Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Passion for Space

It was handed down by my father
by Warren R.

A passion for space runs in my blood. My father (Bob) began his career as a “rocket scientist” with AC Sparkplug Company in Wisconsin, where he was assigned to program the simulation of the Titan two-stage missile, using a pair of IBM 650s. It turned out that the IBM 650s were way too puny, so he every Monday to Detroit, GM's Tech Center, where the “large-scale” IBM 704 was available. They likewise were way too slow, but it was what was available, so he worked nearly non-stop, round the clock for months, having food brought in, sleeping on the floor or on desks, going to a motel every third day for a shower if he was lucky. But Sputnik went overhead, he and his equally young team saw it and were energized by it. And during this effort, the Butterfly Effect was “discovered”–not that they knew it. Programming changes made in binary (imagine!) caused an error in the last place of a constant, and in the hypersensitive equations, this caused a targeting error of over two miles and a nightmarish debugging effort, ultimately resolved.

More than five decades later, I have a fantastic career in the space business. I’ve had the privilege of working on software for the Titan 34D, Titan IV and Atlas rockets, the Centaur upperstage, numerous spacecraft including Mars probes and landers, Stardust, Genesis, multiple classified programs and SBIRS  The challenges have been great and the programs exciting, with more to come! 

I have a fantastic career!