Cassini’s Long Goodbye

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The JPL Project that is getting the most attention this week is Cassini, mostly because this week it began it’s long goodbye.  Cassini is a deep space mission sent to investigate Saturn, it’s moons, and it’s rings.  Arguably, what it has accomplished is some of the great discoveries of another planet we have had since we started looking at Mars.    Like all good things, it has to come to an end, so a farewell is set for September (barring an at this point acceptable catastrophe) in one final fiery exit.

Cassini was launched way back on October 15, 1997.  It took nearly seven years for it to arrive in orbit around Saturn, stopping off to do fly-bys of Venus, Earth again, and Jupiter on it’s 2.2 billion mile trip.  While the original mission was to hang there for about four years, the mission was extended twice and now has been in orbit around Saturn for almost 13 years.  While the distance and time is amazing in it’s own way, the full breadth of what this missions means comes in different numbers:

  • Over 600 GB of Raw Technical Data has been transfer from Cassini to Earth
  • Nearly 400,000 images were taken
  • 10 New Moons were Discovered around Saturn
  • Over 3600 scientific papers have been authored based on Cassini data

Cassini found liquid on moons shooting off into space.  Found possible new means of life habitation.  It landed the Huygens probe on Titan, the first such probe to land on a moon other than our own.  Cassini made us rethink the way the universe could exist outside of our solar system.

On September 15, Cassini’s trajectory will be so it runs deep into the Saturn Atmosphere, which should cause the entire 2-1/2 ton probe to disintegrate in less than a minute.  Cassini’s fuel is depleting, and if kept alive for a few more months will be uncontrollable.  The fear at that point is that any possible remnants of Earth microbes or material could fall on something in orbit around Saturn and ruin a possible system there (like if there happened to be life on a moon, and we kill it because there just happened to be a flu bug stowed in a hole somewhere).  Before it does, Cassini will attempt to make 22 orbits dipping into the space between it’s rings and the atmosphere.  This is the most dangerous part of the mission because there could be loads of rock and debris from moon break-ups that create the rings.  Cassini doesn’t have eyes capable to duck around that stuff … and wouldn’t have the fuel to do it anyway.  So it will rely on luck, until the choice to rely on luck runs out.  The last pass, Cassini will dip to within 1,000 miles of it’s clouds traveling at over 70,000 miles an hour.

Last night, The Grand Finale began when signals came through that it made it’s first past between the rings and the atmosphere.  For the next few monts, we will keep the Deep Space Network pointed its way to make sure things are still going as plan.  If they do, on September 15 at 10:45a Pacific, Cassini will send it’s last signal as it burns up.  Thirteen and a half hours later, we will see that signal come across our screens, and then there will be nothing else.

Until then, we have our long goodbye.

 

 

Top-Ish List: From 1 to Habana

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Starting a new thing here for the Bear Feed.  It seems these days many blogs and websites are publishing a “Top 10 Somethings” or “Top 5 Somethings” all the time with variations on those lists.  Sometimes its as general as “Top 5 Movies of All Time” to something overly specific like “Top 10 Streets Where Turning Left on a Sunday Will Lead to the the Strangest People With One Leg Hailing a Cab to the Museum”.  I am kinda a fan of some of those, whether they are vidoes on YouTube or random blog-like articles; and since similar blog posts I have had came with good feedback I thought I would turn it into a “Thing”.  My problem is that when I make these, I can never hold myself to a number.  Sometimes it seems 10 would be enough, sometimes 5 … so as I would plan them they start off at that point and become something different.  Like this first one was meant to be a “Top 5” … but devolved into a “Top 5-ish”.  So … It’s become my “Top-Ish Lists”.

