Confessions of a Space Geek

My original train blog was called “Confessions of a Train Geek“. I chose that name because I’d been using the “traingeek” handle for several years prior to starting the blog in 2005.

Since then, I’ve used the same “geek” handle for several places. I occasionally post at [Confessions of a] Model Train Geek, I wrote some posts at Confessions of an SCA Geek, and I even had [Confessions of a] Plane Geek for a while back in 2012.

At times I’ve been a “navy geek” – witness this post about tug boats – but I’ve always been a “space geek“.

From a very young age, I wanted to be an aerospace engineer and design airplanes and rockets. That’s what I’d put in all of those surveys and tests that ask kids “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Aerospace engineer. Yessir.

Fast forward to grade 10, Dartmouth High School. My locker happened to be across the hall from the computer lab. One of my friends was taking “computers” and I wandered into the lab to chat with him. I quickly discovered that anyone could use the lab during lunch, and as soon as I laid hands on the “chiclet” keyboard of that 4K Commodore PET, it was like the heavens opened up and the hand of God came down and pointed at the computer, and a booming voice said, “THIS. THIS IS WHAT YOU SHALL DO.”

Computers have been my career ever since that fateful day in the fall of 1981.

Despite my abrupt career change, I stayed interested in space matters. I followed the American shuttle program avidly, as well as the various unmanned probes that were sent all over the Solar System and beyond.

I followed the Magellan spacecraft‘s mission very closely. Magellan was sent to study Venus and it ended up being a very successful mission.

At the time of Magellan’s launch in 1989, personal computers were prevalent enough that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) offered an email service that you could sign up for and get frequent updates on the mission. I signed up and read each email avidly, following its progress as it was deployed from shuttle Atlantis on its 15 month journey to orbit Venus.

I also followed the older probes Voyager 1 and 2 via email. They are officially out of the Solar System and in interstellar space. Follow them on Twitter!

Today I follow the amazing work that SpaceX is doing, and all of the other private space companies trying to catch up. It’s a really remarkable time.

Anyway, all of this is to tell you about a TV show I’ve been watching on Apple TV+, For All Mankind.

The premise of the show is that the Soviet Union beat the Americans to the moon, and this resulted in the “space race” continuing on. For All Mankind skillfully combines fact and fiction to tell a compelling “what if” story and I’ve been mesmerized.

So far two seasons are available for streaming, and the third season is being filmed now, probably for release in 2022.

It’s the “right stuff”. Recommended.

4 thoughts on “Confessions of a Space Geek”

  1. HI Steve, I have been reading your blogs for a long time. However this one piqued my interest. What year did you go to Dartmouth High and did you graduate. My wife is a graduate of Dartmouth High

    Reply
  2. Hi, Steve-

    Another long-time reader here, train fan and computer person. My start was in an extra-curricular summertime class at Dalhousie University where we learned WATFOR (Waterloo University FORTRAN) and how to use a keypunch, preparing decks for the IBM 360.

    And, a graduate of DHS, in 1968.

    – – Peter Payzant

    Reply
    • HI Peter, I missed cards by one year at UNB. Whew! We did use them for registering courses but I never used them for course work.

      I did use WATFIV, however! It was the successor to WATFOR.

      Reply

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