A new day, a new year, and an anniversary.
It is the 1st of January, 2018. 17 years ago, I started my first “space” company. I launched it in honor of Arthur C Clarke’s famous story of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I knew I wanted to develop something in ‘space’. I had no idea, then, where this journey would lead me. Some might argue that I STILL don’t know where I’m going. I would concur.
That company, long-since dissolved, was the start.
My Internet company was winding down. We had survived the first round of the dot-com crash of 1998-99, but we were unable to really recover from our height of 24 people working ‘round the clock to hit a client deadline. I could see the writing on the wall, that despite our commitment, talent, and dedication, that our Internet company was doomed. It is hard to pull the plug on something you care about. Harder still, is quitting when other people are still committed to the idea. Hardest of all, is accepting the realities of the situation, and telling your team that we were closing. (I’ve had to do that twice in my career. It doesn’t get easier. I’m glad it doesn’t get easier; I wouldn’t want to be the kind of leader who thinks it’s easy to axe people who were doing good and important work.)
But I still had my building, and lots and lots of free-time. I didn’t know what was next… But I had a lot of options. I was about 32 years old, and while I didn’t have a lot of cash in the bank (that cash had gone to keep the Internet company on life support as long as possible) I did have an asset that regularly spit out ongoing cashflow/rent every month. It wouldn’t take very long for me to stabilize once the I closed the Internet company (a few months from then; it turns out that it is very difficult and time-consuming to close down an operation of our size. Although, to be fair, we were just 6 of us, by then.) So I was young, had substantial excess cashflow, a big real estate asset which was gaining in value all the time, and I was bored.
What was I going to do next?
I went to my friends and family. I went to the ‘net to do some research. I read a lot of books – mostly science fiction. I daydreamed, and I flew my kite from the roof-top of my building.
Sometimes, epiphanies come in a flash. I’ve had those a time or two. Other times, like this one, they sneak up slowly, until the answer is so glaringly obvious that you can’t help but accept it as a new truth.
I was going to build a space company…
But what did that even mean? In the Fall of 2000, there was no such thing as a SpaceX, or Blue Origin – proving that a commercial space company was viable. The idea I had was considered nonsense by most ‘experts’ in the field. As far as most people were concerned, you could only build a space project one way, with three routes to the same destination: government funding via the military, government funding via NASA, or government funding via NASA – through a big contractor.
The patronage model – as proven by Paul Allen, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, and Jeff Bezos – had not come into fashion. Yet. There were some outliers, like “Reverend” Rick Tumlinson and his space cowboys at the Space Frontier Foundation; but I had not met them, yet. (And they might have pioneered the patronage model, by working with Walt Anderson as the first wealthy backer to support the first commercial space station: watch “Orphans of Apollo” for more on that story.) Certainly, there wasn’t any venture capital for space, yet. I don’t believe the Space Angel’s Network existed yet. I am sure that Jeff Greason’s XCOR hadn’t broken that particular glass-ceiling of VC capitalization until several years later.
So here I was, not sure what I was doing next; but I had the capacity, and interest. So, I started poking around the ‘net. Looking for opportunities that would match my ambition, skills, and assets.
As with most things when you’re learning how to do them, there are stumbles and mis-steps. It wasn’t until the Fall of 2001 when I first met Dr. Edwards, that I caught my first glimpse of what the future might hold.
We are nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century. I have been working on Space Elevators for about 17 years now. And it is only now, this year, when I begin to have hope that all the false starts, cul de sacs, and quicksand we’ve run into, are at an end. It is only now that I begin to have hope that we will succeed in building our Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure.
Thank you for joining me on this amazing adventure.
Happy New Year!
President, LiftPort Group
Wow, it has been a while since I’ve posted. I’ll just give you guys a quick update.
Our primary tasks haven’t changed. They still are: finish the book, build the Technical Advisory Council, and find investors. Michael is manning the phone trying to real in some capital for us. I, on the other hand have been promoted from the role of intern to the role of Research Coordinator.
Before I can start coordinating projects, we have to contract the researchers who are going to work on these projects. Therefore, my main job has been to contract and on-board members of the TAC and build the infrastructure after they have agreed to joining with Michael. This work includes a lot of sending emails, contracts and various forms, back and forth between TAC members and I as we accumulate them.
