I thought today I would take a little break and let Mason Peck do the talking. Admittedly, he’s my graduate advisor in addition to the Chief Technologist at NASA, but he does such an exquisite job of keeping those roles separate (so well it’s frustrating sometimes) that I don’t think this counts as sucking up. He’s clearly acting in his NASA role in this case.
I really like the ‘massless space exploration’ idea – using what’s already up there – for two big reasons. One is that it ties directly into my research, which can potentially be used to manipulate dead satellites and other debris so that they can be put to new use. Another reason I like the idea is that it’s one of those cases where you get to a wall where people say ‘well, here’s the wall. Can’t beat it.’ But instead of slamming your head against it, you turn left and walk for a while until you get to the door to the other side. This has happened throughout the history of technology – ‘you can’t make blue LEDs,’ ‘you can’t get useful nuclear power,’ ‘useful heavier than air flight is impossible’ to name a few.
The other point to note is that Mason is really advocating a number of different big systems made up of a bunch of little, fairly independent, but interconnected parts. I’ve become increasingly convinced that this paradigm is the way to win in many different domains and it’s really exciting to see it being at least partially endorsed by NASA. Though I should note that what NASA advocates isn’t necessarily what Congress wants or will fund.
‘Tinkering’ is a term and activity that I love, but one not normally associated with space. I’m totally on board for changing that.