Thursday, November 30, 2006

Russia Helping South Korea Gain It's Space Legs

In a sign of international cooperation, it seems as if Russia is helping the Korean democracy launch its first astronaut into space. Since South Korea lacks the technology to successfully put a man into space, they are hiring out the Russians to do it for them, all the while taking their first baby step towards the stars.

(Space Travel) Russia will sign a contract with South Korea December 7 to launch the East Asian country's first astronaut on board a Russian carrier rocket in 2008, the Federal Space Agency said Wednesday. The number of hopefuls to become South Korea's first ever astronaut has dropped from 36,000 to 30. The final candidate and one reserve will be selected soon. [...]

"The project has the South Korean president's special support, and will serve to strengthen relations between Russia and South Korea," Panarin said, adding the project was 100% financed by Seoul.

Although science fiction writers often portray space as dominated by western ideals, with South Korea's entry space may become more Asian in appearance. The Korean democracy probably does not want to get left behind as the major space powers grab their share of resources above, and probably wants to slice out a pie for themselves.

Putting their first astronaut into orbit should help fuel the space passion for that little penisula, and perhaps help ease the tension between the two Korea's (as they are virtually brothers).

Note: With both China and South Korea sending up humans in space, where is Japan in all of this?

China Prepares First Phase For Lunar Encounter

The red dragon of the east is preparing to launch Chang'e I lunar orbiter in 2007, which will study the moon's surface and help Earth's citizens understand a little more about their lunar neighbor.

(MSNBC) Among several tasks, the orbiter will provide 3D images of the moon’s surface, chart elements on the moon, measure the thickness of the lunar soil, as well as monitor the space environment between the moon and Earth. [...]

The moon orbiter is to be followed in later years by a remote-controlled lunar rover that would perform experiments and send data back to Earth. In the third phase, an automated probe will be dispatched to the Moon that carries drilling gear to dig up lunar samples for return to Earth.

Although they have not clearly specified, China is probably preparing to establish colonies on the lunar surface, in order to take advantage of the resources within the soil.

Despite have a budget that is puny compared to NASA's, China seems to be a lot more aggressive when it comes to space. What gives?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Video: LiftPort Ballon Test (Via LiftPort Energy?)

Apparently it seems that LiftPort conducted a balloon test earlier this month and one of their employee's from LiftPort Energy has posted a video of the test on YouTube (which you can view below).

There is not much information about the test, although the user who posted the video is promising a follow up (hopefully with more explanation of what is going on).

Note: Perhaps Karl might be able to shed some light on this video.

Should We Build Lunar Telescopes?

With NASA committing to return back to the moon, some scientists and engineers are considering building telescopes on the lunar surface for a clearer view of the universe.

(MSNBC) This week at a workshop entitled "Astrophysics Enabled by the Return to the Moon" at the Space Telescope Science Institute here, astrophysicists are discussing such moon plans, including the idea of setting up telescopes on the lunar surface.

"The main purpose is to really for the first time in many years have a very diverse group of astrophysicists come together and talk about whether it makes sense to do astrophysics from the moon now that we've got NASA committed to sending people there and putting up infrastructure there," said Laurie Leshin, Director of Sciences and Exploration at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

A lunar telescope would have several advantages over its Earthen brethren, mainly being able to view the cosmos without the filter of an atmosphere. Larger telescopes could also be built due the moon's gravity being one-sixth's of Earth.

Unfortunately the lack of an atmosphere can be dangerous, as virtually anything falling from space can easily destroy these telescopes without proper shielding. Dust will also be a major problem if humans are operating the telescope, although NASA (or a private space company) is probably working on resolving both of these issues.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Road Map To Mars: Buzz Aldrin To The Rescue

(Hat Tip: What on Mars?)

Proverbs 29:18a- Where there is no vision, the people perish...

The president and founder of the Mars Society, Robert Zubrin, has recently released a DVD detailing how humanity can send the first astronaut towards Mars by 2018.

