Friday, December 20, 2013

Adventures in Aerospace

I had an amazing day with some friends from the Magoski Arts Colony.  Mike Magoski took a group of us on an aerospace adventure in Los Angeles.  Mike's dad, Pete, is an aerospace engineer who was one of the main designers of the Apollo spacecraft and the Endeavour Space Shuttle.  Pete and his friend Victor (also an aerospace engineer who worked with NASA) accompanied us on our adventure.

Our first stop was an old aviation-themed restaurant right next to LAX airport called The Proud Bird.  They have lots of real, old airplanes in front and out back of the restaurant.  It's like a museum.  As we waited for our table, we checked out the planes.  This is a World War II dive bomber.

This is the plane that broke the sound barrier.

Because the Proud Bird is right next to LAX, we could see planes landing.  Vince was having the time of his life.

Here I am with Pete Magoski in front of the plane that broke the sound barrier.

Then we had a delicious buffet lunch.  Here Pete Magoski is discussing theoretical physics with my friend, award-winning filmmaker Steve Elkins.

As we ate lunch, Mike distributed copies of a bound report that he, his dad, and Victor had prepared regarding the possibilities of establishing a colony on the moon.  The presentation was surprisingly detailed, with graphs and diagrams.  

Here John Sollom (who was voted Best Visual Artist in Orange County in 2012) holds up Pete Magoski's schematic drawings of some moon colony structures and spacecraft (Pete drew these by hand).

Victor discussed some of the technical challenges that such an endeavor would pose.  The key to all of it is an element called Helium-3, which would allow for nuclear fusion.  Nuclear fusion energy could not just power the moon colony, but it could pretty much solve the world's energy crisis, and fund the whole project.

Here are some more designs of possible moon-based structures.

As we were discussing some of the ins and outs of moon colonization, Vince slipped outside, climbed over a short fence, and began actually spinning the propellor of a plane that was probably 70 years old. Like I said, Vince was having the time of his life.

After lunch, we headed over the the California Science Center in Exhibition Park to check out the Endeavor Space Shuttle, which Pete and Victor helped design and build.  Outside of the California Science Center is one of the fastest planes in the world.  It can go Mach 3, which is really fucking fast.

Inside the California Science Center, Pete showed us the Apollo 18 space capsule, of which he was the chief engineer.  It was his job to understand all the components of the capsule, which is (needless to say) super complicated.  That must have been a huge weight of responsibility.  Astronauts lives depended on Pete not making any mistakes.  Pete is a genius.

And yet he talks about working on the Apollo missions with humor and humility.

Next we headed into the hanger where the Endeavor Space Shuttle is on display.  Pete was the main structural engineer for the shuttle, and Victor was the main avionics (aviation electronics) engineer.  Each man had a staff of hundreds working on the shuttle.  These two guys understand how the shuttle works better than anyone on earth.  

The shuttle is astonishingly massive.  On the bottom, there are 24,000 heat resistant tiles, each of which had to be inspected by Pete and his crew after each mission.

I almost laughed when one of the California Science Center staff approached me and Pete and asked, "Any questions?"  Pete humbly replied, "No.  We're good."  I wanted to say, "Do you know who this man is?!  He was one of the main guys who made this thing!"

It was an amazing day of discovery, friendship, and fun.  I am really privileged to know people like Pete Magoski, Mike Magoski, Steve Elkins, John Sollom, and everyone at the Magoski Arts Colony.

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