Our first adventure is inspired by a text message I sent to Jeremy Phillips a few weeks ago.  Jeremy is a foodie … meaning, he likes him some great meals.  Over the years, we have discussed some of the great meals we have had, not always as much for the food but for the situation and atmosphere.  I mean, the food played into it, but the concept was the “great meals” which can be so much more than what is on the plate.  This weekend I got to think of one place in Rome, and wondered how likely it was for us to find it again — which reminded of a second place (named Habana in Costa Mesa, CA) that we went back to again (he more times than me).  So I asked him “From a scale of 1 to Habana, how likely would it be we find (that place in Rome).”  Since then … I’ve felt it is time to put down the Top 5-ish Meals.

Now, being an engineering idiot, all lists need to have rules … and this one has the following:

  • The listing is based on the most memorable meals of my life … not necessarily of anyone else’s life … mine!  So if they seem strange to be selected, tough.
  • Memorable is defined by the food, the ambiance, the people I shared the meal with, the conversations, the experience.  It does mean if something is significantly lacking, it won’t make the list — see honorable mentions below.
  • Recreating the meal over time actually hurts in this list.  I am looking for things that stand out, not get lost in the mix.  So that means no burnt chicken stories.
  • While the food is not the only thing considered … if I can’t remember what I ate, then they are off the list.  This actually dropped a couple off the list straight out, and some good ones too.  But tough.

So here we go … in order of ‘None of your business what order it is in’ here is:

The Top-5ish Most Memorable Meals in My Life:

1) Roman Barn

One of the two restaurants that inspired this blog is a good place to start and set the tone for you.  It was 2008, and I was attending a Nadcap meeting in Rome, Italy.  During these meetings, all the colleagues from our parent corporation would get together for dinner one night – which can be tricky because there tended to be a lot of us.  So finding a restaurant that can seat a large group (especially in Europe) can be a challenge.  Through the hotel we were at, we got a reservation for twenty of us at a place whose name will forever escape my memory – but the directions never will.  We were told to take a train to a specific train station and “Head out the front door, follow that road until we crossed the river, and it’s right underneath the bridge.”  Sounded simple enough, of course.  Well we arrived at the station, started walking.  And walked.  And Walked.   AND WALKED.  Some of those with us were spouses who spent the day site-seeing and this walk was not what they wanted.  We had to make at least one break to get water on an unexpected warm day.  We asked for directions at least once, and getting them the directions were still the same “follow the cord, cross the river, underneath the bridge”.  As we neared the river finally, we realized we had been walking for nearly 45 minutes – all of us were tired, cranky, and hungry.  To a person the statement was ‘this better be worth the walk.’

That turned out to be an understatement.

Don’t get me wrong, the realization of what we found took some time.  It looked like a barn on the inside, something out a country-side estate.  Our 20 people took up two family sized tables – of which the whole restaurant was about 5 of those tables all together.  The wait staff spoke very little English and we wondered if menus were going to be a problem.  The waiter we had came up with a simple solution.  He in very broken English laid out a four course meal complete with antipesto, pasta dish (white & red sauces), a mixed grill main including lamb, beef, & chicken, and finally dessert.    Wine was served, of course, but in pitchers like they were poured directly from the barrel.  Each plate seemed simple, but wonderful.  Each course perfectly timed to allow the last one to settle in.  All the while, a small traditional Italian band wandered around and sang for tips.  Everything about this little barn of a restaurant felt authentic and enjoyable.  It seemed like the perfect collusion between what we dream about Italian meals, and what we can expect as well.  If that wasn’t enough, when the bill came – the price tag came out to just about 20 Euros (or about $25 at the time) per person.  As I said, we had loads of people questioning if this meal would be worth the walk to get there – but after finishing we all were saying it was well worth it.

But we did take a cab back to the train station.