Despite the plan being very ambitious, there was no detailed road map explaining the needed steps on visiting Mars, an important detail if one desires to attract investors. The plan also seemed a little "accelerated," something Brian from LiftPort made note of previously.

Although Dr. Zubrin does not provide a road map for exploring Mars, Buzz Aldrin seems to have filled in the gap. Despite presenting this blueprint last year, his approach makes more sense logically, although he does push back the Mars time frame to 2030.

(Popular Mechanics) My blueprint for manned travel to Mars, based on reusable spacecraft that continuously cycle between Earth and Mars in permanent orbits, requires much less energy over the long term. Once in place, a system of cycling spacecraft, with its dependable schedule and low sustaining cost, would open the door for routine travel to Mars and a permanent human presence on the red planet. Its long-term economic advantages make it less susceptible to cancellation by congressional or presidential whim. In effect, this system would go a long way toward politician-proofing the Mars program.

The key advantage of a permanently orbiting spacecraft, or Cycler, is that it must be accelerated only once. After its initial boost into a solar orbit swinging by both Mars and Earth, the Cycler coasts along through space on its own momentum, with only occasional nudges of thrust needed to stay on track. This dramatically reduces the total energy required for a Mars mission. Because conventional chemical rockets are so thirsty--the mass of the Apollo 11 craft that carried us to the moon was more than 90 percent fuel on takeoff--every pound saved pays a huge dividend in the form of less propellant and smaller, cheaper boosters.

What makes Buzz's plan realistic is the fact that it incorporates returning to the moon first by 2018, something humanity can easily muster within the next decade. He also promotes the idea of building factories on the lunar surface, and using the moon to help assemble the next generation of space ships, making it easier to launch towards Mars.

For those who lack the time to read all six pages of his explanation, he does provide a quick visual road map (pdf) which helps envision the whole project while putting everything in perspective.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Video: The Case For Mars

(Hat Tip: The Mars Society)

Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society has produced a DVD highlighting the case for Mars and envisions the first settlement being established by 2018 (note: is it me or is that date somehow familiar?).

You can watch the video below, although you can also check it out over on The Mars Underground web site.

Although he makes an interesting case for settlement of Mars within the next ten years, his organization does not seem to be brave enough to produce a road map highlighting the journey towards the red planet.

Many people have debated whether we should skip the Moon and heads towards Mars, or to colonize our lunar neighbor first. Although settling on Mars (within our lifetime) would be a step forward for our species, simply going without "beta testing" on the moon would be disastrous.

It would only take one serious problem on Mars to end human exploration beyond Earth's orbit, as the public would probably lose heart watching their own die on a world millions of miles away.

The Moon, however would provide a more fitting choice, as it would prepare for the eventual leap towards Mars, allowing us to colonize the planet for the long term.

India Seeking Life On Mars

India is considering launching an unmanned probe on the Martian surface to see whether or not life really does exist on the red planet.

(Mars Daily) Indian space scientists plan to send an unmanned mission to Mars by 2013 to look for evidence of life, a news report said on Sunday. The six-to-eight-month mission, likely to be launched in the next seven years, would cost three billion rupees (67 million dollars), the Hindustan Times reported.

"Mars is emerging on our horizon. The geo-stationary launch vehicle can take a payload to Mars and our Deep Space Network can track it all the way," G. Madhavan Nair, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told the newspaper.

India is already becoming very active within the space field, as they are already preparing to visit the Moon (although they only intend to do this via robots). Searching for life on Mars will probably raise India's global status as a major space player, although such a search may be futile as Martian soil is not friendly towards life.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Earth Killing Asteroids Being Tracked By China

China is using a new telescope to track down possible NEO (Near Earth Objects) that may threaten planet earth.

(Space Daily) China has built a new Schmidt telescope, the largest of its kind in China, to keep track of near-earth objects (NEO) that could threaten Planet Earth. The telescope, measuring one meter in diameter, has been tested in a branch observatory belonging to Mount Zijin Observatory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in east China's Jiangsu Province. [...]

