Monday, January 29, 2007

Interactive: Saturn's Titan Will Require Space Elevators

Over at Planet Quest, NASA has developed a short, interactive tour that lets audiences know about Saturn's most mysterious moon, Titan.

What made this virtual tour interesting was the fact that according to NASA a single spark would be enough to engulf this moon in flames. This basically translates to the banning of rockets launching from the moon's surface, which requires an alternative method for transporting the methane off of Titan's surface.

It looks like LiftPort's and Black Line Ascension's great grand kids (assuming they will be running the space elevators future franchises) will be very busy in the distant future.

Note: To enjoy the virtual tour, simply click on the image below.

Has The Military Space Race Begun? (India)

With China's recent ASAT test hitting the bullseye, it looks like India is taking its first steps in defending itself from heavenly attacks.

(Space War) India will set up an aerospace defence command to shield itself against possible attacks from outer space, officials said Sunday. [...]

"As the reach of our airforce is expanding it has become extremely important that we exploit space and for it you need space assets," Tyagi told reporters in the western city of Gandhinagar.

"We are an aerospace power having trans-oceanic reach and we have started training a core group of people for the aerospace command," the air chief marshall said without specifying a time-frame for the ambitious project.

Although India seeks to have a weapon free zone for the cosmos, such a measure is very unlikely given the history of our human race. With India building up its aerospace program, it is only a matter of time until Pakistan, and other middle eastern countries (like Iran) begin establishing themselves in the cosmos.

And when that happens, either humanity will begin to colonize its lunar neighbor (and beyond) for nationalistic reasons, or make a bigger mess of our paradise world. Here's praying to the former.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Spaceport Sweden Launches

(Hat Tip: Space Ports)

With Space Port America being launched by Virgin Galactic, it was about time that the Swedish decided to enter into the space race with a port of their own.

(Space Port Sweden) The official inauguration of Spaceport Sweden was made today at Kiruna Airport by Mrs. Maud Olofsson, Minister for Enterprise and Energy as well as Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. Spaceport Sweden is now open for business and starts off by signing an agreement with Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial space line that will give the general public the opportunity to become astronauts. [...]

Spaceport Sweden aims to be Europe's first and most obvious place for personal suborbital spaceflight. The conditions are ideal as Spaceport Sweden is the combined expertise of several Kiruna-based Swedish companies whose successful development has earned them international respect: the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), ICEHOTEL, LFV Group (Kiruna Airport) and Kiruna's business-development company Progressum. Their reputation for service consistently attracts attention with regards to aerospace operations, testing and tourism.

Although in their infancy, commercial space ports should give humanity a taste of exploring the universe, thus encouraging us to (eventually) colonize the Moon and beyond. Spaceport Sweden is a collaboration of various companies, including the Ice Hotel, and the Swedish Space Corporation, (not to mention several other entities).

Hopefully their entry will encourage the commercial European space industry and provide some much needed competition against Space Adventures (as it brings about more innovation).

Iran To Enter Space Race?

Ironically, the nation that many perceive to be responsible for a future nuclear war with Israel is aiming to establish itself as a major space power in the region.

(New Scientist Space) The report quotes Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of Iran's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, as saying that a space launcher has been assembled and "will lift off soon", carrying an Iranian satellite. [...]

"This has been anticipated for some time - the Iranians have been saying they will launch satellites" says Doug Richardson, editor of Jane's Missiles and Rockets.

Their first aim might be reconnaissance. "They are concerned about what capabilities Israel has, and the only way they can find out is by observing from space," says Bhupendra Jasani of King's College in London, UK, an expert in the military applications of space. "Clearly they can't fly aircraft, that would be a violation of airspace, and they would be shot down very quickly."

With Iran entering the field of space, Israel will no doubt up the antie by probably sending astronauts into the heavens via kosher power. This will probably encourage hawkish space race in the middle east, which could easily spill over in the west, especially after China's ASAT test.

Either way, military space race may benefit humanity in the long run, as long as it remains "cold."

Mars May Be Holding Its Atmospheric Breath

After previously thinking that Martian oceans may be underground, now some scientists speculate that its atmosphere may lie underneath as well.

( New findings suggests the missing atmosphere of Mars might be locked up in hidden reservoirs on the planet, rather than having been chafed away by billions of years' worth of solar winds as previously thought.

Combining two years of observations by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, researchers determined that Mars is currently losing only about 20 grams of air per second into space.

Extrapolating this measurement back over 3.5 billion years, they estimate that only a small fraction, 0.2 to 4 millibars, of carbon dioxide and a few centimeters of water could have been lost to solar winds during that timeframe. (A bar is a unit for measuring pressure; Earth’s atmospheric pressure is about 1 bar.)

If most of the Martian atmosphere lies under the soil, then there is serious hope of not only colonizing the red planet, but cultivating it into a second Earth. The key to doing this would be to simply find a way to unleash (or free) the CO2 trapped underneath the surface, which would therefore allow streams and rivers (and maybe even oceans) to grace its desert surface.

Of course if humanity had the technology to do this, the process would probably take thousands of years (if not 100,000). Even though terraforming would be quite expensive, it may become a necessary evil if humanity is to become independent of Earth within this system, as well as beyond.

Are Martian Oceans Underneath Its Soil?

With evidence of liquid water beneath Martian soil recently appearing, some scientists speculate that the red planet may have a wet, frozen secret buried beneath its crimson sands.

(New Scientist Space) Mars is losing little water to space, according to new research, so much of its ancient abundance may still be hidden beneath the surface.

Dried up riverbeds and other evidence imply that Mars once had enough water to fill a global ocean more than 600 metres deep, together with a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide that kept the planet warm enough for the water to be liquid. But the planet is now very dry and has a thin atmosphere.

It had been previously assumed that Mars had lost its atmosphere and water due to solar activity from the Sun. However, new evidence suggests that this theory may be just that--a theory.

