Blog Menu

Tourist Travel to Space

June 20, 2009

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 12:43

Billionaire Charles Simonyi shelled out $35 million for a second trip to space in March 2009, again on a Russian spacecraft. His first trip, priced at $25 million, was in April 2007. That’s when he spent 14 days on the International Space Station (ISS). His more recent trip was a 13-day adventure on the ISS.

I had the pleasure of meeting a good friend of Simonyi’s who attended the first launch in Kazakhstan, Russia. He said the explosion from the launch was absolutely horrifying. Before it, he had visited the men’s room at the launch site where the plumbing was appalling. It occurred to him that the Soyuz TMA-14—the Russian space craft that Simonyi was on—had more than a few pipes and fittings that needed to perform. The state of the men’s room plumbing left him wondering.

Two days before the March 26 launch, Simonyi’s friend told me that Simonyi might give him a call from space if he gets a chance. Can you imagine receiving a phone call from someone on the International Space Station? I later found out that Simonyi indeed made the call.

Simonyi made his fortune at Microsoft as an executive responsible for the company’s flagship Office applications. In November 2008, the 60-year old married a 28-year old Swedish socialite—his first marriage. His friend told me that he attended the wedding in Sweden where Bill Gates was a groomsman. The friend worked closely with Gates and Simonyi at Microsoft.

Simonyi became the world’s first tourist to travel to space twice. He promised his new wife that the second trip to space would be his last.


June 5, 2009

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 17:37

You may be familiar with Adobe’s 3D PDF. I was not until a couple years ago. What I’ve learned is that it has come a long way in a short time. Some major organizations are beginning to use it as their standard method of communication with suppliers and others.

A 3D PDF lets you view a CAD model in 3D. You can zoom, pan, and rotate a solid model, even an entire assembly, and it’s fast. It supports transparency and other modes of shading and rendering. Acrobat Pro Extended is needed to create a 3D PDF, but only the free Acrobat Reader software is required to view and manipulate the 3D model data.

I attended an intriguing keynote presentation by Christopher Senesac of Boeing Rotocraft Systems, makers of the V-22 Osprey and AH-64 Apache vertical lift military aircraft. Senesac presented at last month’s Collaboration & Interoperability Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. I had no idea that a Boeing company was using 3D PDF documents at the level described by Senesac. The company uses it for internal collaboration, requesting quotes, and communication with suppliers and customers. It also uses them for technical illustration and manuals. As partners, Adobe and Penn State University are helping Boeing Rotocraft learn and integrate 3D PDF documents with CATIA V5. 

I was also surprised to learn that it’s possible to manufacture from a 3D PDF. The file format preserves the data and mathematical accuracy of a CAD model for precision machining. As an option, you can export an STL file from a 3D PDF for additive manufacturing. David Prawel, organizer of the CIC conference and an industry expert in CAD data exchange and interoperability, explained to me that a PDF can now contain any data, including 2D drawings with annotations, dimensions, and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T). Prawel went on to say that it carries a full solid model (BREP) and exports STEP (AP203) and IGES.

I’m looking forward to learning more about what Boeing Rotocraft and others are doing with the PDF format. It could become a popular method for product data/information exchange, communication, prototyping, and manufacturing. If you have experience with it, I would like to hear from you.