Lessons Learned, DASC 2008-

When one door closes, another opens. The 2007 MAPLD was the last one for which Rich Katz acted as impresario and arbiter of content; thereafter upper management at Goddard reinvented MAPLD with much sharper focus on the FPGA devices. My presentation of a paper on my LRO software at the 2008 Digital Avionics Systems Conference (DASC) showed me how "lessons learned" fitted in with their approach to digital avionics. So, having established Down to the Metal as a source of papers for DASC, I became a regular contributor.

Digital avionics in the Space Shuttle, though four decades old, was both more digital and more fault tolerant than avionics in most commercial aircraft. Thinking back to similar considerations of reliability by redundancy at MAPLD, I wrote Space Shuttle Fault Tolerance: Analog and Digital Teamwork, repackaging my old MAPLD paper on the subject, and it seemed to fit in well at the 28th DASC in 2009.

Thus encouraged to bring up old lessons, I prepared System Integration Issues in Apollo 11, an in-depth look at the obscure causes of the infamous Program Alarms that almost triggered an abort of the first Moon landing, for the 29th DASC in 2010. That was a handy way to publish the hobby research that I and my fellow MIT Rocket Scientists Don Eyles and the late George Silver had done to straighten out the twisted tangle of misunderstandings of that event. Then because the theme of 29th DASC was "Green Avionics," I made a leap into a future time when burning fossil fuels might be forbidden to commercial aviation, and called it Tom Swift and His Electric Airship. Though the latter also drew favorable comments from its audience, the Apollo paper was awarded a Best-in-Session certificate; then to my astonishment both papers were published the next October in the glossy IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine.

The 2011 theme for 30th DASC was "NextGen," the long-overdue updating of avionics in general and air traffic control in particular. As my knowledge of NextGen is scant, composed of notes taken at prior DASCs and some Googling, I took another leap into a future in which denser crowds of electrically driven aircraft, many remotely piloted, might overwhelm even the NextGen paradigms: Trading Energy for Knowledge: Outside the NextGen Box. This again was well received, and drew another Best-in-Session.

In honor of the centennial of commercial aviation, the 2012 theme for 31st DASC was how avionics would look 100 years from now, so I put on my leaping shoes yet again and wrote Data Convergence for Efficiency: A Holistic Rethink of the Passenger Experience, in which I fleshed out some earlier concepts of how better interconnection of data systems, and more imaginative developments, could work transformations in that time frame. Another Best-in-Session (a three-peat!), but because there was only the one session in that track, it was also Best-in-Track.

In order to include presentation style in the judgment, Best-in-Conference is decided by DASC leaders after each year's conference, and so in December I learned that my Holistic Rethink had won that honor.

For 2013, I'm returning to the lessons-learned theme, but with a twist. In writing my book Left Brains for the Right Stuff, I made an educated conjecture about what may have happened to Neil Armstrong's "Small step for [a] man" speech on the Moon. That will be my paper for 32nd DASC: One Small Step and One Short Word, which I'll present at the Awards Luncheon.