There will be a lot of retrospectives today (oddly enough) as we’ve reached 50 years since the first landing of human beings on the Moon. I’m going to try looking forward. There’s so much left to do! Continue reading “Looking Forward from Apollo Plus 50”
This is my third of three summaries of what I observed at the AIAA Space 2018 Forum (the other posts can be found here and here). This isn’t necessarily the last posting on this conference…I might write later about my overall impressions of the space business in a separate entry in a week or two. However, these entries are long enough (this entry runs over 3,300 words, my apologies), so let’s get to it. Continue reading “Impressions from AIAA Space 2018, Part 3”
This continues my summary impressions from the AIAA Space 2018 Forum in Orlando this year. Day one can be found here. If you’re not a space person, feel free to read other things in my blog until I’m done, or head over to my tech writing blog. I won’t mind! 🙂 Continue reading “Impressions from AIAA Space 2018, Part 2”
It’s been around 10 years since I last attended a conference for the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the professional association for aerospace engineers. I attended the AIAA Space 2018 Forum this week, and it felt like a different experience from when I was a NASA contractor 2006-2012. I also wasn’t attending as a reporter or for a job, just Bart Leahy, AIAA Member and interested space geek. Part of that could be my age, part of it was a reflection of what’s happening in the space business now. Exciting times to be in the business or just observing it as an interested member of the public. What follows are some of my notes from the various sessions for your reference. Continue reading “Impressions from AIAA Space 2018, Part 1”
I saw in the midst of all the hurricane-related news this morning that science fiction author, technologist, and political advocate Jerry Pournelle has passed away. I am saddened by this, though not greatly surprised, as Dr. Pournelle has been in ill health for a while now. Still, he shaped a great deal of my thinking and post-formal education, and so I’d like to take a few minutes to share my thoughts on the man. Continue reading “Reflections on Jerry Pournelle”
This is the second review I’ve written of a book by the author, Sandra Häuplik-Meusburger (hereafter SHM), and the third review I’ve written on this topic because it interests me. Space Architecture for Engineers and Architects: Designing and Planning Beyond Earth is similar to SHM’s last book, Architecture for Astronauts, in that it covers the still-in-its-infancy discipline of space architecture. And like her previous output, this book is a worthwhile addition to the aerospace’s collective knowledge. Continue reading “Book Review: Space Architecture for Engineers and Architects”
A large number of my friends on Facebook are, like me, enthusiasts about human spaceflight. Therefore, naturally, the death of the first American in orbit (and the last of the “Original 7” American astronauts), John H. Glenn, Jr., produced a lot of mourning and sadness. I have to confess, Senator Glenn’s mission was before my time, but I honor his memory.
Three orbits around the world: it seems almost trivial now, when we’ve got astronauts circling the Earth for 150 days at a clip (and approximately 16 orbits a day). But at the time, Yuri Gagarin had flown around the world once and Gherman Titov had done it 17 times. So space was new in the early 1960s. And, as the book by Tom Wolfe pointed out, “Our boys always blow it” and “Our rockets always blow up.” Being an astronaut or a cosmonaut was a big deal and a high-risk proposition, especially since the odds of your dying in an experimental vehicle were high.
By 1962, the United States had put up two astronauts in the Mercury capsule aboard the Redstone rocket. The missions had gone suborbital, meaning that they had essentially gone up and down without circling the Earth. John Glenn, a United States Marine who had fought in World War II and Korea, was a test pilot with an ego as big as any of the Original Seven. His only difference was in lifestyle and public perception: he was not a hell raiser, fast car driver, or skirt chaser. He was as wholesome as one can get and still fly sh!t-hot airplanes across the country.
NASA chose Glenn for the first orbital flight because he was the next one in the mission pilot rotation. No doubt the agency was nervous about putting Glenn on the Atlas, which at the time had a less-than-reliable flight record. But send him they did, and Glenn went aboard willingly. Glenn was a Marine, as patriotic as they come, and he took his position as an astronaut seriously. The Mercury 6 spacecraft did not function perfectly, and Glenn had to end his mission early after the ground control staff got an erroneous signal that the retrorocket package–which held the spacecraft heat shield in place–had jettisoned prematurely. Friendship 7 and its pilot survived, and Glenn returned to Earth a hero.
Much like the Soviet Union’s treatment of Yuri Gagarin, the United States was leery of launching their biggest space hero into the great beyond again, and so Glenn was effectively grounded. Instead, he sought greener pastures. He left NASA, ran for the Senate, lost, but later won and served multiple terms (1974-1999).
Here’s what I wrote for the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (TVIW) about Glenn’s accomplishments:
The TVIW community expresses its sadness at the death of John Glenn, America’s first orbital explorer. Respected as a Marine pilot in World War 2 and Korea, a Navy test pilot at Patuxent River, and a NASA astronaut, he also served his country as a U.S. Senator and as the oldest person to fly in orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Glenn expressed America’s sense of bravery and wonder in a dangerous time. His three orbits aboard Friendship 7 also represented this nation’s first steps into sustained human presence beyond the Earth. The steps might seem small now, but at the time Glenn’s mission represented a true exploration of a new frontier. That indomitable spirit of adventure will be remembered and needed as humanity expands into the solar system and, eventually, beyond.
I still believe that. As a Senator, Glenn was as much a partisan as anyone in his party, and I’m not going to lie and say that I agreed with him. But his accomplishments and his bravery–at a time we needed both–command my respect as much as the other Original Seven and the Apollo Program men who walked on the Moon. America has lost a hero to time (Glenn was 95 years old). However, as long as we honor the virtues and technical virtuosity that men like Glenn demonstrated, we have something to aspire to, and we enlarge what we mean when we think of ourselves as human beings.
The exploration and settlement of space are among the most difficult things human beings have accomplished or ever will accomplish. It is right that we recognize and honor the people who perform the activity and make it possible. Ad Astra, sir.