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My Martian Me!

There are many days that I feel his presence; a yearning
itch to “call or go home.” No, I am not hallucinating. All of us are stardust
people. By this I mean the fundamental threads that helped produce all life and
eventually human life are from the universe. Being part Martian could be a
given in our DNA profiles. We could also be part of a life-form from a far
distant planet. This possibility could also mean, a little bit of ET could
reside in all of us.

Is this cosmic itch universal for Earth’s humankind? I am
inclined to say yes, despite any current scientific evidence that supports it.
In this regard, is the very large and extended interest by many people in both
learning about the planet Mars, and maybe visiting it unusual or inborn? I will
take the easy way out, and say it is both unusual and inborn. Regardless the
growing urge to visit Mars and to even colonize Mars persists whether it is a
genetic urge or just human curiosity and adventurism.

Greek and Roman mythology and even philosophy links Mars to
aggressive warfare. Could they have already known that we had a genetic Martian
link and that the link induced warlike societies? Would an expedition to Mars
and the inhaling of Martian dust increase our warlike demeanor? Well, this
could all be just a SciFi brainstorm and have no real relevance, but are we
sure? The Greeks named Mars, Ares (their word for the god of War), and the
Romans did the same using the name Mars to label the planet. What remains a
deep puzzle is why this red planet, rolling across the solar system got tagged
as warlike. Was it the redness of its color and the conclusion that it was a
blood filled planet ; thus lethal and warlike?

Science Fiction (SciFi) has also endowed us with a deep
interest in Mars and outer space in general. Imaginative descriptions such as
the following from Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles” always enlivened our
mystified interest in life on Mars.

..”They had a house of crystal pillars on the planet Mars by the edge of
the empty sea, and every morning you could see Mrs. K eating the golden fruits
that grew from the crystal walls, or cleaning house with handfuls of magnetic
dust which, taking all dirt with it blew away on the hot wind,”  From Ylla – The Martian Chronicles – by Ray
Bradbury

In their landmark publication “The Exploration of Mars”
rocket maestro Wernher von Braun and his colleague, Willy Ley clearly state the
non-fiction appeal of the exploration of outer space.  Were both of these great instigators of our
present day space exploration focus endowed with Martian dust? Wernher Von
Braun’s family history is filled with many family members who had influential
military careers.  So here we have a
member of a warrior family who strives to put the lie to the Greek and Roman
myths and to show Mars and space exploration as a good thing, a safe thing, and
as an exciting and inspiring venture. Considering our advances in the space
sciences it appears Wernher von Braun was on the right track.

Well, back to my Martian me. It actually should be called a
space exploration itch. Yes, I want to go to Mars, maybe even live there for
awhile, but I also wan’t to go as far and as deep in space as I can. I want to
live for real that glorious moment of going “where no [human] has
gone before.” For me, it is a Martian imperative.

CONFLICTIONS

That’s right, there is no word, “conflictions!”  I have hatched it from the root word conflict to apply to my own deep and troubling reactions to what is happening to our space programs.They are lumped into three broad areas. Space exploration, private sector development, and international cooperation.  In my mind, and heart, things are quite jumbled and intense. They are jumbled because of the lack of clear national objectives, they are intense because of the strong feelings of the exploration advocates and the private sector advocates. Additionally these two conditions are further aggravated by calls for international cooperation that appear more as lip service than serious action. Let’s look at all three individually.

Space Exploration: In my humble opinion space exploration is a government investment on behalf of the advancement of all civilization. Making it inclusive of all civilization mandates that these exploration efforts should be internationally conceived and supported. These are the efforts that layout pathways to both our ongoing scientific knowledge of our solar system and beyond, and the identification of eventual areas of opportunity for private sector programs.

These exploratory activities are financially unprofitable, but highly profitable scientifically as we learn more about all that surrounds us. They are high risk, they require careful design and development of methods of transport, and they are intended to open our eyes wider about the universe.  In the process, space exploration may uncover many opportunities for private sector development, and this should be encouraged, but with careful monitoring and regulation.

