Reader Survey?

Just out of curiousity, how many of you guys actually find what I have to write useful? I’m curious, because I sometimes get a decent amount of traffic on some of my articles, and I’m sure that most people reading it probably don’t have a lot of comments. But sometimes I just can’t help but wonder if I’m wasting my time on some of these topics. Having a day-job with an alt.space company means that I tend to have way too much on my plate to really delve into issues in the detail that some critics would like to see, while at the other time some of the topics that I know the most about, I can’t really talk about (for ITAR or proprietary reasons). So I’ve been trying to toss out some thoughts, get the ball rolling and such…but it really doesn’t seem to be rolling anywhere?

I’ve always doubted that I’d be able to have much of an impact on massive public decisions like the ones being made at NASA over mission architecture and such, but I’m not even sure if any of my thoughts or ideas are even really making any sort of lasting impact on even the private side of things. I think ideas like dry-launch, propellant transfer, manned commercial projects, etc have a real role to play in the development of space. I just don’t see anything actually happening on most of those fronts. Am I just being too impatient? naive? sleep deprived?

Anyhow, what do you guys say? Are any of these topics useful? Do you think its making any sort of a difference to anyone outside of the allready convinced? You don’t have to comment directly in the comments if you’d prefer anonymity, just drop me a line at jongoff gmail com. I’m just really trying to figure out if this is worth the amount of continual effort and time I’m sinking into it, or if I should reprioritize things a bit.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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35 Responses to Reader Survey?

  1. tankmodeler says:

    Jon,

    I find these discussions immensely enjoyable. They are thought experiments and explorations that bring me back to why I always wanted to go into the aerospace industry.

    Are you changing the minds of any of the larger players? Well, you seem to have several of the senior alt.space people reading your blog, at least occasionally, so the thoughts are at least going to people with the money /drive /influence to have some effect, but maybe these are already the “converted”.

    Is NASA going to come out and say “You know, we read Jon’s blog and, shucks, we got it all wrong. Sorry, we’ll start again.” No, I don’t think so either. But maybe a congressional aide will read it and start asking questions. Maybe an Elon Musk or Dave Wingo will take some of the discussions further and rattle cages or make hardware.

    And maybe even a lowly engineer in Canada will approach his business development people with a couple of ideas that have germinated through discussion here. You never know.

    I do know that without places for discussion, ideas seldom ferment as quickly and, at least as a vat for new ideas, this is a worthy endevour.

    Is it worth your scarce and precious time? Well, that’s up to you, of course.

    >>Am I just being too impatient?

    Yes. 🙂

    >>naive?

    Possibly, but creativity and naiveté go hand in hand. Us older and more cynical folk seldom believe anything is possible.

    >>sleep deprived?

    With your life? More than likely. Go to bed.

    Paul

  2. Clark says:

    Hi Jon,
    Hope you keep at it. I find your analyzes of concepts like dry-launch and lunar exploration architectures to be very informative.
    – Clark

  3. James says:

    Jon,

    I know your posts are read and have come up in discussions among students on our university rocket team. Most students start off thinking that everything in the space industry has to run through NASA, which gives them the (false) impression that it’s not worth it to pursue a career in this field. My experience is that the traditional perception of the space industry in relation to NASA has caused most engineers who might have worked in the space industry to choose automotive or even HVAC jobs instead.*

    Once they start reading about people in alt.space, however, they tend to get really excited about the idea that they themselves might be able to do something useful in the development of space. Stimulating discussion on both policy and design issues, and updating people on the progress at Masten, is a great way to inspire students to pursue careers in space development.

    Keep up the blogging. Us “lowly engineers in Canada” (heh heh) will keep reading.

    * Please note that I do appreciate the work of automotive and HVAC engineers, especially on cold northern days like today and every time I embark on my 45-minute drive to work…

  4. mz says:

    I’d say get an own domain. Jongoff.org. 🙂
    Selenianboondocks.com?

    Being on blogspot can always be seen as amateurish, since “everyone can put up a blog”. Get some friend to configure the blog software for you. I heard it’s fairly easy nowadays.

    The content is very fine, I absolutely love it… I’d say use words with restraint and try not to get too hot on emotional subjects.

