The Stardust Mystery illustrated book is a companion to the MissionKT video game. It follows the lives of cousins Lizzy, Milo, VC and Neddy as they unravel the Stardust Mystery. Their adventures take them across time during the evolution of the Universe and the history of Planet Earth in the Cosmic Egg time, space and size-change travel ship. They must figure out how everyone alive is made of the same Stardust that was once in the body of Albert Einstein and the Last T-Rex. They must find out what Stardust is, and how, when, and where it was created.
As the Cosmic Kids team, the cousins enter The Science and The Future Contest, held by the mysterious Dr. Q. The winners will be taken on a trip around the moon! What could be a better gift for the grandfather they love, a former NASA astronaut?
Along the way, they visit Einstein, dinosaurs, and even the Big Bang. To win, they’ll have to use their brains to answer the many science questions, but they’ll also have to use their hearts to come together to solve the problems of family.
The Mystery is presented in a poem:
“I was born in a place that is far, far away.
At a time long ago, but I am now here to stay.
Albert Einstein’s body was once my home.
I am now part of you, but I could always roam.
Some call me Stardust because of my history
It will all be clear when you solve the mystery.
Who am I, and what is my story
Write me a rhyme to tell of my glory”
Targeted Age Group:: CHILDREN 8 TO 13 YEARS OLD
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 1 – G Rated Clean Read
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have always loved science. I have had a long career as a scientist and entrepreneur. There are so many wonderful and exciting stories in science to hear. When my twelfth grandchild was born, I decided to share my passion for science with young children by telling them some of those stories in language they would understand in the media they like best. So, I am telling those stories in book, video, video game and short story formats. I believe weaving science concepts into exciting adventure tales is the best way to spark their interest. The Stardust Mystery is one of those stories. It is about how the first small atoms were formed in the creation of the universe 13.8 billion years ago and then combined in the explosive death of stars to create all the atoms that make up our world. It is about how those atoms have been shared by dinosaurs, people, and other animals and plants during the history of planet earth. Relating the basic narratives in a simple way can draw children to science. Once their interest is kindled, they may be motivated to learn the mathematics and the rigorous descriptions that make these stories into real science.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The personalities, capabilities, interests, and social behavior of my main characters was inspired by my grandchildren. In one case, VC is a combination of both sisters. Grandpa is a fictional character based loosely on myself. I have been a scientist and video game designer. However, I was not an astronaut, or a middle school teacher. But I did teach some middle school science classes. Other characters came from my imagination.
Finding Water Five Billion Years Ago
(As Told by Neddy)
“Oh, man,” said Milo, “looks like the hydroponic garden used up all our water. Why wasn’t anyone paying attention to any of the meters? What do we do now?”
“And oxygen is another problem,” said Lizzy pointing to the computer screen. “The garden must have used a huge amount of our oxygen too for growing that green stuff. We don’t have enough water or oxygen in our supplies inventory for the rest of the trip. I knew it was a bad idea. What now?
“Well, whatever it is, we better do something about it quick.” Milo pointed at the meters. The numbers were in free fall.
“I know!” I cried. “We can pick up water from a comet. They are mostly made of ice.”
“That’s right,” agreed Milo, “we can then make oxygen in the Cosmic Egg’s oxygen generator that splits up water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen.”
We searched the sky, but we didn’t see a comet.
“I used my chemical analyzer, and I don’t see any regions of elevated water either,” I added. “Let’s go back in time, maybe we’ll have better luck.”
As we went back in time, the T-Rex clone that I had created during our Mission K-T adventure started running around in circles. I had decided to keep her as a pet and named her Rexy.
“Neddy!” shouted Lizzy. “Do something with Rexy, she is nipping at me.”
“Oh, she is just a little scared of the time traveling,” I respond. I went over to her and pet her. “Now, Rexy, just calm down. It’s just a short time travel, and I am right here. No need to be scared.”
Rexy snuggled up close to me. Finally, at 6 billion years ago, Lizzy cried out and pointed straight in front of our ship, “Hey, guys, look up front. I found something big. Oh wait . . . it doesn’t have a tail like a comet,” she added disappointed.
“That’s OK,” I answered. “Comets only have tails when they are close enough to a star that the star’s heat is boiling off the ice. I’ll check the composition to see if it has ice.”
“Yup, definitely one icy comet!” I announced as VC entered the coordinates.
We were getting ready to teleport when the computer beeped again. A huge picture of Svetlana from the Brooklyn Bunch team showed up on our big screen in what was a way-less private chat that she was probably hoping for.
“Hello,” she said, “Can I speak to Milo?”
Milo turned bright red and said nothing.
I was so loving this, and I answered in my sweetest voice, “Sure, you can speak to Milo. Ohhhh, Miloooo, it’s for youuuuu.”
Then something happened that saved Milo from total embarrassment. There was a huge clunk sound on the roof of the ship. And then another. Some space junk was bouncing off our ship.
Thinking quickly Milo ran out of the flight deck door yelling, “Tell her I have to go stop meteors from hitting the ship. I will call her later.”
Looking out the window, we saw Milo scramble out of a hatch onto the wing. He had on his breathing helmet and carried a small gadget in one hand. We saw him steady himself as another meteor slammed into the Egg. Then he pointed the gadget at an oncoming meteor and a bright green light shot out and froze the meteor in place.
We heard Milo talking through his helmet radio. “Got it. I am so good!”