Observations by the European Space Agency's Mars Express hint that Mars is not losing enough atmosphere and water to justify the previous theory, leaving not only more questions about how Mars lost its original atmosphere but hope that oceans may lie beneath a world some see as a second Earth.

Space Tractors Could Defend Earth Against Asteroids

Despite the Hollywood glitz of Armageddon and Deep Impact, no human bomb would be strong enough to either alter the asteroid (and its fragments) course or destroy the incoming space rock.

However, where nuclear bombs fail, space tractors may prevail.

(Washington Post) NASA astronaut and former University of Hawaii solar physicist Edward Lu is calling for a new spacecraft that would divert asteroids on a path to slam into Earth.

The small space tractor, costing between $200 million and $300 million, would hover near an asteroid to exert enough gravitational pull that the space rock's orbit would change and a collision with our planet would be averted, Lu said before a crowd packed into a 300-capacity auditorium at the University of Hawaii-Manoa Monday night.

"We're only trying to get a really tiny change in the velocity of the asteroid to prevent an impact," he said.

Although it is not as spectacular as a nuclear detonation, a space tractor seems to have a greater chance at averting a serious asteroid strike. Lu research may come in handy as one asteroid, Apophis, is scheduled to approach Earth around the year 2029, and some scientists are concerned that its second trip in 2036 may hit our planet.

Hopefully one can be built in order to test Lu's theory out, as this technology would not only benefit Earthlings, but future Martians, Lunatics Lunar colonists and other potential home worlds orbiting our star.

A New Way To Be Human Via Androids?

Although colonizing the final frontier will definitely require a human presence, we may need the assistance of androids while conquering space.

(Space Daily) U.S. scientists say they plan to create a new class of technology designed to produce completely soft-bodied robots. Tufts University researchers say such robots -- based on biological materials and the adaptive mechanisms found in living cells and organisms -- could repair space stations, conduct safer surgical procedures and work in hazardous environments such as landmine fields.

Soft bodied robots could be quite helpful, especially on the Moon where a daily dose of x-rays could be harmful towards ones health. They could also may make our robotic friends more "user friendly" and they could be used to help mine dangerous areas of the lunar surface, as well as Mars.

But as long as they do not revolt against their human masters, then having a cybernetic companion in space may not be that bad. Unless it has six legs of course.

Japan Getting Back Into The Space Game?

(Hat Tip: Space Law Probe)

After previously floundering around regarding its lunar approach, it looks like the land of the rising sun is doing some serious soul searching regarding its place in the universe space race.

(Daily Yomiuri Online) On the surface, Japan's space development program appears to be going smoothly. In reality, however, it is barely holding together and lacks any real substance.

The Liberal Democratic Party hopes to significantly improve the situation by establishing what it calls the "Basic Space Law." The legislation would call for a Space Strategy Headquarters to be set up and presided over by the government to promote comprehensive space-related policies.

Japan's proposed basic law consists of three pillars which are:

  • Reinforcing the nation's security through the development and utilization of space.
  • Promoting space-related research and development.
  • Promoting the development of the space industry.

Although it is great that Japan is finally creating a vision for its space program, what the nation really needs to do is back up that vision with Yen (Japanese dollars), and lots of it.

Hopefully we will see a real initiative from Japan to colonize space, because if not then they will have to hitch hike a ride from India or (even worse) their Chinese rivals.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Solar X-Rays Could Give Astronauts A Bad Tan

Future colonists may have more than space rocks to deal with while settling upon our lunar neighbor. As it turns out, the star that allows life on Earth to exist could also bring about an end of it on the Moon.

(New Scientist Space) Future lunar astronauts could be harmed by X-ray outbursts from the Sun that occur without warning and can deliver dangerous doses of radiation in just a few minutes, a new study says. The researchers suggest that lunar rovers be equipped with metal shields that astronauts could duck behind during such events. [...]

The level of radiation they consider harmful is 0.1 Gray or more, which can cause bleeding ulcers and other internal damage, and would certainly increase an astronaut's risk of cancer. The Sun has even produced flares that could kill an unprotected spacesuited human on the Moon, they say, although these are extremely rare.

Scientists should also recommend a way to insert shielding within the lunar suits as an extra measure of protection against a surprise x-ray burst. Future colonists should also consider building underground tunnels, allowing them to transport safely between colony outposts without fear of receiving an unfriendly sun burn.

Melting Lunar Dust Could Save Your Lunar Life

As NASA plans to head for the Moon again, they are gathering scientists and engineers together in order to find solutions to dealing with the hazard of lunar dust.

( Larry Taylor has a lab devoted to moon dust at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He's discovered that it has some unusual properties. "For example, most of the lunar dust can be picked up with an ordinary magnet."

The fine grains contain tiny amounts of iron, so magnetic filters might be used to pull the dust out of the air.

That iron makes the dust behave in another strange way.

"If you put this lunar soil into a microwave oven, it will melt before your tea water boils," Taylor says.

The melted dust hardens into a glassy blob. Taylor says that future astronauts could use microwaves to pave the lunar soil or make bricks for building.

The dust can be unhealthy as well as irritating as one astronaut, Harrison Schmitt (of Apollo 17) developed what he called "lunar-dust hay fever" after the nasty particles got inside their lunar module via tools and suits. The particles are so fine that breathing it in can be hazardous towards ones lungs.

By melting lunar dust down, NASA could be saving future colonists and space tourists serious health problems down the road, not to mention the annoyance of solar dust bunnies dancing everywhere.

India's Baby Steps Towards Space Power Club

Despite its tiny budget for space programs, India seems to be a space power "in the making," as the worlds largest democracy successfully launched a rocket on its own power (not to mention retrieving it as well).

