For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to all things related to space. I have always looked up at the night sky in wonder and awe – I still do to this day. Since I was a child, I dreamed of being an astronaut. Photographs taken by space probes, astronauts, and astronomers captured my attention and inspired my imagination. While my professional career has not included positions in the aerospace field (or as an astronaut), I still maintain an avid interest in space exploration and space settlement.
What Inspired Me: How I Became Interested in Space Exploration and Space Settlement
My interest in space exploration and space settlement began at an early age. From what I can recall, my early inspiration started began primarily through visual means – for example, photographs in National Geographic magazine for missions such as Apollo, Viking, and Voyager. Astronomical photos captured my attention as well – primarily subjects like nebulae and galaxies. What captured my imagination the most early on was human space exploration and exploring the planets. Science fiction books, movies, and television shows also helped cement my interest in space and all that humanity could achieve and experience.
In the decade following college graduation, I began to become interested in the idea of privately funded human endeavors in space. The book Mining the Sky, by John S. Lewis was one in particular that grabbed my attention. Additionally, there were a number of space startups the began in that era and continued into the 2000’s, such as Rotary Rocket and Beal Aerospace. While many of these ventures failed, they confirmed that the idea of private spaceflight was still possible, and that there were people interested in doing it.
My Interests In Space
Space and its beyond Earth resources are essentially limitless for all intents and purposes. The primary thrust of my interest have centered on humans moving out from Earth into space, both to explore, as well as to populate the solar system, pushing ever-outward to the stars. Of course robotic space exploration certainly must play a part as well – serving as our initial scouts into to new environments. In order to bring about this grand vision, we must continually invest in the future – inventing and maturing new technologies. We must be able to mine and use resources in space. At least in the early stages, this will require a combination of public and private efforts, with the public projects helping to burn down the highest risk technologies and ventures to allow the private organizations and investors to follow.
In addition to the exploration and settlement of outer space, I also have an interest in amateur astronomy, though I have not pursued this interest as vigorously as I once intended. I do have a telescope, but I don’t use it nearly as much as I should. My telescope is an Orion 6-inch Dobsonian reflector. While it does not have automatic tracking, it does offer amazing views of the moon, as well as Jupiter (and it’s moons), Saturn, Mars, star clusters, and more.
I read a lot of space related books as well. In addition to my personal collection of space-themed books (hardcopy and eBook), I have also read a significant number of space books that I borrowed from the local library. My favorites have been the books written by astronauts, describing their personal experiences in space, though the ones discussing fantastic projects – actual or theoretical – are a close second.
I listen to a handful of space related podcasts as well. In particular, I subscribe to the following:
- The Space Show – while this excellent show is actually a live radio talk show, I generally listen to the archives via podcast
- Planetary Radio – from The Planetary Society
- Startalk – hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson
My Space Related Experiences
As a child, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut. As a young adult, I studied engineering and considered working in the aerospace field, still holding the astronaut dream in the back of my mind. For various reasons, my career has not involved aerospace; however, especially with the growth of the internet and social media, I have been able to pursue my interests in space as a hobby. Additionally, as I get closer to the traditional retirement age, I have considered how I might become more involved in space related projects later in life.
I have not pursued my space hobby as vigorously as some have, but there are a number of highlights that I will mention here. This is certainly not an all-inclusive list, but a summary of some of the memorable experiences.
- Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum visit (early 1980’s)
- NASA Kennedy Space Center visit and tour (mid 1980’s)
- Took Introduction to Astronomy and Observational Astronomy courses concurrently as an electrical engineering student in college; earned an A in both classes, which was quite an achievement since these courses were dominated by students who were physics and astrophysics majors (1991-ish)
- Began joining various space enthusiast groups such as National Space Society (NSS), The Mars Society, The Planetary Society, etc.
- NSS International Space Development Conference (ISDC) – Tucson, AZ (2000)
- Met Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin who signed my copy of his new book The Return (NSS ISDC 2000)
- Visited and toured the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, CO (around 2000)
- NASA Glenn visitor center visit (early 2000’s)
- Got my first telescope (early 2000’s)
- Connected with hundreds of other space enthusiasts online (e.g., via Twitter, etc.) as social media became a growing force (mid 2000’s+)
- Volunteered to edit some videos for Liftport (late 2000’s)
- (Finally!) got to see a space shuttle at the Intrepid Museum in New York City. (Late 2010’s)