Friday, December 21, 2012

I've Seen Moon-Walkers, and They're Old

I've seen moon-walkers face to face. I shook hands and exchanged words with Buzz Aldrin, Gene Kranz and watched many others as they got a standing ovation at the Museum of Flight gala in September. The youngest moon walker, Charles Duke, is 77 years old. All of their space-expansion glory dates back to 1969 - 1972. When I saw these amazing people a realization that accompanied my inspiration was that they were old. Not only that, they are also the only ones that did this. Unlike other positive beginnings, this one seems more like a blip on our terrestrial bound existence rather than a the sign of things to come. Am I simply impatient?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Aircraft Water Egress Course, an Anti-Complacency Pill

Getting ready to go underwater. Credit: Guillaume Fortin
Complacency... When one thinks about aircraft crash landing, be it an airplane, a helicopter or maybe a suborbital spacecraft, that's not the word that usually comes to mind. On November 19 I drove up from my home in Issaquah WA to Langley BC in order to learn why it is enemy number one when the craft or pilot fail and how to escape a drowning airplane the right way (i.e. alive).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wings of Heroes Gala - Space Reunion at the Museum of Flight

When I moved to Seattle now almost two years ago with my family to try my luck at Jeff Bezos's bigger of his two companies (not Blue Origin), little did I know that one of the opportunities that to open up would be to share a tent (one fit for tuxedos and evening dresses) and dinner with five decades of space icons flown-in from across the United States and beyond to a museum less than twenty miles from my home. All that and more took place at the the Wings of Heroes Gala on September 22 2012 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cheering Human Curiosity on Mars

Human curiosity is now on Mars. While no human is in the flesh on the red planet, a car-sized 6-wheeled rover of human creation landed on Mars on August 5th. The humans who sent it there knew it landed at 10:31pm Pacific time, which was about 14 minutes after it actually did. I was one of the about 600 people who came that evening to the Museum of Flight in Boeing Field, Seattle WA, to congregate with fellow space enthusiasts, hear about the landing challenges from people who made it possible and share the excitement and anticipation of the unfolding crazy-complex landing full of firsts.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Launching West - Israeli Space

Prof. Ehud Behar (left) and me after his talk, 26 July 2012
The Washington Israel Business Council (WIBC) and American Technion Society (ATS) organized an evening on July 26 consisting of a light dinner and presentation by Prof. Ehud Behar, Director of the Asher Space Research Institute (ASRI) at the Technion university in Haifa, Israel. The event took place at the closest place to space in Seattle, the Columbia tower, on the seventy-fourth floor. Prof. Behar talked about space research in Israel in the past and present.

This was Prof. Behar's last appearance in a two-week tour of the US. He is an eloquent speaker posessing the landmark Israeli accent that I share as well. Fluent in English, he kept his audience of about seventy engaged, weaving trade humor into his talk.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Space Shuttle, Mercury and Paper Airplanes

Today is Father's Day, at least in the United States. It's a day of appreciating one's father, and in our family it is one of two days every year when I get to have breakfast in bed. It is a day of reflection about my relationship with my kids and as pertaining to this blog, pondering whether my interest in space rubs off on them.

In 2010 we bought our kids a special calendar, where every day can be folded and/or cut into a different paper airplane. They were nine years old and it seemed like something they would take on and enjoy. They did (for a short time, at least) and then the calendar got "stuck" in some date fairly close to the beginning of the year.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My NASTAR Experience - Ground Training for Space Launch

One week in March I got to live a bit of my space aspiration. No, I didn't go to space (I continued to ride spaceship Earth). What I did was to go through two segments of commercial astronaut training. After AGSOL near Boston it was time for NASTAR near Philadelphia. Over three days I went up to a simulated 25,000ft altitude in a hypobaric chamber and went on simulated flights that exposed me to real 3.5Gz, 6Gx and most exciting of all, a virtual ride on SpaceShipTwo.