2) Lunch at Co-Ed Hall

This will literally go from one extreme to the other.  In the late fall of 1991, while I was attending college at Michigan Tech, one of my classes involved a field-trip to a local mine.  This was a rough class for me, in part because the subject matter was completely strange to me (regarding the mineral processing that converts mined ore into useable raw materials), and in part because it was an 8AM class – which for any college student is way to early to be up and paying attention.  I didn’t look forward to this field trip either, because we had to be on the road well before dawn to get to the mine at a reasonable enough time before riding all the way back to campus before afternoon classes.  The tour was great, memorable in it’s own way, and eye opening to how those processes really work.  But it made for an exhausting day, between getting up so early, touring a facility for a few hours, and the bus ride to and from.  What didn’t help was the meal schedule on campus.  I was living in a dorm that since has been renamed, but at the time was named “Co-Ed Hall” … as in, both men and women lived there (not like the others didn’t, but for some reason, they felt they could name it this specifically until someone donated enough money).  Co-Ed also tended to serve late lunch too, so getting there in time for it was just that extra bonus.    For most of us, if you lived in the dorms you got two meals a day – lunch and dinner – and placed not really more than 4 hours apart.  So, not only did I do this trip at the crack of early in the morning, I did it without anything to eat except dinner at 5pm the day before.

So arriving back on campus, I was hungry, tired, and because it was mid-October in the Upper Peninsula, I felt that wet cold like you get when snow is just about to fall.  Maybe it was how I was feeling, or the conditions, or whatever … but the perfect dish was what was slapped upon my plate.  An open faced roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy piled on top.  Now, Co-Ed had a pretty good rotation of meals there, and while I probably not have written home about this dish in particular, it was the right place at the right time.  Ironically, it was a meal I ate only with a couple others that were on the field trip, and it was my cafeteria for two years, so in many ways this meal should fall short of making this list in so many ways … but that should bring home how mind blowingly perfect it was.  Like when you have searched for some salvation in your life, and it comes rolling across your soul … while smothered in gravy.  That is what that was like!

3) Crab Shack & The Ferrell Cats

So often when we get together, Chadd Creed and I reminisce about a grand meal we had while on a supplier audit in Savannah, GA and a place called The Crab Shack.  This restaurant is on a swampy creek near Tybee Island beach where all the seating is outside under the stars and surrounded by free roaming cats looking for a handout.  Like, they had signs there warning against feeding them – but that sure didn’t stop any of us.

We ordered a crab boil feast for the two of us.  What we got was this MASSIVE meal.  It wasn’t a feast for two.  It was crab enough for two for a full meal, shrimp enough for two for a full meal, potatoes enough for two for a full meal, corn enough for two for a full meal, crawfish enough for two for a full meal.  They brought it out on this huge platter that seemed piled with everything upon everything.  The table had a riser in the center that allowed us both to access the platter – and under the riser there was a hole cut and a 55 gallon garbage can underneath for our trash.  It was incredibly efficient in that way, because by the time you ate something, it was nearly the same movement to toss a shell and grab another bite to eat.  We ate like southern kings, hung out under the southern night, and chatted away.  Probably as important is Chadd has been a good friend for a good long time; and that was the first trip we went together on.  So in a way, it kicked us off in the best way possible.

Maybe minus the ferrell cats.

4) Austrian Farmer’s Lunch

Two cultural facts that are key if you ever visit Austria:  1) Not cleaning your plate is considered offensive to the cook, as if saying ‘I didn’t like it so I didn’t finish it’  2) Lunch is the biggest meal of the day.

I was in Austria on business visiting a major company there.  Trying to be friendly, some of the workers at the company offered to take us to dinner the night before the meetings (which was a good meal in itself, but not the story).  We ate so much that night that by the next day we were still feeling it and come lunchtime I wasn’t even hungry.  Still, they guys at the company said we had to … HAD TO … go to lunch at a famous spot in their town, famous for a traditional farmer’s lunch.

The guy who was setting us up told me I had to … HAD TO … get the onion soup.  So I did.  It was a brilliant onion, more creamy and sweet than your normal salt fest of ‘french onions’ in the state.  Thing was, it was served in a bread bowl.  Not a small loaf of bread the size of your fist … more like a loaf the size of a cantaloupe.  AND YES, cleaning your plate meant finishing the bowl too!

