First, I’m going to apologize in advance to professional astrodynamicists. I survived a few months on the job, but never had to lay in a course to the nearest star base. 🙂
If you look in Wikipedia, astrodynamics applies Newtonian mechanics to man-made objects in space. “It is a subfield of celestial mechanics”; but looking at the list of subcategories and pages, it becomes clear that astrodynamics covers a lot of ground. [Wikipedia entry]
If I say I am a wannabe astrodynamicist or that I studied astrodynamics in school, people often don’t know what I’m talking about. In my daydreams, the conversation and answer do not come easy.
Q: What do you do?
A: I’m an astrodynamicist … uh, an orbital mechanic.
Q: So you… what? Go out and fix satellites in orbit?
A: Trajectories… I fix trajectories.
Q: (ponders this) Like a space navigator on a starship?
A: (ponders that) Yeah, like a space navigator figuring the route to a planet or asteroid. … Or to a derelict spacecraft.
Q: (more pondering) So you work for a salvage company in space?
A: (smiles) I could. Spacecraft can have a lot of expensive parts. (thinks about this) And some of them are secret.
Q: So you work for a salvage company and a spy agency?
A: Actually, I work with people designing launch vehicles.
Q: (lightbulb) Oh! You’re a rocket scientist.
A: (decides not to argue) That’s close enough.
I’ll probably never have that conversation, except in my dreams.
As for the rocket scientist part…
One friend tells me that the cutting edge of rocket science is designing and building very small cryogenic turbopumps. In other words, it’s like being a plumber.
When a tell another friend that I am a generalist in a variety of aerospace technologies, he insists that I am a rocket scientist. I decided not to argue.
And that’s how this blog got its name. 🙂