"It is quite likely that some asteroids and comets hit the earth in the past, and it might happen again in the future," said [Yang Jiexing, a researcher with the observatory].

"We built this detector to know in advance of any approaching danger, and be able to figure out how to deal with it," he said.

Cataloging these dangerous space rocks is of great concern not only for our planet, but for any others we are fortunate enough to colonize. Although the Earth is blessed with an atmosphere hostile towards incoming objects, it may not be enough to stop planet killers, which may be as small as a half of mile wide.

Protecting Earth will become a priority, even after we begin to colonize and terraform other worlds. Earth is a unique world in our solar system, and it is good to see another space power lending her efforts in defending our fragile paradise.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Can Russia Build A Better Hubble?

Russia is eyeing first place in the "telescope space race" and plans on building a telescope that would not only rival Hubble, but surpass its American cousin completely.

(Space Daily) Russia will build a deep space exploration telescope that will outstrip the U.S.-made Hubble Space Telescope, a Russian astronomer said Tuesday. Hubble, orbited in 1990, has been the most successful and expensive project in astrophysics, costing over $6 billion.

"In cooperation with our colleagues from Germany, the United Kingdom, China and Spain, we have set ourselves the task of building the Spectrum-Ultraviolet telescope, which will surpass Hubble in some aspects," Boris Shustov, director of the Astronomy Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told a news conference.

Russia it seems is planning on adding on a "ground version" to complement the one in orbit. Combined, these telescopes would be powerful enough to "read a newspaper on the Moon" according to Shustov.

Although focused mainly on the Universe, such a telescope may prove useful on highlighting features or potential resources on asteroids and lunar bodies.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ten Reasons For Not Building A Space Elevator

Throughout our history, humanity has built technology to enable faster, cheaper or larger transportation from one point to another. Although many of these feats faced great difficulties from the drawing board to the final product, our world has been blessed by these inventors efforts decades later as the airplane, train and automobile can testify.

But before any of these inventions were fully developed, skeptics and doubters have mocked either the possibility of an invention or the need for one. Since the Space Elevator definately falls into this category, here are ten reasons why a space elevator should not be built to benefit humanity.


10) Too complex to succeed: The technology behind a space elevator has too many moving parts. It lacks the simplicity of a rocket engine.

9) It's too expensive: It would be better to spend $10 billion on developing new ways to kill each other on dozens of projects than to pool our money into this single one.

8) It's a dumb idea: The space elevator has only existed in science fiction novels. Since when has anything from a science fiction novel become reality?

7) It will take too long: If such a feat can not be built in my generation, why should the next one have the honor to benefit from it?

6) It's too hard: We should focus on solving easier topics such as ending war and global poverty.

5) It would ruin Star Trek: The writers never envisioned a space elevator in their television series. Building one would ruin the story line, enraging fans across the scifi community.

4) We need Space Powers: If too many nations have access to space, people might get the notion that we are all created equal, leading to chaos.

3) Rockets are doing a fine job: Despite 95% of their weight being fuel, rockets are doing a great job hauling up cargo and people. Who needs change?

2) Space is for the elite: Only the healthy and wealthy deserve to visit the stars. The poor and unhealthy deserve their lot on Earth.

1) The English language has too many words: We have too many "ports" on planet earth already, such as seaport, airport, carport, etc. Adding LiftPort to the dictionary would only increase the cost of dictionaries worldwide.


Note: These are the best reasons I could come up with. Does anyone else have a better excuse?