Private Sector Space Operations: First of all, I am for it 100%.  I envision the development and utilization of space elevators, orbiting resorts, asteroid mining, space tourism, and even possible settlements on the Moon or other planets.  I see all of this, including the forthcoming private sector LEO support of the ISS, as having strong potential profit realizations. This is good, this is an economy engine that can raise the standards of living for many. It is also good, because it brings forth new innovations, new industries and new opportunities for each citizen. Most importantly, the successful growth of private sector space programs is directly affected and enhanced by successful space exploration.

International Cooperation/Consortium. As mentioned above, space exploration is viewed as a government funded and sponsored program. The bottom line here is that we are finding out that no one country is going to be able to fully afford the level of development and mission activities needed for an aggressive exploration program of our solar system and eventually beyond.  Shared technology, shared costs, shared staffing are mandatory. Additionally shared or mutual goal setting is also a requirement.Well, we are not there yet.  We have a good start with the ISS, but that concept needs to be expanded into a full-fledged international space exploration program with well defined goals. One of the key impediments to this, is national ego, including our own. Right now, each of us wants to be the lead space science nation. This is a definite barrier to a fully cooperative international program.

Well what about UNOOSA? This is the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. It is a great idea with grand objectives and motives, but suffers, as does most of the UN, from fickle and seriously unsteadfast international support. We must internationally decide to support UNOOSA and make it work as an International Space Consortium, or abandon it all together and start something different.  I vote for supporting UNOOSA!

The Conflictions: Okay, okay so where are these conflictions? Well, first the private sector like all of our business communities reacts to oversights and controls. The “get out of my way, I am free enterprise” is both an invective and a solid philosophy.  This must be assuaged both internally and by the oversight and control organizations.

Secondly, as we have learned over the past couple of years as well as from our histories, governments are prone to look the other way, under certain $$$ influences or are quick to say,”let’s make a deal.”  The success of a truly well defined and joint (government, private sector, and international) space program just cannot exist when there are individuals or organizations who seek to undermine the requirements of the overall program.

Lastly, the international organization that essentially masterminds the entire global space exploration and development program must be wide awake! It must be strong, active and fully capable of taking direct global action to keep the program in line and weed out those groups that seek to break away from or break down the international program.  I see UNOOSA as being the root source for this, but in a vastly improved and very active configuration backed by ALL member nations.  The absence of this latter requirement is one of the most crippling factors that weakens the current United Nations.  That must change.

So, here we are, tons of exciting and challenging opportunities for the sciences, for private industry, and for the citizens of planet Earth.  As I have said before, this is an evolutionary threshold.  We must cross it or dwindle away into yet another lost civilization of the universe. If we cross it, my conflictions, and possibly yours will fade from both mind and heart.  Come on, lets get started.

It’s Gonna Be A MISS!

Don’t worry this is not a birth announcement. Well, actually it could be! MISS in this presentation stands for Mars International Space Station. That’s right a good focus point for our future exploration of our solar system is the creation of orbiting space stations that provide both observation and launch points for the study of our planetary neighbors.

MISS would be constructed in the same manner as the present ISS orbiting Earth. Like the ISS, MISS would be built in a LEO environment with the needed propulsion units to eventually move it on its way to Mars. Right, it would not be a high speed rocket trip to Mars, but as a moving space laboratory it would be gathering a host of new data enroute.

Well, forget it right? We just shelved the shuttle  So we take that glorious design and expand upon it and create a super shuttle that gives us the load capacity to carry the required components for MISS. We are planning on building a new HLV  anyway, so lets make it an HLV that will put a super shuttle in LEO.  