(Reuters) The capsule was blasted into space as one of four payloads on January 10 from a launch pad 100 km (60 miles) north of the southern city of Chennai. It splashed down in the Bay of Bengal 11 days later, boosting plans for a lunar mission in 2008.

"(It) landed in the Bay of Bengal ... as per schedule. The mission is a great success," said A. Subramoniam, head of the team that designed and built the capsule at the Indian Space Research Organization.

"This mission is a stepping stone to design and build our very own reusable spacecraft, and eventually (carry out) manned missions into space, too," he said.

Despite being tardy to the space race, India seems to be gaining momentum as it fine tunes its space program. Although their budget is somewhat limited, scientists and engineers are pushing to send one of their own to visit the stars, and perhaps walk on our lunar neighbor as well.

A New Hope For Carbon Nanotubes?

Despite the promise of companies like LiftPort and Black Line Ascension producing a working space elevator, one major hurdle remains--building a ribbon out of perfect carbon nanotubes (CNT).

While engineering and nature have taught us that making a perfect CNT is impossible, we may be able to fashion a super strong CNT based on the design of natures sweetest treats.

(Space Elevator Journal) [...] Tsinghua University scientists Min Wang, Xinming Qiu, and Xiong Zhang released a paper (abstracted here on the Institute of Physics site) on their study modeling the Mechanical Properties of Super Honeycomb Structures Based on Carbon Nanotubes. Their report shows a super honeycomb network configuration of hexagonal patterns made from periodically repeating carbon nanotube Y junctions "increases the ductility of the nanomaterials" so that they not only keep the "renowned strength and elasticity" of straight nanotubes but have "great flexibility and outstanding capability" to transfer force to other parts of the structure when broken.

If this process could be "perfected," honeycombed CNT's could not only allow for a working space elevator to be built. This could potentially enable the ribbon to withstand uncertain decay from microscopic space rocks, aggressive oxygen in the atmosphere, and scraps of space junk from China's ASAT test.

Note: Previously LiftPort announced a potential breakthrough regarding CNT technology. I wonder if the honeycomb design had anything to do with it?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Colonize Mars Within 1,000 Years?

(Hat Tip: Space Scan)

Robert Zubrin, president of The Mars Society has developed a five step plan towards conquering the red planet and enabling humanity to establish a second home within the solar system.

(Popular Science) Why talk about building homes on Mars when we have problems on Earth like war, bird flu, AIDS and global warming? To the Mars enthusiast, these scourges simply count among the reasons to ditch this rock and head for the Red Planet.

Robert Zubrin, the founder of the Mars Society, likes to point out that Columbus encountered similar resistance from noobs when he pointed across the Atlantic. But Zubrin isn't a seafarer—he's a scientist, with calculations that say people could create an oxygen atmosphere on Mars in just over 1,000 years. Compare that with other scientists' predictions of 20,000 or 100,000 years, and he might seem like he's peddling interplanetary snake oil, but there's no denying that his scheme for "terraforming" is thoroughly conceived.

Throughout his plan, Zubrin has proposed constructing mirrors around Mars as well as slamming asteroid upon its surface in order to warm the planet. Although these two methods are probably not financially sound ways of terraforming Mars (let alone reasonable) his third method may hold some hope for the red planet.

With evidence gleaned from our own global warming, scientists have a good idea of which emissions are best suited for climate change. Zubrin, among others, believes tetrafluoromethane (CF4) is the best gas for the global-warming job. [...]

Emitting 1,000 tons of gas an hour would raise the temperature by 50°F over 30 years. This could be done using 5,000 megawatts of energy—the output of five nuclear power plants (which would themselves run on solar power).

Zubrin outlines that if we could raise the Martian temperature by ten degree's, Martian soil full of CO2 would then be released, giving future inhabitants ten percent of Earth's current atmosphere pressure.

After about a century of pumping CO2 into the Martian skies, humanity will finally be able to emerge upon Martian soils without a space suit, with the current atmosphere pressure around 21 percent (with 20 percent being out of carbon dioxide).

Martian residents will be able to walk outside without spacesuits (though they'll still need oxygen). Not only will this introduce the first interplanetary fashion trends, but the climate will be suitable for planting, flying planes, and building domed (these would be more efficient for oxygen management) cities.

Once the equator's surface reached a constant temperature of 32° and up, Mars would have liquid water, and it would be time to start gardening.

Zubrin proposes that once Martian temperatures are above freezing, humans could begin planting simple organisms (like lichen) and bacteria in order to help seed the planet's atmosphere with oxygen.

After a century of fun, Zubrin's terraforming plans end with a millennium promise.

It's all seemed so simple to this point-50 years to experience weather and then another 50 to walk outside in your new Martian threads. But it would take our little space gardens 1,000 years to produce enough oxygen for Martian colonists to breathe unassisted. During those 1,000 years, residents would have to continually plant and harvest, playing the role of Mother Nature to speed the conversion of the atmosphere from carbon dioxide to oxygen.

Although Zubrin has not factored in war, disease and Martian global storms delaying the terraforming project by another millennium, he must be given credit where credit is due as there are not many other scientists sketching out a hard core plan for settling on Mars.

Unfortunately the only thing Mars lacks that would make it worthwhile in colonizing could easily be summed up in one word--resources.

Ion Space Ships To Power Lunar-Earth Flights?

In an age where chemical rockets rule on Earth and space, new technology could enable humanity to travel from the Moon to our home world, saving us money on the trip back to our our planet.

(New Scientist Space) Spacecraft could one day be propelled by ion beams shooting up from the Moon, according to a recent concept study.

Other spacecraft, such as Deep Space 1 and SMART-1, have flown with ion engines, which work by stripping electrons off gas atoms and accelerating the ions with an electric field. The ions create thrust as they are shot out of the engine. [...]

