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Remembering Adrian

AdrianHookeLargeWe 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.


  1. vint cerf says:

    Adrian was the spark plug and engine that kept our growing team focused and productive. Never seeking recognition for himself, he worked tirelessly to keep the Interplanetary Network effort in the budget and on the radar screens of those whose support was needed. He was the master of PowerPoint with presentations that easily topped 25-50 MB and jammed images and information into exquisitely choreographed stories. His spreadsheets were paeans of persuasion for those whose budgets needed to include support for IPN. Adrian had a wacky side too – his sense of the ironic and the ridiculous produced some of the weirdest and funniest URL pointers to obscure websites I have ever seen. I still laugh until the tears come every time I hear “The Bricklayer’s Lament” [].

    We are grateful for all the support he and we received from his wife, Merle McKenzie, who worked with him at JPL and NASA. They made a remarkable team and her presence in our midst reinforced our determination to press on when things seemed dark, as she continues to do despite her personal loss.

    Scott Burleigh’s beautiful requiem speaks for all of us who loved and worked with Adrian for many years. We will carry on, somehow, driven by the belief in the possibilities Adrian articulated so well and so convincingly.

    Adrian has gone on ahead of us, as he did in life. Somewhere, somehow, in the fullness of time, I won’t be surprised to find him again, ready to put us all to work together on another project he’s prepared for us. So long, Adrian, and thanks for all the fish…

  2. Mike Kearney says:

    I certainly can’t match the eloquence of the paragraphs above. I can say that a larger-than-you-would-expect number of co-workers have come to me saying they were just stunned and somewhat lost. Adrian really touched many of us in many more ways than he and we realized.

    CCSDS has made Adrian the first inductee to their “Hall of Fame” page. It was created to establish a place for triutes to our founders and leaders.

    I’m still speechless. Helluvaguy, Adrian.
    -=- Mike

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