April 16, 2010

Rethinking how we will work in and on space

Wow. The space forum wound up being one of the most engaging such events I think I've ever been to. It's hard to know where to start. Here are some random thoughts:

• As soon as I walked in the room, I spotted Pat Duggins, whom I promptly accosted with a request for him to sign my copy of his book Final Countdown. He's very nice, and has a wealth of knowledge about the space program. I'll give his book a Blatant Plug: It not only gives a detailed overview of the history of the shuttle program, it ties in NASA history at each stage and includes many personal anecdotes to keep things interesting. My favorite is the recollection of adults who were kids on a school field trip to see a shuttle launch on the day Challenger blew up.

• Duggins says the proposed new use of Orion is as "a lifeboat for the Titanic."

• Duggins reminded us of something I had forgotten. In the movie 2001:A Space Odyssey, the space shuttle is operated by PanAm and the space station by Hilton. That's Arthur Clarke anticipating reality for you.

• I overheard someone say Bill Nye was among those at the KSC conference. Nye hasn't updated his blog, so this is unconfirmed. [Update: Nye participated in the human spaceflight breakout session. Sesson leader John Holdren said Nye did such a "fabulous job" describing how the space program can inspire kids, "we're going to enlist him full-time."

• Florida Rep. Ritch Workman believes there is no reason the shuttle cannot be used to close the gap between its current manifest and ... whatever the next new vehicle is. He urges people to contact their representatives in Washington to support this idea.

• The kind of personalities that were appropriate for Mercury ... Apollo ... Shuttle ... are different from the kind of personality that will be suitable for long-range missions. A psychologist interviewed by Duggins for his next book (Trailblazing Mars) said NASA currently looks for Type-A Superman types, but on long-range trips, Clark Kent may be more appropriate.

• The participants agreed on two things. First, what happens in the future will depend on whether or not Congress actually approves the budget. Second, whatever happens, Florida's space industry needs to diversify from launch operations into research, development, and manufacturing.

• When you take notes in Word while recording audio, the keyboard sounds really loud on the playback.

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