McDade: Man or Astroman?

In response to Rand’s request, here is my little bio. I am awful when it comes to telling my personal story, so you might want to skip this unless you have some time to waste.

I will tell you about my writing and reporting experience in a few paragraphs, but first…


My birthday falls on the same day of March as that of Dr. Seuss, so you guys missed my 50th birthday party. I was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1954 and personally witnessed many of the tragic and triumphant moments of the struggle against southern apartheid. 1954 was a great year to be born for an observer of space activities. Everything from Sputnik to Spirit and Opportunity occured during my tenure here on planet Earth. My life experience is not all “space” though. A lot of incredible events shaped the early lives of the “Sputnik Babies” of the 1950s.

As a young boy, I rode to school on the same bus that took Rosa Parks on a journey that shook the entire nation. Martin Luther King and Vernon Johns used to come in the little drug store where my mom worked and where I used to sweep floor and throw out the trash. The New York born, Italian-Catholic owners (Gus and Adeline Mancuso) of that store ignored the Jim Crow laws of Montgomery as much as I can remember. I do remember Mrs. Mancuso telling me that, “we are all God’s children” and that we should “love our neighbors”. The Mancusos were not the only Roman Catholics who “worked one me”, and later in life I joined the church.

My father was a former Marine. I actually watched him pound a couple of hostile Klansmen into the dirt one afternoon when the Klan accosted a mixed-race couple and their child. I mention this part of my background simply to explain how fate fostered my somewhat progressive outlook. That kind of outlook made me the kind of person who was more than ready to accept the spectacular events of the early space program. Consequently, I am quite disappointed and disheartened by the fact that the USA was so quick to cancel Apollo and follow the foolhardy, unrealistic and expensive dream of exorbitant spending on an ineffective and misguided bureaucracy to cure the nation’s social ills. I have always believed that money is not an end-all solution for human misery; only people can help people. I think that volunteerism is our greatest untapped resource for social progress.


I am presently nearing retirement from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I plan to seriously ramp up my space activity career as my busy and challenging UAB career winds down. My 2004 Space and Learning presentation has been seen by about 600 top grade school students as of the week of March 15, 2004. The purpose of the outreach program is to help students get their thought processes in order so that they can sucessfully pursue their own deam. If you have a spare million bucks to give away to a good cause and want to help me deliver a powerful and effective message to students, let me know. I will bring you along to the next presentation.

For now, all of the expenses for this space theme educational program are coming out of my very shallow pockets. In addition to the space-based educational program I also devote my Wednesday lunch breaks week to tutoring inner-city students. Unfortunately, some kids are growing up in conditions and circumstances that almost guarantee academic failure unless someone takes time to intervene. I hope that all of you who read this will think about those kids who really need you, even if all you can do is hold up flash cards for a first grader. Please get up and do something special for you local schools.


I once worked on the NASA/CMC imaging computers at the Center for Macromolecular Crystallography here at UAB. I worked with some terrific NASA/CMC scientists such as laser expert Ali Arabshahi and Larry Kim. I always enjoyed devising innovative solutions to “unsolvable” problems.

I have worked most of my adult life at UAB, starting as a lab tech/student and in recent years spending up multimillion budgets as a Director of Technology. I am now working on the enormous challenge of helping improve hospital patient safety through the use of advanced management methods and powerful database tools at one of the world’s largest health care systems. I am responsible for many thousand of records and cases. I always loved the field of safety management. I personally witnessed the first meeting of the Stafford-Covey Space Shuttle Return to Flight Task Group and I find it easy to compare the complexity of medical care safety to that of astronaut safety. Astronauts and patients are both “wired” into an incredibly complex system where fatal failures can occur when “small cracks” line up and create a catastrophe.

My writing and reporting experience began in grade school and continued through a series of radio, television and print media jobs during college. A brief stint as a “Capitol Hill” reporter almost ended my career when a few powerful politicians got upset with me for “clocking” their time at work and computing their tax funded income as an actual hourly pay rate. It wasn’t long after that episode that I entered the world of freelance journalism and realized that I could make more money by selling my stories one at a time to friendly editors.

Space exploration is my specialty. My most recent checks for space articles came from Scripps-Howard publishers and Newhouse Publications. Sometimes the tables are turned and I am the person being interviewed. For example, I was on several TV and radio stations as a guest following the Columbia incident. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution also interviewed me for a national Associated press story about Columbia.

I am the regular “space guy” on this show. I also write bits for InsideKSC and my little web group, SpaceADG.

I was lucky enough to meet most of the 12 men who walked on the moon and was fortunate to have interviewed dozens of space “luminaries” both on and off the record. I plan to write a book as soon as I retire. There is so much to tell about my experiences that I cannot fit it all in here. Here are a few web versions of some of my articles and stuff: You can read my articles now and then when they appear on

John Hirasaki

Jack King

Space Shuttle Blues

Space Coast Images

The Space Show

NASA Thursday’s Classroom