Archive for January, 2007

Vorsprung Durch Technik

January 30, 2007

There’s a catchy advert on British TV at the moment for Audi cars. It compares the number of patents NASA have to the number Audi have: “To date, Nasa have filed 6,509 patents. To get to the A6, Audi have filed 9,621 patents.”

Catchy certainly, but disingenuous. I have no idea if the figures are right or not, and I’m not going to dispute them. But of course NASA has only a few patents – nearly all it’s work is contracted out. Grumman, Rockwell North American, Boeing, Morton Thiokol, Lockheed and thousands of small businesses – they’re the ones that hold the patents. NASA doesn’t build spacecraft and boosters in the way Audi builds cars.

In a way I’m surprised that Audi have under 10000 patents after decades of car and engine development.


My Dad, an Astronaut

January 18, 2007

I was ill all weekend and watched all of From the Earth to the Moon again. This ‘miniseries’ is a superb record of the Apollo program. Produced by Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, the same team who produced Apollo 13, it has a very high standard of production and accuracy. They even went so far as to use the real ‘White Room’, and a real LM (left over from Apollo 18). Attention to detail is meticulous. It is hard to spot errors.

Anyway, perhaps I can review the series in another post. It made me realise that all the astronauts of the Apollo era were born at around the same time as my parents, in the 1930s. My Dad was the same age as the moonwalkers! What an interesting fantasy!

I think I can trace my fascination with Apollo to Dad. He was a superb teacher. For example, I feel like I’ve known all my life about the Apollo 13 story, how they had to fix up a way of scrubbing CO2 from the spacecraft. I know that I learnt that from Dad, although I don’t remember how, or when. I was only 1 year and 4 months old at the time of Apollo 13, so I obviously don’t remember it for myself. When the Apollo 13 film came out I remember watching the scenes showing how they solved the CO2 problem and thinking that it was exactly as I ‘remembered’ it.

Which leaves me wondering if my girls will relish what they’re learning about Apollo now in later years, or will they see the light and recognise the depth of my geekiness?

Still, only geeks get to the Moon.