I ordered a book 972 pages long - by mistake. The heft was intimidating, yet it was so enjoyable it is among my fastest reads in recent years. At its heart, "XX – a Novel, Graphic" by Rian Hughes is a book about ideas, but these are as real and solid as ourselves and our … Continue reading A book review – “XX” by Rian Hughes
With the new administration’s Space Council meeting for the first time this week (or soon), it’s natural to look back at the comings and goings of US space policy. A casual observer might assign a shape to the blurry happenings and seemingly important pronouncements about the direction for NASA over the years. If you have … Continue reading Space Councils, events, technology, and NASA are all evolving – but towards what?
After a specific scale, our intuition fails us. Whatever is so much larger, farther, or faster than our day-to-day experience is quickly incomprehensible. This is so for the scale of NASA. As if degrees of the unimaginable are possible, the scale of the global space economy beyond NASA is larger by over a factor of … Continue reading The scale of NASA, the global space economy, and commercial space to come
We knew the valley of death was up ahead, as we had been there many times before. Most wouldn’t make it. Well, to be truthful, we knew nearly none would make it. The valley of death was not a place though, so much as a phase. Wild ideas, new technology and all those exciting, innovative … Continue reading The valley of death
It turns out rocket launches, a possible boil water notice here in Orlando, and hospitals caring for patients with COVID are all connected. Right now, it's about liquid oxygen, but it would not be surprising to find more connections, like in any system. Oddly and often in projects, "it's a system" was an observation that … Continue reading It’s a system
"The gift shop is down that way, toward the lobby, past the spacesuit." These are not the directions anyone can give a visitor lost among a run of offices and cubicles. You get away with this in the Kennedy Space Center Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout building, home today to the Orion spacecraft, home once … Continue reading The call, spacesuits, and everything else
Time is supposed to be the way the universe keeps everything from happening all at once. My wife and I were in London in 2016, and we made a point to see The Fighting Temeraire by Joseph Mallord William Turner. London has endless museums. So for a time, we were taking it all in with … Continue reading Parallels
The best answers led us to better questions. It is easy to embrace this notion as just part of the process, learning and all that, and all good. Admittedly, this sentiment may just be comforting fiction. I wasn’t lost. I was exploring. Why admit that we didn’t look far enough ahead, that what was evident … Continue reading Please phrase your answer in the form of a question
Being average is great until it's not. For an engineer or scientist, a predictably average data point means the task is complete. We even count how many data points are a certain distance from what we wanted, our job being to make sure nearly none of the points in the herd stray too far. There … Continue reading Here there be dragons
Depending on the news, “new space” is commercial, innovative, well-funded by billionaires and changing the world. The site of a Falcon 9 booster returning to land after being flown eight times tells a story of change, a revolution that as predicted is being televised, in high definition. Crews that are not NASA astronauts have now … Continue reading New space, a Rorschach test
We needed launches. Lots of launches. That much was clear, even if how to get there was not. It seemed it was always the same meeting, about a launcher real or imagined, a Shuttle upgrade or some vehicle post-Shuttle. Perhaps the rocket was expendable, the big dumb booster, or perhaps it was reusable. Perhaps it … Continue reading A picture worth a thousand words – flight rate, NASA and space exploration
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
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 same human who helped create the AI had only one task at this moment, move the stone to its place on the board as the AI instructed. The move would seem to be a bad move, except later when it seemed the AI was playing in a way we humans could learn from. This … Continue reading I’m with the AI, and I’m here to help
I was walking under a beached whale, and inside it, and around, the dangling entrails smacking me in the face, an amateur mistake on my part. I should have known how to move carefully around flight hardware. It was early 1999 and the X-33 was taking shape. With its internal rib-like frame, and more platforms … Continue reading X-33 – the middle path?