This is an unbelievable experience for me as I have just finished my undergraduate education and my first real employment after college has turned into me coordinating with Masters and PhD level professionals. In total, we have contracted about 15 TAC members, with hopes that will drastically increase in the weeks to come.
In other news, LiftPort Group finally has an office in a beautiful building in downtown Tacoma that used to be a courthouse. This has been really powerful, mostly in regards to focusing ourselves and our work at a location. Now I go to work in the morning and say things like, “I’m heading to the office!” which has been very fun and a big step in the rebuilding process for LiftPort.
I will try to post more frequently,
-Jeremy Wain Hirschberg
Whats up world!?
A few days ago, Michael offered me a job during the school year! I am going to be in charge of building out the YouTube Channel. At least, that’s what its looking like Im going to do. In all honesty I am both really excited and a little nervous to be taking on this responsibility. Since this is something I have never done before I have a lot to learn. I don’t really have a background in video editing either, so the learning curve is extra steep.
As for whats in store for the channel Im not really 100% sure. I would love to start with a short mini series that outlines all the major systems that are working together to make LSEI work. The fact of the matter is that there are countless systems that go into the elevator, the space station, the mining operation, and space based solar power just to make them work on their own. Other Ideas range from monthly LiftPort Group updates to a weekly space news show. Before I really know for sure, I am going to need to see how long it really takes to make a quality video (im sure its going to be much longer then I am expecting).
Long term it would be really cool to see the LiftPort YouTube channel grow into an actual asset. I see YouTube as a great Avenue for us to keep the community updated and would love for it to be a prized possession of LiftPort. In order for the channel to make it to a successful place Im going to need some help, so Im going to try to keep the community involved! If anyone is interested in helping or has any advice I would love to hear it!
If you, or anyone you know has any experience with YouTube and video editing and would be interested in helping out with the project, comment letting us know you’re interested!
See you all next time,
LiftPort is a pretty atypical work environment. Part of it is just that there are only three of us currently. The office consists of the CSO and the two interns. As described before, this is an extremely valuble dynamic for us interns, getting front row seats to the experience of developing a new company. While this could seem intimidating, it actually is a very fun and collaborative environment.
Griffin and I were close friends before coming to work which has undoubtedly contributed to the light hearted atmosphere that is present in the LiftPort office. Michael’s appreciation of our opinion and comments on the work we are producing together has allowed for a very free flowing, open dialogue, work environment that is both productive and fun. Just as we crack jokes and have our fun, we motivate ourselves to stay focused and get work done.
But when I wake up in the morning I still say I’m going to “work. ” Clock in to clock out, we have a goal of production that we hold each other accountable to. We are trying to build an Elevator on the Moon, of course we are going to be working like crazy. It’s important to have fun along the way, to stay energized and enthusiastic.
When I was a freshman in college, my dad and his best friend took me on a climbing trip. We drove to Mt. Rainier and were planning on climbing up to Camp Muir, which is about 10,000ft of the 14,000ft summit of Mt. Rainier. We had three packs: 40lbs, 50lbs, and 65lbs. We rotated packs every 2 hours at first, then every hour, then every half hour. The whole climb took 8 hours or so. We left the base at sunset and climbed with a full moon in the sky and no clouds.
I had been in college for almost three months at this point. I was not, what one might call, in shape at the time. I did not do what was suggested to me and train for this climbing trip. It was pretty tough, especially when you had that big pack on. The final stretch of the climb was this massive snow field that you climb right up through the middle of. Your surrounded by snow for hundreds of yards on either side, with few points of reference to gauge how far you were walking. Because it was a clear night, we could see the ridge at the top where the camp was, but there was no way to tell how far away it was. It felt like the snow field was a treadmill and the camp was not getting closer to us at all.
That’s how this project feels sometimes, like we keep working and working, but we don’t move. However, in the snowfield, if we went back and counted our steps, we would have found a lot of foot steps. That is also true of this project, we have done a huge amount of work since I have started here, just a few months ago. I think we do a good job of making the work fun, distracting from the treadmill, so that when we look up, the camp at the top of the hill, the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure, looks a little bit closer.
