Monday, December 24, 2007

Video: Merry Christmas (Plus Carnival Of Space)

The 34th Carnival of the Space Geeks is up over at Rainer Gerhards Spaceflight blog, with a host of interesting articles ranging from Scramjets alternatives to free books about Mars.

There are also some spectacular astronomy images over at Bad Astronomy.

For those of you enjoying your holiday break, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, or Solemn Festivus, which ever you prefer.

I would also like to thank the many readers who spend time reading this little web journal of mine, as well as to the host of others out there who still believe that there is more to space than watching Star Trek, and are willing to share ideas to make this happen.

For your enjoyment, here is a video from the show Firefly, which for those of you who are not Browncoats can enjoy over at for free. Enjoy!

Update: Video size adjusted to fit within post.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gravity Suits For Off World Children

When one gazes upon the heavens that surround our fragile globe, one can not help but wonder what human civilization will look like as future generations dance upon foreign worlds.

With the final frontier ahead of us, our crowded world loses its Earthly appeal and seems to only regain it when viewed from the surface of its little sister Luna.

Unfortunately for our species, our bodies were simply not designed for living abroad, as the sub-Earth gravity has a way at reducing our hearts, bones and muscles into "malleable clay."

Not even our own immune system is not safe from the ravages of micro gravity.

To counter this, some have proposed constructing orbital space stations, while others may be looking at medical science to cure their gravitational woes.

While either of these paths would enable us to dwell among the heavens in some form or fashion, one may be too expensive to replicate across our star system while the other may be riddled with side affects.

Neither of these would allow us to thickly populate our solar system in an efficient manner, forcing our young race to remain near our birth planet.

In order for our species to live, breed and raise children off world, we are going to have to figure out an inexpensive and healthy way to raise our future young on other terrestrial bodies.

So instead of trying to alter our environment (or worse, our bodies) for "Earth norm" gravity, why not simply require future children to wear gravity suits?

Placing weights on the human body is not a new technique, as people have used weights to strengthen their legs as well as for their bodies.

A gravity suit would simply be a weighted suit that would simulate Earthen gravity by having the appropriate kilograms (or pounds) placed within the suit. These weighted suits would strengthen a person's muscles and bones, which would help fight against them suffering atrophy (for adults) and help kids muscles develop normally.

Gravity suits would also present kids born off world with the opportunity to visit Earth without worrying if their bodies could handle the pull from the home worlds gravity.

While other scientific and medical instruments could be added to the suit (for whatever practical reasons), simple weights could enable our species to not only explore other worlds, but live upon them as well.

Toshiba: A Micro Nuclear Reactor?

(Hat Tip: Mars Rover Blog)

With energy becoming the "word of the day" (at least among politicians) many people are taking a fresh look at nuclear power.

Apparently it seems as if one company has found a way to shrink today's nuclear reactors into a more portable size--twenty by six feet to be exact.

(Next Energy News) The 200 kilowatt Toshiba designed reactor is engineered to be fail-safe and totally automatic and will not overheat. Unlike traditional nuclear reactors the new micro reactor uses no control rods to initiate the reaction. The new revolutionary technology uses reservoirs of liquid lithium-6, an isotope that is effective at absorbing neutrons. The Lithium-6 reservoirs are connected to a vertical tube that fits into the reactor core. The whole whole process is self sustaining and can last for up to 40 years, producing electricity for only 5 cents per kilowatt hour, about half the cost of grid energy.

While citizens on Earth may be nervous about having a nuclear reactor near them (despite the fact they are much safer than the non-green alternatives), this could benefit future colonies on both the Moon and Mars.

If NASA were able to transport such a dozen of these to the lunar surface, NASA could find a way to power their bases during the frigid lunar nights, instead of having to rely upon various solar alternatives.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Construction Company Helps NASA With Lunar Lifting

(Image Credit: Universe Today)

As we gaze towards the heavens, and wonder about the future, one often overlooked aspect of space colonization is construction.

Whether we like it or not, we may have to actually build houses on the Moon, as not every lunar colony may be able to inflate its way towards habitation.

One company, called Caterpillar, is seeking to create a remote controlled construction machines to help NASA build bases on lunar soil.

(Universe Today) Caterpillar has proposed a multi-terrain loader for lunar surface development. Currently, they are working with NASA to develop the technology to augment existing earth moving equipment with sensors and on-board processors to provide time-delayed tele-operational control.

The loader would be able to undertake regolith moving such as grading, leveling, trenching, strip-mining, excavating and habitat covering. It also could be used for construction of lunar bases, the deployment or relocation of surface assets, as well as for mobility on the moon.

Caterpillar is working on not only remote operated machines, but also machines able to run independently of their human masters, similar to how the Martian rovers function.

While it is always preferable to have humans in the drivers seat, having our robotic friends prepare the way ahead of us may help to drop the cost of inhabiting Earth's nearest neighbor.

Spacesuits Of The Future...For Today?

(Image Credit: Orbital Outfitters via The Future of Things)

While space suits have to be safe, who says that they have to be boring?

While many companies are in the process of developing unique "solar wear" for future astronauts, it looks as if Orbital Outfitters is concentrating on creating fashionable spacesuits for the emerging space industry.

(The Future of Things) Jeff Feige, CEO of Orbital Outfitters, said his company will soon reveal a model of a passenger spacesuit as well, adding that space travel reservations are quickly piling up. "Our mission is to provide low-cost, industrial quality spacesuits and related services to companies providing commercial and government space travel" – he said. [...]

The spacesuit's inner layer is made from breathable materials, such as polyurethane, which is capable of preserving the atmospheric pressure level and of extracting sweat from the material underneath it. Details in regards to other fabrics that comprise the IS3C have yet to be disclosed. The most important aspects on which the company's engineers focused were safety and mobility. Feige said they have succeeded in developing a relatively light suit with lower production costs than any NASA spacesuit. He added that the spacesuit has been tested and performed well under higher pressures than those used in NASA's suit tests.

The suit also looks spectacular, although if Orbital Outfitters plans on releasing a similar version to space tourists, they may want to consider creating suits in various colors (to help space tourism companies differentiate from each other).

