A Note on Exploration

Boundaries are created by our beliefs.  They aren’t meant to keep us in, but to serve as starting points to see how much further out we can go.

I‘ve been thinking about exploration quite a bit, since that’s a lot of what I do for work and for fun. Making documentaries has enabled me to go so many incredible places and meet so many brilliant people. We live in such an amazing world. It is important for us as a human species to continue exploring it, whether through a microscope, telescope, submersible, or spacecraft.

The marriage between technology and exploration has never been more exciting.  Science and technology are allowing us to feed our innate need to continue exploring our world and others, to learn about things we only imagined or never imagined, to go further out, deeper down, to explore the infinite invisible world of innerspace and to visit places on this planet man has never seen.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do… Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.” ~Mark Twain

Space exploration is changing with the advent of private space companies offering tourist trips to space and a rush of new companies trying to get a piece of the private space industry pie.  It is imperative we go back to the Moon and beyond.  Still, so much of our own planet has not been explored.

More people have been on the moon than have been to the bottom of our own oceans.

We need to continue challenging ourselves to go out further, go deeper, look closer, take one more step, go within, breathe, and question what we know.


Need a spare part for your spaceship?

Look no further.
Norton Sales is the home of Space Age Junk and Modern Collectibles. Serious rocketeers, NASA engineers, and Hollywood set designers come here for inspiration and surplus rocket parts.

It is possibly one of the coolest places in Los Angeles!

My friend Robin took me on my first trip to Norton’s one hot day during the summer of 2004. Needless to say, I was hooked. It’s filled to the brim with spare aerospace surplus from the Apollo era and before. Carlos Guzman is the owner of Norton’s and an all around good guy. I liked it so much, I pitched the story to WIRED Science and we did a segment on it.  If you’re looking for parts to build your own space ship or if you’re looking for unique art supplies, Norton’s is the place for you.



Launching rockets from an old oil platform

Sea Launch is one of the coolest things I’ve ever encountered. The whole concept is something I would have thought only existed in movies, not twenty miles down the freeway from me.

“Think cool as in a James Bond kind of cool.”

Imagine a derelict oil platform from the North Sea rescued by a Norwegian company and retrofitted into a semi-submersible, self-propelled floating launchpad that can be positioned for launch in almost any water in the world. Add rockets built by Ukrainian and Russian companies that were once designed to carry nuclear weapons, but are now perfect carriers for communications satellites.

Last, but not least, add Boeing as the satellite payload integrator and launch operator.

Put them together in an international partnership and you get the multinational company, Sea Launch.

Sea Launch was formed in 1995 to provide low cost commercial launch services for heavy payload satellites bound for geosynchronous orbit.  Basically, they deliver super heavy satellites into a fixed position orbit that follows the earths’ rotation.  And they launch from the equator because it has the most direct path to orbit, so it doesn’t require as much fuel to get there, saving the customer money.

The rocket is built and the satellite is integrated into it at home port in Long Beach, California. Once that’s complete, they load the rocket onto the Launch Platform which sails out to the the equator along with a support ship which serves as mission control.  Once in position, they launch the rocket, delivering the satellite into its intended orbit, and then turn around and sail back to Long Beach.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  And now you get to listen to your favorite XM Radio station in Tuba City, Arizona or wherever.  You get the idea.

Sea Launch broadcasts each of it’s launches live – either on the web or on the web and satellite TV.  That’s where I fit into the grand scheme of things.  I work as the Truck Producer during the launches.  To date, I’ve worked on 24 launches.

It’s always a bit nerve racking leading up to a launch. The rocket business is a high risk business and it’s never a 100% sure thing that a mission going to be successful. Occasionally it isn’t and makes for a very bad day at work, an explosion that would make Michael Bay green with envy, and the most popular youtube video for several days running (thanks to some rocket fan that recorded the broadcast and posted it). Sea Launch has an amazing launch record. Out of their twenty nine missions to date, twenty seven of them have been a complete success.

“It truly looks like something you would see in a movie, but it’s real.”

It’s spectacular to watch a rocket blast off from a floating platform and into the sky. It truly looks like something you would see in some action movie as part of an elaborate set, but it’s real.

How cool is that?

Want to know more about Sea Launch?


Titanic 101 – Ghosts of the Abyss

“What lay inside the Titanic? Was the interior of the lost liner shrouded in rust and silt?”