To catch the ion wind, each spacecraft would be equipped with one or more sails. In a passive version of the concept, the stream of ions – possibly xenon or argon - physically pushes against the sails. In an active version, the sail could be positively charged and repel the positively charged ions, giving extra thrust; or perhaps the charge on different sails could be altered to steer the spacecraft.

While the idea is a new approach towards human travel, scientists still have to figure out a way to keep the ion beams from repelling each other while being shot out. If successful however, ion transport could prove to be quite useful, as it would end up saving NASA and the alt-space community billions in hauling fuel to the lunar surface.

Note: This ion canon could (ironically) be used to power lifters on a lunar space elevator, if it could provide enough energy for thrust that is.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Video: Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Editors Note: They say Mars is a planet full of possibility. They say Mars is humanities second home. While some are actively pursuing ways to colonize the red planet within our lifetime, Mars lacks the financial resources to inspire not only the business world, but the bureaucratic one as well.

After stumbling upon a scientists research several months ago, I am going to see if his discovery could be used to make Mars a planet worthy of our investment. Until then, (or rather next week) here is a video to keep the vision going.

Update (1/22): I think I've stumbled upon a snafu, but I'll publish the article in the future and let the crowd decide whether it's feasible or not.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Europe To Partner With China

Despite the red dragon's recent flexing of the muscles, Europe seems eager to partner with China for human space flight.

(Space Daily) "I would like very much to discuss this with our Chinese partners, if they make the proposal," affirmed ESA chief Jean- Jacques Dordain in the annual press briefing when referring to the potential cooperation in space exploration between the two parties.

"At the moment, we have a lot of cooperation with China in other space exploration domains, but not yet in the field of manned flights," indicated Dordain.

Europe has recently been seeking partners for human space flight, although they probably are desiring someone "less American" (note: no bitterness over here).

Europe has the funds for sending humans off world, while China has demonstrated that it has the technology. Hopefully Europe will begin to develop technology of its own fairly soon, as it would be rather boring for America, China and (possibly) Russia to colonize the Sol System.

Could A Military Space Race Ruin It For Everyone?

(Hat Tip: LiftPort Staff Blog)

They say space is the final frontier. But with the current direction of our species, space might also become the violent frontier. With the latest testing of China's satellite destroyer, the militarization of cosmos may be the fuel that drives the new space race.

(Aviation Now) U. S. intelligence agencies believe China performed a successful anti-satellite (asat) weapons test at more than 500 mi. altitude Jan. 11 destroying an aging Chinese weather satellite target with a kinetic kill vehicle launched on board a ballistic missile. [...]

Details emerging from space sources indicate that the Chinese Feng Yun 1C (FY-1C) polar orbit weather satellite launched in 1999 was attacked by an asat system launched from or near the Xichang Space Center.

The attack is believe to have occurred as the weather satellite flew at 530 mi. altitude 4 deg. west of Xichang located in Sichuan province. Xichang is a major Chinese space launch center.

Although the US and Canada are frowning on China's latest test, this maneuver by China may be what our planet needs to re-inspire humanity to revisit the heavens above.

Despite the fact that many people will see this as another sign that the end of the world is near, there is nothing like death to motivate an individual to action, as well as a nation (something the previous cold war demonstrated).

Although peace is a powerful motivator for space, it sadly may not be able to sustain global interest for the long term. If China's latest maneuver is a signal to the world they are an upcoming space power to be reckoned with, then the US will have to find innovative ways to transport her citizens to the moon--and beyond.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Plasmoid Thrusters May Enable Interplanetary Travel

Plasmoid Thruster Researcher, Image Credit:
(Hat Tip: Space Scan)

With all of the difficulties of launching humanity into space, nothing compares to actually traveling through it. With cosmic radiation being a major threat towards us becoming a space faring species, the less time one spends traveling between worlds, the better off they may be.

Since chemical rockets are probably too slow (and too expensive) to ensure that we survive at the end of the journey, plasmoid thrusters may be able to provide the power (and hopefully the speed) for us to travel to Jupiter, Saturn and beyond.

( The Plasmoid Thruster Experiment (PTX) is a stepping stone to a highly efficient propulsion concept which could ultimately change how we travel in space, according to Dr. Jason Cassibry, a researcher in UAH's Propulsion Research Center.

"Larger, more powerful versions can produce fusion for both power and space propulsion, allowing human travel to the outer planets," he said. [...]

PTX works by ringing a single turn conical theta pinch coil at about 500 kHz, ionizing and accelerating a small quantity of gas. The magnetic field inside the coil creates a plasmoid, a plasma that has a closed magnetic field structure.

One of the biggest challenges in any electric propulsion concept is increasing the lifetime of the thruster, which must run continuously for several years for deep space missions. Most electric propulsion concepts use plasma, which is in contact with electrodes or acceleration grids, causing erosion of the components and limiting the lifetime of the thruster. The plasmoid thruster potentially has a much longer lifetime, because the plasma is formed inductively, which means that the plasma is not in contact with the thruster components.

If perfected, this technology could enable us to settle worlds as far as Neptune's Triton and Pluto. Although these researchers still have a long way to go, this idea seems to be a lot brighter than hitch hiking on asteroids.

Upcoming Carbon Nanotube Breakthrough Via LiftPort?

LiftPort, a company pioneering a new way for humanity to enter space (via space elevator) may be on the verge of a breakthrough within the carbon nanotube department.

(LiftPort Newsletter) As we've said before, we're on the brink of breakthrough. Our nanotube furnace, the only one of it's kind, is still being worked on by one of our research partners. It has, however, produced nanotubes, and we're very excited.

Carbon nanotubes are perhaps the most vital element in constructing a space elevator, something many critics have countered to be impossible. Thus far, the longest carbon nanotube ever produced has been four centimeters, which is a far cry away from the 100,000 km needed for the space elevator to be realized.