Then, he shot another and another and another, and with each shot he yelled, “Yes. Yes. Yes!” And then, “I am the best!”
He seemed to be having so much fun. He stayed out there shooting meteors for quite a while. Finally, the meteor storm passed, and Milo returned.
Then, we all put on our breathing helmets, and teleported to the comet’s surface.
The surface of the comet had ridges of ice separated by deep valleys. Gravity was really low, and we could easily jump over them like we were flying. We spent some time seeing how far we could jump. But I warned the other kids to be careful. “Gravity is so low on this comet, you could launch yourself into space.”
“OK, guys,” commanded Milo, “let’s get started with the ice harvest.”
We started collecting big loose chunks of ice and loading them into transport boxes. Lizzy took pictures to document our comet adventure. We started to separate, looking for more chunks. I was jumping around, and all of a sudden, I missed a ridge and landed in a very deep hole in the ice, called a crevasse. And I couldn’t jump out.
“Uh-oh, this is not good,” I thought. I tried to use my radio, but it didn’t work. I took my mask off and yelled but there was no answer. Duh, I said to myself when I realized that sound wouldn’t travel without an atmosphere.
All of a sudden, I heard chatter in my ear. Apparently, I could hear the radio, but couldn’t transmit.
“Hey, guys,” said VC, “has anyone seen Neddy? I haven’t seen her in a while. I think she may be lost.”
Don’t worry,” said Lizzy, sounding not worried at all, “she’ll turn up. Unfortunately, she always does.”
“Nice sister I have,” I said to no one.
Then a genius idea hit me. I sent up my personal beacon and hoped someone would see it.
“Hey, guys over here,” thankfully Milo called out. “She fell down this crevasse. I see her beacon.”
The crew gathered around the top of the crevasse, and I could see their heads peering over the rim. I waved.
They lowered a rope and I attached it to my belt. The crew started pulling on the rope, and up I went, back to the surface. Milo fixed the antenna on my radio so I could transmit.
“Oh, man, that was scary!!” I yelled. “Thanks, guys.” Then I added, “Hey, where did you suddenly get a rope?”
“Neddy,” answered my sister, “you know how you are always teasing VC about her big book bag with all the emergency supplies that she carries everywhere, even to school? Well, apparently, she had a virtual backpack with emergency stuff, and it included a lightweight, high-strength rope. So maybe you should stop teasing her.”
“Yeah, VC,” I cheered. “I will never tease you again about the big black bag with aspirin, and bandages, and pepper spray, and maps, and how-to books, and lock-picking tools, and screwdrivers, and hairspray, and goggles, and spare shoes, and foul weather gear, and . . . ”
“Enough already,” interrupted VC. “Thanks for not teasing me ever again.”
We went back to gathering ice chunks and teleporting them back to the ship. After a while, we completely filled the water compartment on the ship and stored enough extra ice to make oxygen and refill the water.
Let’s go exploring,” I suggested.
“Hey, guys,” screamed VC, “come look what I found.” She was at the bottom of an ice cliff pointing to a hole in the wall. “It’s the entrance to a cave.”
“Awesome,” said Milo. “It looks very cool. Let’s go in and explore.”
We went deep into the cave, investigating some cool chambers and tunnels. We found lots of interesting stuff, like some gold, and even some chunks of strontium oxide that we could use for a catalyst in the oxygen generator. We finally got tired and were ready to go back to the ship.
“Uh-oh,” said Lizzy. “Now VC is missing.”
“I’ll try her on the radio,” I offered. “VC, VC, come in please. Where are you?”
“I don’t know where I am,” she replied. “I think I got lost. It all looks the same to me, except that the roof is thin, cause I can see light through it. I will try using my beacon.”
The three of us searched without success. I observed, “I don’t think that the beacon will do any good in the cave.”
But Lizzy had an idea, “maybe I can go on top of the cave and see some yellow light coming through the ice.”
So, Lizzy went to the top of the cave and reported that her idea worked. “I can see VC’s yellow beacon shining through the roof of the cave. OK, Milo, now you turn on your blue beacon and I will tell you which way to go to find VC.”
With Lizzy directing, Milo and I found our way to VC, and then we found our way back to the cave entrance.
VC, having recovered from being lost, suggested that we see if we really can jump high enough to launch into space.
“We can use the rope, so we don’t lose anyone,” she suggested.
“I’ll try it,” offered Lizzy. And she attached the rope and jumped.
“Wow,” said Milo, she was still moving fast when the rope stopped her.
“It was a good thing she was attached, or I would have lost my sweet sister to outer space. That would have been terrible,” I added sarcastically.
“Ha, ha,” said Lizzy. “Very funny.”
Milo tried it next. He almost made it to the end of the rope, and VC and I only made to about five meters from the end of the rope. So Lizzy was the champ.
I got another cool idea,” I yelled. “This comet is not that big, and gravity is low so we can run really fast. Why don’t we go all the way around it? Milo and I can go one way, and Lizzy and VC can go the other. That is called circumnavigation!”
We all took off in our assigned directions. Soon, we met at the bottom of the comet, but of course it didn’t feel like the bottom because our sense of down was still toward the surface.
Lizzy, our explorer, teleported back to the Cosmic Egg and set up the video camera to take our picture and then came back to be in it.
“It sure looks like we are upside down,” said VC.
After having had lots of adventure, and with plenty of stories to tell, we teleported back to the Cosmic Egg to continue our exploration in time and space.
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