So there I was stuffed beyond belief, and the guy I was with said I had to … HAD TO … get the Farmer’s plate.  A dish that touched on classic traditional Austrian meals.  That meant, pork chops (two), sausages (three), mild sauerkraut, and a pile of dumplings that looked like those volcanoes kids make in school.  It was a massive dish.  All the while we are drinking beer (because it is Austria) from this liter sized glasses.  The food was good, mind you, but trying to clean this plate was near torture.  I think at some point I had to say “No mas, I give, finite, done!”

That’s when the guy said that I had to  … HAD TO … get the desert.  A little pancake he says.  It’s just something light with a little fruit.  How Big, I asked.  He said, small plate sized.  It wasn’t small plate sized.  It was big plate sized.  It was a massive pancake with a massive amount of fruit.  And it was delicious.  And so was the schnapps that came with it.

And I don’t think I ate again for a week.

5) McCarthy Dinner

Duck breast with an orange sauce, side of purple potatoes with a hint of coconut.  Starter, a summer squash soup, thick and nutty.  Desert, cake equally dense and moist with a bit of homemade ice cream on the side.  Good wine to go along with it.  It was a high end meal in a high end restaurant.  Elegant ambiance.  All shared with two good friends celebrating a wonderful Independence Day weekend.

Sure, not many people can say they have had duck breast in a high end restaurant, but keep in mind that I traveled a lot for my jobs, and sometimes you can work an expense account.  So that kind of experience shouldn’t be Unique.  Memorable, yes.  Noteworthy, sure … but why does it make the Top 5-ish list?

This was a meal in McCarthy, Alaska.  McCarthy isn’t just a town that is remote because it is in Alaska, it’s remote FOR Alaska.  To get there from Anchorage, you drive four hours along the main highways until you get to the Richardson Highway turnoff.  Then you drive another hour to Chitna.  Then you drive the last 90 miles (or two to three hours) along a dirt road that is closed for eight or nine months a year.  Then when you park at the glacier fed river, you have another mile of walking to get to McCarthy.  During the winter, the population of McCarthy is 28.  TWENTY – EIGHT!  Yet out here in the middle of nowhere, the meals they were cooking rivaled a high end place anywhere in the Lower 48 big cities.  What I kept getting shocked by was that these were items that had to be shipped in all the way here – and the chefs had to be one of those 28 people.  To be so remote, but so good, just shocking.

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • My “Driveway Money” night with nachos at a Buffalo Wild Wings watching the NFL Draft should make this list.  But it wasn’t as much about the meal as it was the drinking and the crazy.
  • In London in 2005, the same group that did the Italian Barn meal had maybe the most memorable meal of my life — if I could remember more about it.  Don’t know what I ate.  Don’t know the name of the place.  Probably would have to wander around Kennsington for a while to even find the street.  All I know is it was the most quotable meal of my life (“To the Wives” – “We are Captains of our Own Ship” – “That Must Make Us Pirates” – “Arrgh”),
  • The “Habana” that breached the title of this post but not the list.  Great Cuban restaurant in Costa Mesa, where a good sangria & a plantain enhanced white fish were on the plate.
  • Seward’s Folly in Anchorage became a Sunday night usual for me, in part because their specials were incredible.  I remember a halibut with a tomato jam and polenta that a guy could write poems about they served one night there that sticks out.
  • Memorable because it was the most expensive meal of my life, I once did a three course full on meal in the Space Needle in Seattle.  Sat there long enough for the place to do a couple laps around the city, and a couple laps around my credit card.
  • Similar to the Co-Ed Hall lunch, and occurring on the same weekend as the McCarthy dinner – stopping off in Glenallen where the pup and I shared a gut warming yellow curry at the Tok Thai food truck (the pup had the rice, I had the curry).

