, in a place where he would never find it.

She waited until he had gone to the fields, (or to Isabel, as she was now convinced) and took down the book. She found the page she was looking for, the one to conjure a spirit to tell all, and spread out a clean cloth on the table. She took the bottle of consecrated oil her father had brought back from Canterbury, and placed 5 drops in the glass: four corners and one in the middle, and then drew them together into the shape of a cross, as per the instructions. She then, checking that no-one was around outside, whispered the words aloud:

Per istam unctionem

sit hoc speclum consecratum + Et benedictum +

et sanctificatum + quod habeat perfectam potestatem

ad demonstrandum nobis Angelos quos volumus

in nom + &c.


She breathed in, deeply. All was silent. She continued.


Sufflationem descendat in hoc speculum

virtus spir scti, concitetur speculum scientia

repræsentandis ut spiritus exorciz impleat et ut

dubia ora et occulta reddantur perfecta et certa

ut se imperasse gaudeat per ipsum Dominum qui vivis

et imperas in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.


She threw a handful of breadcrumbs into the fire, and waited for them to burn. She scooped them out, washed the class and rubbed it with the burn crumbs, and waited for the spirit to come and tell her all.

She waited a long time.

Perhaps she’d missed something. Fendrel came back. smelling of meadows and goats, and (she was sure) Isabel.

She had had enough.

Tomorrow, Ayleth would strip naked, cover herself with honey, and roll in grain. She would scrape it off, mill flour from the remains, and bake bread, which she would feed to Fendrel.

That would fix him.


All of this is based on genuine 14th-16th century spells, and the text comes from the image at the top of the page, a page from a handwritten English book of spells, now in the collection of the Newberry Library in Chicago



Inspired by a prompt from here