“Director James Cameron wanted to find out. He had made dives to the wreck while shooting footage for his 1997 blockbuster movie TITANIC. Over the four years that followed, he developed underwater robots small enough to go through the Titanic’s windows and into her ghostly rooms. By 2001, he was ready to return and photograph the Titanic in a whole new way.” – Ghosts of the Abyss, A Journey into the Heart of the Titanic

I wasn’t a Titanic expert. I wasn’t particularly a huge Titanic fan. I only had a general knowledge about the famous ship. I remember when Bob Ballard’s team found the wreck and when the first tourists visited. I’d seen the movie. I knew the story of the unsinkable Molly Brown. When I was a child, my aunt took me to the Molly Brown House in Denver, which includes Titanic in it’s exhibits. Every Colorado history class teaches the story of that infamous Coloradan. In fact, I found the tenacity of Molly Brown so remarkable that I named my dog after her. That was about as far as my knowledge of the Titanic went, which wasn’t very far. So I was surprised when a friend called me up and asked if I’d like to work on a webcast from the Titanic. I laughed. He didn’t even have to ask. I was already there.

What I did have was strong desire to work on the project, a background producing television documentaries and web content, a keen sense of adventure, and a dog named Molly (Brown).
[blockquote]There I was – invited to work on the most ambitious webcast ever attempted, on the most advanced technological expedition on earth, while filming the most technologically advanced 3D high definition documentary ever made about the most famous shipwreck in history.[/blockquote]

“Everything about the project pushed the limits of technology.”
This radical idea of webcasting live from aboard the Keldysh in the middle of the North Atlantic was pretty cool. It was the brainchild of John David Cameron. Earthship.tv was ahead of it’s time by several years. We were basically webcasting – video on demand – youtube style – except in 2001. Everything about the project pushed the limits of technology. It’s too bad earthship.tv isn’t a live site anymore. I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve seen on the web. Of course, I’m biased, the exploration topic gets me every time.

My job was to write and produce video packages about the expedition, specifically, the bots – those tiny robots used to explore inside the ship. The coolest thing about the bots is that they were small and could get into tight spaces. You could drive them in one entrance and exit by another without backtracking or worrying about entangling the umbilical. Tiny fiber optic threads spooled out like a spiders web from the bots to the controls. One fiber had the drive controls and the other would send back the camera image. They were brilliantly designed and built by Mike Cameron and his team and enabled us to get a good look at the inside of Titanic for the first time since she sank.

Ghosts of the Abyss was the first of a series of Titanic and underwater projects I’ve been fortunate enough to work on. The people working on these expeditions always amaze me; some of them are almost as legendary as the Titanic itself. [quote_simple]”One thing they all have in common is an unquenchable thirst for exploration, knowledge, science, technology and adventure.”[/quote_simple]
Lucky for me, these people would become my surrogate family and mentors over the next few years.

If you haven’t seen the film, do so. I’m not going to take away all the fun and give away the surprises or talk about the grandeur of what they found inside the wreck. You’ll have to explore that on your own.

Run, don’t walk to the nearest video store and pick it up. Put it in your Netflix cue. Or click on the link below for all things Ghosts of the Abyss.
All things Ghosts of the Abyss
Learn more about Titanic at the Explore Store

How to fly like Superman

Wow! Do you ever have those “pinch me” moments, when you can’t believe where you are, what you’re doing or who you’re with?

My part time job fits that description exactly.  It’s not your typical part time job.  Let’s just call it my “fun job” because  I can’t believe I actually get paid to do it.  You see, I’m a  Zero Gravity coach for Zero Gravity Corporation.  My job is to teach people how to float in the air.

How to fly like Superman!
Flying like Superman!

We take people and experiments into weightless situations in G-FORCE ONE -a modified 727 aircraft flying parabolic flights.   You’ve all seen footage of astronauts on the shuttle or on the space station where everything is floating around.  Not only do we provide research and training flights for NASA, we also make this experience possible for the general public.  Now you can float weightless the same way the astronauts train to go into space.  It’s a HUGE amount of fun!

There is nothing like floating, doing flips and flying through the air like Superman!

Read more

Ansari X PRIZE

X PRIZE Flights, X1 and X2

Early morning at the Ansari X PRIZE

I‘ve been so lucky to have had some incredible adventures lately. However, nothing compares to the last 6 months working for X PRIZE Foundation.

It was a great honor to be a part of something that was a mile marker in the history of mankind.

I had the privilege to work with Bob Weiss, Vice Chairman for the Foundation and to produce the live simulcast (TV and Web) for the X PRIZE flights. It ended up being the biggest webcast in the history of webcasts. More people logged on to watch the launches than any other live webcast. Ever. It was also big day on Discovery Network’s Science Channel, who saw a spike in their viewership as well.

But all that pales in comparison to being in Mojave – meeting the all the amazing people making history – working with an incredible crew – to not sleeping for days because there’s so much work to be done – to watching the launches – to realizing that maybe, just maybe, the door has been opened just far enough that you and I can someday experience space ourselves.

A person does not participate in something like that and remain unchanged.

In the aftermath, it’s the kind of thing that you wonder if it really happened or if it was all an incredible dream. Then you realize it’s not. It’s real. It’s very real and I am one incredibly lucky person.