While this suit is probably not designed to handle the roughness of space itself, its success will help fuel the next generation of spacesuits worn by future colonists.

Update: Added image credits.

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (33 Rotations)

Last weeks Carnival of Space was hosted by Fraser of Universe Today.

A few (of the many) articles that stood out included:

Those wishing to join the fun can submit articles for Thursdays round (of the Carnival of Space) to Fraser over at info [at] universetoday [dot] com or CarnivalOfSpace [at] Gmail [dot] com.

Details about what all the fun is all about can be discovered over here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lagrange Way Stations: The Key Towards Interplanetary Trade?

(Image: Deep Space 9, Credit: Star Trek)

Several thousand years ago, an empire called Rome used its extensive road system to keep communication and trade flowing throughout its empire.

Today, like Rome, the nations on Earth depend upon sea routes, railways and airplanes to safely transport goods and people across our planet.

But unlike the fixed destination points that span our busy world, space will pose a unique problem for future colonies. Since each planet orbits our Sol star at different speeds, sending frequent goods towards outposts off world may prove to be a bit of a challenge, especially if one factors in space pirates.

Whether composed of enormous orbital space stations or a fleet of armed star ships, future solar governments may want to construct way stations at various Lagrange points to ensure that they arrive at their destinations intact.

Sometimes referred to by scientists as the "three body problem," would provide stable orbits for whatever star ship was able fly within its space (at least L4 and L5).

Positioned at an equal distance from both the home world/moon as well as the Sun, a Lagrange way station would easily remain in a fixed orbital position giving more opportunity for travelers and cargo ships to transport people and goods across the vacuum of space.

Instead of having to wait every few years for the planets "to align," (like with Earth and Mars), star ships could simply head towards a safe way station located in a Lagrange point.

While creating Lagrange way stations may be a challenge for future colonies within the inner solar system, establishing them among the gas giants orbits will probably be "much easier" thanks in part to various asteroids.

Jovian worlds such as Jupiter and Neptune already have numerous space rocks orbiting, respectively, orbiting within these Lagrange points. Colonists could easily use these asteroids as way stations, especially if some of these frozen rocks are discovered to harbor water ice.

Despite the fact that humanity will continue to depend upon worlds (such as Callisto) to help to economically bridge the gap, way stations strategically positioned around Lagrange points could help jump start interplanetary trade, if not accelerate it throughout our vast star system.

Regenerative Fuel Cells: Power For Lunar Nights?

(Image: Regenerative fuel cell, Credit: NASA)

One of the biggest "show stoppers" against humanity colonizing the Moon is energy. While solar power can easily collect energy from the sun during a "lunar day," its the nights that might quite literally leave us in the dark.

While Germany has developed a unique way to power future off world outposts, it looks as if another scientist may have found a longer lasting method for keeping the lunar lights on.

(Moon Today) A typical hydrogen fuel cell combines hydrogen from a tank and oxygen from the air to produce electricity, leaving water and heat as its only byproducts. A regenerative fuel cell also works in reverse, using electricity to divide the water into hydrogen and oxygen, which are fed back into the fuel cell to produce more electricity.

"What makes our regenerative fuel cell unique is that it's closed loop and completely sealed," Bents said. "Nothing goes in and nothing comes out, other than electrical power and waste heat. The hydrogen, oxygen and product water inside are simply recycled over and over again." [...]

"On the moon, you would start with a tank of water. You'd use the solar arrays to make hydrogen and oxygen during the day, then use the hydrogen and oxygen to make electricity during the night when there's no sun," said Bents. "Ideally, if nothing broke and nothing wore out, it could run forever without being refueled."

According to the article, not only would these fuel cells last much longer than the standard batter, but they could provide four to six times more energy pound for pound.

Coupled with standard solar panels, humanity may not only have enough power to stay warm on that frigid moon, but also be able to develop artificial magnetic fields to protect their homes from the wrath of the sun.

Algeria And Ukraine Teaming Up For Space?

It looks as if another space alliance has formed recently between two aspiring space powers. Ukraine and Algeria have signed an agreement to help promote each others civilian space programs in an already competitive field.

(Space Fellowship) On the 5th of December, 2007 during the official visit of NSAU delegation to Algeria, there was signed a Framework Agreement on cooperation in exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes between the Government of Ukraine and the Government of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria. The Framework agreement was signed on behalf of the NSAU by Director General Yuriy Alekseyev and on behalf of the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) by Director General Azedin Oussedik.

While this agreement is great for both nations, they should probably attempt to expand it to their neighbors (if they are friendly that is) as launching a rocket towards the heavens is not exactly cheap.

As more and more nations head into space, it will be interesting to see whether these treaties will translate into peaceful cooperation on the Moon, Mars, etc., and not just endure on Earth.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

NASA Plans On Kidnapping Martian Soil

Even though NASA has already sent robots to see if Martian soil is fertile, the space agency still desires to study the red dirt under terrestrial eyes.

(Mars Today) NASA and an international team are developing plans and seeking recommendations to launch the first Mars mission to bring soil samples back to Earth. The ability to study soil from Mars here on Earth will contribute significantly to answering questions about the possibility of life on the Red Planet. Returned samples also will increase understanding of the useful or harmful properties of Martian soil, which will support planning for the eventual human exploration of Mars.

A task force named the International Mars Architecture for Return of Samples, or IMARS, recently met in Washington to lay the foundation for an international collaboration to return samples from Mars. NASA hosted the meeting. IMARS meeting participants included representatives from more than half a dozen countries and NASA, the European Space Agency, or ESA, the Canadian Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Retrieving soil from the red planet could help humanity finally determine whether or not Martian soil is toxic or fertile towards Earthen life.

While Mars has yet to prove itself to be worthwhile financially, future samples would at least help remove the "danger excuse" from colonizing the planet, something the Mars Society would definitely enjoy.

Earth's Magnetic Field: A Shield For Lunar Astronauts?

(Image Credit: NASA)

After a "brief" delay, humanity will once again send a few brave souls to visit the lunar world that orbits our home planet. However if we are going to live upon that barren world, humanity will have to find a way to deal with the cosmic radiation that can bombard the lunar surface.

While scientists have yet to create a portable magnetic field to shield future explorers, they are looking at the possibility of "borrowing Earth's" to protect lunar astronauts.