Black Watch Plaid

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Look at me … I’ve gone over a week without a post for the first time since making the great transition to California.  Long time Bear Feeders are probably saying “meh”, but I did want to push these out at a better clip in this new life.  I mean, the old excuse was “my life sucks so there is nothing to blog about”, and this life isn’t supposed to suck is it?

Well, it doesn’t suck.  It’s just busy.  Roller coaster is a more apt description.  That coming from two different areas — work and house hunting.

I finally kicked off the main part of my work duties, namely performing audits, but jumping in with both feet.  Without still getting my full and official ‘approved auditor status’ at JPL yet, I have been on four audits in the last few weeks, have three more to fit in before the end of April, and have at least four or five in May.  Most of them are ‘local’, meaning a day drive of not too painful proportion.  I did have to go to San Diego this past week, but that just meant that I hung in Temecula for a bit.  Travel is coming, thought, and my first big audit trip has more than irony attached to it – but that deserves a blog on itself.

 

But where the Bear Feed last left you, ‘Stuff’ just got real in my search for a permanent home.  It’s gotten so bad (and be ready for the most obscure reference of the week) that I think about it like the terror alert levels they used on Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law — where it started at red; but in the last few days I had no choice but to terrorize myself b by ratcheting thing up a couple notches to … BLACK WATCH PLAID!  (Don’t get it?  Click the link already)  It hasn’t hit the cover of Rush’s seminal album Moving Pictures, but there is still time.

I noted last time that I put an offer down on a place … I expected that to get beat, and it did … by a lot.  Like, I went in at asking on normal terms, and they accepted an offer for 15% over asking, cash, and immediate sale.  That’s went I went to a few house showings.  Found a place out there I thought would be great, but expensive.  After a pretty long story regarding failed expectations, emotional decision making, and a short burst of feeling let down by humanity – that fell through too.  A third house hit my radar just this past Thursday, and am working with an agent on giving a juicy offer there sometime next week.

Today is Saturday – so my usual Saturday fare of coffee and routing my open house route for the weekend is on.  I tagged 12 homes to look at today or tomorrow – so it’s going to busy weekend.

But busy is what my life has become.

Oh … and Hockey Playoffs.

 

 

 

 

Stuff Just Got Real

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Last night, I put an offer on a house.

Now, before you get all “good for you” and “congratulations” and all that mess going – it kinda is only a symbolic gesture, or more directly a practice run of sorts.  In other words, I am about as likely to get this house as my permanent residence as I am getting a B-List celebrity to be my permanent girlfriend.

But first … let’s get the newbies to the Bear Feed up to speed.  Since moving to California in December, I laid out what I called the Habitation Master Plan.  In a nutshell – it’s to rent for a bit, find where I want to live, then buy a house.  My current rental on Manhattan Ave in Montrose is scheduled to be renovated when my lease is over at the end of July, so the clock is ticking – just still having a lot of ticks left.  Seriously, putting an offer down now means I would have a mortgage and rent due monthly for at least couple months.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t been looking.  The Hunt has been Afoot for a couple months and I’ve joked my main hobby is attending open houses on weekends.  So what’s changed?

Well – I told myself that if the right property comes along, to put an offer in.  Make it the right offer, even if it isn’t the right time.  So that’s what I did.

It’s a single family house in Pasadena.  Small, but comfortable.  Needs some work, but you’d be hard pressed to see the work that’s needed until you dig into a bit.  Yard is Auggie ready.  Not too far from work, not to far from the fun parts of Pasadena.  There are two big downsides though.  First, it was priced at the top end of what I want to pay and with the work that is needed there will be a pinch.  Second, while it’s priced high for me, it’s not priced high its comprobables.  It’s about as hot of a property in Pasadena as they come.  In fact, when I submitted my offer in last night, I was the sixteenth (16th) offer submitted for the house.  Offers were due last night for review by the owners the next couple of days – and while a counter is likely, they will be countering to everyone to see who will bite.  I didn’t go after an impressive offer to them either — just gave them asking (which we all expect for it to go above asking), and gave them a standard escrow and terms.  The owners are looking for a quick sell, which means I could have given them a 15 day escrow but that would make my situation that much tougher.  My one area that have could have an advantage is this home lends it self well to first time buyers – and my conventional loan will look better on paper than FHAs (but not as good as someone with cash).

