Skip to main content

Testing Rocket Engines

Last month I attended a NASA test of an RS-25 rocket engine. Even weeks later, I think about the event in awe and wonder. The A-1 test stand to which the engine was mounted is impossibly large. The B-2 test stand, which will eventually test an array of four RS-25s, is larger even still. The engine test itself was like experiencing what I can only describe as a peaceful apocalypse. The sound and reverberations and billowing clouds had the all the terrible power and spectacle of what I imagine the end of the world to be like, but there, at NASA Stennis Space Center, the force was put toward the cause of peace and the betterment of humankind. I'm not given to mawkishness about such things, but all I could think the whole time was: If we can do this, we can do anything.

Read more

What I Saw at the Pluto Flyby

This week I've been at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, where I am covering the New Horizons flyby of Pluto. It's been humbling and inspiring to witness a landmark achievement in human history: the complete exploration of the classical solar system. (I will update this post as the pieces go live.)

Read more

Tomorrowland and Atlas Shrugged

Tomorrowland is a beautiful, enjoyable film—they had me at Space Mountain—but it suffers from what seems like a straightforward problem of logic. The purpose of Tomorrowland (the city) is to act as a kind of sanctuary in a parallel-universe, where geniuses can to do their work unhindered by god, government, or society. The city they build is astonishing and wonderful and is flush with robots, androids, jet packs, and flying machines. Trouble starts when George Clooney's character, Frank, builds a device to see the future of Earth (i.e. the "real world"). The people of Tomorrowland discover that doomsday is in our future, and efforts are immediately abandoned to recruit new "dreamers" to join their city. Tomorrowland eventually falls into disrepair.

Read more