Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Book Review: Liftport, Opening Space To Everyone Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas
(Note: Thanks to the Liftport team for sending me a free copy of this book.)

Albert Einstein: "The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them."

If Space is the final frontier, then why is it so expensive? We all dream about venturing into the unknown, but at a cost of $3,000 (or more) per pound via rockets, the trip skyward seems to be more than our wallet can bear.

But what if the cost could be reduced? What if the price for sending humans, satellites and tourists into space were affordable to not just space powers, but third world countries as well? This is a problem LiftPort is trying to solve by constructing a space elevator from the oceanic floor towards the celestial heavens.

Detailing their plans via book format, the LiftPort company hopes to build the eighth wonder of the world--and perhaps open up space for everyone.

The book entitled LiftPort: Opening Space To Everyone, is a "mini explanation" of how an elevator to the stars would benefit humanity on a whole. Rated "T for technical," LiftPort goes through many of the mechanical nuts and bolts on building a space elevator. Early in the book, both problems and possibilities are highlighted in constructing this project, and their honesty as to the hurdles they have to overcome before success can be guaranteed makes creating this object more realistic.

These problems range from creating a physical substance strong enough (via carbon nanotubes) to hold its own weight towards powering the "elevators" (called lifters) in a financially sound way. Also the legal and security issues are dealt with as they discuss how they intend to receive the necessary permits to operate the space elevator as well as securing it from terrorist and international threats abroad.

As far as "opening space to everyone," LiftPort proposes by reducing the overall cost of entering space (from $3,000 per pound to around $400) it will enable corporations and smaller nations to send up astronauts or satellites without the aid of the current space powers (Russia, China, US). This will in effect produce a "global space sale" which not only attract a long list of space clients, but also potentially attract investors as well.

But this novel is not just for scientists, venture capitalists or even geeks with too much time on their hands. Mixed within the legal and science jargon are short stories which help to not only bring the space elevator to life, but also helps the reader understand (via parable form) how this could impact humanity socially, financially, culturally as well as spiritually.

After reading the book a person may have questions regarding the feasibility of this project. After all, LiftPort's technical issues have yet to be overcome, and developing material strong enough to hold up not only itself, but withstand nature and space as well will not be easy.

Although some may see this as nothing more than a "mad scientists project," they must realize that our world has often been shaped by "mad scientists." This list would include figures such as Thomas Edison, The Wright Brothers, Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford and others who were probably mocked for attempting to construct objects that would ultimately change our planet forever.

Reading this book will open up ones mind towards another possible way of entering space. Not since the days of landing on the moon has another science fiction idea become so close to becoming a scientific fact. Humanity can afford to continue to use rockets to launch people towards the stars. But LiftPort asks, "why currently send people into space if a cheaper method could be conceived?"

Personal note: I enjoyed reading this novel in my spare time and do really think constructing this object is feasible. What I enjoyed most about the book was how a space elevator could help launch other industries (i.e. space tourism, solar satellites, even Ceramics).

What I enjoyed least about the novel was towards the end it seemed as if they were trying to make the Space Elevator sort of like a "cure all" for humanities woes, which would give it the tower of Babel affect (not a good marketing move in today's world).

Although the Space Elevator may not be the only other inexpensive way to send up goods to space (as the magnetic sled may beat them out price wise) it probably would be the only way to bring down objects from space to study or repair, such as satellites, asteroids and moon rocks.

All in all I thought it was an excellent read and would recommend this book to everyone with a future mindset.

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

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~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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