( Earth is largely protected by its magnetic field, or magnetosphere, but new University of Washington research shows that some parts of the moon also are protected by the magnetosphere for seven days during the 28-day orbit around Earth.

"We found that there were areas of the moon that would be completely protected by the magnetosphere and other areas that are not protected at all," said Erika Harnett, a UW assistant research professor of Earth and space sciences.

While a week of protection is better than nothing, scientists may want to consider landing in and establishing bases within magnetic safe havens on the lunar surface.

Astronauts could then use the "week of protection" to conduct scientific experiments or (even better) explore for potential resources on the moon (such as helium-3).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (32nd Edition)

Last week's Carnival of Space was hosted by Ed Minchau over on Robot Guy.

Posts ranged from raging volcano's on Io to visiting Mars but "never touching it," to even a brief history regarding the fall and (hopeful) rise of the solar sail.

Brian Wang (who recently became a father--congrats!!!) has an interesting roundup of his favorite launch systems, one which may be cheaper than a space elevator.

The next Carnival of Space is coming up in a few days, and if anyone is interested in submitting articles to the next round can visit Universe Today for the details.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Making Space Relevant: It's The Energy Stupid!

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? ~Amos 3:3

During this holiday season, one may find it quite easy to strike up conversations with strangers regarding snow, caroling and which toys to buy for their kids (make sure that they are safe).

One could easily discuss the current war in Iraq, or even politics with their neighbor, as they (like Santa) are stuck on everyone's mind.

But when it comes to talking about the final frontier, you may find people's eyes either glaze over in confusion, or scoff at the idea of wasting billions more in sending people to the moon.

So how do you, the average space enthusiast, engage an audience more interested in Nintendo Wii's than exploring the cosmos?

Answer: You avoid all the excuses to justify human space exploration, and instead convert its reason for existence into "common cents."

If someone were to ask you why humanity should spend a $100 billion to put yet more men on the Moon, you should quickly reply "because its the energy stupid!" (note: you might want to tone this down, but you should get the point).

Instead of explaining the benefits of becoming a space faring species, instead enlighten individuals about the potential energy that lies beyond our atmosphere. One example that could be used is helium-3.

While the vast majority of the public may have never heard of helium-3 (or its potential for energy), many people are very familiar with the word oil, due in part to the rising gas prices.

By simply explaining that one tone of helium-3 is potentially worth 20 million tons of oil, you will not only perk people's interest in space, but you also justify the government spending money for exploring the Moon.

After all, if we do not harvest the Moon for ourselves, we may end up literally paying for it later from Russian hands.

While other examples such as solar power satellites could be cited, by making space relevant energy wise, you may end up converting a "few souls" towards your solar cause.

Note: Due to lack of time images will be inserted later.

Update: Images inserted!

Would You Want To Own (Future) SpaceX Stock?

Elon Musk, founder of Space Exploration Technologies (or SpaceX for short) has indicated that his company may consider going public in two years.

Despite being privately funded by the self made billionaire, SpaceX may acquire some serious cash in the future as Elon seeks to play off his company against rivals--both foreign and domestic.

(Reuters) Musk said he aims to put payloads into space for one-quarter to one-third of what his domestic competitors charge. He said he could beat by one-half the cost of international competitors including China, which he called the biggest potential competitor.

A spokeswoman for the rocket joint venture between Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance, did not return a request for comment.

"I think going public might be some time in late 2009 ... something on that order," he said in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Reducing the cost of travel will not only guarantee the profitability of the company (not to mention any future stock), but also help set a precedent throughout the industry.

If SpaceX is able to reduce the cost of "rocket-fare," then humanities chances of leaving the globe en mass will increase slightly, which will hopefully encourage other entrants to do the same.

NASA Rediscovers Cyberspace, Gets A New Look

The boys and girls at NASA have (finally) redesigned their website, giving the agency a flashier presence in the digital world.

( "We're very excited to roll this new version of out for the public," said Brian Dunbar, NASA's internet services manager at Headquarters, Washington. "We've been able to add new functionality to the site, broaden and simplify the navigation to NASA's wide range of content and still keep the features that users liked best about the old design. All together, the new design will make it much easier for users to complete their top tasks." [...]

"This new approach to the NASA home page arose from ongoing feedback from the site's users, which we get continuously through e-mails, customer-satisfaction surveys and traffic statistics," Dunbar added. "The initial concepts and subsequent iterations have been put through three rounds of user testing with external audiences. We're proud of the initial reaction to the new design and the entire NASA Web team looks forward to adding new features and listening closely to user feedback."

NASA's redesign of their site could not have come at a better time, as politicians are already debating whether humans have a role to play among the celestial heavens.

Hopefully NASA will consider adding additional features in the future (such as allowing users to download video's, or embed them on their own sites) although for now NASA officially has the coolest governmental space page online.

Humorous Note: NASA's Brian Dunbar is different from LiftPort's Brian Dunbar.

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (Round 31)

Last week Ken of Out of the Cradle hosted the Carnival of Space.

Unfortunately I was unable to submit a post for that round ('tis the season) although I should have a post by the end of today for the upcoming Carnival.

Nonetheless there were a few interesting posts, including one from Clark of Space Transport News in which he highlighted NASA moving up their COTS Phase 2 contract to next year, which may give SpaceX an unfair advantage over the competition.

Also, Brian Wang of Advanced Nanotechnology has an interesting post on how a Vasimr engines plus nuclear "batteries" could shorten a trip to Mars in under 40 days.

Submissions for the next Carnival of Space are due today, and willing participants can email Fraser at info [at] universetoday [dot] com or CarnivalOfSpace [at] Gmail [dot] com to be included into the next round.

More info regarding the Carnival of Space can be found over here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Solar Energy Plus Heat Accumulator Equals 24 Hr Green Power?

(Image: Heat Accumulator, Credit: DLR/Markus Steur)

It looks as if the German Aerospace Center has made a breakthrough that may give solar energy an edge over its greener rivals.

(German Aerospace Center) So-called heat accumulators are needed so that power generation can be extended to the night hours or times when there is heavy cloud cover. Thanks to scientists at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), it has now been possible for the first time for just such an accumulator to go into operation successfully. [...]

