Tag Archives: Roger Myers

Mars madness and more this week

Mars Madness continues this week at the Museum of Flight, and a couple of astronomy clubs have interesting events on the calendar as well.

Mars Madness

Myers

Roger Myers. Photo: Museum of Flight

Lots of things go mad during the month of March, and the Museum of Flight is looking at Mars with special programs each Saturday. This Saturday, March 11 at 2 p.m. Roger Myers, formerly of Aerojet Rocketdyne, will give a talk about getting to Mars and back. Myers should know; he has worked on space transportation and in-space propulsion for more than 30 years, on dozens of missions including all Mars landings after Viking. He is a Fellow of the AIAA, a member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, is the president of the Electric Rocket Propulsion Society, and was awarded the AIAA Wyld Propulsion Award in 2014.

If you’re headed out to the museum on Saturday, don’t miss the weekly aerospace update at 1 p.m.

Tacoma Astronomical Society

The Tacoma Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 7 in room 175 of Thompson Hall on the campus of the University of Puget Sound. TAS member Dave Armstrong will discuss his approach to telescope mirror fabrication.

BEAS and Pluto

The Boeing Employees Astronomical Society will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 9 at the Boeing “Oxbow” Fitness Center. Participants will view a webinar presentation about the Pluto New Horizons mission from the mission’s principal investigator, Alan Stern. Guests are welcome but must RSVP here.

Battle Point Astronomical Association

BP Astro KidsThe Battle Point Astronomical Association has a full evening of events planned for Saturday, March 11. Its popular BP Astro Kids program will meet at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. The family date night for this month will be a look at how the Hubble Space Telescope gets all of its gorgeous photos back to Earth. Participants will transmit their own images to each other, paint universe photos and more. Suggested donation is $5 to cover supplies.

BPAAAt 7:30 p.m. the club’s planetarium show will be “Climbing the Cosmic Distance Ladder.” Astronomer Steve Ruhl will show how astronomers, past and present, determine distances to objects. If the sky is clear, club members will be on hand with telescopes. It’s free for BPAA members, $2 donation suggested for non-members, and $5 for families.

It all happens at the association’s Edwin Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island.

Futures file

You can scout out future astronomy events on our calendar. We’ve recently added BP Astro Kids events for the spring and summer and the meetings of the Boeing Employees Astronomical Society for the next several months.

Up in the sky

Jupiter is well placed for viewing after midnight this week as it approaches opposition on April 7. This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope magazine and The Sky This Week from Astronomy offer more observing highlights for the week.

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Someone you know will travel in space soon

Leaders of four private, Northwest-based commercial spaceflight companies got together earlier this month at the Museum of Flight to talk about what we will see in their industry in the coming year. While they have some fascinating events on the docket for 2014, the conversation got most interesting when they talked about the not-much-more-distant future.

“I think we will expand out into space faster than people might realize,” predicted Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources, Inc. “It’s less than five years, I think, before everyone in this room will know someone who has been higher than 100 kilometers.”

Panel

L-R: Erika Wagner of Blue Origin, Chris Lewicki of Planetary Resources, Roger Myers of Aerojet, and Phil Brzytwa of Spaceflight, Inc. spoke Jan. 18 at the Museum of Flight about the future of space exploration.

Erika Wagner, business development manager of Blue Origin, said the destination is cool, but the passenger list is even better.

“Where we’re going next is more exciting than ever because space and the whole frontier is becoming democratized,” Wagner said. “It’s no longer the realm of billion- or trillion-dollar economy nations, or even of millionaire tourists; it’s getting to the point where everyone in this room can have access to space in their own way.”

Wherever anyone is going Aerojet Rocketdyne is probably helping them get there. Dr. Roger Myers, executive director for advanced in-space programs at the company, noted that “rockets from Redmond” have powered many space missions, including Cassini at Saturn and the New Horizons spacecraft that will arrive at Pluto next year.

“There’s a lot going on in 2014 and beyond,” Myers said. “There’s a great future in this business.”

Myers said that true exploration of space is going to require a variety of rockets, other propulsion systems, and transportation options.

“If we’re going to expand the human economic sphere, if we’re going to become a species that exists beyond low-Earth orbit, we’re going to have to have a transportation infrastructure that mimics what we have on the Earth,” he said.

Aerojet has rocket engines on the recently launched MAVEN spacecraft headed for Mars, and also designed engines for the Orion craft, which is scheduled for an unmanned test flight this year. Blue Origin is busy testing its BE-3 liquid-hydrogen engine. Planetary Resources anticipates the launch of its first ARKYD space telescope this year, thanks in part to a Kickstarter fundraiser last year. While others build rockets, Spaceflight, Inc. is working to get your package delivered to orbit.

