Michael Walch

Where the Trees Are: NASA Earth Observatory

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 15 January, 2012

Where the Trees Are: NASA Earth Observatory

Directed by the Woods Hole Research Center, a herculean effort over the course of years has yielded an absolutely beautiful and precise measurement of the biomass of the continental United States. This mapping will be an invaluable tool in monitoring our natural resource use. More info here.

NYTimes Interactive Graphic: The evolution of the NASA Space Suit

Posted in General Architecture by michaelwalch on 16 January, 2011

First of all, it’s been a while since I posted.  New year, new job, new posts I will try to keep up with.

The New York Times has an excellent slide-show type graphic produced in conjunction with an interview with the Smithsonian curator responsible for the museum’s collection of NASA space suits.  The suits will be on display in a traveling exhibition called “Suited for Space” starting in March 2011.

The design of an extra-vehicular activity (EVA) or ‘space suit’ is truly a balance of human needs versus the harshest environment we know.  In the end each design also incorporates advanced engineering – polymers like kevlar and woven steel fabrics – with incredible individual talent applied to physical testing and fabrication – as evidenced in the development of the accordion-like joints and the fact that each suit was custom made by seamstresses according to hundreds of individual astronaut measurements.  The X-ray photography is a great way to reveal the many complex layers and connections needed to contain pressure, regulate temperature, and even protect against micro-meteorite collisions all while accommodating human body movements.  Many architects and designers have discussed balance between the human body and machines, but these EVA suit designs are one of the most extreme (and often elegant!) examples out there.

GSAPP Space Studio IV Student Bryna Anderson wins SHIFTBoston Competition

Posted in General Architecture by michaelwalch on 3 November, 2010

Congratulations to Bryna Anderson who won the SHIFTboston Moon Capital Competition with her proposal for a power-generating moon colony.  Bryna’s design is informed by research into solar energy generation, microwave energy transmission, artificial gravity, and Bioshpere-II-like climate constructions.

Bryna produced the project in Spring 2010 at Columbia GSAPP for Yoshiko Sato’s Space Studio IV: Lunar Habitation, for which I was a T.A.  A few students from this studio submitted for this competition, all with very sophisticated research and designs – a job well done to you all!

Maybe a new NASA

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelwalch on 2 February, 2010

Obama is proposing scrapping the Constellation program in his budget for NASA.

Coverage at the New York Times – Billions for NASA, With a Push to Find New Ways into Space

It’s profoundly odd to think that the US will not have human spaceflight capability by the end of this year.  The last scheduled Shuttle launch is early September.  Oddly, this could re-create the space race of the 1960s – Russia will be the only country with the ability to launch humans to Low Earth Orbit, including the International Space Station.

It is definitely a step back in terms of NASA’s capabilities.  However, it is a possible rebirth and re-envisioning (really, a return to origins) of NASA’s role in aeronautics and space.  NASA is a laboratory of engineering and science – it commands a huge budget largely devoted to R&D, which then is transferred to industry.  Relieved of its operational duties, the new agency could rededicate itself to new frontiers of exploration and research, relying on technology transfer to private companies for the execution and especially marketability of space technology.  This already happens, from ‘spin-off’ products, materials, and methods to the award of contracts to (nominally) private companies like Lockheed and Boeing.

Perhaps this will create more room for people like Burt Ratan and Scaled Composites to innovate with government research money, and get closer to providing the broad public access to space.  On the other hand, the space industry is hugely important, both economically and politically, and thus far NASA has been one of the blanket agencies which help ensure that its exploration and utilization is carried out for the greater good.

Good-Night Moon.

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