(design by Billie)
RadioAstronomer wearing two headsets at once: one to speak to a remote ground station to help command a spacecraft and the other to talk to the computer room.
Ready to Take a Ride?
Picture yourself alone in a darkened Mission Control Room at night, lit only by the various displays from the computers and the two wall displays at the end of the room. The only noise you hear is the muted whisper of the numerous fans that keep the computers cool. About you are lots of displays scrolling various data, graphs, and numbers. One of the big screens at the end of the room is displaying a big map of the world with our orbits overlaid on top, and the other is a three dimensional display of the spacecraft with the stars in the background.
In the solitude and quiet, if you strain really hard you can almost hear voices - faint echoes from the past: "main engine sequence start, thatâ€™s one small step, go at throttle up, we have liftoff" whispering their soft messages of the past to your very soul.
Welcome to the fascinating world of RadioAstronomer. His mission control room is part of the legacy of the monumental effort of those first hectic days of the nation's space program. "There was a bustle and flurry of activity across this entire nation as we tried to do what has never been done in the entire history of all mankind."
How RadioAstronmer's Brain Works
OK, I have no idea exactly how his brain works. With his work in spacecraft operations, design, test, and launch; he has worked in more than 15 mission control rooms and four of the major NASA centers (JPL, KSC, Goddard, Houston); and "flown" (mission control rooms) many types of spacecraft for our nation: low flyers (polar orbiters), high flyers (geosynchronous), manned (shuttle), and interplanetary (Magellan). So he's definitely a busy guy with a lot going on at work.
As proof of this, here's a photo of his office. I kinda like the cluttered aesthetic look. What do you think?
A precocious lad - he knew when he was five he'd be a Republican - he's an accomplished scientist and radio astronomer who continues to serve this nation well. He grew up in middle-class America, son of a PhD geologist dad and a nurse mom. He found out about FR from a friend at work. He loves it. "I learn something new everyday here." That's, um, a tall order, teaching him new stuff every day. 'Cause RadioAstronomer is, even by FR lights, rocket-science bright.
One of his "favorite hobbies" is "building computers." Gulp. He loves books - he has over 6000 and loves to collect them. If you ask him to read off the names of some of the books on his shelves at home, the titles that pour in are something like: Neutron Optics; Polarized Neutrons; Couplings and the Origin of Mass; Quantum Field-Theory and Black Hole ThermoDynamics; Large Scale Motions in the Universe; Introduction to Super-String and M-Theory - well, you get the idea. Rumor has it he's actually read these books. RadioAstronomer also loves high tech. "Even my toaster has a digital readout and a microprocessor."
Note to self: when invited to tea at RadioAstronomer's house, check the English muffin carefully before consuming. Then spill hot tea on him in utter jealousy of his brain.
RadioAstronomer speaks with straightforward, unabashed adoration for Free Republic as "an important cog in keeping the freedoms of this great country." He has developed some extremely close friends here and is proud to be called a Freeper. He usually hangs out in the science threads (go figure) and often ends up in the Crevo debates. (Warning: if you don't know what these are, don't ask unless you really want to know!) The Freeper threads can get heated at times but, as RadioAstronomer points out, "Heck, what family doesn't have its arguments?"
RadioAstronomer on the left with a
RadioAstronomer's posts are rambunctious, playful, creative, exacting. Don't be shy, take a walk on the wild side: just search on his name and you'll find some thought-provoking science threads. It's not as if, if you got to one of those science threads at Free Republic, you'll meet the Men In Black. Probably. Although the work RadioAstronomer does now does kinda involve, in particular, searching for signs of intelligent radio signals in outer space using a radio telescope.
fellow M.I.B. telescope team member
Serving His Country
In some way or the other, RadioAstronomer's been involved in many shuttle missions, including the first shuttle launch (sadly, the same shuttle that was lost a few months ago). It was not his first tragedy; he was in a mission operations room monitoring Challenger on that fateful day in 1986. He has worked on and off for the U.S. Air Force Space Command and NASA for more than 19 years and he is proud to have done so. For example, he explains:
"I still feel it's almost a dream to have been on the Magellan Spacecraft Mission Control team flying this spacecraft to the planet Venus at JPL.
I was also privileged to be in the Voyager 2 mission control room for Neptune encounter. It is a remarkable feeling to watch the pictures slowly built pixel by pixel on the main screen as the data is being received by the spacecraft that is so far away, it takes 9 hours (at the speed of light) to send a command and get a reply from the spacecraft."
JPL Mission Control Room
KSC Launch Complex 26
Epilogue: A Childhood of StarGazing
"I remember going over to my best friend's house (who had a small trailer with a portable TV in his back yard), and spending all night watching The Outer Limits. We would pretend the trailer was a spacecraft that was on another planet as we watched the shows. I built a short-wave radio and a Bell Labs Cardiac Computer, which we installed in the trailer to make it look more 'authentic'."
"Over time we also acquired and added to the trailer: an early Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) calculator, a signal generator, a volt/ohm multimeter, two walkie-talkies, a World War II Radar set (lots of knobs, switches, dials, with a square CRT Radar display), and a Round CRT Dumont Oscilloscope that also added a bit of exotic (at least back then) flavor to our surroundings - thanks to his dad being a ham operator. We raided his ham shack more than once for our trailer. (Not too bad for a couple of 6th graders). We placed all this equipment strategically around the inside of the trailer to try and make it look like the inside of a 1950â€™s movie set-looking space ship. All in all it looked pretty impressive. We had a lot of fun in that trailer. Especially on Friday night when The Outer Limits was on. Many a mission to the moon, mars, and beyond took place there."
OK, OK, maybe the rest of us geeks weren't quite so thorough in our early "science play." Still, it sounds like a great way to pass the time, as does building an ion engine rocket at the age of 11, following the instructions from a book (said rocket consisting of a set of charged copper rods that would emit copper ions out one end, giving the rocket a gentle push. Having to find the proper sized plastic tubing and copper spheres used towards the front end of the rocket engine, using an automobile ignition coil â€“driven by a car battery charger - for the energy source and hanging the rocket on a long copper wire like a pendulum, so that when it was in operation the suspended engine would displace from the strait down position as the ions were ejected out the back â€“ but I digress).
RadioAstronomer's got it set up nicely. Sure, he may sometimes dress a little funny, but basically, he's like a kid in a candystore, living out his childhood dream at work, and he gets all his politics at just the Right place... Free Republic.
With the warning that he really IS a rocket scientist, and is not permitted to post at work and as such will be late coming to this thread, please do come and say "hi" to one seriously funny and bright Freeper.....
RadioAstronomer, Today's Finest FReeper