Michael Laine from LiftPort has often proposed that carbon nanotube threads could be meshed together to form this ribbon (much like rope is is made up of many fibers). This would probably be a more realistic way of producing the lengthly ribbon (if not cheaper) and this may be the "breakthrough" that LiftPort is talking about.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Is Japan Giving Up On The Moon?

Japan Space Agency, JAXA, Image Credit: MSNBC
Despite being known as a tech savy nation, it looks as if the land of the rising sun is giving up on visiting the lunar surface in person.

(MSNBC) Japan's space agency has recommended scrapping its first moon mission after more than a decade of delays, a spokeswoman said Monday, in the latest blow to the country's beleaguered space program.

The Lunar-A probe was envisioned as planting two seismic sensors on the lunar surface to gather information about the moon's core and learn more about the origins of the Earth's only natural satellite.

But development of the so-called penetrator probes has taken so long that the mission's mother ship, which was built 10 years ago, has fallen into disrepair and would require too much money to fix, said Satoko Kanazawa, a spokeswoman for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.

Although the Japanese are still planning on launching satellites to observe the moon from afar, this lacks the same intimacy of sending a robot or human upon the surface. While Japan hesitates to actually visit the cosmos, China is taking ownership of it, with plans to even build a space station next year.

If Japan does not figure out a way to reignite their passion for exploring the universe, they may have to accept playing second fiddle to their Chinese neighbors.

NASA Purchasing Four Russian Space Craft

With the latest round of budget cuts for NASA, it looks as if the American space agency is seeking Russian technology in order to help service the International Space Station (when the shuttle fleet).

(Mos News) NASA is to buy four Russian ships including two Soyuz and two Progress spacecrafts.

"NASA wishes to retire its Shuttles as soon as possible to ensure funds for the construction of their new craft," the head of Russia's manned flight programs Alexie Krasnov said. 'We are happy to help with the availability of our reliable vehicles."

Although the shuttle served America fairly well in the past, its dangers (and expense) were quickly making it an unrealistic approach to space. Russia seems to have an ability to launch vehicles at low cost, which may help NASA keep its sanity while counting the pennies from Congress to keep the space agency alive.

Portable Solar Panels Anyone?

Despite being a spin off from space technology, solar panels are becoming increasingly popular alternative to what the energy companies have to offer through power lines.

Although these are mostly being used by corporations and homes, this technology would compliment future space colonies on the Moon, Mars and beyond.

(Energy Daily) The SpaceX solar system uses unique patented hardware, which mounts quickly and requires no roof penetration. Dennis Jones, facility manager of SpaceX, said that the SolarCity solar system is a practical, forward-thinking measure to help offset the company's power load.

"Solar power is a clean, responsible and cost-efficient way for SpaceX to conduct operations," said Mr. Jones. "SolarCity's quality, low- impact installation quickly provided a return on our energy consumption, and reserved us the ability to scale-up afterwards," he said.

By having solar panels easily attach/detach, future colonists will spend less time repairing or upgrading their current panels and more time exploring the worlds they are walking upon.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Black Line Ascension (A Space Elevator Company)

(Hat Tip: LiftPort Staff Blog)

A new space elevator has emerged from the shadows, and from the looks of it they seemed to be determined to construct a space elevator in the near term future.

Black Line Ascension is the culmination of work by various entities and individuals pushing the technology required for eventual construction of the space elevator. The new public outreach of Black Line Ascension is the result of a desperate need by the community for a full-fledged effort to lead development of the technology and infrastructure that will be required to build the space elevator. Black Line Ascension is an umbrella LLC with sub entities working on materials development and basic engineering and research. On this site you will find information on the space elevator and on some of the sub entities of Black Line Ascension.

Black Line Ascension boasts an impressive list of individuals working within the company, including:

  • Dr. Brian Laubscher (of Los Alamos National Laboratory)
  • J. Barry Thompson (of UBS Capital and Member of the X-Prize Board)
  • Dr. Bradley C. Edwards (Modern Father of the Space Elevator)
  • Leland Nolan (former CEO of Orange Entertainment and Vice Chairman of Pay-Per-View)

The company is based in New York and still in its infancy, and they seem to be looking for sharp individuals to join their team. Although they have not released a road map detailing when they plan on constructing a space elevator, it will probably be within 10 to 15 years (that is if Dr. Edwards has his way).

Black Line Ascension is one of three companies currently pursuing the full construction of a space elevator, with the other two being LiftPort and Lockheed Martin.

Note: Don't forget to check out Edwards space elevator video.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Europe Considering Human Space Flight?

With their American friends (via NASA) getting most of the glory for exploring the cosmos, it looks as if our European brethren are starting to gain the courage to explore space for themselves.

(New Scientist Space) Digging on Mars and drilling on the Moon could become the main aims of Europe's space effort. These were the enticing prospects discussed at a meeting this week in Edinburgh, Scotland, about the European Space Agency's Aurora exploration programme. [...]

Sentiment is shifting in favour of human spaceflight, as some scientific goals might be all but impossible without people.

"Someone at the meeting pointed out that what a rover can survey in a year, a geologist could do in 20 seconds," says space scientist John Zarnecki of the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK. "A 20-second mission to the Moon might not be cost effective, but if you can ask enough 20-second questions, it might be worth it."

Although England is mulling about whether or not to send up humans to the stars, it looks like the rest of Europe is for the challenge. Despite the fact that America is leading the way towards the stars, the United States can not do this alone.

Space is for everyone and requires a global effort in order to not only be successful, but also peaceful. Europe's involvement is critical, as it will give more voices a chance to decide the future fate of the human species.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Review: NOVA And The Space Elevator

Despite being fashionably late (okay 15 minuets late) I was able to catch a glimpse of the NOVA ScienceNow that was mentioned previously.

The show will be posted online for those who missed it, and should be mildly entertaining at best. After watching the shows presentation of the space elevator, here is the good, the bad and the ugly.