MISS will be bigger and provide for eventual lander missions to Mars, and because of the extreme distances the duty time of its international team will be longer. This is a challenge and the data we have from the ISS will help, but because of increased solar radiation hazards MISS will be of a heftier design. MISS, however, is expected to still chug along at a speed that will put her in orbit around Mars in just under 5 months or less.

What about crew exchange and emergency relief? Well we have several designs already on the books, we just need to update and develop propulsion systems that will move the crew modules at top speed back and forth to the MISS.  The same HLV that puts up the super shuttle will move the “Orion” style crew vehicle in LEO where its own VASIMR type propulsion system take over. I use VASIMR as an example, it could be any other variation of these new innovative propulsion systems. Fusion engines would be ideal, but we should not delay MISS while waiting for that eventuality. 

By the way, the crew modules remain in space. When they return to LEO they are met by the super shuttle. The returning crew transfers to the shuttle for the trip down to Earth. Repairs or upgrades to the crew modules are done in orbit.

Hopefully, you have noted that the real innovation with MISS is really already proven and that is “in-orbit” construction.  We need to expand on this and MISS is the ideal opportunity.  MISS construction will underscore the ISS success and lay the groundwork for the future construction of all DSV’s (Deep Space Vehicles). Additionally, it takes the incredible performance history and functionality of the shuttle and puts it back in its rightful place as a major and critical factor in all future space exploration efforts. We should remember that aerodynamic sleekness is needed only when we need to enter, re-enter or exit planetary environments. DSV’s and MISS type spacecraft do not need this. Only modules that will be deployed as landers may need these design qualities.

One major mission in all of this is the clearing away of space junk. If we are going to do in orbit construction we need to sharply reduce the mass of orbiting debris in order to keep the area impact safe. Not to degrade the super shuttle, but it could easily become the space junk interceptor.  A fairly undramatic task and critically dangerous, but we already know how dedicated and courageous our astronauts are. So we get on with it.

Politics can’t be shoved aside so we must advocate for this program. Up to now, we have been somewhat slack in this regard. Well lets not miss out on MISS.  It will truly “be a giant leap for all humankind”

Sleeping Beauty and The Lorelei: Epic Challenges

In short, Sleeping Beauty is our Moon, and The Lorelei is Mars. Both are charmers and invitingly pull us toward them. No wonder there are such heated discussions over their relative charms and promise.

Well Sleeping Beauty is asleep and needs to be reawakened for us to fully realize her value and magic. The Lorelei, well they are the ladies of the rocks, and as alluring and beguiling as they are; for the incautious they can spell catastrophe. If you are unfamiliar with the Lorelei, follow this link for delightful edification.

Me, I am a Sleeping Beauty man and strongly believe that by re-awakening her we will open a golden gateway to a magnificent route for the exploration of our entire solar system. Yes, I hear the soft croons of the Lorelei maidens and admit they are almost irresistible, but I have, in my sailing days, run close to rocky doom and so I am very careful while still enjoying their charms.

Yes, in time we will visit the Lorelei and fully enjoy all they promise, but we come to them filled with experience and caution that our times with Sleeping Beauty has given us. Not an unpleasant experience under any circumstance and a maturing one too.  We launch from Beauty’s homeland for the land of the Lorelei with great wisdom and fully equipped with sharper skills that allow us to skirt the Lorelei rocks while enjoying the allure and promise of Mars.

How can not, the expected visitations with all these lovelies not be at the forefront of our minds? I am sure they are. All we have to do is to not turn our back on Sleeping Beauty who longingly awaits our return. On the next Full Moon, look up, and tell yourself you cannot resist reaching out to re-awaken such a lovely, lovely lady. Shhhh, while you look, listen too to those soothing voices of the waiting Lorelei. Be brave enjoy but resist for now.

A National VR Planetarium

Jim Cameron, producer/director of “Avatar” has kicked open the door. By this I mean the incredible advances his film made in both 3D and virtual reality viewing makes it clear that we could add to the great Smithsonian panorama of history and science, a virtual reality planetarium.  Why?

