Trip Harriss, Rocket Engineer & Musician: Madeline’s Monthly Blog, Musical Tips & Radio Show for April 2024

Our blog and Radio Show celebrates the life and work of Trip Harriss, Rocket Engineer and musician.

Many of the world’s engineer, physicists, mathematicians, teachers, biologists, chemists, scientists, medical doctors, writers, and others have studied and played musical instruments since they were children. These eminent individuals have integrated music into their thinking process.

The article of the month is “How Can You Help Others and Yourself Too? by Madeline Frank, Ph.D.
Feature Question for April 2024 Radio Show: How does Classical music play a part of Trip Harriss’s life as a Rocket engineer, and what musical instrument does he play?


Trip Harriss trained as a classical musician playing the guitar. His parents were professors of music from Tennessee. He says, “One Christmas, he was watching Star Trek and decided that he wanted to be a rocket scientist instead.”

Harriss said, “I ended up figuring out how to change my brain from doing music to doing engineering,”

“After a year at Purdue, he was scrambling for a summer internship, but kept bombing interviews. His professor got a call from a friend at Space X saying it needed interns. He left immediately in his car and drove from Indiana to Los Angeles.”

Fourth Rocket of Space X moved from Los Angeles to Kwaj , the Republic of the Marshall Island: U.S. Army Garrison for launching:   Adventures in the Air!

Harriss rode with nineteen other Space X employees “in the hold of the C-17 with the rocket strapped into jump seats along the wall.” They were in a festive mood that this fourth rocket would succeed. They were over the Pacific. Trip Harriss took out his guitar and began to play.

As they began to “descend for refueling in Hawaii there was a loud popping sound. And another.”

Harriss says, “We’re like looking at each other, like, this seems weird. And then we get another bang, and we saw the side of the rocket tank crumpling like a coke can.”

“The rapid descent of the planer caused the pressure in the field to increase, and the valves of the tank weren’t letting in air enough to allow the pressure inside to equalize.” The engineers immediately took out their pocket knives to cut away the shrink wrap and open the valves.

“Bulent Altan, engineer ran to the cockpit to try to stop the descent. Harris says, “Here’s this big Turkish guy screaming at the Air Force pilots, who were the whitest Americans you have ever seen, to go higher.  Astonishingly, they did not dump the rocket, or Altan, into the ocean. Instead, they agreed to ascend, but warned Altan that they had only thirty minutes of fuel. That meant in ten minutes they would need to start descending again. One of the engineers climbed inside the dark area between the rocket’s first and second stage, found the large pressurization line, and managed to twist it open, allowing air to rush into the rocket and equalize the pressure as the cargo plane again started to descend. The metal began popping back close to its original shape. But damage had been done. The exterior was dented, and one of the slosh bafflers had been dislodged.”

“They called Elon Musk in Los Angeles to tell him what happened and suggest they bring the rocket back.”

Harriss says, “All of us standing there could just hear this pause. Musk is silent for a moment. Then he’s like, “No, you’re going to get it to Kwaj and fix it there.”

Arriving in Kwaj: Republic of the Marshall Island: U.S. Army Garrison

Harriss recalls that when they arrived in  Kwaj their first reaction was, “Man were doomed. But after a day, the excitement kicked in. We began telling ourselves, “Were going to make this work.”

The new equipment needed was gathered from “SpaceX headquarters, including new baffles to prevent slosh in the tanks and loaded it into Musk’s jet for the trip from Los Angeles to Kwaj. Engineers worked around the clock to make Musk’s deadline.”

On Sep. 28, 2008, the Fourth SpaceX Falcon 1 flight was a success! (From the book “Elon Musk” (2023) by Walter Isaacson, pp.184-186.)

Aeronautics Engineering education and work at SpaceX:

 Trip Harriss earned his “Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Tennessee and his Master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University.”

He is a “16-year veteran at SpaceX, Director- Launch Site Mission Operations, Senior Manager of Launch Site Mission Operations at the world’s leading launch services provider. Trip began his career supporting the development of SpaceX’s ground control software for the company’s Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles. Afterward, he oversaw Falcon Recovery and Fleet Operations where he led negotiations for approval to land Falcon boosters at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, managed the build and activation of SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, and led the Falcon Recovery Team through many of SpaceX’s early booster recovery successes. Trip also managed SpaceX’s growing fleet of flight-proven stages in Florida.”

Trip Harriss is a Rocket Scientist, husband, father, and musician.

How Can You Help Others and Yourself Too? by Madeline Frank, Ph.D.

Lisa Rabasca-Roepe in her Feb. 17, 2024 article, “Volunteering Can Combat Loneliness and Boost Your Mental Health” (Success Magazine) says there are “5 things to consider before volunteering to help your mental health”:

She says, “Volunteer work should speak to something you enjoy doing.