The steam accumulator is the result of the EU DISTOR (Energy Storage for Direct Steam) project started in February 2004. Solar Power Stations under the overall control of the DLR Institute for Technical Thermodynamics, a total of 13 partners from industry and research from five countries are working on the development of innovative storage systems for solar-powered steam generators. These storage systems will be designed to take the 200-300 degree Celsius steam generated by solar power, store it and release it again as required with a minimum of loss. So-called latent storage materials are used for this application. They are characterised by the fact that energy can be transported at an almost constant temperature from a solid to a liquid state and vice versa - a principle that has long been used in the low-temperature area with pocket hand-warmers, for example.

While the benefits of this device are fairly obvious on Earth, heat accumulators could enable future lunar colonists to settle anywhere on the Moon without limiting themselves to craters basking in eternal sunlight.

It would also help future Martian settlements maintain power within their colony outposts, which may reduce the need of humans relying upon a mini nuclear reactor in order to survive the frigid Martian nights.

If Germany is able to perfect this technology, they may end up securing their place among the heavens by allowing colonists to live off world--at least within the inner solar system.

Blue Mars: Coming To A Video Game Near You?

(Image Credit: Avatar Reality, Hat Tip: Mars News)

While NASA and the private space industry struggle to make the final frontier more relevant to the masses, it looks as if a video game by Avatar Reality may help stimulate the population by providing a "Second Life-like" environment.

(Star Bulletin) Make the planet Mars, populate it with ultra-modern cities, flying cars and millions of gamers, and that's what they call a whole lot of fun. [...]

Blue Mars is set 170 years in the future, when advancements in technology have allowed humans to terraform Mars into a habitable planet. The world is the creation of former Square developer Henk Rogers , who founded Avatar Reality Inc. in mid-2006. Rogers is also the chairman of another Honolulu company, Blue Planet Software Inc., which licenses the Tetris computer game.

While video games may seem silly to some people, ideas like these may help encourage the upcoming generation about the importance of Mars without boring them to death with a list of reasons why humanity should settle the planet.

Video games are becoming more and more popular with people of all ages (including Grandparents), and what better way to reach out to those who will (hopefully) inherit the red planet by presenting it in a format that they will enjoy?

Will The Next US President Be Pro Space?

(Image Credit: New Hampshire Primary)

With Senator Obama recently announcing a plan to delay the Constellation program by five years, many space enthusiasts have been wondering whether or not the Vision for Space Exploration will survive beyond President Bush.

While Obama has opted to slash NASA's budget to help fund the education bureaucracy, Senator Hillary Clinton, former Governor Mitt Romney and former Senator John Edwards are all promising to help maintain America's edge in the global space race.

(Washington Post) Asked for a response, Clinton spokesman Isaac Baker said, "Senator Clinton does not support delaying the Constellation program and intends to maintain American leadership in space exploration." [...]

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's campaign responded by providing an article from the Florida Today newspaper that said: "During the first campaign visit to the Space Coast by a 2008 presidential candidate, Republican Mitt Romney said he supports Bush's vision for space exploration and has no reason yet to propose a new direction." [...]

Former senator John Edwards (N.C.), who is vying with Clinton and Obama for the Democratic nomination, said in a statement: "We need a balanced space and aeronautics program. We need to support solar system exploration as an important goal for our human and robotic programs, but only as one goal among several."

While space enthusiasts probably have little influence compared to Christians, gun rights advocates and environmentalists, they can help influence the election by encouraging their friends to support pro-space candidates.

If America is to actually lead the world in pioneering the final frontier, then it will definitely require a partnership between NASA and NewSpace (aka the private space industry). Regardless of who gets in office, the next decade could easily determine which nation impacts our star system for the next millennium.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Carnival Of The Space Geeks(29 And 30)

(Image Credit: JAXA)

(Note: Since I forgot to mention the Carnival of Space last week, I'll mention it here, along with last weeks roundup).

Two weeks ago, Riding with Robots hosted the Carnival of Space, some of which helped bring back "the awe" of why living off world may be less boring than previously thought.

Louise of A Babe in the Universe highlights the not-so-recent lunar Earth Rise, with Phil at Bad Astronomy highlights why some of those craters pictured may be prime spots for future colonies (note: think energy).

Meanwhile Ed over at Robot Guy posts a video of Burt Rutan ripping into NASA (note: where's the love?).

Dave of Tales of the Heliosphere has an interesting take about the lunar real estate scam going on in Arkansas, while Paul of Centauri Dreams talks about finding similar solar systems throughout our (currently) quiet galaxy.


That was the previous Carnival of Space two weeks ago, and here are some interesting articles that stood out from last weeks Carnival of Space, hosted by Phil of Bad Astronomy.

Brian Wang of Advanced NanoTechnology discusses how a new type of nuclear fusion rockets could make space a 100 times cheaper than the best chemical rockets while Stuart of The Verse has an interesting space poem simply entitled "Fly Past."

Pamela of Star Stryder highlights a planet orbiting a star that may be dangerously close to its binary soul mate while NASA has an awesome astronomy picture of the day.

The most interesting post out of both Carnivals came from Clark of HobbySpace who has some thoughts regarding Obama's decision to financially gut NASA in order to fund our education system.


Thanks for reading, and if anyone is interested in joining the growing band of space bloggers (with dreams of tasting the final frontier), then they can visit Universe Today for more details.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Should Solar Powered Satellites Be Built Over Land Or Over Water?

When one looks at the heavens above us, at its utter vastness, you can not help but be humbled by its glorious potential. Whether its exploiting asteroids or water ice, one can only imagine the untapped resources just waiting at humanities finger tips.

One resource that seems to be on every ones mind is energy. With the cost of fuel accelerating faster than the rate of inflation, individuals, companies and governments are turning to fresh alternatives to power our rowdy planet.

Recently the US government has taken a fresh look at the possibility of constructing solar powered satellites (or SPS), which would be able to collect energy from the sun and beam it down back to Earth. If doable, these power stations would be able to deliver unlimited energy in a clean, efficient manner (provided the sun does not explode of course).

