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Meeting: Wednesday, April 17, 2002

The Space Station That Never Was:
A More Rational and Flexible Design Rejected By NASA

Oliver P. Harwood,
MacDonnell Douglas and Rockwell International (retired)

Benjamin Thompson,
Boeing Aerospace

images by Thompson, Scrivener, Barr, Fusco and Tice

In the mid-1980s while NASA was selecting the contractors for the first American space station -- which later became the International Space Station (ISS) -- aerospace engineer Oliver "Ollie" Harwood at Rockwell Space Systems in Downey proposed an alternative design. It was based on the octet truss, one of the triangular structures invented by Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller. Its key features were its flexibility and the reusability of its components, unlike the rectangualr station then being considered and now being built. It was called the "Protean" design because of this inherent changeability.

NASA rejected the alternaive design and for a while actively persecuted Ollie for continuing to promote it. Several members of the 3D graphics community in Los Angeles joined together to make computer animations helping to explain Ollie's design, and for a while it was championed by ex-astronauts Buzz Aldrin and John Glenn.

Join us as Ollie presents his alternative design and recounts the firestorm it triggered in Washington, aided by graphics collaborator Ben Thompson.

6:30 - 7:30 PM Social Hour
7:30 - 9:00 Meeting


Members free. Non-members $5. Memberships $15/year.

Address, directions and maps:

Committee Lecture Hall,
Molecular Biology Building
The Scripps Research Institute
10550 Torrey Pines Rd.
San Diego, CA 92037

From Interstate 8, northbound from downtown San Diego, or southbound from Del Mar, take Genessee exit west, fork north (right) on Torrey Pines Rd., then take a left at the first traffic light into the driveway, and turn right through the guard gate into the parking lot. The event is in the Skaggs Institute (Molecular Biology). Look for the day-glo SIGGRAPH signs.


Updated 04/10/02 a

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