    I do wonder how do you have time between your family, job, blogging and a certain messageboard… I hope you don’t burn out mate, remember to keep some vacation etc..

  5. Eric M. Collins says:

    I enjoy reading your postings on space architectures. They seem to be well thought out and presented clearly. These are the kinds of things that I originally wanted to discuss on Spaceflight Sandbox, but I have not been able to find the time to look into them in sufficient detail.

    The main drawbacks with the blogosphere are that a) it’s still primarily a one-way media stream, and b) good ideas often get burried pretty quickly. The format also does not really lend itself to collaborative efforts.

    Anthony Kendall, (a.k.a. Anthonares) mentioned these shortcomings in one of his posts a while back. (See also here) At the time he mentioned that sites based on the Scoop platform seemed to allow more flexibility and, in general, seemed to encourage more feedback from readers. I mentioned Al Differ’s Fronteir Files Online website was just such a site, but it has gone terribly under utilized since he set it up a couple of years ago.

    Would consider reposting some of your architecture studies over on that site? Perhaps the activity level would pick up if there were some interesting content being posted.

    Keep up the good posts. I’ll try to leave comments a little more often.

  6. Blackjax says:

    I’m one of those people who you don’t hear from ordinarily, but reads everything you write (usually within a few hours of it being posted). I felt compelled to get off the fence for this one.

    I have to confess that I was a bit startled to see this post. You’re one of the last people in the space blogging world who should be questioning the value of their efforts. I read a number of space blogs on a daily basis and I am constantly trying new ones to see if the signal to noise ratio is any good. Some come and some go but yours is a constant on the reading list that I have never considered removing. You are constantly tackling interesting technical topics, providing useful information & analysis, and expressing yourself clearly, without the rhetoric that is often seen on other blogs.

    So why don’t the discussions go further and have more people involved? Well for one thing it could be that a lot of your readers are like me. They love reading your blog and do so religiously, but simply do not have the background to add anything cogent to the more technical discussions.

    Another reason you may not get lots of comments is that you tend to write in a fairly sensible and levelheaded sort of way, rather than being highly opinionated and inflammatory. When people do post to your Blog entries, they tend to post intelligently and when there is something useful to say. This generates less traffic that Bloggers that routinely kick off flamewars, but makes for a much more useful read.

    Anyway, don’t worry too much about whether you can see that you are converting the masses or changing the world. Just know that the people who are paying attention respect you and your efforts. Given this, the positive impact is there whether you can ever measure it or not.

    Keep up the good work.

  7. K.Luojus says:

    – Keep up the excellent posting
    – Don’t burn out
    – The idea of an own domain is not
    that relevant, what counts is the content, not the “professionalism” of the site. The time is better spent on other tasks, which you do have plenty…
    – Putting your material to other sites: “Frontier files” etc. might be a good idea, maybe it would help to get “the ball rolling”…

  8. Jon Goff says:

    Paul,
    Possibly, but creativity and naiveté go hand in hand. Us older and more cynical folk seldom believe anything is possible.

    Good point, I hadn’t ever thought about it that way. It’s sad that all too often with other cynics it leads them to believe that continuing the status quo is worthwhile because nothing really better is actually possible.

    Thanks!

    ~Jon

  9. Anonymous says:

    Yes, definitely keep at it. I’m not in the biz, but am fascinated by the space business and bounce around alot between you, Rand, Clark and John Carmack.

    You guys are the Ford’s and Edison’s of our day. Keep on building and blogging.

    Orville

  10. Jon Goff says:

    Mz,
    I actually do have selenianboondocks.com registered in my name (need to figure out when that needs to be renewed…may need to see if I can setup a donation drive to raise money for that at some point). Right now that address just forwards to the blogspot url, but I can change that in the future if I ever get the time or money to go to an independent setup (which would likely involve paying for server space). We use WordPress for the MSS blog, so I’m not opposed to the idea, it’s just that the time/$$$ barrier has been too daunting for me up till now.

    As for how I find the time? I really am not sure. I think this is one of those things I do to vent occasionally. With a second little boy on the way next month though, I may have to cut back drastically. We’ll see.

