Monday, March 2, 2009

Now What? Space Science!

Well, I'm out of the running. No, I haven't heard officially (which makes me think that something may have happened to my application... you'd think I'd get some sort of official rejection), but I'm pretty sure I missed out this time around. There's always next time.

In the meantime, I've undertaken a new project that will (undoubtedly) be infinitely more entertaining than this blog. I call it "The Space Science Podcast." I've decided to produce it in seasons, much like a television show sans video. The first season has a working title of: "Learn Astrodynamics Without That Pesky Math Part." I hope you find it educational and enjoyable! I'm working on some of the administrative portions right now and hope to have the first episode out in a few weeks... if not sooner!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

So What's the Deal?

What, precisely, is the deal? *shrug* I don't know. Here are the facts:

  1. I have in my possession a postcard from NASA that reads, "We have received your application for the Astronaut Candidate Program. You will be notified of any decisions concerning your applications."

  2. The timeline indicates that we're ending the point where potential candidates are notified and interviewed.

  3. I have not yet been notified.

It would be nice to know, one way or the other, but I guess I'll just wait it out. Perhaps, however, I'll give ol' NASA a call and see if my application has fallen through some cracks.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ice on Mars? Yes. How much? Lots.

Whilst this post is not precisely related to my efforts of becoming an astronaut, it does relate to future exploration.

We all know, thanks to Mars Phoenix and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), that there is water ice on Mars. We now know, thanks again to the MRO, that there is a lot of water on Mars... and not just at the poles. An article on Scientific American announces vast subsurface formations of ice at mid-latitudes on Mars, a very important find since human colonization of Mars will likely begin nearer to the equator than the current location of Phoenix.

Why is in situ ice important? There are myriad answers to this question. Most obviously, it provides a source of water for future exploration efforts. Hauling stuff to Mars is expensive, so it's best to use what's already there. In addition, ice can be electrolyzed into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen can be injected into an outpost's atmosphere, and the combination of O2 and H2 can be used as fuel to either roam about the surface or head back to Earth (or... and this is really thinking out of the box... as a fuel station on the way out to the asteroid belt and outer planets).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

And Now We Wait

I'm terribly sorry for the delay, folks. I moved recently and have self-imposed a "Do Not Even Put In the Order for DSL Until I Finish Remodeling the Bathroom" policy. So, I write to you today from a cafe in Madison which is inexplicably featuring Grasshopper Day today, replete with story telling and a guy who can mimic pretty much any animal in existence (this guy is up there with Sgt. Jones from Police Academy).

Anyway, I am writing today to inform you that I have been accepted... into the application process. I recently received a postcard from the NASA Astronaut Office indicating that my application was complete and under consideration. In other words, I made it in before the deadline, and at least one person will look at my application. Hooray!

NASA's timeline is somewhat vague about when I'll hear back from them about my status. I suppose the latest will be November when they start interviewing the "Highly Qualified Candidates," though I will likely hear from them sooner. I'll be sure to keep everyone up-to-date on the process.

In other news, I've been invited by the kind folks of Web608 to give a talk on lunar mining. This will be only the second time that I've been requested to speak about my job, the first being a Pi Tau Sigma (mechanical engineering honors society) meeting. I'm really excited to share my experiences and knowledge regarding the engineering discipline required to design for space applications. Of course, Web608 is mainly devoted to web 2.0 stuff, but being a blogger, I suppose I qualify.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Happy Moon Landing Day!

Thirty-nine years ago today, the whole world, transfixed upon millions of television sets, witnessed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first humans to set foot on any celestial body. Sometimes I wish, despite today's conveniences, that I had been born in one of many earlier eras: seeing this event as a wide-eyed child of the sixties is one such era. To all those responsible for getting the Apollo 11 mission onto the moon and back, I thank you.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


This past week, I finally became officially qualified to apply for the Astronaut job at NASA. According to the job posting, each applicant needs:

Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. Quality of academic preparation is important. Degree must be followed by at least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience.

On Friday, I completed my third year of, as NASA says, "related, progressively responsible, professional experience." My application is still in the works and should be submitted shortly... it better be, since the deadline to submit is July 1.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Plea to Senator Obama

Look up, Senator Obama.

We, as a species, have ascended from microbes in the ocean, onto the firmament at our feet, to the tops of sky-scrapers, past the airplanes above us, into the vast expanses of space, and even to the surface of our own Luna. The human mind has constantly dreamed of advancing into the unknown. Do not, Mr. Obama, take that dream from us.

I, just like many of your supporters, am of the Space Shuttle generation. The idea of accelerating to the heavens in a mere capsule seems outdated and backward. The Challenger explosion, for many of us, was simply a paragraph in a grammar school history book, whereas the Columbia disaster signified the beginning of the end of the Shuttles' lifespan. Every other launch was publicized for 2 minutes on the local news while we were at basketball or band practice. The collective dream of spaceflight has become muddled and unattractive.

Some of us, however, never lost the dream, the hope of one day reaching the stars. We are the next generation of astronauts, engineers, technicians, and supporters of a truly radical idea: that we, a race of bipeds, could possibly set foot that shimmering speck above us known as Mars. Such an incredible goal is entirely within our generation's reach. Imagine the wonder of someone born before the famous flight at Kitty Hawk upon learning of John Glenn's voyage. Now imagine the disappointment of one born in 1973 who will not see a lunar landing until he or she lives more than a half of a century. Fifty years, Senator Obama, is not an acceptable respite from a project as monumental as this.

Through my years of education and training, I have come to be an aerospace engineer. I did this not because our society lauded such a profession. No, I chose this path because it was my dream. I was teased and tortured in school simply because I was smart. I was ostracized and ignored because I would rather build a model rocket than light a bottle rocket. Yes, this country can use a boost in education, but without a poster of a space-walking astronaut hanging in their bedrooms, the children of America will inadvertently undermine your investment in them.

So I ask you, Senator Obama, as you continue your campaign for the presidency, to consider the ramifications of one of your lesser-known policies. While improving education is important, it is a fruitless endeavor when at the cost of the manned space program. We do not dream of sending robots to other worlds, much like we do not dream of automating the removal of a brain tumor. We relish in the idea of humanity triumphing in the face of tremendous odds. We need astronauts and rocket scientists, Senator. It does not take a brain surgeon to understand this.