March 3rd, 2004

Mars job thrills, tires `Tommy Test Tubes’ The Birmingham News

Birmingham’s link to Mars has been a bit tired lately, what with helping control two rovers 48 million miles away. “I’m 64 years of age and I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” said Thomas J. Wdowiak, a University of Alabama at Birmingham astrophysicist who has helped guide the Mars mission from NASA’s Pasadena, Calif., Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Wdowiak, also known as “Tommy Test Tubes” on the Kid’s Page of The Birmingham News, has spent time over the past few months analyzing why the Mars dirt is crunchy, studying small round BB-size granules and figuring out why Mars is the color it is.

September 25th, 2000

Elevator to space: NASA envisions cheaper path to heavens The Birmingham News

An airliner lands on a large platform in the Indian Ocean. Passengers scramble off the plane. Hurrying past the artificial island’s shops and hotels, they climb into seats on a railroad car-sized elevator at the base of a sky-piercing tower. The elevator doesn’t stop for hours – not until it has finished a 22,000-mile climb along a cable stretching from the tower to an orbiting space transfer station. From the station, passengers catch a space plane to the moon, or perhaps to Mars. A few go on to mining jobs on an asteroid lassoed to the elevator cable to serve as sort of a space based anchor for the system.