Photo (1)“We want to become the kayak.com or the UPS providing delivery of cargo to space,” said Phil Brzytwa, head of sales and business development for the company. “We want our customers to be able to pay by the seat not pay for the entire launch vehicle.” Spaceflight, Inc. works the details and can send up numerous small satellites, cube-sats, and other smaller projects as part of a single payload, making things less complicated for everyone.

Many folks still find personal spaceflight and asteroid mining to be pretty far-fetched concepts, but Lewicki said we should not be so shocked at the rapid advance of technology.

“One hundred fifty years ago there wasn’t an internal combustion engine, and the idea of a steam-powered train was high-tech, and was getting us rapidly across the countryside faster than a horse could,” he noted. It didn’t take so long to get to horseless carriages and lighter-than-air flying machines. Lewicki doesn’t think affordable space travel and mining the solar system for resources are alien concepts.

“If we can conceive of it we can make it happen,” he said. “There’s nothing in the laws of physics that says these things aren’t possible. It’s just a matter of bit-by-bit finding the best use of them, finding the markets and the economies that drive the need for them, and then making them scalable enough so that everyone can benefit from them.”

“We are living during extremely exciting times, the likes of which will be written about in the history books,” Lewicki added, because “this is the time when our species got off the planet.”

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NASA Future Forum panel discusses importance of technology and innovation

Those looking for real-life applications of all of the cool technology NASA creates need look no further than cleaning appliances or one of the biggest fad toys of a decade ago.

“The computational power that was used to make an Apollo spacecraft successful is now embodied in a Furby,” said Dr. Ed Lazowska. “It’s not clear that this is the greatest social use for that technology, but it’s still a remarkable comment on what we’ve been able to do.”

Tech and innovation panel

This panel discussed "The Importance of Technology and Innovation for our Economic Future" at the NASA Future Forum Dec. 9 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. L-R: are Joseph Parrish and Robert Pearce of NASA, Dr. Kristi Morgansen of the University of Washington, Dr. Roger Myers of Aerojet, and Dr. Ed Lazowska, UW. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, was speaking as part of a panel about “The Importance of Technology and Innovation for our Economic Future” at the NASA Future Forum held Dec. 9 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. He sees robotics as a major area of innovation in the coming decade.

“NASA has been a pioneer in robots in unstructured environments, where they have to be autonomous and they have to respond to unanticipated situations,” Lazowska said. “You see these in your home today in the person of the Roomba vacuum cleaner.”

“This notion of robots in unstructured environments working with us is going to be transformative in the next ten years,” he said.

Robert Pearce, NASA’s head researcher, says today’s jetliners are a prime example of how agency’s work has made it out into common use. Instrumentation, wing and engine design, the shape of the planes, even the way the pilots work together all were born from the space agency.

“The DNA of everything that flies started at NASA,” Pearce said, though he noted one exception. “When you turn and go down into the airplane and you see all of those tight, cramped, uncomfortable seats—that’s not NASA.”

Joseph Parrish, who moderated the panel and is NASA’s deputy chief technologist, takes exception to the often-expressed view that the space agency is doing little more than blasting scarce tax dollars into space.

“We’re not actually packaging up a bunch of dollar bills into the nose cone of a rocket and firing it out to Mars, to be spent by Martians, on a prank,” Parrish said. “We’re spending that money on planet Earth, and in the process of developing the systems that we do send to Mars and to Jupiter and to Saturn and beyond we’re enabling things here on planet Earth. We’re creating high-technology jobs that in turn inspire new ideas and create and new ecosystems of supporting companies. Think of all the companies that support Boeing. Think of all the companies that are going to support this burgeoning commercial launch industry that NASA is helping to kick off.”

One of those companies is Redmond-based Aerojet. It’s executive director for electric propulsion and integrated systems, Dr. Roger Myers, says his company is working on better ways to get spacecraft from here to there.

“Today’s propulsion systems are pretty inefficient,” Myers said. “That means that you have to carry a huge amount of fuel, you have to launch a tremendous amount of propellant, to get beyond low-Earth orbit. It takes big, expensive, unique rockets to do that.”

“We have to change that paradigm,” Myers added. “If we’re going to explore deep space we need a balanced set of investments, in both the launch architecture, the way that we launch people and cargo, and also we need a parallel set of investments in deep-space transportation architectures.”

Lazowska said that a big problem with technological innovations is that the uses are seldom obvious.

“It’s often not clear at the outset what the real benefit of an innovation is going to be,” he said. “When people were working on the Internet, ARPANET, nobody was thinking about email or the web or ecommerce or digital media. It was for remotely using expensive mainframe computers. You see this pattern again and again.”

Lazowska said the concept of technology transfer is important but often misunderstood.

“The goal of university technology transfer is to put publicly funded innovation to work for the public good,” he explained. “People have to get over the notion that somehow you’re going to float the institutional boat on licensing revenues, and realize that the goal is to make our nation the world leader, and make our regions regions of innovation.”

You can watch the entire panel discussion on the NASA TV video below.

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