  1.Make sure it sparks joy.”  What gives you the greatest joy?

  1. “Set an easy achievable goal.”

A large number of people think of donating during the holiday season, but most people enjoy eating year-round. There are opportunities to volunteer throughout the year. Whether you decide to volunteer with your family to feed the homeless at a local Church or Synagogue, pack lunches at a local Childhood Hunger Center set a goal that works for you!

  3.“Your volunteer work can be a one-time event.”

Purchasing pies to feed the homeless at the local center or donating other foods needed. Helping at the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

  1. “Volunteer for the right reasons.”

 If you are asked to volunteer at a soup kitchen over the holidays to serve meals to the homeless that’s alright, but if you are asked to volunteer at a restaurant to help them out that’s not alright!

  1. “It’s ok to set boundaries.”

Lisa Rabasca-Roepe says, “Be clear about the personal boundaries that you need to put in place so that you can serve in a way that makes a difference to the organization and that is sustainable.  Avoid making volunteering another obligation or task on your to-do list.”

One way to identify a worthy cause or causes is to choose something meaningful to you. The other way is to identify an enemy. What gets your blood boiling?

  • Childhood hunger and nutrition ignorance
  • Addiction
  • Mental illness
  • Human trafficking
  • Obesity
  • Domestic abuse
  • Illiteracy

My husband’s Rotary Club volunteered to prepare and pack meals for the children in the local public schools. 60-80% of children in the public schools receive free and reduced-price meals.

As someone who has worked in education for years, I know that when stomachs are empty, it becomes hard to fill the mind.

We began our adventure at the center at 5:15 pm on Jan. 10, 2024. My husband and I joined 6 members of his civics club and a family of 4, Mom and Dad and their elementary age children 8 and 9 years old. The requirement to volunteer is to be at least 8 years old.

We volunteered to work on an assembly line to make up meals for the hungry kids in the public schools.

The head Supervisor showed us a short video and then taught each person on the assembly line how to add 1 item and how to place each item in the gallon zip lock bag so it would fit. 12 persons were on the assembly line and 12 items were put in each bag.

  •     Eight of us were from a Rotary Club and a family of 4, two parents and their elementary aged children filled out the assembly line.

People worked together in a happy manner wanting to help others.

Some of the Items for each gallon zip lock bag were Spaghetti O’s, chocolate milk, mango juice, apple sauce, strawberry yogurt or fruit cup, trail mix, snack bags….

We were united by a Common Purpose: To help others. (Common mission and vision)

  •       Well organized
  •       Pleasant atmosphere to work
  •       People smiled and were appreciative of the help to put meals together for children in the free meals program at the local public schools.
  •       Everyone spoke in a pleasing voice. Smiling and encouraging others as we placed our item in the bag and slid it to the next person.
  •       Encouraging and motivating atmosphere. While working supervisors went around and said what a good job you’re doing!
  •       360-degree experience.

 The supervisor, with a smile on her face, proudly announced at 7:10pm that our group of volunteers had assembled 645 lunch bags for the children. She was very proud of our work! She took a picture of our smiling faces.

 Helping others is a wonderful feeling and makes me smile!

Volunteer for a cause you believe in. Try it once.

Help others that are less fortunate. Challenge yourself to find something you passionately care about. What are your needs? Why?

Whatever your cause is, smile more!

If you need a speaker or virtual speaker contact Madeline at: [email protected]


The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. is available in book form, and newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook:

  “Musical Notes On Math” by Dr. Madeline Frank teaches your child fractions and decimals, the fun easy way, through the rhythm of music, Winner of the Parent To Parent Adding Wisdom Award is available in book form, newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook.:


Dr. Madeline Frank’s book “Leadership on a Shoestring Budget” is available through amazon. To order your copy as an e-book on Kindle click on the following link:


“Madeline’s Midnight Melodies- Music From around the World”. This CD complements her books with a blend of dance music, gigues, tangos, ballet and favorites including “Danny Boy”, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”, Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” and others. “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” CD is now available for purchase by downloading a song, downloading the album click below:

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Wishing you and your family a happy April from your Non-Invasive Medicine…Music Expert, Madeline

For over 30 years, Dr. Madeline Frank has helped children and adults overcome problems through Classical music. Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award-winning teacher, author, researcher, speaker, conductor, and concert artist. She has discovered a scientific link between studying a musical instrument and academic and societal success. Madeline Frank earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Her education has included scholarships at the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the University of Cincinnati and she has a violin performance diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts. (C) 2024 Madeline Frank



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