While launching and building one of these satellites in space may have its own engineering and problems above, constructing the receiving rectenna on land may provide even more nightmares below. In order to avoid these concerns, scientists may want to consider building a solar satellite rectenna over the ocean instead of on top of land.

In order to receive energy from our celestial star, solar powered satellites have to be able to safely convert the energy they collect from the sun and transmit it into microwave radiation. But in order for the entire system to be profitable, the rectennas have to be huge, (about 14 kilometers) in order to be competitive against the fossil fuels that we heavily depend upon.

In order to avoid ugly fights over property rights, some have suggested that these rectennas be built over remote farmlands, with the intention of avoiding major population centers. While this idea may sound wise, farmers will probably not be thrilled with some government object hindering their view of the sky, and express their disappointment by filling the bottom of the structure with holes.

By constructing it over the ocean scientists would be able to avoid worrying about their pet project being attacked by rural neighbors, terrorists or kids pulling a cool Halloween prank. A remote location on the sea would make it harder for outsiders to tamper with the rectenna, which would lower the cost of insurance for the SPS.

Another reason why choosing water over dirt may be more logical can be summed up in one word--lawyers. In order for the government to actually build a rectenna over sovereign soil, they are going to need an army of lawyers, backed up by a literal army enforcing the law.

Despite the fact that the American government (like all governments) has the right to take away property from their own citizens, it does not mean that separating these citizens from their lands will be easy.

In order to avoid everlasting lawsuits, as well as rioting citizens, the government may want to choose building a rectenna on top of the ocean, as constructing in international waters may be easier than on national soil.

Last but not least, if the government (or any company with their blessing) is able to avoid the two former pitfalls, then they may find themselves suffering from the wrath of nature itself. Hail, tornado's and violent thunder storms can easily damage an enormous rectenna at "the best" and partially reduce it into expensive rubble at the worst.

By comparison constructing a rectenna over a calm ocean (i.e. the Pacific) may avoid most of the weather fallout that asualts us land dwellers.

Even though solar powered satellites may be unable to satisfy the growing hunger of developed nations, they may be able to inspire our world population to go solar themselves. Combined with our friends in space, SPS's and quality solar power on Earth could enable our species to live on this planet independent of the black gold that plagues our "tiny" world.

Note: Due to lack of time, images will be added later.

Update: Images (with credit) added to the post.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Russia Partners With India For Lunar Research

It looks as if the worlds first space power has decided to team up with India in order to jointly research Earth's nearest neighbor.

(Earth Times) Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) and India's Department of Space have signed a joint lunar research and exploration agreement, the Russian agency said Monday. [...]

Georgy Polishchuk, general director of Russia's Lavochkin Design Bureau, said Russia would launch an unmanned mission to the Moon, Luna-Glob, in 2010. The second mission, which will include putting a new-generation 400-kg Lunokhod unmanned rover on the Moon, will start in 2011.

'The first mission will be solely Russian, but the second will be carried out in conjunction with India,' Polishchuk said.

While the partnership between the two may look odd to some, a partnership between the two powers would greatly benefit both nations.

Russia has the experience and passion for the moon, but may be lacking cash to actually get there. India has the passion and money to orbit lunar side, but may prefer receiving some "loose mentorship" before heading off on their own.

Russia has already initiated partnerships with Europe, as well as China in its quest to regain its former glory as a space power.

Note: Isn't it ironic how Russia is spurring international space cooperation while NASA is fostering a "go it alone" approach?

Carnival Of The Space Geeks! (28th Edition)

It's that time again! The 28th Carnival of Space was hosted by Emily over at the Planetary Weblog with posts ranging from Japan's view of the moon in high definition to an exo-planet that may have habitable moons.

The most interesting post was by Paul of Centauri Dreams with some interesting info on how Jupiter could help us exit our solar system.

The Carnival of Space is held weekly, and if anyone is interested in submitting posts they can contact Fraiser at info at universetoday dot com for more information.

Is Florida Corning The American Space Market?

(Image: Ground breaking ceremonies for SpaceX's new Falcon 9 rocket launch facilities at Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: SpaceX)

Ironically while the space tourism industry seems to be centered around the upcoming green spaceport in New Mexico, Florida is aligning itself with the major movers and shakers in the space industry.

After previously forming a partnership with Bigelow Aerospace, Florida has secured a future relationship with SpaceX (aka Space Exploration Technologies).

(Space Fellowship) Cape Canaveral FL – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) held official ground breaking ceremonies today at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, opening a new era in commercial space operations. SLC-40 will be the primary launch site for SpaceX's new Falcon 9 launch vehicle, with operations beginning in late 2008. [...]

"Initiating activities at the Cape in Florida is a major milestone in our mission to decrease the cost of reliable access to space," said Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, at the ceremony.

"This is truly the beginning of a new era in commercial space in Florida and we are thrilled to help bring SpaceX to Florida" commented Space Florida CEO Steve Kohler, who also participated in the ceremony.

Florida is already home to the Kennedy Space Center, which has been responsible for most (if not all) of America's human space launches (at least in the public sector).

With SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace looking towards the sun shine state as a launching pad, Florida may gain a strategic advantage (long term wise) over its other 49 brethren.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ice Miners: The Most Profitable Job In The Solar System?

If you could travel to the future and live during the interplanetary space age, what occupation would you choose? Would you risk your life in asteroid mining, or would you consider making your fortune selling pigs?

Could you imagine yourself designing rockets, or would being a space pirate suit your fancy?

While choosing prestigious job may be more fulfilling, if you wanted to make "your zillions," you may want to place your investments (and skills) towards mining space water.

Our solar system is fortunate enough to be blessed by this precious liquid throughout its "borders." Water, in the form of ice, can be found from the polar ice caps of Mars to unvisited surface of Pluto's moon, Charon.

Having water available in virtually every planetary (and dwarf planetary) system (Mercury and Venus excluded) means that humanity will have a much easier time settling the solar system without the need of hauling millions of tons of water with them.

Yet despite the fact that water is abundant throughout our star system, most of this water would probably not be too healthy in a glass, at least for most animals, plants and humans.

Unlike most of the fresh streams that inhabit our globe, space water is often contaminated either by minerals, rocks or even salt. Simply melting these dirty ice cubes down will not guarantee that this water would be safe to drink, at least for complex organisms.