NASTAR is a place that trains many types of people, from fighter jet pilots to aspiring astronauts and space tourists. Over the past five years, after being spun-off of a manufacturing facility for centrifuges, altitude chambers and simulators, it formed several training programs around suborbital flight. The one I went through with seven other men and women was Suborbital Scientist Training, meant for people who will not only go to space as tourists, but will actually need to function in the few minutes of weightlessness rather than just admire the view. My plan B is to win the lottery...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Nauseating Education - or - Educational Nausea

The place - AGSOL - Ashton Graybiel Situational Orientation Lab, at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. A group of adults in a basement have been creating rides for decades. What kind of rides? Think amusement park rides without color or sugar coating. Without sun-light or food stands. In this twilight zone several experts research ways to measure, adapt-to and maybe some day avoid this set of phenomena named motion sickness and spatial disorientation.

The time - Monday, March 12th 2012 at 9:30am. Paul McCall, a fellow Astronauts4Hire member and I were the second and third people to go through a new 1.5-day protocol designed to give a person wishing to become a commercial astronaut awareness through exposure to motion sickness, spatial illusions and disorientation. The experience can be described as nauseating education, or more aptly, educational nausea.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Playing with the Solar System

One of the more engaging games for the iPhone is Scribblenauts Remix. What makes it interesting compared to the plethora of games for the platform (Angry Birds, anyone?) is that in order to solve each level one must ask for objects to be put in the game, which will help solve the presented problem. The variety of options is huge. You can ask for nearly anything - materials, buildings, animals, other people, clothes and even wings. Items can be held by your scribblenaut, vehicles can be used to move around and animals can be mounted or engaged in combat.

A cool part that's actually outside of the actual game play is the start screen, where you can add anything you want to try things out. I decided to try and add a space shuttle. It magically appeared on the screen, hurray! I had my scribblenaut character climb on board. It operates more like a Star-Trek shuttle and doesn't need rockets to move around even at ground level - how convenient is that... I then added our sun (easily hanging it in the sky) and the nine planets (we still love you, Pluto!).

The result is below, I hope you get a chuckle and try the game as well. The possibilities are very close to endless...

Space Shuttle and Solar System - the Scribblenaut Remix version

Monday, February 20, 2012

John Glenn 50th Anniversary Angry Mob

Don't tell me you're not pissed. I mean, WT*? 50 years ago John Glenn went to space and I can't do it yet? Oh, wait. No one can do it from US soil at the moment, there's progress for you, damn right!

Really? What happened to all the dreams of being able to exercise my right to throwing my shoe at the TV at 0 gravity? What happened to all the O'Neil Colonies and sh*t? Yes, I watch PBS, I'm not stupid!

But tell me one, thing, really. Where did all the money go? They are hiding gold bars on the International Space Stashion. And that's not a typo. Why else would they build this pile of cans that look like a cheap knock-off Lego set that can't go anywhere or create gravity or purify everyone's pee? You know what, even if they PAID me I wouldn't go. They don't ever BBQ there. To light a rocket under you is fine, but have some good steak, that's too much. 100 billion dollars and no patio. I want some answers, darn-it!

I mean, geez, where's Spock? WHERE'S SPOCK?!?

Anyway, did you all see Apollo 18 and that Transformers movie? One of them is lying, they can't both be telling the truth. And they both cover up what really happened. But I can't tell you because I'd have to kill you. That's right. Newsflash - the aliens are here. Just look at my mother in law.

And what about all those internet billionaires making rockets? Don't they have better stuff to do with their money, like hire lawyers or buy some bling or solve some real space problem other than whose (rocket) is bigger? I mean, do something useful like develop cars that run on compost or something...

At any rate, if you see Buzz tell him both me and my kid are pissed at him too. For $39.99 it should have been real laser.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Amazon Leadership Principles for Space - Customer Obsession

In the first post about the Amazon Leadership Principles for space I listed the principles and stated their importance in the life of an Amazonian. In this post we'll look at Customer Obsession.

1. Customer Obsession
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Amazon Leadership Principles... for Space

For the past year I have been working for Amazon, a company that needs little introduction (at least in the United States), whose charismatic founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, also has a less known space company, Blue Origin. Embedded in the company DNA, Amazon Leadership Principles are more than company values. They are a language, the terminology used to describe and understand accomplishments and failures in the company, the filter through which the performance of employees is reviewed by their managers and peers every year and throughout the year. These are the ten commandments (Amazon had to do better, so there are fourteen...), embodying the rise and fall of operating at Amazon.