The main reason why, is that over the next several centuries most residents of planet Earth will never experience close encounters with our solar system.  We will be left to depend, as we do now, on wonderful telescopic presentations that are stunning, but short on personal involvement.  A virtual reality planetarium would offer a step up in getting us up close and personal with our home solar system.

Here is how:

(1) Using 3D imaging as well as holographic presentations, visitors would tour our solar system virtually, but without all the limitations that even our boldest spacefarers must face.  In this setting we are in a total computer animated environment that imparts the sensation of being on a space ship making a grand tour of the solar system. It is a breathtaking, emotionally inspiring and educational experience.  Most importantly it is close up, and three dimensional, even four dimensional if you include the sound effects.

(2) As we gain in-depth knowledge of each of our solar systems entities (planets, minor planets, moons, comets and asteroids) we will enable small groups of visitors, at a time, to done the VR goggles and step out onto the surface of these planetary spacecapes and take an exploratory hike.  Our Moon would be the first candidate, then probably Mars, and then perhaps Venus. In full VR they will experience just about everything except maybe gravitational levels and atmosphere (will not be surprised if even this gets developed).This special center within the larger VR planetarium would rotate the candidate sites so that as new knowledge is gained it is “premiered” at the VR planetarium.

I get so excited thinking about this, I already imagine being a visitor to the center. Why should any of this matter?  Humankind must move toward acknowledging that we must become a fully space-faring global society.  The VR planetarium will directly aid this transition/realization. Additionally, because it can be manipulated, it also will serve as a vital research center for experiments in solar system dynamics. For example, we could probably evaluate the efficacy of the gravity tractor as asteroid behavior modification at far less the cost than an actual on site test.

Yes, I know I have now inspired all kinds of arguments. Good. Please, express you ideas, suggestions, arguments, and hopefully support in the comments section.  In all cases, always ask yourself how long you would be willing to stand in line for your VR exploration of Pluto, or Mars, or…?

I am already in line, and it is not even built yet.

That Moment When We Make Contact

Of course, there is life throughout the universe.  Life, though, as we already know takes myriad forms.  We also know that some, if not all, of those forms are evolutionary stepping stones.  We could even be evolutionary stepping stones. I hope we are.

It could happen in our lifetime or later in the lifetime of future generations. Regardless, when we make that first contact it may be less than momentous. It could even be somewhat disappointing.  There we are on a nearby moon of either Saturn or Jupiter, and there before us is a squiggly life-form that took an astrobiologist to identify.  WHAT? A moon of either Jupiter or Saturn?  Is that all we have done?

Don’t despair.It will be in our own solar system where we first meet up with ET life. Remember, extra-terrestrial means just that; beyond Earth. It will be many, many future generations before we make contact with life on some distant exoplanet.  When that happens, what we experience and accomplish locally will prepare us to be ready for exo-life out there.

Here is the important consideration.  Although I am personally certain that there are, somewhere in this vast universe, sentient beings as advanced or more so than us;  we may never ever meet.  What we may meet are life-forms of a lower order than us, maybe somewhere between unicellular life and pre-Homo sapien.  In these instances we will be the all powerful, all knowing life-form.  Hopefully, we will have acquired both the curiosity and the gentleness that insures that we do everything we can to study and interact with those life-forms in a most considerate and careful manner.

With all due honor and courtesy to Dr. Stephen Hawking, this is not scifi. We are not going to be fighting off an onslaught of ravenous creatures determined to either devour or, like the Borg, subsume us.  At the same time, we should have learned by now that most life-forms, except Homo sapiens are defensive, territorial, hungry, and curious, but most likely not malicious.  We must not duplicate the acts of Columbus or the Conquistadors of Spain who immediately sought to dominate and control their new environment.  As our own astronauts have proclaimed, we must go and arrive in peace.