If you can’t smell it in my words, I’ve basically talked myself out of wanting this offer to go through.  If you need more proof of that – I scheduled four house tours for this evening to look at other available property.

Still, this offer actually marks a new point in this plan.  This isn’t window shopping anymore, is it.  An offer is an offer.  It’s a suggested contractual commitment to buy.  It is paperwork, negotiations, earnest money, considered legal ramifications, and reviewing of property inspections / restrictions.  It is a big step towards laying down the foundation for what is the largest financial and lifestyle investment we can make.

In other words … Sh*t Just Got Real.

Honestly, there is more that I need to get going on – obtaining options on home loans from multiple sources, finding a proper homeowner insurance in this state that is ‘aggressive breed dog’ friendly, and searching out possible contractors in case work is needed before move-in of any location.  So it maybe better this falls through than doesn’t.

How Time Flies

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About ten years ago, a great show that died an early death about a dead girl working as a grim reaper called “Dead Like Me” was dead on with a dead pan quote (which I promise you, doesn’t include the words ‘dead’ or ‘death’):

They say time flies when you are having fun.  What is also true is that when you are not having fun, time still flies.  It just flies coach.

This blog marks the four month anniversary to my arrival in California, and I thought that deserves some time for me to collect things and see where we stand in the madness.  Taking a moment is a good thing in this situation because like the quote suggests, time has flown.  When I look at the calendar, I see that it really has been less than 10 weeks I’ve been in the house I am renting – which is still more time than I spent in my ‘temporary life’ hotel room.  Not only I somehow sold my Boston condo since vacating it, my credit rating already went all funhouse mirror in reaction to it already – and that stuff takes time.

It seems, however, like I have been at this for far longer than four months as well.  So much has occurred in a so little of time that the whole seems greater than the sum of the parts.  So often I try to describe my life as if there are ‘chapters’ in a book.  When I take a hard look at the last four months, there seem to be chapters here as well.  Mostly because my living conditions seemed to transition so sharply — from the Condo life of Boston — to Hotel life in Burbank — to a quiet house in quiet Montrose.  Even now, as I start ramping up my search for a new permanent home, I am looking outside of Montrose (due to lack of availability mostly) so it seems yet another chapter is closing.  Yet if I just focus on the living situations, it only seems to tell half the story.

Since getting here, I’ve made new friends.  Made new different friends.  Dumped away old new friends for new different friends.  And actual ones, not just Bartenders who pick up my name from looking at my credit card — and on that subject Starbucks baristas remember my name here (which never happened in Boston).  I can get around without GPS … mostly … at least more reliably than getting around Boston after 2 years there.  Work has blossomed for me as well; now that I have grown and learned some things, I am able to make a difference here – like really making a difference, after only a few months.  Also, I have hobbies.  Of course one of the big ones is house hunting & visiting open houses, but still … HOBBIES!  PLURAL HOBBIES!

Granted, if one was to follow me around and try to describe me in three words they would likely be ‘boring, drunk, pathetic’; but I should get some slack until I fully get myself into some kind of life here.  That’s kind of the point, though.  It seemed like most of 2016, especially much of the back half of it, my world didn’t seem right.  Changing jobs, moving to California, it first appeared as though it was the switch I needed to make things right — but truth be told, I found that it isn’t an on-off switch, but a dimmer that takes time going from dark to light.  Yet, I can’t help but to think that the changes that came did so at the right place for me.  If they came too fast, I don’t know if I could grasp or like them.  If they came any slower, trouble would have followed it.

All that I can really say is that looking at my life these past four months – time has flown.  If it is true that when you aren’t having fun that time flies coach, I’d have to admit that time must be flying first class these days.