    ~Jon

  11. Stefanos says:

    Of course you should continue, and even write some more!
    I found out about your blog when was looking up what was going on with the private sector in space. When alternative launching proposals came up, it was your blog that pointed me out on them.
    Spread the word. Helps others spread it, too.

  12. tankmodeler says:

    >>It’s sad that all too often with other cynics it leads them to believe that continuing the status quo is worthwhile because nothing really better is actually possible.

    Well, I may have a dash of Don Quixote in me. I seldom _expect_ things to change, but I’m always willing to stir the pot to see if I’m wrong. If nothing else, tilting at windmills keeps me out of more serious trouble and keeps “ze leettle grey cellz” ticking along new roads.

    I personally believe the status quo is never worthwhile. 🙂

    Another baby???

    You may at some point in the last year or so wonder where all your free time when after the first kid. But, from personal experience, let me tell you that after the second one, you’ll remember this time fondly as having massive amounts of personal time.

    Congrats!

    Paul

  13. Monte Davis says:

    Don’t you dare stop.

    So much of the space blogosphere is dueling cliches, or tribute sites to the One True Architecture, that your posts — actually thinking through trade-offs live, on your feet, instead of marshaling arguments to reach a predestined goal — are very valuable.

  14. murphydyne says:

    I understand your frustration, Jon, and I think part of it is that things were a bit more freewheeling and interactive over at the Rttm/Space Arena board. It is tough to get people to post, and I sometimes wonder how many people get frustrated trying to post but can’t because they took too long and the password changed, but the graphic didn’t.
    (If having problems, highlight text, Ctrl-C, refresh the page, and then see what the anti-spam graphic is)

    I’ve seen some of the folks who come a visitin’ out in the Selenian Boondocks and they do carry some heft. I’ve also enjoyed making the occasional contribution, such as the infamous “25 Good Reasons to go to the Moon”.

    The Selenian Boondocks are a place where people can come to get good information and reasonable analyses of space documents and reports. Of course it’s valuable. You and I ask questions that aren’t normally asked, and take the time to say “Wait a minute, what if you look at it this way?” and thereby reveal bad assumptions and attempts to bamboozle. This also reveals possible better alternatives in how things are done, and of course that’s traditional American genius.

  15. Ben Reytblat says:

    Hi, Jon,

    Please continue. Your posts are educational and thought-provoking. Clark, John, you, Henry, Mike (who’s been really quiet lately) and a few others are my daily connection to this community. I am not a part of it, yet. But some day….

  16. Anonymous says:

    Definitely keep it up Jon.

    You’re a great voice for this community. Just the right mix of personal, professional and pie-in-the-sky posts.

    We need more people who are willing to say things and then fess up if things don’t end up the way they thought they would, which you do with style. Heck, every industry/community does.

    I’d comment more but the #@#%$ing catchpa never works for me. Plus, I’m not bending metal like MSS.

    Dru Miller

  17. TimC says:

    Jon
    As part of the great (British) public I neither work nor am likely to work in the alt.space field. However I did go to Las Cruces and I did watch the first Apollo landing while on my honeymoon so I have both staying power and current interest in the topic.
    What I can add to the other comments is appreciation. You provide a great entry to the world of those who are actually doing something about space. So keep up the good work

  18. Habitat Hermit says:

    Just about everything you write is informative, interesting and starts the wheels turning on what might or might not be possible right now or in the near future (and at roughly what cost). And although not directly related they make me revisit and continue on my own rudimentary stuff. Actually I haven’t thought about it like that before but you’re inspirational. I try checking for new posts daily and don’t do that anywhere else, sometimes more often if anticipating new comments and replies.

    Personally I’m trying to comment less as I realize I’m sort of out of my league compared to the rest of you, not being a rocket scientist and all 🙂

    Absolutely nothing wrong with your ideas or topics, you might be a tad impatient but aren’t we all? Like the other commenters here I’d like more but that is not for us to decide (just please don’t stop entirely).

    My wallet has flies flying out of it but I would be willing to contribute meagre amounts once in a while (would be nice if it didn’t involve PayPal although it’s not a requirement of any sort).

