The distribution of NASA employees by age in 1993 (blue line) versus today (red line). Raw data: NASA. The award said it was amazing what I could accomplish, "with an endless supply of NASA interns." This much was true, as they did great work. I mentored many students in their summers at the Kennedy Space … Continue reading NASA – TNG
A variation on a concept from the 2015 Evolvable Lunar Architecture Study and the 2011 NASA Propellant Depot study. Step 1-launch a near empty stage with a lander attached. Step 2-"tanker" stages fill this stage, sized here for a trip to the Moon. Step 3-launch crew to rendezvous with the stage and mate with the … Continue reading Please phrase your answer in the form of a question
"I think it’s fair to say that our review group drew the short straw, and I drew the shortest by having to actually do this presentation." Sally Ride, 2009 Dr. Sally Ride at the 2009 Review of Human Space Flight Plans Committee. It was August 2009 and Sally Ride was about to present charts about … Continue reading Drawing the short straw
On my shelves sits a childhood book “Planets and Spaceflight” published in 1957 by General Mills. The front cover is “Planets” and the rear “Spaceflight”, full of vivid descriptions and beautiful artwork of so many places to go and how we will get there. The publisher being best known for Cheerios leaves me sure the … Continue reading What’s old is new again – more on refueling in space
Range anxiety was invented by NASA. Well, perhaps not (or Velcro), but space exploration gives new meaning to an obsessive awareness of how much further you can go when there is not a charger on every corner. Now imagine that feeling in outer space, or back on the ground watching your spacecraft, not just for … Continue reading The rise, fall and rise again of refueling – in space
There is an oddity to the International Space Station, its name – a station. On Earth this would be fine, a station, as in stationary, not moving. In space though “station” is a bit of a misnomer for a facility going once around the Earth every 90 minutes and traveling 15,500 miles per hour. Pictures, … Continue reading It’s not what it looks like – the cost of ISS per year
The room filled with the usual suspects and small talk. This year it seemed an unwritten rule that before any presenter could talk about their good work there came this certain chart. It was the late 1990’s, exciting times when ever faster computers, internet connections and aerospace technology came together to spur dreams of things … Continue reading You can’t always get what you want, but…
The choice was made, so the outcome was determined, if not known. In engineering as in life. Not everyone accepts this notion quite the same way, or as gospel. Making a choice and then having to live with a determined if unknown future sounds fine in theory. In practice though determined leads to deterministic. As … Continue reading Reusability – legs and fins or wings and things?
It's about the benefit when the mass is there, versus not. The socket cost $5,000. But we got a good deal for three at $15,000. Now this might sound like just another story about a $300 toilet seat, but it turns out there may be some rhyme or reason behind $300 toilet seats. Or even … Continue reading The case of the $5,000 socket
The reward is everyone's ability to go further. It’s not every day you are told your choices are not yours alone. Last year’s 2020 Space Council report did just this. NASA’s deep space exploration and the US commercial space sector are linked. The report was clear, a commercial space economy is “necessary” for NASA’s deep … Continue reading NASA’s human spaceflight strategy, sustainability and growth
Read the signs. There is a temptation to check off “sustainable” as a project feature merely because it appears to be likely to persist. Rather than this semi-circular definition, grappling with what is truly sustainable can move sideways. For one, sustainable space exploration and development can move to a measurable engineering feature - reusability. How … Continue reading Reusability, priceless.
Our backyard oak tree. Oddly, one of the first books given to me when I arrived at NASA was for acronyms. Not what systems did or how they worked. Not flowrates. That would come later. First, acronyms. NASA had so many new things needing new words that it had turned grouping words together into an … Continue reading Sustainability and Space Exploration
If everything we want is cheap, but everything we need is expensive, which is NASA? It was the late 90’s and everyone was so happy to hear the budget would remain flat, because after all, flat was the new up. A lot has happened since. Glancing at NASA’s recent budgets seems to show good times … Continue reading NASA’s (really) declining budget