For the Optimist: The show did a great job at explaining the overall concept of a space elevator by comparing it with a yo-yo, not to mention explaining in layman's terms how carbon nanotubes are created in the first place.

The show also highlighted Dr. Edwards, as well as mentioning an interesting fact about Arthur C. Clark conceiving of the idea of communication satellites before there time (and linking that with the space elevator idea now).

A large portion of time was given towards the X-Prize Cup SE teams, which made up for them being overshadowed by their rocket neighbors on camera.


For the Pessimist: Dr. Edwards was only given eight seconds (or was that ten?) of air time, although the MIT student's explanation made up for his loss. Also, there was no mention of LiftPort in the entire show (that I saw).

It also seemed as if the show removed all criticism about the SE project, (a reason why LiftPort may have been removed) in order to create a positive spin. Although this may help out the SE in the short term, such criticism is necessary as it demonstrates how hard of a project this is (which helps eliminate frustration over the apparent slowness in building this project).


For the Realist: The show was very well balanced with imagery as well as breaking the whole concept into "child-like bites." This presentation is something you could show in front of most audiences, and they would come away with the general grasp of the project.

Unfortunately it looked as if the Space Elevator was a "loss leader" segment, whose main aim was to drive traffic to the other three discussions on the show (aging, mayan ruins via satellite, and the language of bacteria organisms).

Perhaps next time they feature a segment about space, they could go more in depth about the SE, which means:

  • Highlighting the potential problems and payoff's of constructing a real space elevator
  • Giving Dr. Brad Edwards five minuets of air time as well as Michael Laine of LiftPort
  • Give the public a time frame of when to expect one in their lifetime (i.e. Edwards says 2018, while LiftPort plans one in 2031).


Overall Opinion: B+ (it's a great start, but lets make the sequel to this even better) I'm definitely looking forward towards another show.

Monday, January 08, 2007

NOVA To Interview The Space Elevator Geeks

(Hat Tip: Brian via LiftPort Staff Blog)

It looks like the NOVA ScienceNOW team will be interviewing the LiftPort Corporation (Michael Laine and Tom Nugent) as well as the father of the modern day space elevator, Brad Edwards of Carbon Designs.

Brad Edwards is volunteering his time to answer any questions users may have regarding the feasibility of this project, although you can browse through some of the common questions over here.

The show is suppose to air on January 9th or 10th, depending on who you talk to.

Note: Does anybody by any chance know the exact time?

LiftPort Energy Debuts

LiftPort, one of two companies seeking to build a working space elevator is launching LiftPort Energy, a site dedicated towards providing clean fuel for planet Earth.

(LiftPort Blog) As some of you may have heard we are attempting to launch a division of LiftPort targeted at Energy called LiftPort Energy. Our goal is to bring clean energy to planet Earth using the abundant resources of space & encourage sustainable energy supplies like those available in space. Our first effort is the webstore at

I encourage you to visit, order something (we’ve got about 10 products currently), and let me know your feedback on what you liked or did not like.

We plan a more formal, official release by LiftPort Group in a few weeks once we know we are ready for a larger audience.

LiftPort also seems to have to have a research site called LiftPort Energy Research, although it is not quite clear whether it is an R & D page or just another random site hosted on Yahoo! (although they may be the ones responsible for this previous video).

Is NASA Too Worried About Young People?

In an ironic twist of fate, NASA seems to be worried that its plans to build a space base on the moon for the next generation will fall on deaf ears.

(Red Orbit) The nation's space program ought not to need any help promoting its dreams of exploration to a coming generation, but apparently (NASA) is having trouble convincing young people to embrace its vision. The agency says there's much apathy among those who grew up after the moon landings and the first space shuttles. That is nothing short of shocking to "baby boomers" who well remember the fascination they felt once President Kennedy announced America was going to the moon.

Personal Note: This "worrying" seems premature (if not unnecessary). Ask any kid who their favorite Star Wars character is and they will babble on about them (with reasons backing up their choice), not to mention other characters from other shows.

People, especially youth are very interested in space. NASA should simply let Hollywood worry about entertaining our culture about the solar future, and just simply focus on getting humanity there.

Is The Moon Worth It's Weight In Gold?

As scientists debate on finding out whether or not exploring the moon is worth the expense, one thing is for sure. If we do not find a fiscal reason for visiting the moon, we may never populate its surface with humans.

(Red Orbit) Some boosters of the new moon missions argue that helium-3, an isotope rare on Earth but common on the moon's surface, could be used to fuel nuclear fusion reactors on Earth. But no one knows if reactors based on helium-3 would be technically or economically feasible.

Even if the moon were made of solid gold, it's doubtful that exporting lunar resources to Earth would be profitable. Manned missions using the space shuttle cost about $10,000 per pound of payload--about the price of a pound of gold.

If a helium-3 reactor can be feasibly built, humanity may get a financial incentive to explore the cosmos (although that incentive may only come through an oil shortage). Unless we can find an inexpensive way to lift objects into orbit, we may be stuck on this planet for the next century and a half (no joking here).

Added photo.

Thank You Google!

Not a space related post, but thanks to the Google team for resolving my problem so fast! (less than 24 hours too, is that a record?)

Although I still have several other issues with some of the other weblogs, this one seems to be running at full steam. Will post later on today (as I have some major catching up to do!

Note: My new address is at or for those subscribing via feed.

Update: It looks like Google is eager to explore the Universe.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Assimilated By Google (Resistance Is Futile)

It looks as if the boys and girls at Google have done it again!

Basically Blogger is providing free hosting for their blog*spot blogs, although the user has to purchase the domain from someone else.

(Blogger Buzz) The new version of Blogger now supports using a custom domain for serving your blog. If you already own a domain named, say, and want your blog to be served at that address instead of at a address, we can host your blog on that domain for you — for free. Your old Blog*Spot address will forward to your new custom domain, so the switch will be seamless for your readers.