In order to make this water useful for future life, humanity will have to figure out an inexpensive way to filter out the contaminants. Any company (or person) who could find a way to meet this need would probably end up making a fortune selling this to the masses.

Another use of solar water would be that of fuel. Even though it is evident that this vital molecule is composed of two Hydrogen molecules and one Oxygen, it may not be very evident to the general population that hydrogen and oxygen are the basic components for rocket fuel.

While using chemical rockets may not be as appealing towards those living upon deep gravity wells (such as Earth, Mercury and Mars), other colonists living upon the Moon, Ganymede or Callisto may find them to be a cheaper alternative as compared to nuclear rockets.

As humanity begins to expand throughout our solar system, one will probably begin to see off world space hotels begin to take off. While the first hotels on the Moon (and in orbit) may be small and cramped, future hotels on worlds like Mars, Ceres, etc. will probably be wise to imitate Earth's native climate.

This will ultimately include having not only drinkable water in abundance, but also pools, hot showers and (if they are large enough) mini sized lakes for people to row across. Until terraforming is perfected, such attractions at hotels will potentially draw large groups, who will (ironically) probably be able to afford a trip back to the home planet.

Any ice miner (or company) able to meet the growing demand of water for this industry will probably find themselves with little financial worries in life.

While investing in computer software or asteroid mining industries could also help a future colonists achieve financial success, placing ones money within an ice miner (or ice mining corporation) could enable a fortunate individual to retire young and perhaps invest their money into moving humanity towards conquering the next star system.

Note: Due to lack of time, images will be inserted later on.

Update: Images added.

China No Longer Interested In Building Space Stations?

Previously China announced their intentions to start building a space station in 2008.

Now it seems as if the Asian space power is not only backing away from the idea, but dropping it altogether.

(USA Today) "According to China's mid- and long-term guidelines for science and technology and space industry development, we are going to continue the exploration of the moon, as well as a man-space flight in the future," Li Guoping, spokesman of the China National Space Administration, said at a news conference.

"So far, according to the plans already published, there are no plans for a space station," he said.

China probably backed down from the idea, realizing that the price tag of constructing these orbital homes would be in the billions (dollar wise).

According to the article, China instead is pursuing the opportunity of joining the International Space Station, although they are getting stiff resistance from the US.

While joining the International Space Station (or ISS) may be more prestigeous than creating one's own, the ISS may become extinct in the future if Bigelow is able to launch its first human habitable space station.

Germany Wants A Piece Of The Moon

Despite its late cosmic entry, Germany is planning on launching an unmanned probe towards the Moon in order to help humanity gain more understanding about Earth's nearest neighbor.

(Reuters) Germany hopes to put an unmanned space craft into the moon's orbit in the early part of the next decade, a senior German official said on Wednesday.

The lunar orbit mission will be useful for scientific research, Deputy Economy Minister Peter Hintze, the government's aerospace coordinator, told reporters. "It is also a chance for Germany to prove its competence in this area."

Germany previously mentioned that they intended upon using the probe to provide a detailed map of the Moon's surface.

Hopefully Germany has plans on launching more than probes as the "Moon map market" is becoming increasingly crowded thanks to Japan and China.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Space Angels To Invest In Our Solar Future

(Image Credit: Toon Tracker, via Reason Magazine)

In an era where the only way for a space firm to make a small fortune, is to start out with a large one, many companies have struggled to take their ideas beyond the power point presentations and into the "metal shop."

Now it appears as if some angel investors have formed the Space Angels Network in order financially seed promising space companies, enabling them see if any of their ideas will blossom.

(Hobby Space) Space Angels Network, LLC, ( a virtual network of angel investors focused on seed- and early-stage investments for space-related ventures, announced today the launch of its operations in the U.S. and Canada. The company's online platform and strategic relationships with venture finance and technology innovation organizations allow individual accredited investors to connect with space entrepreneurs for financing their innovative ventures.

"There is no question that a gap currently exists in the financing spectrum available to seed- and early-stage space-related ventures, and there are many angel investors around the U.S. and Canada eager to help fill that gap," stated Burton Lee, CEO of Space Angels Investments, which operates Space Angels Network. "We aim to provide that platform-along with exceptional service, value, and key strategic relationships-to our members."

While the group is probably geared towards the aerospace industry in general, hopefully they will consider more long range plans such as mining helium-3 on the Moon, harvesting metallic asteroids and even reducing the cost of transport (via Maglifts or Space Elevators).

Hopefully more groups like these will spring up, as investing in our solar future has the potential to helpfully impact our species for the next thousand years.

Should We Grow Lichen On Mars?

(Image Credit: L. Sancho, via New Scientist Space)

Lichen, known for growing upon rocks, trees and run down buildings seems to be able to thrive in an hostile environment that would kill most (if not all) complex life forms.

(New Scientist Space) Once in Earth orbit, the lid of the container opened and the samples were exposed to the space environment for nearly 15 days before the lid resealed and the capsule returned to Earth.

The lichens were subjected to the vacuum of space and to temperatures ranging from -20°C on the night side of the Earth, to 20°C on the sunlit side. They were also exposed to glaring ultraviolet radiation of the Sun.

"To our big surprise, everything went fine after the flight," says Rene Demets, ESA's project scientist for the Foton project. "The lichens were in exactly the same shape as before flight."

In order to survive the hostilities of space, the lichens reverted to a dormant state until they were able to encounter more favorable conditions again. Ironically (according to the article), if it were not for the low levels of oxygen on Mars, lichen would probably be able to thrive on the red planet.

Although often referred to as a single creature, lichen is in reality two separate organisms (algae and fungi) that help each other survive in what many would consider to be hostile, bitter environments.

If scientists can figure out how to enhance the lichen genes and adapt them to Martian soil, we may be able to eventually grow crops on that red desert world.

Bigelow Aerospace, Space Florida To Create Another "COTS?"

(Hat Tip: Hobby Space)

Bigelow Aerospace, known for launching prototype space stations into orbit is partnering with Space Florida in order to fund their own version of COTS for the sun shine state.

