1 year anniversary of Countdown to the Moon

A year ago I was on Christmas vacation at this time. My niece Pooja (she goes by Shannon outside the family) was visiting from California. I probably. It would have been a Tuesday because our North Houston Space Society Meeting had been on December 14, 2019. Trent Martin from Intuitive Machines had been our guest speaker. Intuitive Machines is one of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) provides and they are planning to put a probe on the moon in summer of 2021.

Doug Loverro had just been announced as the NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations (HEO). And he was tasked with getting people to the moon’s surface by the end of 2024. To this end, he wanted to keep himself, the people at NASA, the people in government, the public, and the contractors all focused on that date. He had a lapel pin that had the number of days till the end of 2024.

And in order to motivate the people at NASA he started showing a HEO Hero of the day which he would highlight on twitter. He announced this during a visit to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Dec. 9 during Artemis Day.  

Doug’s idea was swirling in my head. The enthusiasm of us returning to the moon was swirling in my head. And a couple of other thoughts. “I am at home all the time” (because I had been working from home the 2 years previously.) “Maybe I need a project to get me out talking to people in real life.” We just had a successful North Houston Space Society meeting.

And it struck me out of the blue. “How about I interview regular people, every day till the end of 2024?
I suggested this to the family and my niece Pooja (Shannon) Bhatia, and she thought it was a great idea. “You should tell NASA about it”, she said. But I do not think NASA would have much interest in it at that time. And they haven’t shown any interest in it over the first year. But NASA is not the target audience, but those people that will be born decades from now.

We recorded the first video on December 17, 2019.

1840 – Shannon (Pooja) Bhatia

The first video was free form, relaxed, and just a conversation with two people about NASA’s plans.

A few highlights and snippets from this conversation.

Jim Bridenstine is the first NASA administrator to be born after the Apollo moon landings.

Pooja, “I wonder if they will discuss anything new.”

Pooja, “What do you say about people who say it was fake?”

I walk through of the evidence of the people involved and the LRO photos, and the fact that the Russians could have easily detected our signals from the moon and triabulated location. The Russians would not have hesitated to call us out.

Pooja: “The Russians would have gotten us”

Pooja: “Putin doesn’t have anything.”

Nathan: “Well, Russia is the only people that can launch people to the International Space Station (ISS).”

Pooja: “Really? Wow”

Boeing would have their Starliner test later that week.

She is looking forward to the live streaming in 4K.

Pooja, “Hoping there are some new discoveries.”

And that is the question that would come up over the next year. “What do we hope to get out of it?”

But what about Doug’s project. Looking back, I see he did not actually kick off his HEO HErO until Jan. 6, 2020.

Doug only started including the number of days starting on his January 8, 2020 posting.

And he started giving out “I Made it Happen – HEO” pins with the number of days remaining. (Which maybe I should give out pins like that to people when I interview.)

And this got emphasized with future postings.

The pandemic affected the awards.

And was back on track on April 7, 2020:

But on May 21st we found out that Doug was leaving NASA, and that put an end to his project.

While it is sad to see that the HEO HErO of the day did not continue on. I’m committed to seeing this project through till the end of 2024.

And after 1 year, I was excited to be interviewed by the Houston Chronicle about this one year journey.


Art of Effective Delegation

Last week I attended a company workshop which had one hour dedicated to time management and effective delegation.  There are many directions to delegate: Up, Down, and Sideways.  Delegate UP when you need more support.  Delegate sideways when others provide a service that is dependable and more efficient than doing it on your own.  Or when people in your team have availability and can help you to complete the job quicker.  Delegate down when you have direct reports and you can set their priorities and focus.

There are many risks with delegation.  There is an overhead to delegation.  The efficiency provided by delegation needs to be greater than this overhead.  Otherwise there is a near term increase in the total effort required.  (There is the potential that by delegating now with an eye to delegating in the future that this overhead will be reduced.)  There is also a risk about commitment.  Unless the person that you are delegating too is a direct report, it may be difficult to hold them to their commitments.  There is also a risk that they will be given work from their reporting chain that preempts the work that you had delegated to them.  Also there is an implicit assumption that they will be able to delegate back to you.  Will you be able to reciprocate?

What is included in the overhead with the delegation?  And how can this overhead be reduced?  In any situation, there is information required to perform a task.  This information may be “tribal knowledge” and is assumed as known to all that work on a project and is not documented in a way to bring others up to speed.  There are situations where the knowledge is documented, but it would require a significant amount of time to review the requisite documentation to be able to perform the task.  This overhead can be reduced by ensuring that knowledge is capture in consistent way in the organization that optimizes the location of the critical pieces needed to perform a given task.  Also, finding task units and activities that are common through out the organization can help to reduce the overhead of delegating a task.

How is efficiency achieved to offset the overhead of the delegation?  In the situation where everyone is similarly skilled, it only makes sense to delegate tasks based upon the availability of the people involved where the overhead is extremely low.  However, in most cases, the group will be made up of people with different skills, experiences, and inclinations.  It is quite possible that a given task could be performed more than twice as fast by someone else because they have a more efficient way of approaching the problem.  In this case, the ability to delegate can reduce the over all work in a group.  But it is necessary to have some mechanism to identify who is better skilled in a particular area and who has a desire to do a particular type of task.

Delegation can allow a group to get more done only if approached correctly.  Otherwise it might increase the risk and the effort required to perform the same amount of work.

New Ultralearning Project: Can You Learn to Draw Realistic Portraits in One Month?

New Ultralearning Project: Can You Learn to Draw Realistic Portraits in One Month?




Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain






Cristina Gatti

Cristina Gatti is a singer with Post Modern Jukebox.   Here are links to some of her songs.

Continue reading

LilyPond = LaTex for Music!!

LaTeX is used to format math and science papers.  It is a markup language (similar to what HTML is for the web).

LilyPond (LilyPond.org) is a markup language for writing musical scores.




Fescobaldi (www.frescobaldi.org/)is a Python program that makes it easy to write the LilyPond code and see the resulting script.



The Interstellar Team

Here are some of the grand prize entries from previous years:

See more at: http://settlement.arc.nasa.gov/Contest/

Benjamin Zander: The transformative power of classical music

Two sales men go to Africa in the late 1800s to see if there is an potential to sell shoes.  One of them telegraphs back (telegraph here does not refer to an iPhone app, but rather a mode of communication the predates the internet, which didn’t always exist), “There is no potential here, no one wears shoes.”

The other salesman telegraphs back, “- …. . .-. . / .. … / .- / …. ..- –. . / — .–. .–. — .-. – ..- -. .. – -.– / …. . .-. . .-.-.-”  (morsecode.scphillips.com/translator.html)

Likewise, there are only about 3% of the population that listens to Classical Music.  Some in the industry say if they could just get it up to 4% then the industry would be saved and that there would not be an further orchestra closings.  But Benjamin Zander proposes that maybe many more people (most people) would like classical music, but they just do not know it yet.

Take a look at his TED talk and let me know what you think.


Watch “Ellen DeGeneres with The treadmill freak 2 April 2015” on YouTube

Ellen DeGeneres with The treadmill freak 2 April 2015: youtu.be/25GsE5Yy6po