-Jeremy Wain Hirschberg
This week marks the beginning of our quest to construct the technical advisory council and work on our business plan. Since we are not working on the book day in and day out anymore, and there is much less of a “concreate” deadline that we have to meet, we have had some time to do group work. Every so often during our group work sessions, we will take a break and take a short walk outside. During one of these much-needed walks, we stumbled across what I now know to be called Zorbs. Zorbs are essentially a human sized hamster ball that you can run into stuff with, most people also play soccer in them. Naturally, as 3 guys would, we threw on the Zorbs and began running all out at each other. On this day, I hit my boss Michael Laine off his feet while in Zorbs.
Its not very often that I get the opportunity to do something like that so I lunged at the chance to shoulder check my boss. While these moments are often sparse in terms of occurrence, I find that these little breaks during the day are some of my favorite memories of LiftPort. I have never had such an appreciation for breaks during the work day. I think it’s probably because it allows Michael the chance to get to know us, which he capitalizes on regularly which feels good as ann intern to know that he cares about us.
I know this one was short but till next time world!
So far, my role at LiftPort has been a great experience and I’m learning a lot about business. Being at the ground level of a start-up gives me a unique position for someone of my age and experience. This experience has been invaluable in that I have been able to diversify my resume and contrast all of the business skills and tools I am learning here at LiftPort with my experience in biological and chemical sciences.
While I think this diversification has immeasurable benefits to my value as an employee or scientist, I do hope, at some point, my role at LiftPort can move back towards the field of science. Obviously, this is time permitting; LiftPort isn’t even conducting research yet and needs my help in getting it off the ground. My skills are better utilized now, in the ramp up process of this company, at least until we are established and stabilized, both in regards to finances and operations.
BUT, when that beautiful day comes, and LiftPort is making bounding strides towards the Moon, I want to get back involved in the science. So, Michael and I began talking about how I might do that: what might my role in the company look like once it is a company. Michael is very familiar with my passion for science (a frequent distraction from work) however, my experience does not line up with the project directly.
Michael suggested some type research coordinator position, the dream job of any hyper passionate scientist with no specific focus. With that type of position, I could be involved in all of the research projects and watch how they integrate with one another. I wouldn’t be tied to a single lab bench working on the same project for three months, as my previous experience has been. That type of position would allow maximal involvement in the science of the project, not having to be an active contributor to the basic research but instead putting the big picture together with the pieces provided by the basic research.
Now…I am not qualified. I have a solid resume, but I JUST graduated college. In the real world, I know I am pretty low on the totem pole and definitely not someone who would typically apply for a research coordinator position at a tech company. I don’t expect to be hired to manage a team of PhD researchers and CEOs of companies. However, the fact that Michael has mentioned that I could be involved with that type of work really excited me and made me look forward to the development of the company and my role in it.
-Jeremy Wain Hirschberg
It has been a hectic last couple of weeks; the deadline for our book got extended which has given us some time to focus on the business side of LiftPort Group. As of late, Michael Jeremy and I have been working as a team on our budget. This has been a fascinating process because I had never done it before. When you put dollar amounts behind everything it starts to become real. Not only that, but for one of the first times in my professional career, I was able to watch my decisions influence how the company operates in the future.
In addition to the budget, Michael, Jeremy, and I are also working on the noumenia process /business plan and as of this morning, assembling our Technical Advisory Council. All of these are arguably overdue; however, the textbook deadline was in our immediate future and required instant attention. I think the LiftPort trio is collectively excited and eager to do something different then the textbook.
We work pretty well as a team, and I think one of the reasons for that is that Michael honestly listens to us and values what we have to say. Michael has previously described Jeremy and I as a “sounding board” where he bounces Ideas off of us for our feedback. One of the cool parts about this is that I can tell Michael values our feedback. Jeremy and I both are still brand new at the private sector and the experience we are getting while working with LiftPort will be unmatched by a lot of the other job options that people such as Jeremy or I will receive at this age.
In the end, the experiences that LiftPort has given me thus far are irreplaceable in my life. I have a new appreciation for working in groups and I have watched us work together to accomplish great things in a short amount of time and had some fun in the process. With the book finally winding down, the new-found time has made the last few days at LiftPort an absolute blast.
Till next week,
We have finally finished the rough draft of our book. The deadline was sneaking up on us and it was a real scramble to make it. These last couple weeks were spent pretty much exclusively writing. It was difficult and not very fun. I knew the work I was doing was beneficial, as it was contributing to the book and would come in handy in the future to show investors or put on our website. However, it was frustrating that we weren’t focusing on the development of our company.
