Friday, May 25, 2012

Back in Space with SpaceX

Today something great and remarkable happened over our heads, while half of the Planet slept. A privately owned and financed spacecraft called "Dragon" mated with the International Space Station.  Captured by a Canadian robotic arm, worked by an American, supported by Russian and Dutch crew, grabbed the Dragon and connected it to the ISS.
What is so remarkable is that this private enterprise venture has been achieved in ten years, from a standing start, when Elon Musk, of "Pay Pal" fame, decided to build reusable rockets and spacecraft.  As well as electric cars, and efficient solar power cells.
I contribute to a blog over on 13.7 NPR, and just a short while ago when the rocket that launched the Dragon had to abort at .5 seconds before liftoff, due to a faulty valve in engine 5, many criticised the attempt.
This left me very angry with my fellow Man, and I posted a "flame" blog telling the doubters to get a Life.
They did not realise just how much technology and skill went into a successful abort with all nine engines roaring at full thrust.  They did not appreciate the speed with which the fault was diagnosed.  The speed with which the rocket was safed, and the fault repaired.
We have become blinded by our everyday reliance of all things technology, and forgotten that every great invention or achievement we have made in the last million years or so has come from the Mind of a Man (or Woman), and a huge amount of effort and risk.
The SpaceX venture is a truly remarkable exhibition and marriage of "new age" thinking financed by the financial madness of the WWW.
There are so many new applications, processes and technologies being used by SpaceX that to compare this effort with anything NASA has done technically is like putting a Model T next door to a Lamborghini.  Not necessarily NASA's fault.
The truly remarkable element in this achievement is one that will probably go unnoticed.
NASA, probably the most experienced and politicised Space organisation on Earth, has worked side by side with a bunch of irreverent, commercially focussed, under 30's who just know they can do it, and can do it they will, and not in any way conventionally.
For this reason, it was excellent to see and hear Elon Musk congratulate NASA at the moment of liftoff - they deserve to be recognised for who and what what they represent and have achieved.
NASA has always gone the slow, measure thrice cut once route, in the full glare of the public eye.  They have made mistakes, on a gigantic scale if you look at just the accident history, but each time they have crawled back from the criticism and pain of public failure to advance both the knowledge and experience of Mankind.
Now we have a new set of kids on the block, and to a certain extent we can thank a company called Scaled Composites, and a man called Burt Rutan.  He got there first in the use of exotic materials and off-the-wall designs, and his Spaceship One won the "X" prize for launching civilians into the fringes of Space, on his own dime.  Richard Branson of Virgin fame, perhaps the best know non-traditionalist on the Planet, was quick to capture Bert's process, and sometime soon we can expect regular passenger trips into the fringes of Space for around $200k a seat.
Entrepreneurs tend to feed off each other, and Elon Musk is not alone with his vision of a private enterprise route to the Stars.  Another Internet billionaire has plans to launch rockets from a Burt Rutan deigned and built aircraft platform, and this will go into test in the next year.
The age of privatised Space flight is here to stay, thanks to a few visionaries, who are willing to risk all that they have made on perhaps the riskiest venture imaginable.
Taking Man into Space, and making a profit in the process!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Faith and Nature

For the first time in a very long time, I have had to produce a CV.  A really interesting and potentially soul destroying task.  For the last two months, I have been faithfully calling and then sending my CV to a whole range of potential employers, with very little result.  And then yesterday one of the Recruiters called me, and offered his help in rewriting the CV to suit his specific Client.  It took me two days to deprogram myself, and deliver something that he felt had a chance to be read and recognised. He worked tirelessly, explaining what he wanted, helping me to see where I had made assumptions, glossed over potentially job-winning information, and had been too self depreciating.
The whole process made me wonder if there are more people like me out there, Mind-locked into their own experience, unable to self-promote, scared of over selling themselves.
If there are, please email me, and I will pass on all the information Brian Kelly so graciously gave to me.
Nature tells us that there is always something out there we don't know - faith is what we have in each other that we will do the right thing for each other.
Brian had faith in me, a voice at the end of a phone, and I thank him for it.  It has made a real difference as to how I see and feel about myself.
Can I do the same for you?