Tag Archives: NASA

Quindar Love

IMG_4995For my day job at Air & Space / Smithsonian, I wrote about Quindar, an electronic music duo comprised of art historian James Merle Thomas and Wilco multinstrumentalist Mikael Jorgensen. In their multimedia live performances and on their debut album Hip Mobility, the pair finds inspiration in the ephemera of the pre-Shuttle space program.

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How to Land a House on Mars: My new feature for Air & Space / Smithsonian

A crew recovers the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator test vehicle from the Pacific after LDSD's second atmospheric test, June 2015.

I’ve got a big feature in the March 2016 issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian, where I work, about the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, which is the two-stage technology NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena is working on that will one day allow NASA to deposit heavier objects on the surface of Mars intact than they have up ’til now — a problem they need to solve before any potential crewed mission could happen. Sounds pretty dry and technical, maybe, but why not show a little confidence in my ability to tell a story? My pal and editor Heather Goss already made me take all the acronyms out, upping the likelihood you’ll read this, we both hope.

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Infrared Dawn: On the James Webb Space Telescope in the July 2014 issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian

An illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope. Courtesy of NASA.

And now for something completely different, and completely intimidating — at least initially. The current issue of Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine has my first-ever astronomy story, about the James Webb Space Telescope, the remarkable $8.8 billion dollar replacement for the aging Hubble Space Telescope.

As JWST orbits the Earth from a million miles away, its six-meter mirror of gold-coated beryllium will collect light that’s fainter, farther away, and billions of years older than we’ve ever been able to see, showing us some of the earliest objects that formed in the universe after the Big Bang. As with most of NASA’s flagship projects, JWST has taken longer and cost far more than NASA had said and Congress had hoped. It’s now set for launch in October 2018. Continue reading

Radio, the Final Frontier, or To Go With Some Reasonable Measure of Boldness Where I Myself Have Not Personally Managed, Entirely, to Go Before

My first radio story will be broadcast today. You can listen to it here right now. The process of assembling and editing it was not all that much different from making these. Although in this case I had expert help — WAMU managing producer Tara Boyle — to make the piece sound better. The story is about the starship Enterprise. That is, the impressively large, now-49-year-old model that appeared in every episode of Star Trek, 30 years before computer graphics became Hollywood’s defacto visual effects methodology.

I haven’t spent enough time with the various spinoff series to get much of a read on them, but original-flavor Kirk-Spock-McCoy Star Trek is a thing I love.I initially imagined this segment as a Daily Show-style news package wherein I would feign indignation that an artifact as significant as the civilization-seeking, boldly-going Enterprise ​rates a spot only in the basement of the National Air & Space Museum. (Apparently they also have some spacecraft there that have actually flown in space.) That approach proved to a be little ambitious for my first time out of the gate. There were a couple of jokes and a couple of clips it pained me to lose, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

My favorite formal thing about the story is that I managed to use, chronologically, music from three eras of Trek: Alexander Courage‘s 1966 theme for TV series, two snippets of James Horner‘s score for The Wrath of Khan from 1982, and finally, Michael Giacchino‘s theme from the 2009 Trek reboot directed by J.J. Abrams. Continue reading