There will be no posting here, as well as my other weblogs as I slowly move more of my life onto Google's servers (it's creepy yet surreal). Until then, I recommend visiting, as they generally have some very fascinating stories involving the cosmos above.

Update: It seems I forgot to mention the domain above (thanks Brian for reminding me).

I'll be migrating over to, although right now that process may be delayed as Google and I are trying to work out our differences (it was love at first sight...sigh).

Friday, January 05, 2007

Growing Food On The Moon?

(Hat Tip: Lunar Soil)

If humanity decides to permanently settle our lunar neighbor, then we are going to have to figure out how we are going to grow food on the moon. Although we could always ship food via rockets, doing so would not prepare our species to become "space faring" and would encourage an unhealthy dependence on Earth (for everything).

Despite the lunar visit being nearly a decade and a half way, several scientists are currently designing a way for humans to grow food on the moon--and perhaps make salad part of the future lunar diet.

( Arizona researchers have already figured out how to grow fresh, leafy vegetables at the most remote spot on Earth. Now, they want to pursue a new agricultural challenge: the moon.

The research team, which has been growing fruits and vegetables, such as lettuce and cucumbers, at the South Pole for the past 18 months, is building a chamber capable of raising vegetables in space. The inflatable chamber will easily fit into a rocket and run off of sunshine and recycled water. [...]

"You always lust for the things you can't have," said Phil Sadler, a Tempe botanist who built the team's "growth chamber" that produces fruits and vegetables at the South Pole. "When you can't have fresh produce, it becomes a big issue."

Although we will probably have to ship our meat to the lunar surface (as we may not be able to raise and slaughter cows, fish, etc. off world) growing food would help cut down the costs of building a colony off world.

Hopefully the scientists will not stop at simply growing food, but move onto other plants like trees, grass, etc. in order to help create an environment for the astronauts to relax in.

Space Junk: Dangerous To Earthlings And Astronauts

Despite the chances of being hit by an object floating above our heads is slim to none, the very fact that space junk can hit us should be of major concern to everyone on Earth.

(Red Orbit) A spent Russian booster rocket re-entered the atmosphere Thursday over Colorado and Wyoming, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said.

NORAD spokesman Sean Kelly said the agency was trying to confirm a report that a piece of the rocket may have hit the ground near Riverton, Wyo., at about 6 a.m. Kelly said military personnel had not yet reached the scene.

No damage was reported and the debris was not believed to be hazardous, NORAD said.

Note: There was also another report of space junk falling through someone's house. Hopefully we can find a near term solution for removing these objects from space, as they could represent a significant threat, especially since humanity will begin heading into space again.

Peru Enters The Space Arena

It looks as if another nation is slowly making its way into the space arena. Although very far behind their North American friends, it is a good sign to see another nation in the western hemisphere joining launching rockets towards the stars.

(People's Daily Online) Peru has launched its first space probe entirely designed and built by Peruvian scientists, an Air Force officer said on Wednesday.

The Paulet I, named after Peruvian aviation pioneer Pedro Paulet, was launched on Tuesday at 3.30 p.m. from the Peruvian Air Force (FAP) base in Punta Lobos, Pucusana, 50 km south of Peru's capital Lima, said Air Force colonel Wolfgang Dupeyrat. [...]

Dupeyrat, who is also a Conida director, told media that Peru now sought to develop its space program.

Editor's Note: Congratulations to the Peruvian scientists for finally convincing your government that space is not only our future, but worth funding as well. I wonder how long it will take them to decide to send up one of their own into space?

Will Our Future On The Moon Be Underground?

If humanity ever does regain the will to revisit the moon, we may have to construct lunar bases underground. With the frequency of raining space rocks from above greater than previously thought, humanity may find the moon to be an unfriendly place.

(New Scientist Space) Two small NASA telescopes with their lenses trained on the Moon spied five, and possibly six, Geminid meteoroids striking the lunar surface early on the morning of 14 December. The observations will help NASA design safe shelters for its future Moon base. [...]

The concern is not really for the softball-sized projectiles hitting the astronauts directly, Cooke says, but rather from the material scattered from the resulting crater. Because of the Moon's lower gravity and thin atmosphere, material could fly for hundreds of metres. Cooke likens the ejecta to shrapnel from a bomb.

Although more data is being collected, humanity may be limited into how much of the lunar surface we can colonize. According to one study (which has to be refined), the moon could be hit with up to 260 two pound rocks every year, which is enough to cause serious damage to any future moon base.

Unless there is a way to develop some kind of magnetic force field, we may not be going back to the moon en mass anytime soon (at least going there ensured anyways).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Saturns Lunar Titan May Be Worth Billions

Saturn's moon Titan may be one of the most valuable worlds in our solar system, after Earth and the Moon. Satellite flyby's and lunar probes have revealed Titan to be a world with many methane/ethane lakes dotting its surface (at least in the north).

(New York Times) As scientists have predicted but have had a hard time proving, the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, appears to be dotted with lakes of liquid methane. The lakes are more intriguing evidence of the active phenomena at play on the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere. [...]

The radar imaging system detected more than 75 dark patches in the landscape near Titan’s northern polar region, the scientists said in a detailed description of the find published today in the journal Nature.

The patches, they said, indicated smooth surfaces in an otherwise rugged topography, suggesting lake beds either partly dry or filled with liquid. These smooth surfaces, more or less circular and with diameters ranging from 2 miles to 40 miles, are associated with channels that appear to have been formed by flowing liquids, presumably tributaries to the lakes.

Despite the fact that conquering Titan is many generations away, the fact that this world harbors fuel resources is a very comforting thought for future colonists. With Saturn orbiting almost a billion miles away from the Sun, solar power may not be an option for those fortunate enough to land on its various moons.

Harvesting Titan's methane may provide a cheaper alternative to nuclear and hydrogen fuel via ice, and may allow humans to further explore our solar system without breaking the bank.