Now, I know we all want to look for life on Mars, but as I have stated before, what we will do there is find out what happened on Mars that cost it its life.  So we should learn our new space exploratory skills by first returning to our Moon and creating a fully efficient and sufficient Moon Base.  This will prepare us for all our future exploratory missions, while also keeping us in better contact with home.  Yes, we too, just like ET, will want to call home regularly.  So, are we up to it?  Can we and space scientists across the globe begin to act in concert to start serious, long-term exploration that are totally independent of the wiley whims of politicians?  If the answer is yes, then we don’t wait. We start now.

Twitter and Facebook, give us the links to the entire world. Lets start the call.  Maybe we start by calling for a design competition for an International Space Exploration flag. That’s right, no single nation plants its flag on any of our solar system neighbors.  Only a flag representing the citizens of Earth should fly anywhere in our solar system and beyond.

I’m ready, are you? Quo Vadis!

Keeping The Faith

For Space Tweeps teetering on job loss and scrambling to find new opportunities while preserving their valuable space technology experience, I can only offer my deepest condolences and support.  I hope your voices are being heard, locally and nationally, and I hope that they are making a loud noise in the right ears.

Somehow our space society must survive and prevail if we hope to continue to move our nation both forward and upward.  It is easy in these really depressing times to just get totally frustrated and chuck it all; leaving your space careers behind.  Please don’t if at all possible.  This is not an easy request and may seem insensitive, but believe me I have walked in your shoes and I know the sadness and despair.  I repeat, don’t give up. In fact, get aggressive about yourself and your skills. Don’t let doubt and despair cripple your efforts to move forward even in these times. You are invaluable and all of your experience is priceless and essential to all those who seek to continue our efforts to move the space sciences and technology forward.

Yes, I know the politicians keep mouthing faint promises, but keep in mind this is a mid-term election year, and so politicians have at least partially opened their minds and their ears.  Knock on a door, tell you story, demand that space not be deserted.  It can make a difference first for you, and secondly for the entire space program.

Bottom line: Keep The Faith.  From the days of Mercury to now, there are endless men and women who have kept that faith and helped move us forward.  They are looking to each of us to carry on.  We must not fail.

What About A NASA Kids Tweetup?

As the days of the great shuttle program draw to a close I keep thinking about what a great event it would be if there could be a special NASA tweetup for kids at either the last or the next to last shuttle launch.  The reasons are obvious, I am sure. We need to make that inspirational imprint on our future, and our future is our youth of today.

Now, I am sure many youngsters from the Florida region have accompanied their parents to shuttle launches; however, I am not certain that they have ever benefited from a full NASA tweetup program. The opportunity for tours and maybe to meet and listen to some of our astronaut heroes as well as witnessing a live launch creates an indelible impression and stimulus.

I mentioned this on Twitter and have gotten some positive reactions and recommendations. In all cases the kids, or course, would need to be accompanied by an adult. The kids ideally should be in grades 6-12 with preference for kids in grades 6-8 This latter grouping has the highest promise of serious impact. So how do we do it?  Here are some ideas:

1. The tweetup invitation goes out to adults, but has the requirement that to qualify for attendance they must be accompanied by a child within the grade groupings mentioned above.

2. Ideally it would be nice to select kids with above average school performance, but this may impose too much paperwork and delays in the selection process to make it workable.

3. The NASA courtesies extended to prior tweetups should apply here as well.

4. The announcement and offer should be widespread across the country; however, family budget limitations may keep some from making the trip. We need to consider this in the scope of the program

5. Of course, SpaceTweep members with children would certainly be most welcome, but SpaceTweepSociety membership should not necessarily be a criterion.

6. Lastly, please review this suggestion, and respond in the comments section and hopefully we will be able to move forward with a specific plan.

Before you comment, those of you who have witnessed a live shuttle launch, consider your own experiences and emotions and project them forward for these children.  They will never forget it, and many I suspect will rise to join the space science community.In doing so, they will enrich the future of all humankind.

Thank you.

