Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bo Bobko


Bo Bobko! Doesn't that sound like a great video game character? Bo Bobko! One of my very favorite astronauts, and very well-respected in the space industry -- Ames Research Center in particular, where he still works and also often hosts Shuttle Launches at the NASA Ames Exploration Center.

Colonel Karol J. Bobko became an astronaut in September of 1969, and for anyone keeping score, that's the month before I was born. His 6,000+ hours of flight time and degrees and awards and honors could fill up a whole blog, not to mention his three Shuttle missions. Oh yeah, those!

Bo Bobko
Karol "Bo" Bobko at NASA Ames SimLabs

One choice tidbit I find very admirable about him was his participation in SMEAT, or the Skylab Medical Experiments Altitude Test, which was a a 56-day ground simulation of the Skylab mission in the 1970s, which allowed crewmen to conduct medical experiments, evaluate equipment that would be used on America's first space station, perfect procedures, and collect biological data.

Extended extreme-condition simulations can be tough and thankless... and I would know! So I'm always grateful for the work on the ground, because it allows for more efficient work in orbit.

Later in his career, Bobko had the very interesting distinction to have been the pilot on the maiden voyage of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983, and Commander of the maiden voyage of Space Shuttle Atlantis in late 1985. Imagine taking two Shuttle Orbiters for their first drives off the showroom floor! Awesome.

Astronaut Bobko on STS-51-D
Jake Garn & Bo Bobko on STS-51-D
(Fourth Flight of Shuttle Discovery, early 1985)

Today, Bo works for the Science Applications International Corporation, where his team develops software and hardware for various flight simulations, most notably the large-amp Vertical Motion Simulator -- but also things like control systems, air traffic management concepts, cockpit display evaluations and research into the "human factors" of space flight.

However, he never seems too busy for Face Time as the resident Ames astronaut! And Tweetup day was no different. In this video, he makes some wise-cracks about what it's like to pilot a Space Shuttle -- then describes differences in the Shuttle simulator at JSC to learn onboard systems, the training aircraft (a jet modified to fly like the shuttle in that it can reverse engines in flight), and the six-degrees-of-freedom Shuttle simulator, which is capable of practicing touchdown landings.

Next up for this week, I'll be showing all the great hardware in the Simlabs, including the Six DOF, and also a Lunar Lander simulator.