Ted Semon Interviews CEO Of Elevator 2010

Ted Semon of the Space Elevator Blog has a transcript (via email) of an interview he had with Ben Shelef, co-founder of Spaceward and CEO of Elevator 2010. Here is a snippet below:

Q. In your opinion, what was the most significant accomplishment of the 2006 Games?

The most significant accomplishment was the scale of what happened - this was the first "real", or full-form competition, and we had 12 teams arriving with real hardware, 2 from Europe, 3 from Canada, 7 from the US - we've got ourselves a Space Elevator competition now! A few more teams were registered and couldn't produce hardware in time - all in all we had 20 teams that tried. This is a good base to building the 2007 games from. Obviously this year USST was head and shoulders above everyone else, with their 2-seconds-too-slow climb, but I’m betting in 2007 we will see plenty of climbers zooming up at over 2 m/s.

You can check out the full interview over here.

Update (3/14): Corrected Ted Semon's last name.

Does NASA Need A Solar Dump Truck?

(via Space Scan)

Unable to house some materials aboard the space station due to safety concerns, NASA is considering dumping them out into space as an alternative method of disposal.

(The Sydney Morning Herald) Officials say that certain objects aboard the space station - such as a worn-out ammonia tank - cannot be carried safely back to Earth.

"We are only going to be doing it in rare cases under very strict conditions, and doing it because of the safety of the crew and the station," said Nicholas Johnson, the chief scientist for NASA's orbital debris program.

Most discarded items will burn up in the atmosphere. But until they do they pose an extra headache for NASA, already tracking 13,000 of the largest items to ensure they do not hit the space station.

While some may cry we are polluting our "spacial skies," we must remember that in space their are no solar dump trucks available to transport broken machinery, space junk, etc. from the international space station to planet earth.

NASA should probably consider creating "roaming satellite" whose job is to collect space junk and then perform a kamikaze dive towards the Earth's atmosphere as a way to resolve the space junk issue (as there are enough hazardous objects orbiting around planet earth).

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Finished Editing...

I redid the previous template, although most of it was html/java that was annoying the heck out of me (it was causing the page to load in weird locations).

Hopefully this will be a much smoother layout. Cheers!

Redoing Template....

Will be editing the current template...please excuse the mess.

Friday, November 17, 2006

NASA Ponders Sending Humans Towards Asteroids

NASA is seriously considering sending astronauts to nearby asteroids in order to increase not only our understanding of them, but rekindle public interest in space as well.

(MSNBC) "A human mission to a near-Earth asteroid would be scientifically worthwhile," said Chris McKay, deputy scientist in the Constellation science office at Johnson Space Center. "It could be part of an overall program of understanding these objects. Also, it would be useful, instrumentally, in terms of understanding the threat they pose to the Earth." [...]

"There's a lot of public resonance with this notion that NASA ought to be doing something about killer be able to send serious equipment to an asteroid," McKay observed. "The public wants us to have mastered the problem of dealing with asteroids. So being able to have astronauts go out there and sort of poke one with a stick would be scientifically valuable as well as demonstrate human capabilities."

Although we are still decades away from asteroid mining, visiting these worlds would give humanity much needed practice before heading off towards the asteroid belt.

As for the "preventing killer asteroid" dilemma often seen on Hollywood screens, most solutions (such as nuclear retaliation) would not prevent a space rock from hitting Earth, although a space tractor may be more effective.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

LiftPort Promo Video: Space Elevator Happiness?

(via Space Elevator Blog)

LiftPort has (to my knowledge) released a teaser video promoting their company on YouTube (which you can see below).

Review: To quote Ted Semon, "For some reason it makes me think of Fantasia."

One almost expects to see dancing hippos lifters gracefully crossing the earthen sky. Although not as good as the Elevator 2010 promo video, its a good start for the LiftPort team.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Magnetic Safe Havens On The Lunar Surface

Despite lacking a "global" magnetic field, the moon appears to be broadcasting magnetic currents over certain areas on the surface. This is good news for future space colonists, as that means that certain regions may be free from cosmic radiation, making habitation of the lunar body all the more likely.

( Yet amidst this hostile landscape a number of safer havens exist where the lunar surface escapes much of this sleet of radiation. One such benign feature, named Reiner Gamma [image], lies on the Moon's Earth facing side and is marked by a 37-mile-long (60 km) bright swirl and one of the strongest magnetic fields found on the lunar surface. [...]