Moon Base Now

What? Moon base now? Don’t you follow the news? Constellation has been cancelled! Yes, and I understand the confusion and consternation, but the most logical first step in getting ready to reach out into our solar system will be to develop a full-scale assembly and launch facility within a low-gravity environment. I nominate the Moon.

In his briefing before the National Press Club, Administrator Bolden implied that we will be going to the Moon despite the acknowledged demise of Constellation.  When we go, and under what arrangement will depend on three important bodies; the White House, The Congress, and a NASA-Private Sector-International partnership. Partnerships are a sharing arrangement in both benefits and costs.  This is the key to a renewed and expanded Moon mission that is completely designed as a stepping stone from which humankind will leap out into the solar system.

This is the “missing goal” that everyone is talking about; actually griping about! We need to turn our disappointment into an energizer of this mission.  We do not wait!  We take advantage of Congress’ rants and snarls during the budgeting process and get them focused on this mission concept.  Who are we?  We are SpaceTweeps and we must now begin to organize the biggest, most important and most vital tweetup in our history.

NASA, ESA, and the private sector must be made aware of the rising public support for the Moon base mission.  How do we get rising public support?  Again, SpaceTweeps band together and use the Internet to drive home both the idea and to stimulate its full support.

We have resources and design visions that come from both our earlier space missions and our initial work on Constellation.The original program is cancelled, but the ideas, concepts and technology are NOT! The “i” in America stands for “innovation” and that is exactly what we must demand from the White House, the Congress and the new space exploration partnership discussed above.

So, lets get started. Lets get with folks like Neal Wiser and his SaveNASA site to begin to launch a full-fledged advocacy for this concept.  I hope you agree.  I hope you will join in.  We cannot wait, we must start immediately and it must be ceaseless, precise, and most of all from our hearts.  We can win.  You do believe that don’t you?  You do want us to go into space in this century, right?  Well…..?

The Real Trip To Bountiful

Yes, when we consider space exploration there are many bountiful trips awaiting us, but for me and for many others it is: that bountiful trip to Mars.  Yep, I know, there are already tons of arguments in favor of this astro mission and I will try to not repeat them.

There was probably some level of life on Mars, and maybe there still is. What is vital is that we learn the details.  I believe Mars was well along the way in evolutionary development when something happened. We need to fully investigate that and understand what happened.  Why?

First, we need to understand the entire planetary process and threats thereto.  This will help us not only to better understand and protect our home planet, but come to understand what is happening with the increasing number of exoplanets that we are finding.

Secondly, we need to know as much as possible as to what happened to Mars, if anything.  It is highly possible that nothing has happened and good old Mars is just as always.  I doubt this, as many others do. We then need to get onto that planet with astro missions so that we can amplify and expand all that good stuff our faithful roborovers have dug up for us.

In following the second mission above, we begin to build a geological and biological history of Mars that is essential.  We take it back to its beginning as much as we can. This takes the special and personal skills/knowledge of research scientists – on site. This implies the creation of a full fledged Mars station.

Lastly, before we can do any of the above, we need to be sure we can operate safely in an essentially cosmic rad environment. Mars may be very hostile for humankind. NASA’s next Mars rover will be evaluating that.  If the results indicate we can safely operate on Mars, then we must start that trip to bountiful as soon as possible.  The answers we find will both amaze and most probably preserve us.

Oh my, whenever skies are dark and clear I look up, and a skyslide of bountiful explorations descend upon me.  I am enriched with both challenge and inspiration. The constant message is: We are here; are you coming?

There Is No Way You Can Do That; Foolish Dreamer!

The words in the above title of this blog, along with, “Your heretical ideas that the Sun is not the center of the Universe will send you to prison” or “Monkeys? You are telling me we are related to monkeys? You are insane!” were all expressed in condemnation of ideas from great dreamers.  Throughout the history of humankind, it is the dreamers who have moved us forward, in fact they have helped keep us around and alive.