(SpaceRef) "Our interest in this relationship is driven by Space Florida's exclusive qualifications," said Robert Bigelow President of Bigelow Aerospace. "With a distinctive aerospace manufacturing and launch infrastructure, and a vibrant workforce with deep expertise in systems development, Florida is uniquely positioned to facilitate the development of commercial space transportation systems." "Diversification of the Florida aerospace industry - a critical path for bringing in new business and job opportunities - is one of three key areas of Space Florida's focus during the last 12 months," Kohler added. "This agreement creates a relationship between Florida and one of the leading entrepreneurial space firms, Bigelow Aerospace, and, if successful, will allow the State to become the future hub for commercial orbital transportation development projects, ultimately attracting a wide variety of small and large business entrants in various locations across Florida."

Bigelow is committing up to $100 million in order to help "jump start" companies desiring to create a craft able to house humans.

Bigelow seems to be getting nervous about whether or not the private sector can deliver a crew ferrying rocket, as they have previously offered a $760 million contract towards whoever could create a spaceship by 2010.

While Florida's space force has the skills (and speed) to actually pull this off, one wonders whether or not they will be able to beat SpaceX and Space Adventures, both who will probably contend for Bigelow's space station business.

Delicious: Martian Menu May Include Bugs

Often seen as a nuisance in the west, bugs may be a future staple of Martians everywhere--at least according to Japan.

(Discover Magazine) Now insects may become the next food frontier for space cuisine. The Space Agriculture Task Force, affiliated with the Japanese space agency, is looking for ways to feed astronauts on extended missions, like on a stint to Mars. A long stay on the Red Planet would require travelers to grow their own food, but a vegetable- and grain-based diet doesn't efficiently supply fats and amino acids.

While they lack the appeal of a ripe banana or a juicy steak, Martians may end dining on these "cute" creatures out of necessity, rather than as a delicacy. Bugs would be easy to raise and grow, and could be easily fed on leftovers from colonists veggie dishes.

However, if humanity ever desires to support large populations on Mars, pigs may provide a much better option.

China Building Greener, Heavier Rockets

With all of the talk regarding global warming (whether you believe its real or not), one thing is for certain--people are paying a lot more attention on how we treat our environment.

In order to keep up with the times, the red dragon from the east has not only decided to create larger rockets, but make them environmentally friendly as well.

(Space Daily) China is building a new range of carrier rockets designed to send heavyweight satellites into space, boosting the current carrying capacity by nearly three times, a space expert has said. The Long March 5 rockets will be able to carry payloads of up to 25 tons for low earth orbit satellites, up from the current limit of 9.2 tons, said Wu Yansheng, president of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), which is developing the new series of launch vehicles. [...]

In addition to bigger capacity, the Long March 5 rockets will be designed using pollution-free technologies, Wu said.

While building "greener" rockets may mean little to future lunar (and Martian) colonists, it literally means the world to citizens of Earth. There is no point in humanity going to the stars if it translates into trashing our home planet.

Update: Edited title for clarity.

Carnival Of The Space Geeks: Episode 27

(Image Credit: E.T: The Extra Terrestrial)

Fraiser Cain of Universe Today hosted the Carnival of Space this week with highlights from some interesting posts ranging from alternative theories regarding dark matter to how our galaxy resembles a pizza pie.

Fraiser also announced that he will be taking over the reigns of the event from the founder Henry Cate, who kicked off the very first carnival a long, long time ago in a place not so far away (at least online).

For those wishing to join the digital fray, you can email Frasier for more details at info [at] universetoday [dot] com (die, spam bots die!) for more details.

Note: Hopefully I'll be able to submit an article next week, as it has been neglected in my draft files for way too long.

Update: Inserted image credit.

Rocketplane Global Designs A Larger Spaceship

(Image Credit: Rocketplane Global, Inc.)

While there are many space firms are attempting to bring the universe to the masses (at least the moderately wealthy ones), very few of these companies have "the right stuff" to survive this increasingly crowded market.

With the competition heating up in the space tourism arena, Rocketplane Global has recently redesigned their spaceship in order to increase the number of passengers flying on board.

(MSNBC) The redesigned XP space plane could start flying in 2010, depending on the results of a final round of fundraising, said David Faulkner, program manager for the suborbital project. [...]

The main difference is that engineers dropped the idea of retrofitting a commercial Learjet with a rocket. Instead, they redid the design from scratch to make the fuselage 10 percent wider, Faulkner said. That provided enough extra room to add two more seats to the craft's original four-seat configuration — boosting the potential revenue from each flight by more than 60 percent.

"The market's really matured, and we took a hard look at the business plan," Faulkner said. "It made more sense to go with five passengers, and the Lear just wouldn't support that."

Rocketplane Global (which is a separate entity from its dying sister, Rocketplane Kistler) is aiming to secure its share of the upcoming space tourism market. But with a quarter of a million price tag, they may have a harder time securing clients.

Funding pending, the company may be able to give Virgin Galactic a run for its money, having already secured a spaceport in Oklahoma.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Space Babies: Cockroaches Conceived In Space

(Image Credit: Wm Jas via Flickr)

While breeding in space has been a topic with some (obvious) controversy associated with it, a few Russian scientists are examining what happens to animals that are conceived among the cosmos.

(Space Fellowship) Though the newborn creatures already eat and drink respectively well, microgravity conditions may have had an impact on the natural darkening of their chitinous carapace, a part of a cockroach's exoskeleton.

"Cockroaches are born with a transparent carapace, which gradually turns into brown, and the space cockroaches went darker earlier than usual," the scientist explained, adding that final conclusions would only be able to drawn only after the second female had given birth.

While breeding cockroaches is a start, hopefully scientists will be able to find a higher animal, preferable a mammal (such as a mouse or pig) and allow the animal to not only be conceived in space, but perhaps birthed there as well.

Doing so is the only way to determine whether or not humanity will be able to raise their kids off world, a critical item if we are ever going to inhabit other moons and planets.

Baby Step: Reversing Bone Loss In Micro Gravity

(Hat Tip: IsraGood)

One of the greatest dangers of living in micro gravity (and even reduced gravity) is bone loss. Without a medical solution, our species may have to resort to living upon orbital space stations, or even weighted suits for those living off world.