Not only does the magnetic field preserve an unsullied lunar surface but it would partially protect any astronauts strolling beneath, "The lunar fields are strong enough to deflect solar wind ions with energies of several kilo-electron-volts," [Lon Hood of the University of Arizona] said.

Scientists also think that these fields may enable the concentration of hydrogen via solar wind and helium 3, an element that may rival OPEC on Earth below. If humanity is able to take advantage of these safe havens, we will be able to not only survive the harsh space weather (i.e. radiation) but raise children on the moon as well (since they may have more fragile bodies than adults).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Will Radiation Belts Dampen Space Elevator Hopes?

If a space elevator can be built When the first space elevator is built, humanity will be able to send up cargo at a fraction of the price compared to rockets. Unfortunately, humans may not be able to ride up the cable due to one, minor problem--radiation.

(New Scientist Space) [H]umans might not survive thanks to the whopping dose of ionising radiation they would receive travelling through the core of the Van Allen radiation belts around Earth. These are two concentric rings of charged particles trapped by Earth's magnetic fields.

"They would die on the way through the radiation belts if they were unshielded," says Anders Jorgensen, author of a new study on the subject and a technical staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, US.

Several options have been proposed to deal with this, such as moving the base station away from the equator, uploading a magnetic field and last, redesigning the lifter to incorporate shielding (which would make it five times heavier). LiftPort (a space elevator company) seems to be exploring the "heavy lifter" option.

(New Scientist Space) Finally, space elevator builders could simply increase the overall mass of the elevator "car", or lifter - which will require more energy to heave it into space. LiftPort Group, which plans to take up as many as 20 people per trip, will pursue this strategy with a 100-tonne lifter. That is significantly heavier than the 20-tonne lifter planned by Brad Edwards, who devised the current conception of a space elevator.

Making a space elevator that heavy may have dire consequences, which may limit how much cargo a lifter can carry into space (thus reducing profits and increasing costs).

Although I am not an engineer or scientist, perhaps a more novel way at approaching this problem would be simply to create a "safe room" composed of lead where passengers could sleep and interact until the radiation danger is over. It may mean that the lifter is 30 tons instead of 20, but that definitely would be better than 100 tons.

Radiation Protection From A Nano Particle

If humanity is ever going to travel to Mars and live off world, new ways for dealing with the radiation problem (which can fry your brain) have to be dealt with.

Scientists have discovered a nano particle that may help astronauts become resistant towards the side affects of radiation, a minor step enabling our species to live on other worlds.

(Space Daily) Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia say the nanoparticle, DF-1, might be part of a "new class of radioprotective agents" that help protect normal tissue from radiation damage just as well as standard drugs.

The scientists have shown DF-1 -- a soccer ball-shaped, hollow, carbon-based structure known as a fullerene -- is as good as two other antioxidant drugs and the FDA-approved drug Amifostine in offering protection from radiation.

Drugs, combined with radiation shielding may enable people to travel across the stars--as well as live on other worlds. Most planets and moons within our solar system lack a magnetic field, exposing them to solar and cosmic radiation.

Drugs like these may prove effective for not only visiting other worlds, but raising children on them as well.

Russia And China Partnering In Lunar Outreach

With the US heading to the moon alone, Russia and China are partnering together in order to increase their chances of actually visiting the lunar world.

(Moon Daily) China and Russia are discussing lunar exploration co-operation in the next three years, the deputy head of the Russian Federal Space Agency said Thursday. Russia regards China as a "partner" in space exploration, Youriy Nosenko told a press conference in Beijing, adding that the two sides have shown interest on a lunar project.

While both have independently visited the stars, neither has the budget to compete against their American friends. Perhaps joining forces is the best measure, as they are already working together in order to reach Mars.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

NASA Advances In Carbon Nanotube Production

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (located in Greenbelt, Maryland) is licensing its technique for building high quality, low cost carbon nanotubes.

