AT Book Club

Toasters Reads: The Pilgrim Project


A few weeks back we looked at a speech memo written for the US President in the event that some catastrophe befell the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and they were unable to return to Earth.  In the write up for that, I mentioned that some other posts sort of along a similar vein would be forthcoming, and this look at the science fiction book The Pilgrim Project, by Hank Searls, is the first of those.  When I came across that memo, this story was the first thing that popped into my head.  This book seems to be somewhat of an unknown, and was one of those books that my family just happened to own when I was growing up, and my brother and I read it as our interest in space and technology began to grow.  For those of you [Professor, cough, cough] that might have been around, you may recall a film entitled Countdown, make in 1968 and based on this book.  Reviews indicate the film was somewhat forgettable, and likely overshadowed by the actual Moon landing the following year.

The Pilgrim Project seems to have been inspired by actual ideas tossed around during the early days of the space race, and that always made it more interesting to me.  In 1962, at a symposium in New York, members of the Institute of Aerospace Sciences proposed sending an astronaut on a one-way trip to the Moon.  This was no suicide mission, but a long term mission.  The theory was that we had rockets powerful enough to get someone to the Moon, but not to execute the then early plans for an Apollo type mission, where an orbiting capsule would send a lander down and then back up, then safely return to Earth.  Instead, a simple capsule would land the intrepid astronaut on the lunar surface, and a separate launch from those same less powerful boosters would sent up a living quarters.  Then those same rockets would launch re-supply containers at frequent intervals, until such time, perhaps a year or two in the future, the Saturn booster was ready for a full Apollo mission, at which point our lonely explorer would stand relieved and return to Earth.

Why go to extremes to get to the Moon? To beat the Russians, of course!

Continue reading Toasters Reads: The Pilgrim Project

The Style of Technology

NASA Identities


So as it turns out, I am out of town on a work trip again, which seems to be happening with increasing frequency here lately. On the plus side, yesterday a couple of the fellows I work with wanted to visit a local science museum, and as you might imagine, I did not take a whole lot of convincing. We opted for the package ticket, which included an Omnimax film ticket. The museum had several movies to choose from, and we went for one called Hubble, about the final mission to re-work the telescope before the Shuttle program ended. Watching the various scenes of Shuttle launches on the large domed screen was very impressive, but I actually felt an inappropriate sadness seeing something so awesome as launching crews and cargo into space, yet knowing that we have lost the ability to do that.

One of the things the film was showcasing was what the Hubble has shown us, that the universe is filled with billions of galaxies, each one filled with billions off stars, just the vastness of the world, and the tiny speck that Earth is in relation to all that. One of my buddies had somewhat of an existential crises after seeing that, and all I was thinking was that we need to get back to space. The Shuttle wasn’t a perfect vehicle, but it’s loss is depressing.

So in the spirit of thinking upon happier times, let’s take a look at NASA’s style guide from back in 1976. This graphic standards manual outlined text format for all of NASA’s activities, from uniforms to support vehicles.

Continue reading NASA Identities


Toilet bike, because suddenly everything stopped making sense…

Last night behind the scenes we here at Atomic Toasters had a little discussion about the sniffles.

It seems ‘ol Techie has been feeling a little under the weather, as are several other of our contributors. Super-Spouse and myself both woke up yesterday feeling a little worse for wear, and when she came home from work she stumbled in the door looking tinier than usual saying “Hrrrmmm… I’m sick”.

Uh oh, this woman never says she feels sick.

So being Mr dutiful awesome guy I volunteered to make her some grilled cheese sandwiches and my signature spicy tomato-bacon soup while she curled up on the couch under a blanket. My turn to take care of her…

…thus beginning what would become a series of trials and tribulations for the evening. Continue reading Toilet bike, because suddenly everything stopped making sense…