I'm not going to lie; I'm pretty excited about this. Let me make this clear right up front, though: I don't actually think NASA is using my idea, as such. But, NASA has announced it's considering an addition to the Orion spacecraft that's exactly like what I proposed last year. Hear me out.
On October 3, 2014 — about a week ago — NASA gave a presentation at the 65th International Astronautical Congress about studies they're doing for a new module to expand and enhance the capabilities of their new Orion manned spacecraft. They're calling it the Exploration Augmentation Module, and it's essentially a repurposed automated cargo craft designed to dock to Orion to add more space, consumables, an airlock and more.
On December 27, 2013, I wrote an article about an idea I had for a new module to expand and enhance the capabilities of their new Orion manned spacecraft. I called it the Orion Reusable Mission Module, and it's essentially a repurposed automated cargo craft designed to dock to Orion to add more space, consumables, an airlock and more.
The similarities between the two ideas are pretty remarkable, I think. They both have the same goals in mind — provide more space and resources to the cramped Orion module, and both my article and NASA's presentation targeted the Orion asteroid encounter mission as an ideal example. Both would add an airlock, so the Orion capsule wouldn't need to be depressurized, and both modules would be based on existing cargo vehicles. I specified either an ATV or a MPLM in mine, and NASA specified a Cygnus cargo vehicle. The Cygnus is a bit smaller, but structurally is quite similar to the ESA's ATV cargo vehicle.
The biggest difference is that I proposed leaving the Reusable Mission Module in a parking orbit between missions, and re-using it for multiple missions, saving the cost and hassle of having to build and launch a new one each time. NASA made no mention of doing anything like that.
I sent my article to NASA's Public Outreach department to get their feedback in March of this year, but never got a response. In researching the NASA Exploration Augmentation Module, now that I know about it and what it's called, I can find references going back to at least April and May of 2014, and things seem pretty mature at that point, meaning that NASA's and Orbital's studies almost certainly pre-date my article.
Even so, it pretty rare in life that you have a wild idea, and then find that your same idea is being put into actual service, and actually have documentation of your idea. I mean, we all know people who claim to have been the first to put their french fries in the open side of a fast-food burger packaging clamshell, but who has documented evidence of it?
So, forgive me if I feel like doing a little victory lap here, even if I don't think NASA got this idea from me. Really, the fundamental credit for the idea should go to the old Soviet designers of the Soyuz, which has always used a mission module. Or maybe the credit should go to GE, who in 1960 proposed a non-selected Apollo design that also included a mission module that would be separate from the re-entry capsule.
The point is, for once, I had an idea that wasn't idiotic, to the point that NASA themselves is considering using essentially the same idea. I genuinely think some sort of mission module will prove to be a huge benefit to the overall utility of the Orion concept in general, and I'm very proud to say that Jalopnik was the first (I believe) non-space-industry-insider outlet to openly discuss the concept.
And, NASA, I'm still available to test out my idea, if you need me.