Your Very Own Personal Space Program

Michael Mackowski, a member of the Phoenix chapter of the National Space Society, has given us another interesting essay:

Your Very Own Personal Space Program

There are many ways folks express their interest in the space program. Some space enthusiasts read everything they can find and often have a large book collection. Some people accumulate souvenirs and autographs. Photos, patches, and pins are popular collectibles. Scale models can be another way to bring the space program to life in your home or office.

I have been inspired by space exploration since I was a youngster. Prior to finishing school and entering a career in aerospace engineering, my participation in the space program was limited to building scale models of the vehicles that were leaving the planet. Actually, I have never stopped building models of spacecraft, even while I build them for a living as an engineer. Like engineering, I find that modeling is just another expression of one’s creativity.

Over the years I have been participating in a network of other hobbyists with similar interests. What I have found is that many of these people, while being hobbyists and craftsmen in terms of their model building, are also passionate about space. My situation is a bit unique in that space is both my hobby and career. Most people who are passionate about space have other, usually non-technical careers. So one way they can feel closer to space exploration is by building small replicas of the hardware that makes it possible.

Certainly this sort of passion is the root of many hobbies. Military history buffs build models of tanks and fighter jets. Auto racing enthusiasts build race car models. Would be sailors rig up miniature ships and sailboats. People collect or paint miniature horses because they cannot afford to own a real horse. Airplane fans who cannot afford lessons or a plane can have a shelf full of models. Frustrated astronaut candidates build Apollo lunar modules and space shuttles. It’s not the same, but for many people it may be as close as you will get. It’s your own personal space program.

Enthusiasts want a piece of the space program they can see up close, hold in their hand, and relate to three dimensionally. Books and videos and internet sites are flat and virtual. A model is real and fills space. And you built it yourself. That’s why model building is more fulfilling than just collecting or buying pre-built souvenir models. You are now a rocket scientist, only scaled down, and with simpler technology. You have combined art with technology. You feel more a part of the movement, a part of the collective that is moving out to space. Through model building, you are more than an observer. You have made a statement, that by building this miniature monument to space exploration, you are supporting it, and proclaiming it to whomever enters your hobby room or office or wherever you chose to display your work.

If you can’t be an astronaut or be an engineer in the space industry, you can have your own little private miniature space program, and thus pay homage to whatever past or future off-planet venture that inspires you.

In that way, maybe it will inspire someone else, and the movement grows by one more.


AIAA 2011 Awards – Phoenix Section

AIAA The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics made several awards to the Phoenix Section for 2011. Section Awards are for sections ranging from Very Small to Very Large. Phoenix is a Large Section. The press release and two awards for Phoenix are noted below:

Awards Honor Outstanding Section Programming in a Variety of Categories

September 21, 2011 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has announced its 2010–2011 Section Award winners. The Section Awards annually honor particularly notable achievements made by member sections in offering activities that fulfill the Institute’s mission in a wide range of fields. The Institute believes that vital, active sections are essential to the Institute’s health and mission.

Section awards are made annually in five categories based on size of membership. Each winning section receives a certificate and a cash award – $500 for first place, $200 for second, and $100 for third. The award period covered is June 1, 2010 through May 31, 2011.

Sections winning first-place awards will be honored at the AIAA awards luncheon on January 10, 2012, as part of the 50th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, held January 9–12, 2012 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Nashville, Tenn.

The Outstanding Section Award is presented to sections based upon their overall activities and contributions through the year.

Large: First Place: Phoenix, Ryan Carlblom, section chair

The Outstanding Activity Award allows the Institute to acknowledge sections that held an outstanding activity deserving of additional recognition.

Large: Phoenix, Ryan Carlblom, section chair. 2011 Celebration of Space Exploration and Yuri’s Night Celebration. The Phoenix aerospace community hosted two events on Saturday, April 9, 2011 in conjunction with the global Yuri’s Night celebrations. The first was a morning symposium open to the public, with speakers on the past, present, and future of space exploration. Entitled “A Celebration of Space Exploration,” and attended by about 150 people, the program included a look back fifty years at Gagarin’s historic flight and the space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, presented by Michael Mackowski, an aerospace engineer and long-time advocate of space exploration and development; a first-hand account of a Space Shuttle mission, by former shuttle astronaut Bill Gregory; a look at the past and future of the exploration of Mars, by Jim Bell, an astronomer and planetary scientist from Arizona State University; and a description of the educational programs available at the Challenger Space Center in Peoria, Arizona, by Kari Sliva, Executive Director. The second event was an evening party, held in conjunction with the annual Space Access Conference at the Grace Inn in Phoenix, that featured a space photo identification contest produced by AIAA member Maura Mackowski, a historian. The party attracted about 50 people, including members of many local space organizations as well as quite a few conference attendees.

Michael Mackowski is also a member of the Phoenix Chapter of the National Space Society. Congratulations to the Phoenix Section of the AIAA.