WHO ARE YOU?
I’m a spaceflight operations specialist with a fascination for ‘figuring things out, and telling about.” After 22 years at NASA’s Mission Control in Houston, with writing books and articles on the side, I started a full-time free-lance career in 1997. Since 2003 I’ve been the NBC News space consultant on all space-related issues: US, Russian, other foreign; past, present, and future; government, commercial, private, pirate; real, proposed, mythical, and fabricated; all angles to this topic.
WHAT IS ON THIS WEBSITE?
It’s not an encyclopedic explanation of the world’s space programs, more of a chronicle of what I’ve been writing and speaking about the subject for decades – which is almost but not entirely the same thing. While it is approximately organized thematically, random wandering is guaranteed to bring you to odd, interesting stories anywhere on the site.
WHY DO YOU CLAIM TO BE MORE TRUSTWORTHY THAN OTHER SOURCES?
Starting from my actual twin professional backgrounds in space technology and in human communications, two fields in both of which I earned professional awards, the best validation of my reportage and analysis is decades of hindsight where MOST (but not all) of the time I got the controversial topics right, first, and most clearly. A list of the ‘space sleuthing’ solutions I’m proudest of is here: TBS.
ARE YOU A JOURNALIST OR A ‘ROCKET SCIENTIST’?
Both these professional titles imply a narrowness of skills and interest that I have endeavored to break out of, so while on a daily basis I perform tasks in both functions – and by the judgment of my peers in both fields, I perform them very well – I do not classify myself primarily into either. News media organizations, public education establishments, the entertainment industry, and space engineering firms are all among my paying clients. I do not anticipate retiring from any of these fields anytime soon – to the contrary, I feel I’m ‘hitting my stride’ at a new level of capabilities, and still am having a lot of fun.
WHOSE AGENDA DO YOU SERVE?
I am dictated to by nobody, on any topic, and attach myself to nobody’s dogmas, agendas, or spins. My goal is to hold highest the ideal of my undergraduate alma mater, Ohio Wesleyan University, ‘Quaecumquae sunt verae’ – ‘Whatsoever things are true’. Being beholden to nobody else’s budgets, perks, threats, or ideologies frees me to follow a story, and tell that story in a practical context, without fear or favor – a quality for which, fortunately for me, there has been no shortage of willing customers in my specialties.
WHAT KEEPS YOU BUSY THESE DAYS?
My professional activities consist of consulting work in spaceflight operations and safety for a number of US and foreign clients, and in parallel, my advisory work to my news media clients, particularly my main one, NBC-News. But I am an employee only of our private corporation, ‘Soaring Hawk Productions’, and each of my clients has hermetical privacy from any others.
WHAT IS‘Soaring Hawk Productions’?
It is a small female-owned corporation in Texas that since 1994 has been engaged in both engineering consultation and in all-media product development, from television, to writing, to public speaking. Currently it has two employees, my wife Cooky (the CEO) and me (CFO and also ‘Chief Technologist’). It has been the major source of our income since 1997.
DESCRIBE YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT.
My office is in a large and very sunny second floor room in our home in rural Galveston County, Texas, where hi-speed Internet allows me worldwide access and, via Skype webcam, live TV appearances as needed. The house is on a 22-acre area that we call “Soaring Hawk Ranch”, with pastures and stands of trees. It is a very quiet neighborhood.
WHAT IS YOUR ASSOCIATION WITH NASA?
In 1966-1969 I was a 'NASA trainee' at the Technological Institute at Northwestern University, doing graduate work in applied mathematics, but after the post-Apollo retrenchment my employment commitment was waived and I entered the USAF. From 1975 to 1997 I worked at the Johnson Space Center, mainly in Mission Control and orbital design, mainly in Bldgs 30 and 4. Initially I was a USAF officer on loan to NASA, but in 1978, in lieu of a transfer to Los Angeles, I resigned my commission and was offered a contractor slot with McDonnell Douglas preparing for the first space shuttle missions. When they lost out in the bidding competition in 1985, I smoothly transitioned to the contract winner, Rockwell, and subsequently to their wholly owned subsidiary, the ‘United Space Alliance’. I voluntarily resigned in 1997 and began full-time free-lance work. Since then I have had no formal relationship with NASA and have no obligation to any portions of their agenda (for most of my free-lance period the relationship with management has ranged from adversarial to wariness), but I still have lots of friends, old and new, within the organization and its contractor teams.
WHAT ARE YOUR INTERNATIONAL CONNECTIONS?
I've observed and studied the Russian space program since it began, and learned Russian for that purpose. I first visited the USSR in 1968 and since the 1990s have returned to Russia a number of times, especially to space launch sites in Kazakhstan and Siberia. I am also conversant in French (and occasionally vacation there) and have picked up a smattering of other foreign languages over the years (as well as High School Latin). My travels are far from over!
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