Now that we are done with the book, we can start making moves and growing this company. Right when I showed up and starting working for Michael, things started moving very quickly. The daily tasks were dynamic and we had to react to new information spontaneously. It was really fun. But then, for the better half of the month of June, we have been doing nothing but writing. Writing all through the work-days and even on some weekends. It was just boring. Great work and great content came out of those boring couple weeks, that actually put us in a better place to develop the company than we were before. But, now we can move forward and get back to being a tech start-up again and away from being a bunch of writers in a coffee shop.
I like doing science, working with technology, and figuring out problems. In my time in school, I wrote my fair share of lab reports and essays. Studying science at a liberal arts university, allowed me to develop my technical and scientific writing skills with the benefit of also getting exposed to other types of writing. I’ve written philosophy papers, history essays, and a psychology thesis. Additionally, for my science education, I have written technical style papers in the fields of biology, chemistry and neuroscience (I have an analytical chemistry manuscript in review for publication currently). Not to simply boast my experience and accomplishment, this has all made me a relatively proficient writer. The point being is that I can write textbook sections if asked to, I wasn’t lost these last couple weeks. But, I did feel more like I was back in school, which I just finished and I am currently not missing. I am extremely excited for what is in store now that we do not have to commit so much time to this book.
UPDATE: The book deadline has been extended until the end of this month. The book is not done. More writing to come in the near future.
-Jeremy Wain Hirschberg
Hey there LiftPort Crew!
Been awhile since my last post so I thought I’d give you guys an update on my daily life here at LiftPort. For the past few weeks, my team and I have been working diligently on finishing our college level textbook on the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure. Along with writing pieces here and there, my primary job has been formatting the textbook and making all of our 100,648 words (so far) look like an actual book. Surprisingly enough I have found that I enjoy it more than writing because its much simpler and my brain likes when things are organized. All that aside, it has been a very aggravating process that has proven extremely tedious.
Being that the closest thing to honestly formatting anything in the real world is a manual that I wrote for an old company that I used to work for. That manual was 12 pages and had little to do with space and physics and all the complicated stuff that goes into building LSEI also, did I mention the book is 286 pages? I had no idea where, or how to begin.
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”
And so I started at the beginning, and kept a note cheat sheet (ill post it with the blog). I went through the doc and put page breaks at the end of every section so I could be sure I was done with a chapter. Following this step, I began captioning pictures, tables, and graphs and making sure they were in the margins, text wrapped and located in the right spot. Finally, I organized all the headings and their respective levels. In the end, when I write it out it doesn’t sound like much which is strange because it has taken me a long time to complete.
Anyways, that’s what I have been up to and I can honestly say it felt rewarding once I formatted it all. There are still some sections that haven’t been written which means it’s far from done. However, it is very satisfying to see this huge document get closer and closer to being a book, I can’t wait for us to get this thing published!
You’re all going to love it,
So this is a pretty big project, not an easy feat for anyone to accomplish. Michael is the mad scientist, who knows everything about the project . He has dedicated his career to this thing and has a vast network of people who will help him build the LSEI. So, got it, Michael is important and makes active contribution to the project regularly. In actuality, Michael is everything that this project is.
So how are us interns helping? It’s a funny topic of conversation for my friends. Whenever my job gets brought up, someone asks the question of how I’m exactly helping. It’s not too common that a recent graduate is working on a space technology project, let alone something that they refer to as a “Moon Elevator.”
Well, Griffin and I are like Michael’s second and third right hands. There are so many tasks to accomplish and aspects of the company to work on that Michael has to prioritize his tasks very carefully. However, that is not to say that lower priority items don’t need to be happening immediately as well. Griffin and I pick up those lower priority items, that are critical to the development of the company but perhaps less pressing than other issues.
There is so much that goes into this project and this company that our priority list is constantly being shifted around as we react to developments and correspondence. On top of already being a tough job to explain to people, the things I’m actually working on change constantly as well. I initially started working on the website, then preparing a set of briefing documents for one of Michael's connections, and now, I’m writing some content that will be used in LiftPort’s upcoming book release. It never gets boring, that’s for sure. I’m just happy I can help with this project at all.
-Jeremy Wain Hirschberg