However new research in the medical field may lead towards developing medicine counteracting the affects of micro gravity--at least for women.

(Israel 21st Century) Se-cure's flagship product Femarelle, which is now available in 15 countries around the world, is derived through a unique enzymatic procedure that creates a specific biochemical composition proven to combine the treatment of menopausal symptom relief and bone loss. [...]

Femarelle has been proven in clinical studies to exert stimulatory activity on the estrogen receptors that control menopausal symptoms and the process of bone build-up, while having a blocking effect on estrogen receptors in the breast and the uterus. Moreover, Femarelle was shown to have a unique mechanism of action on bone build-up through increased osteoblast activity, having a direct effect on bone formation.

If this drug can be perfected, it may enable our species to easily adapt to the micro gravity environment of space. This would allow humans to take long term trips throughout our solar system (and beyond) without worry of being forever stranded among the stars due to bone loss.

Now if someone would come up with something similar for our immune and cardiovascular system, then the human race may be prepared to settle off world.

UFO's Inspired The Founder Of Bigelow Aerospace?

(Hat Tip: Hobby Space)

Some people desire to visit the stars because of a few resources. Others are motivated simply by their existence. But Robert T. Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, wants to taste the cosmos in order to establish "first contact."

(Wired Magazine) His signature quirk, however, is an obsession with space that extends beyond his business interests. In addition to the $100million Bigelow has already put into BA (and the $400million more he has promised), he has doled out millions to fund research into alien abductions and UFO sightings. He's done some of the work himself, personally interviewing hundreds of people who claim to have had extraterrestrial encounters. In fact, one of the main reasons he's so eager to get his stations launched is that he thinks they might provide a step toward making contact. [...]

(page 3) Years before he started building space habitats, Bigelow began looking for the truths he was sure were out there. He says he has met with more than 230 people who claim to have witnessed ETs. In the 1990s, he gave millions of dollars to launch the National Institute for Discovery Science, whose staff — which included several PhDs and ex-FBI agents — researched alien abductions, out-of-body experiences, cattle mutilations, and other paranormal phenomena.

While Bigelow's inspiration may cause others to laugh, it does however make one of the most successful space pioneers in the 21st Century a bit more interesting. This probably also explains the alien face which appears on some of their corporate logos.

Whether or not Bigelow's space stations help us to establish first contact will be something future historians will have to decide. Either way, Robert Bigelow is already making history with the launch of his Genesis space stations, and his next one may enable our species to finally dwell among the heavens that surround us.

Is NASA Trying To Provoke A Space Race?

Despite the fact that NASA has gained additional funding for its quest towards the stars, the space agency faces an enormous problem.

With a major Presidental candidate expressing disinterest in returning humans to the Moon, and Congress against sending Americans to Mars, NASA may be attempting to spark interest in human space exploration by promoting America's Asian rival.

(Orlando Sentinel) Aides acknowledge that Griffin -- like the rest of the space community -- is hoping for some kind of a "Sputnik moment," an event capable of driving public demand for space exploration as the Soviet Union's launch of the first satellite did 50 years ago. And recently, he has been warning that America is already falling behind China's aggressive space program. [...]

But there is considerable question whether Griffin's invocation of China -- or even his assertion that space exploration is important to U.S. national security -- will move a Congress or a public that each year seems less enthusiastic about the space program and increasingly focused on the price of war and terrorism.

While NASA's attempt at provoking a space race may gain the attention of Congress, it will receive little support with the public. The space agency is in a different era than Apollo, and unless they outsource jobs to China, making nationalistic statements will have little effect upon the IPOD generation.

NASA's only hope may lie in the private sector, who may be able to help the space agency reach the moon at a fraction of the cost.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Nigeria Seeks Out The Final Frontier

Of all the nations with an excuse not to invest in the final frontier, Nigeria would be it. Infested with numerous problems ranging from disease to corruption, Nigeria has every excuse to refrain from embracing the cosmos above as apart of its inheritance.

But despite being a prime example of a third world nation, Africa's largest country (population wise) is looking towards the heavens to solve its problems below.

( Boroffice thinks space technology is the key to addressing such woes relatively cheaply and efficiently. For example, NASRDA spent $13 million, less than 0.1 percent of the nation's budget, in the 2003 launch of NigeriaSat-1, an advanced imaging satellite that punches its weight with 1990s satellites in the $300 million class. NigeriaSat-1 -- the first satellite to provide close-up images of the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina -- helped sow the seeds of technological development in a nation that needs engineers, infrastructure and IT. [...]

"There are seminars and workshops to teach farmers how to read (NigeriaSat-1) maps and how to identify areas where they can plant rice, when to plant and when to harvest and also to provide a system for monitoring the health of the rice (crop)," Boroffice said.

Boroffice heads the National Space Research and Development Agency, or NASRDA which is Nigeria's space agency. Although the nation has a long ways to go before catching up with their western (or eastern) friends, Nigeria is seeking the ability to operate and launch its own satellites within its own borders.

What makes Nigeria really interesting is its position near the equator, which would make it a prime location for launching space ships or satellites into geostationary orbit.

If Nigeria ever decided to lease its space to western nations, Nigeria could build up the funds to eventually launch one of their own beyond the sky and into the black.

Poll Results: Is Google's Lunar X-Prize Good For Humanity?

Over on the sidebar of Colony Worlds, this author ran a mini poll asking readers whether or not Google's X-Prize was of any benefit to humanity.

The poll closed four days ago with a grand total of 26 votes. Here are the results below:

Question: Is Google's Lunar X-Prize Good For Humanity?

    Choice 1: Yes, as it helps us reach the moon (17 votes or 65%)

    Choice 2: No, as it won't reduce the cost of rocket launches (3 votes or 11%)

    Choice 3: Maybe, if they provide more money (1 vote or 3%)

    Choice 4: No, as going to Mars is more important (1 vote or 3%)

    Choice 5: Yes, as we can finally discover what moonbats are (4 votes or 15%)

The next poll will deal with who will colonize the Moon first, which was inspired by Mike Griffin's comments regarding China.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll, and I am looking forward to the results of the next! (and no, moonbats will not be apart of this unscientific survey).