X-36 pictures

The other day when I was trying to track down an old friend from my previous job, I ended up on a Beach Volleyball photography site. Because that’s what I used to do in my old job: pro beach volleyball. Yep. I was quite the pro beach volleyballer back in the day. You can probably find me in these action shots.


Actually, I worked with a guy who later went on to be a professional photographer of professional beach volleyballers. My real previous job was at NASA where I worked on a plane called the X-36. In the airplane business, you can spend years working on an airplane that never gets built. The good news is that they actually built and flew the X-36. Sadly for me this happened six years after I left the job. You can see from this picture that it was just a little guy, a 1/3 scale unmanned technology demonstrator. Because it was so small, it was often roughed up by the meaner planes at Edwards Air Force Base. Here it is being menaced by a gang led by the SR-71. That SR-71 thinks he’s so great.

Lots of other good pictures here.

But those are all the official NASA pictures. When did the X-36 take up beach volleyball? Here is a shot taken by VolleyShots photographer John Geldermann at the Induction Ceremony for the X-36 into the USAF Air Museum in Dayton, Ohio (July 2003). And those are the people I used to work with long, long ago.

5 thoughts on “X-36 pictures”

  1. I have two comments:
    1. What was your nickname on the project?
    2. I thought the X-38 was destroyed during its tragic test flight:

    3. What were you all thinking, designing a canard?!
    Three! Three comments…

  2. That whole nickname thing, along with the flight program itself, came years after I left. I therefore retroactively proclaim myself “Super Lucky Happy Nickname Dog”.

    As for Steve Austin, he was pretty bitter back when I saw him stumbling around Edwards in the late 80s. He ran through his pension money (hint: one of those bionic legs was hollow), got another bionic refit, and now goes by the nickname Big Dog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1czBcnX1Ww

    Canard? Isn’t that the little pink thing that hangs in the back of your throat? Those things on the plane are called “wingamajiggies”. We put those on during a game of Truth or Dare. “Smack Dog” said I wouldn’t, and I showed him.

  3. Hi Ned, just found your site via Twitter & added you there. As far as your experience with the X-36, that pretty much points to the big problem, from a career standpoint, about working in aerospace.

    Even if you’re fortunate enough to NOT see your project cancelled and actually fly, it’ll probably take a long time. Of course, this means folks may get a pretty limited scope of experience in the early years of their career if they stay in the same place.

    I used to know a guy who later worked on the X-38 project (real one, not the M2-F2). I felt pretty sorry for him when that was cancelled. It was a perfect example of what’s great and terrible about working for NASA.

    Anyway, in case you hadn’t heard, Steve Austin’s job has been outsourced:

    Six Million Rupee Man http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p4GVEeg1DI&NR=1

  4. Hi Gordon! I love the Six Million Rupee Man video. Thanks for that.

    One of the things that’s really struck me over the years is how just about every one of my aero classmates (from undergrad and grad school) ended up in the software business. That’s what happened to me too. The inertias are just enormous in aerospace. Software has some unfair advantages when it comes to project velocity (bits are cheaper than titanium), but still, the airplane business does seem to move much slower than necessary.

    I think the most exciting development these days is UAVs. Get rid of that fragile power-hungry trouble magnet in the front seat! Novel UAV design is where I’d want to be if I were still in the airplane business.

  5. The poor state of aerospace careers is one of the reasons I started my blog AeroGo


    for high school and college students & others interested in aerospace. There’s always been a number of issues that have hampered a healthy aerospace career environment (particularly the highly up & down/cyclical nature of govt. contracting/airliner biz), but now there are even more factors turning a lot of talented people off from the prospect of an aerospace career.

    The long design cycle is one, and competition from computing and internet companies is another. Besides these, there’s another huge looming issue: an aging aero workforce and the potential loss of knowledge as the older generation departs.

    Anyway, there’s a huge number of folks who are interested in aerospace, but don’t know how to pursue their interests, whether in engineering or some other area. AeroGo is just a prototype for a more extensive site I’m working on.

    Anyone passionate about aerospace/space development would have to agree that it’s essential we get talented people into the field, which is only really going to happen if we improve working conditions and growth opportunities.

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