England Slowly Consideres Humans In Space

Ever since the UK entered the space race, England has been rather slow about sending humans into the cosmos. Despite the potential of colonizing other worlds (i.e. resources, international focus on exploring instead of war, etc.) Britain seems to have "delegate" this process to their American and Russian friends.

But all of that might change thanks to their brave new science minister who goes by the name of Malcolm Wicks.

(Times Online) "I think we need to think that through," he said. "I think sometimes our understandable reluctance to fund British men and women going into space has come across wrongly as us being a bit cool about space. I think we should be hot and enthusiastic.

"It's going to be this millennium's great adventure. I'm not changing our position on this now, but I think it would be foolish to be dogmatic about these things."

Successive governments have decided that the benefits of human spaceflight are not worth the heavy financial costs or risk to life.

Although England has had several astronauts fly into outer space, most of them have had to become American citizens in order to participate (with one flying under the EU flag).

If England does not seriously consider taking matter into their own hands by either partnering up with the US or EU or building their own space ports, they will have nothing to complain about when the US, Russia, India, China, Japan, South Korea, etc. begin importing minerals, Helium-3 and rare metals for their benefit (not to mention expanding their DNA off world).

It would be good to see the United Kingdom partner with NASA and land an astronaut on the moon. After all, if Canada sees the benefit of doing so, then why not our UK brethren?

Update (7/18): Added source link (which was foolishly left out).

Korea Building A Space Port?

It looks like Korea (that would be South Korea) is starting to become a little jealous over its Chinese and Japanese "brethren" flying off humans and satellites to the stars and has decided to jump into the action themselves.

(Digital Chosunilbo) In a small village at the tip of the Oe Naro Island, a beachhead for space exploration is under construction by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute. The Naro Space Center is to launch a rocket made with Korea's own technology in 2008. Located at the foot of Machi Mountain on Oe Naro Island, there is a 500 million sq. m construction site for the Space Center. Its seven core facilities are now 95 percent complete.

The Naro Space Center will build equipment and conduct test operation by the first half of this year, when the rocket operation system worth W265 billion (US$1=W930) will be complete. With this development, Korea becomes the world's 13th nation to own a rocket launch station, and the site will be the 26th in the world.

Despite their belated entry into the space arena, Korea seems to be seriously considering establishing itself among the heavens as one can notice by their latest attempt at sending up astronauts into space.

Ironically, the Korean island is remaking itself into a "space center" in order to not only become the main launching point for South Korea, but also increase tourism into the area.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Terrestrial Space Elevators, A Neccessary Evil?

The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.

~Paul Valery

With humanity on the verge of leaving their terrestrial cradle, one can only imagine how far they will go in order to explore, build and conquer other worlds. But whether we choose to enter space via chemical and nuclear rockets, or magnetic sleds, we may have to construct a space elevator, even if the previous methods become cheaper in the future.

Whether or not one acknowledges global warming, most people can agree that air pollution is a major concern for our environment. Although much of it comes from common vehicles such as automobiles, a large portion comes from power plants, especially coal.

Many communities have responded to this by building "clean, safe," nuclear power plants. Although they do not pollute our atmosphere they can leave a nasty side effect called nuclear waste which can take thousands of years to decay or worse be spun into weapons.

Removing them off our planet would not only ensure that future descendants do not spin them into weapons, but that our environment would not suffer from a dump site leak.

Since most nations would be uncomfortable having a rocket or magnetic sled hurling nuclear materials half way around the planet (especially in their neighborhood), a space elevator could easily solve this problem by moving nuclear waste "slowly" off our planet from a location away from major populations.

The waste could then be disposed of by a robotic shuttle in space and then dumped on Venus (or perhaps even hurled towards the sun).

Although most of humanity is probably fit for space travel, there remains a vast minority who are either unfit physically (as in the case of Stephen Hawking) to travel to the stars. Despite lacking the physical strength to endure the trip, these people may have a lot to offer humanity as far as intellect and our understanding of the universe goes.

Leaving these people behind to observe the universe through others would be nothing more than to deny them the opportunity to explore the universe for themselves. A space elevator would allow those who are disabled or not healthy enough to travel via rocket (or magnetic sled) to join the rest of humanity in our quest to colonize the stars.

But before we can even adequately transport large numbers of people into space, (as well as dangerous materials on Earth) humanity will need to figure out a way to remove nearly 4,800 satellites no longer in use, circling our globe. Although many of these satellites are unusable, they may hold some historical value such as humanities first satellite into space, Sputnik 1.

Unfortunately despite their value, many of these objects can not be brought back towards earth because of the dangers that they would pose to both the shuttle and the crew. A space elevator could enable humanity to get a glimpse of their past by enabling the safe transport of distant satellites from space to Earth (possibly through solar dump trucks).

Not only would scientists and historians enjoy the return of some of the satellites to planet Earth, but also engineers as well (as they could finally figure out what went wrong in the past). A space elevator may even allow us to recycle these satellites and refurbish them for other missions.

Whether we get to space en mass through rockets or magnetic sleds only the future can tell. But regardless on the vehicle chosen to get to the stars and beyond, we may have to construct a ladder to the future to not only resolve problems around and on Earth, but to insure that all may have the opportunity to fully enjoy the cosmos.

(Hat Tip: Space Elevator Journal)

Update: Corrected some grammatical errors.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Video: Would You Visit MOON Resort?

(Hat Tip: Robot Guy)

It looks like a company called MOON World Resorts has found its universal niche and has decided that it will build a vacation resort on the lunar surface. I'm not sure if they are seriously pursuing this or creating an earthen copycat, but at least they provided an interesting video.

Note: Unless this company can find a cheap way of transporting materials (let alone employee's) to the surface, then this idea will probably not enter reality until 2070 at best.