This Space Tweep Society is the product of a dreamer.  Most, if not all, of its members are dreamers and in their dreaming they put forth ideas that ignite dreams in the rest of us. What a great, invigorating and challenging social environment. When one becomes a Space Tweep, their mind never rests.  There is always a challenging idea around the corner to be considered, debated and expanded.  The real excitement; however, comes from the sharing of that interaction between all of us.

I was born dreaming, still dream, and will pass on dreaming.  The opportunity to share some of those dreams here and to experience my fellow Space Tweeps reactions, comments and LAUGHTER are priceless.

Bored, tired, depressed, about to give up?  Dream. Pile on all your hopes, your ideas (even the wacky ones) and your fears and let your spirit and you mind take you to a whole new world of ideas and possibilities.  When you are finished, jump onto Twitter and hail the first Space Tweep you find and share, share, share.  The result will always be astounding and exciting.

DREAM ON!     

The Lego Test: Discovering Hidden Talents

I will never forget or downplay the incredible experiences I had working with children within a regular school setting.  I did this not as a teacher, but as a therapeutic shadow to specific client children. In that role, I was able to observe and interact not just with my clients but with all the children in the class. This gave me a great opportunity to just watch and admire these young minds at work. It also gave me the chance to find among the students at least one, and usually more, shy geeks.  

Shy geeks? These are intensely bright children who for one reason or the other keep their intelligence close to their chests. In many cases, because of their shyness they performed poorly and were often mistakenly labeled as “slow achievers.”  Who is not to say that among this muted group there is not at least one Einstein, Fermi, Feynman, etc?  I believe it from the bottom of my heart.

So, for quite awhile now, I have been thinking about ways to gently nudge out these potential geniuses.  The idea of a Lego Test came to my mind after viewing several dramatic reports on the fact that Legos are very much alive and well. Legos are like favorite snacks; they are irresistible and captivating.  I do not believe any child can sit for more than 10 seconds before they have reached out and started piecing together a Lego creation.

Here is my general idea of the Lego Test and how it would be applied and interpreted.

  • First, one does not swoop in and grab up candidates. Their very shyness will destroy the key element of the test – relaxed, unmonitored, creativity.  The candidates must be wooed carefully to ease their shyness.
  • A fair amount of time must be devoted to building the candidates confidence in what we are asking them to do.  No pressure, and with lots of friendliness to further ease their worries and shyness.
  • The key to the test is, there are NO requirements or special rules.  The children are presented with the most complete Lego set imaginable. It must include all those really terrific extras. The only instruction is that the candidates take all the time they need and build or not build whatever they want.
  • The test environment is quiet and each candidate works alone. They can call for help at any time (their questions are also part of the test). They can also refuse and that must be honored, but not without at least a bit of gentle encouragement.
  • When they have finished, they will be asked to explain, in detail (conversationally), what they have built, what it does or represents, and why. There own explanations and reasoning are the test results, and the absence of an explanation or reason is of equal importance.

Well, it will take quite a bit of time to develop this into a real test, and the test monitor must be well trained to properly assess and record the children’s responses.  In this regard, the child that asks for crayons and paper instead of the Legos should be fully accommodated (Some of Lockheed-Martin’s key members of its “skunk works” design group probably started out with crayons and paper.).

I know, I have not told you why I want to do this with respect to the space sciences.  We need every kind of talent imaginable to carry us forward into the new world of space exploration.  Scientists, engineers, technicians, artists, writers, organizers, these are some of the very special talents that exist today in our space program and must continue to exist.  That continuation can only come from a steady flow of young minds with these talents. Sure, there will always be many youngsters already determined to enter these fields, but I want to make sure we do not miss any, and especially those that may have incredible talent.This latter goal is the source for my idea of the Lego Test and the search for shy geeks.  They are out there, and if we ignore them, we stand to let slip from us a bounty of creativity.