  19. Lee Valentine says:

    Jon, your blog is a resource for the entire community. It is admirable and selfless that you have kept at it, shining a light into the dim workings of NASA and showing a better way forward. I think that the readership is both wider and more influential than you suspect.

  20. Tom Cuddihy says:

    Jon, right now you ARE the voice of New Space. There’s lots of other good blogs out there about space, but none of the authors is as tied into the actual business of New Space as you are. Armadillo comes close, but they don’t budge from their own business.

    Please, for the good of the New Space community, keep it up! You’re a crucial part of the discussion.

  21. Mark says:

    By all means, Jon, keep up the blogging. But I caution that fights with NASA over hardware are ultimately going to be futile, especially when it is based on Internet rumors about the “impending collapse” of a project that don’t seem to ever happen. You and others did at least provoke a response from official NASA and, as an op-ed writer, I can tell you that is a great victory indeed. Just keep plugging away at “alternative architectures”, refining the ideas, getting a sound basis for the supporting numbers. You will not change NASA’s mind, but you might lay the groundwork for a future commercial lunar effort.

    Also, one last bit of advice. Ignore any accolades like you “being the voice of New Space.” That’s rather much and will give you and inflated ego. And don’t take too much to heart any criticism (except for mine, of course.) As someone who has email folders filled with all sorts of hate mail, I can tell you that it goes with the territory.

  22. Mike Puckett says:

    By all means, keep it up. You are thought provoking.

  23. Charles Lurio says:

    Jon, I just wanted to add to the chorus that I don’t know what came over you in questioning the value of your own stuff. It’s some of the best I’ve seen on the topic(s). It contributes to my thoughts in putting together some of the messages that go to my private ‘major journalists’ list.

    So don’t stop!

  24. Shogun says:

    I think just by having a site here you’re changing minds…even a little bit. Keep up the good work Jon. One day we’ll all have a chance to go to space!

    Mike.
    http://www.buymetothestars.com/ – One student’s dream to become the world’s first student space tourist!

  25. Karl Hallowell says:

    I have this site bookmarked and I probably check it about once a day.

  26. Randomscrub says:

    Keep blogging! Please!

  27. Steven says:

    I’m an occasional reader who find’s your writing interesting and useful.
    Keep up the good work!

  28. adiffer says:

    I’m not sure why you think you should try to influence those outside the community of the convinced, but others seem to think it is worth while so I won’t knock it.

    If you keep influencing those of us inside the community with the success you’ve managed lately, your time is well worth it to all of us. Influence the people who will change things.

  29. Ed says:

    Keep going. Your analysis is generally spot-on. I particularly liked your post about the dozen technologies necessary for a spacefaring civilization.

  30. Habitat Hermit says:

    A small addition to my previous comment. Anyone (particularily in the “We Want More”-crowd) who hasn’t read the archives should do so; as can be expected they contain lots of good stuff all the way back to the start.

  31. Miklos says:

    Keep going Jon!

    Even though people reading your blog are not the ones making the decisions, but they ask the same questions at other forums forcing the community to discuss your ideas. You have an immerse (but indirect) impact on the course of future space exploration!

    Keep going Jon!

  32. The Amazing Lazlo says:

    Hey man, I sat here after reading all your archives trying to think of an intensely clever way to inspire you to keep at it. But all I could come up with is a Churchill quote: Never, ever ever, ever give up.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Jon, even before reading the other comments I’d like to say you have contributed a lot to my knowledge both here and on s.s.p., and I’d be disappointed if you stopped. You write with both honesty and clarity about complex subjects and hardware. You’ve got your life to live, though, so I’d try to understand. I don’t comment much, often being unable to add to the knowledgable discussion….
    Stewart

  34. David Stever says:

    I got referred to your blog by my friend Spike in Suburban Boston, where I grew up, and I’ve working my way forward through your archives, and I have learned a lot. I have always been a Space head since as a kid I clipped satellite and astronaut articles from magazines, leading up to Apollo 11. My greatest fear at my age is that I won’t be able to get off planet (winning the Powerball is part of that plan). I want to see the Alt Space companies succeed, and you are a fount of knowledge and data that augments what I’ve been getting from other sources for years. Hope you find the time and energy to keep it up.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Love the blog and learn a lot.

    -Adam Greenwood

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