The Passing of a Friend

Last December, a good friend, coworker, and pioneering space maverick Aleta Jackson passed away. Aleta was kind of like the mother of XCOR, and she treated us all like a loving, nurturing mother. She was a very capable and motivated individual, too. A lot of my coworkers and even classmates at Iowa State looked up to her as a role-model. She was particularly an inspiration to girls everywhere who aspire to greatness in the field of astronautics, space, and aerospace. Aleta's whole life was dedicated to opening up the realm of outer space to the rest of us. She was a very capable person: she learned welding, she spoke Japanese, was a huge science fiction nerd (and she could write, too), she loved to build things and work with her hands, and she was good at making connections, always seeming to be at the foundation of every enterprise she undertook, behind the scenes making it all work. She was very subtle in some ways, and very ferocious in others! (Who could forget the story of her holding three burglars at sword-point with her katana until the cops arrived?) Aleta was the first person to contact me from XCOR asking me if I was "still interested" in the internship position. Her description of what life and work on the Mojave Air and Space Port made me almost explode with wonderment and excitement. Of course I am "still interested"!!! She tried to downplay it and make it sound like a bad idea to come out, but for some reason it had the opposite effect, and just today I learned that all of the interns and new hires got a similar warning from her about the hardships of working on a dusty little spaceport for a little rocket company. Aleta always took care of us at the office and helped to create a wonderful, creative and easygoing work environment at XCOR. She always told us to go home and recharge if we were working too hard. Aleta and her husband Dan were very gracious and let me stay at their house in Mojave for free while they were trying to sell it. Unfortunately I didn't get to see Aleta since then, and I really regret that. I wish I'd taken the time to get to know her better. Sometimes you don't recognize how much someone means to you until they're gone, and I mourn that. This afternoon was her memorial here in Midland. Everyone had very fond memories of her and I enjoyed hearing stories about her from people who knew her much better than I did. 

Painting of Aleta on the cover of a science fiction book called "A Lion on Tharthee" by Grant Callin

Aleta posing with the "EZ Rocket," the first rocket powered vehicle built by XCOR.


Blog Reboot, Big Fun Scary Adventures

In an effort to revamp my web presence, I made a commitment to return to blogging, which in all honesty is more for my own benefit than for any readers that I still may have out there, because I feel it keeps me on track and focused on learning, exploring, and is a nice record of life experiences. It's like a more public version of my journal, (which I have been keeping regularly since 2005). 

Anyone have any good New Years Resolutions? Well, I really hate the term. So I've been sticking to an ollllllld term I picked up from my National Novel Writing Month days, called "Big, Fun, Scary Adventures", or BFS Adventures, which are like resolutions, but they must be big, fun and a little scary; something that takes you outside your comfort zone and grows you as a person. 

I'd like to share a few of mine!
  • Get back into archery
  • Complete 30 paintings (up from last year's 20)
  • Read 30 books (same goal as last year but only read 17... FAIL)
  • Start blogging and YouTubing again. Goal: 50 blog posts and 20 YouTube videos. (My channel is www.youtube.com/user/DTHRocket)
  • Transcribe 50 children's stories from YouTube in Chinese and learn the vocabulary. This is a new method I've been using to further my Chinese proficiency. My girlfriend Lulu has been helping me a lot!
I have a few others, but one of them I'm a little hesitant to share online!!! Suffice to say big life changes are on the horizon!

Speaking of life, what am I up to these days? I'm currently living in Midland, Texas, and still work at XCOR Aerospace, now as a full-time engineer! Life is pretty good. Lulu is attending grad school in Austin, and I try to drive down to see her a couple times a month. It's pretty hard being so far away, but it sure beats an America-China long distance relationship!

I'd like to touch on one thing I've been struggling with in the past few years. If you've been following this blog since it began in 2008 you probably have a clear sense of how ambitious I've been about reaching space and going far in my field. But to be honest, starting midway through college I've felt a pull in a much different direction. Don't get me wrong, aerospace is a deep passion of mine. But it isn't my everything. After my experience in China and making so many Chinese friends, I really felt God calling me there to serve Him. I don't know what that looks like, but I'm still praying about it. Is there tension between my love for aerospace and my love for China? Sometimes I feel there is, but not necessarily.

The bottom line is that I'm staying the course for now but I'm open to wherever and whatever God leads me to. Life is an adventure, and I see now that the greatest adventure may not be in the direction of my boyhood passion. But it might.

So what's this blog gonna be about this year? Honestly I don't know. I found as an intern that I couldn't really post about aerospace because everything I was doing was proprietary, and that's still true for the most part. Perhaps the deep theme has yet to unfold. You'll just have to keep reading to find out.