( Although CNTs were discovered 15 years ago, their use has been limited due to the complex, dangerous, and expensive methods for their production.

However, Goddard researcher Dr. Jeannette Benavides developed a simpler, safer, and much less costly manufacturing process for single-walled CNTs. The key to the innovation developed by Dr. Benavides was the ability to produce bundles of CNTs without using a metal catalyst, dramatically reducing pre- and post-production costs while generating higher yields of better quality product.

Carbon nanotubes have uses beyond a space elevator, ranging from fuel cells, solar cells, video displays, not to mention medical advances as well.

Note: LiftPort's Nanotech department may want to consider purchasing a license, unless of course they already developed a similar method at their New Jersey facility.

Can Science Locate God Amongst The Heavens?

There are some scientists who believe that instead of looking for God among ancient text, that humanity might be better served by seeking him out amongst the stars.

(New Scientist Space) [S]ome physicists believe there is another way to pick up a divine message that will leave traditionalists rolling their eyes to the heavens. Forget scripture, they say, try looking out to space instead.

Impossible? Not necessarily, according to physicists Stephen Hsu and Anthony Zee. No one knows why our universe came into existence. But Hsu and Zee argue that if some superior being or beings did intentionally create it, they might have left an elaborate signature in the cosmic microwave background, the relic radiation of the big bang.

Despite the fact that God could have left a message in the heavens, doing so would seem very illogical, at least to me. After all, wouldn't it be easier for a divine being to simply enlighten men with visions of himself than wait for Earthlings to develop the technology to hear his voice?

The Lunar Dust Dilemma

Although not toxic, lunar dust can be quite annoying to human lungs, eyes and even your mechanical bots.

(MSNBC) [Apollo 17's Gene Cernan] said that "one of the most aggravating, restricting facets of lunar surface exploration is the dust and its adherence to everything no matter what kind ... and its restrictive friction-like action to everything it gets on." The astronaut added: "You have to live with it but you're continually fighting the dust problem both outside and inside the spacecraft."

Despite being uncomfortable, some scientists have come up with ways to resolve the dust problem such as melting the lunar soil so it will not irritate future colonists.

Could Riding A Space Elevator Be Dangerous?

If humanity is ever able to construct an elevator to the stars, they may have to overcome a haunting problem that will plague all those who desire to live space.

(New Scientist Space) [P]assengers could be killed by the radiation they receive on the way to the top, say Anders Jorgensen and Steven Patamia at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and Blaise Gassend of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the proposed speed of 200 kilometres per hour, passengers would spend a few days in the Van Allen radiation belts, long enough to induce severe sickness and even death.

The article (which requires subscription) proposes shifting the elevator away from the equator in order to avoid the belts of radiation. Despite being a great idea, such a move would reduce the amount of momentum needed to lift objects into space.

It would probably be wiser to simply launch vehicles until a radiation solution can be discovered as moving the base away from the equator would mean lengthening the space elevator cable.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Short Space Elevator Film

Here is a short film show casing the space elevator via YouTube.

Unlike many films online this video highlights the friction between the tether and the lifter as it climbs its way towards the stars. I wonder if a climber speeding that fast (and causing that much friction) would wear out the tether in a year or two?

One interesting aspect of this short film was the asteroid as a counter weight. Although held up to some as a good idea, no earthly government would be comfortable with a rock that large near earth. Such an idea by itself would be enough to kill off the space elevator idea.

A New Currency For The Space Elevator?

(Hat Tip: LiftPort, and the Space Elevator Reference)

Mondolithic is auctioning off a silver Space Elevator coin over on Ebay.

The bid starts at $75 (plus shipping and handling) and so far no one has made any offers. By itself the coin does not look very interesting, although if several (perhaps ten or twenty different ones) were created, it would make the offering a little bit more attractive.