Sunday, March 18, 2012

My very first blog post!

Welcome to my first posting in my first blog! I will populate this blog with short, succinct essays, ramblings and other offerings about little known aspects of space exploration by humans. They will include questions I have always wondered about, and--if available--answers, so you won't have to wonder.

A life-long space nerd, I am lucky enough to work in the best possible field (space life sciences) in the best possible location to indulge myself: NASA's Johnson Space Center, near Houston, Texas. Even after three decades here, every meeting I go to, every lunch in the cafeteria, every walk across the center puts me in the offices, conference rooms and footsteps of the heroes of spaceflight: the astronauts, engineers, physicians, scientists and technicians who gave America and the world some of the proudest moments in human history--and some of the most crushing sadness.

After deciding to start this blog, I made a list of questions and topics that seemed like a fun set with which to begin (in no particular order, and with no promise of completion):
  • NASA's first efforts to land astronauts back on land instead of splashing down at sea (the Rogallo inflatable wing vs. the parasail-and-solid landing rockets of "El Kabong")
  • Was there a last-ditch capability to de-orbit a Gemini or Apollo capsule even if the usual means (retrorockets, SPS) were unavailable? (An alternate ending to the space movie Marooned, maybe...)
  • The history of astronaut cabin fires and other toxic events in spacecraft and simulators.
  • Use of lower body negative pressure to mimic the effects of gravity on the cardiovascular systems of weightless astronauts. (An excuse to delve into other biomedical aspects of spaceflight--so be forewarned.)
  • Space nomenclature and jargon, and what it says about its users (examples: "microgravity", "crew", "Mercury 9" and "Delta 7").
  • Hatches in heat shields: a good idea or not?
  • Tunnels in the sky: moving through long narrow tubes in spacecraft and aircraft.
  • Space people I have known, known about, wish I'd known and been inspired by.
  • My current personal favorite: the early history of underwater weightlessness simulation.
Part of my motivation is to celebrate the trivia of the space age: the endless list of questions no-one thinks about because everyone already "knows" the right answers--even if they really don't. The trivia fleshes out the bare bones of spaceflight, and shows us that this supposedly impersonal, technocratic science-factual undertaking is a truly human adventure, with drama to match anything in science fiction.

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Please feel free to suggest topics or comment on anything. Let's keep it on topic, and cite your sources whenever possible!