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Remembering Adrian

We hang on to the people who matter to us, as long as we can, and then we can’t hang on any longer and they’re gone.  Adrian Hooke was a visionary, a romantic, a true believer, sometimes a tough adversary and always a loyal friend.  Maybe most of all, for those of us who worked with him on making the Solar System Internet a reality, he was a tireless, resourceful, and endlessly enthusiastic leader.  We will miss him.

Adrian was an admitted Space geek for 46 years.  He worked on the Lunar Modules for Apollo 9, 10, 11, and 12, from 1966 to 1969.  He was on the flight control teams for the Mariner 9 and 10 missions that visited Mars, Venus, and Mercury.  He worked on Voyager and SEASAT, and in 1976-77 he spent a year at the European Space Agency helping with the Shuttle-SpaceLab program.

Out of his experience with these projects grew a deep understanding of the complexity of communicating with spacecraft and of the costs and risks inherent in reinventing vehicle command and telemetry procedures over and over again for every new mission.  So from 1981 onward Adrian made it his business to improve the reliability and reduce the cost of flight mission communications by establishing sound standards.

He was well equipped for job he’d taken on.  He was very smart, and he was highly articulate.  In Adrian’s nature were steely determination and limitless energy, with not only a keen appreciation of human wackiness but also an equally keen ear – and not much patience – for pernicious nonsense.

In 1982 Adrian co-founded the international Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems.  Within CCSDS, he was instrumental in the development of international standards for Packet Telemetry, Packet Telecommand, the Advanced Orbiting Systems protocols used for communication with the International Space Station, and the Space Communications Protocol Standards that improve Internet protocol performance over links to Earth-orbiting satellites.

All of this was prologue to the vision of a ubiquitous, cheap, and reliable Interplanetary Internet – as simple to use as the terrestrial Internet, but able to operate over the enormous distances between planets in the solar system – that captured his imagination in the late 1990s.  Adrian organized the initial meeting of JPL, MITRE, and Sparta engineers with Vint Cerf at MCI, in February of 1998, that planted the seeds for what we would later call Delay-Tolerant Networking.  He then spent the next fourteen years nurturing DTN: finding money to develop it, encouraging experiments to demonstrate it, and helping often-skeptical space programs to finally understand its importance.  That work isn’t done yet, but without Adrian’s fierce commitment it might never have gotten started.

And there isn’t anyone quite like him to take over, now that he’s gone.  The rest of us have just got to step up.  In the end, Adrian finished the job in the only way he could: along with so much else, he left us an idea worth reaching for.  We couldn’t hope for any more.  Goodbye, Adrian, and thanks.

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