David S. F. Portree - Spaceflight History

is creating spaceflight history blog posts, monographs, and books




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About David S. F. Portree - Spaceflight History

I write about the history of spaceflight with an emphasis on spaceflight planning. It's real history, but sometimes it reads like carefully wrought science fiction. That's one of the things I like about it.

The way I see spaceflight planning, it's the half of the spaceflight story that isn't normally told. For every flown spacecraft or program, there are a hundred others that didn't make it. We do not live in the best of all possible worlds, but by knowing what we might have achieved, we can shape new dreams.

Most of my writing in this subject area has seen the light of day via websites and blogs. My first website, launched in 1996, was called Romance to Reality. At the time, its subject matter was unique. I replaced that in 2009 with a blog called Beyond Apollo. From 2012 to 2015, Beyond Apollo was a WIRED Science Blog. From 2015 until 2020, my blog was called DSFP's Spaceflight History. Now I call it No Shortage of Dreams. If my spaceflight planning history projects were a fleet of starships, my blog would be the flagship.

Here's a brief autobiographical sketch, in case you are curious. I got turned on to spaceflight and science fiction in 1968, when I was six years old. Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey was in its first theatrical run and Apollo 8 orbited the Moon on Christmas Eve. Together, they sealed my fate.

Apollo and its chief derivative, Skylab, didn't last long enough. I turned 11 a month after the last man walked on the Moon and turned 12 a couple of weeks before the last crew returned from Skylab. Robotic missions came into their own in the 1970s, providing a taste of what could be, then stopped for 11 years, replaced by Space Shuttle promises unkept. 

Sometime in the 1970s, I realized that NASA had made many plans during its Apollo heyday. I unearthed some of those plans in old library books, newspapers, and magazines. They had faded away, and I wanted to know why. Every new fact I learned suggested a hundred questions. I despaired at ever learning the answers.

Yet I did learn. Looking back on it now, it's hard to believe how fortunate I've been. The best part is that now I get to share my good fortune with you. 

I published my first magazine article and earned a Master's in History in 1987. I was on hand when the 11-year gap in U.S. planetary exploration ended; I covered the preparation and launch of the Magellan Venus radar mapper at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, for Astronomy magazine in 1989.

My writing brought me to the attention of NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), which recruited me to serve as custodian of its history archives in 1992. I wrote histories for NASA JSC and NASA Headquarters, including one that traced the technological heritage of the Mir space station. I traveled to Russia to climb aboard one of the surviving Soviet piloted lunar landers and an Almaz military space station, then lectured to Russian cosmonauts about the history of U.S. space station planning.

In 2001, NASA Headquarters published a book I wrote on the history of planning for humans on Mars. You can download it for free by clicking on the link in my blog's sidebar.

That's enough for now. Except for this — I am now self-employed again for the first time since 2007, which means I am looking for opportunities to write and speak about spaceflight history in exchange for monetary compensation. Do you need a spaceflight expert? I've worked as a consultant for movies, TV, museum exhibits, and more. I also do astronomy outreach. 

You can help to keep me in business by joining the ranks of my Patreon patrons. In return, I will give you detailed blog posts about spaceflight planning history and chatty almost-daily patron-only Patreon posts. Trust me — you'll learn things about spaceflight past and present that you never knew.

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