Inside the Box

or, What I’m Doing for Summer Vacation. Contrary to popular opinion, my summer employment is not Classified, Top Secret, Need to Know (right now, I have mental pictures of these words stamped in red ink) or anything else that prohibitive and therefore enthralling. There are parts that involve export-restricted and proprietary stuff, though, so for those I’m not going to write anything that isn’t published or publicly available.

Here’s the scoop. There are several companies that are taking on the challenge of commercial spaceflight; among them are Virgin Galactic/Scaled Composites of Ansari X-Prize fame, SpaceX, and Armadillo Aerospace. Also included is Blue Origin, owned and funded by the founder of In addition to having headquarters near Seattle and a launch site in West Texas, I’ve heard that they also have in their lobby a model of Jules Verne’s projectile-vehicle from his novel From the Earth to the Moon, as well as a door from the set of Battlestar Galactica. Cool. Continue reading


A Definition of Engineering

In two days, I will finally have the right to place “B.S Mechanical Engineering” after my name. (I won’t be holding a diploma with that title for several more weeks, however – the cardboard tubes they’ll give us during Commencement will have a noticeable lack of diploma.) Over the past four years, my concept of engineering has definitely changed.

I think my original idea of what an engineer did and was developed from my parents (engineers who built cool stuff), from popular media like Star Trek, Stargate, and Jules Vernes’ works (engineers who saved the ship/team/world from imminent destruction), and from my fascination with 18th and 19th century inventors (engineers who were engineers before there were engineers). I thought it was awesome, and so I wanted – you might say was conditioned – to become an engineer. After all, who wouldn’t want to invent (current technical term: “design”) really cool, innovative stuff that would save the world, and possibly end up on a space shuttle in the process? And best of all, engineering and science were quantifiable; they could be described in numbers and figures, and everything could be predicted or simulated.


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I don’t have anything specific in mind for this post; just a random bunch of thoughts that aren’t really related – colored pebbles scattered on the sand, waiting for a ray of light to pick one out for the passerby … yeah, so I’m slightly incoherent right now.

Today was pretty sweet. I got to play around in the vehicle mock-up, just for the heck of it, and run a simulator through station docking. That’s why I’m an engineer – so I can play with expensive toys (as in, multi-million dollar toys) and get paid for it.

They’ve told us to treat the internship as a three-month-long interview. I don’t think I’ve made a complete idiot of myself yet. (I still have ten weeks to do that, though.)

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I suppose after resolving to ‘blog extensively’ I should actually make an effort to fulfill that goal. Right now I’m sitting near the laundry room, because the only place I can get wireless is down here in the lobby of the dorms, and waiting for my clothes to dry. I’m starting to get into the swing of things, what with the classes and the homework, shopping and cooking, and wishing for an oven. I’ve been thinking of trying to put some bricks on the two gas burners and heating the bricks, and trying to bake on those, but I don’t know if the plastic stand for the burners will take the weight. What I actually need is sheet metal. And a cutting torch. Yeah.

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