 

 

 

Big Thinking through Thinking Small

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Getting my nerd on here by sharing a group of projects I am supporting that has me fired up following some meetings this week.  One of the biggest developments in unmanned space flight in recent years is the development and deployment of CubeSats.  A CubeSat can be considered a miniature satellite.  They mark a circular movement of technology not much different than you see in other forms of technology – that first starts small, grows massively as we expand what we want that technology to do, then miniaturizing to accomplish the same objectives.  But for the sake of getting boring let me explain it more like this:

Open your freezer  – grab a pint of ice cream – open it up – eat it – now consider that yummy nom nom goodness.  Now image your freezer is attached to a rocket, your hand is a low earth orbit, and the nom nom goodness you feel to be ‘advancing scientific knowledge’.  That’s a CubeSat.

CubeSats mainly are no bigger than 10 centimeters cubed, or 4 inches by 4 inches by 4 inches … and they weigh no more than a few pounds.  It used to be these things were designed as almost like toys for universities who would build them as a proof of concept; but these days the amount of technology they can pack into these little buggers is extraordinary.   Sometimes they are built just a bit larger but the same cubic like design, sometimes they are fired out in ‘flocks’ or ‘constallations’ so they can work in tandem with a bunch of other CubeSats; but basically these satellites are intended to draw in the data from experimentation like most other satellites going up.  One engineer pointed out that they are developing a solar flare detection system using tens of CubeSats as the current method of using one or two big satellites would be the same as measuring something in the ocean using only one or two bouys.

Probably the cool thing about them to the non-nerd is their deployment.  You don’t just put a block of electronics on the top of a rocket and shoot it up.  No … you have it hitch a ride.  Many CubeSats are attached onto rockets used for other purposes – like other satellites or manned flights.  One of the first tests of the next generation of manned flight rockets planned in the near future will carry a bunch of the little guys deployed at different stages.  The International Space Station has had a couple of groups of deployments from attached units as well.  The record is held by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) who earlier this year sent up a rocket and deployed 104 satellites.

Also, they aren’t as much shot out into space, but packed into spring loaded boxes – and when it comes time “pop goes the weasel”.  Like, video from ISRO deployment looks like a rocket with a whole bunch of little pieces of junk spiraling out from it like bread crumbs.   CubeSats typically don’t have much for propulsion.  Most are deployed in whatever orbit they need to be in, but if they have to move they are pushed around by pressurized gas in tiny tanks.  Sometimes they will have reaction wheels or gyroscopes to keep them from tumbling, but many CubeSats are designed to work when they are tumbling.

The big payoff of these guys is the actual ‘payoff’.  Estimates are a CubeSat can be designed, built, launched, and run to end of mission for under $250,000.  Launching alone has dropped to as little as $50k.  NASA has committed to multiple missions a year just to shoot up a bunch of those little guys in what they literally called a “Ride Share” program.  Yes that’s right, think Uber but in space.

In a meeting today, an engineer showed a picture of a circuit assembly used on a CubeSat program.  This unit had the computing capability of the entire Voyager-1, which had electrical components that were so big that they were actually used to help give mechanical support to the probe during takeoff.  As technology continues to evolve, the cost of discovery gets cheaper.  And within the boundaries of my role, I get to help us head that way.

SIDEBAR — 
Something that has come up a couple of times recently are questions about the new federal budget and the impact on what is going on here at work.  Specifically, I’ve been asked if I am getting laid off based on the budget proposals.  Usually that leads to political questions that lead to stupid memes & blogs with titles like “BlahBlah Just BlahBlahed To BlahBlah”.  Since there is no room on the Bear Feed for political hate (only self-hatred, sometimes replaced with self-loathing, sometimes replaced with alcohol) – let me just say this:  “JPL has so much work right now & so many projects coming our way that we can’t hire fast enough”.  So the only reason I would get fired is your standard incompetence or being a jackass – which lets face it was a much greater risk in any political climate.  There, done.