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Archive for the 'Space' Category

“The Case Against Mars” by Drexler (1984)

Posted by RichardTerra on January 2nd, 2002

An article by K. Eric Drexler that appeared in the October 1984 issue of the L5 News ("Space Development: The Case Against Mars") is now available on the Foresight webiste. The article argues that Mars is not a good target if the goal is development of a broadly-based human expansion into space. At the time, Drexler was Associate Editor of the L5 News and a member of the Society's Board of Advisors, but the article reflected his views rather than L5 Society policy. He now serves on the Board of Governors of the National Space Society, with which the L5 Society merged. Given that humans have made no progress beyond low Earth orbit in the intervening years, the arguments in the article are still valid.

Astronomers analyze atmosphere of distant planet

Posted by RichardTerra on November 29th, 2001

from the Distant-airs dept.
(28 November 2001) – Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have been able to obtain data indicating the presence of sodium of a planet orbiting another star. This is the first direct detection and chemical analysis of the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system. Their unique observations demonstrate it is possible with Hubble and other telescopes to measure the chemical makeup of extrasolar planets' atmospheres and potentially to search for chemical markers of life beyond Earth. The planet orbits a Sun-like star that lies 150 light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. Its atmospheric composition was probed when the planet passed in front of its parent star, allowing astronomers to see light from the star filtered through the planet's atmosphere. Additional information is available in this press release from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and an article in the New York Times.

JFK pushed lunar landing but was “not that interested in space.”

Posted by RichardTerra on August 24th, 2001

from the historical-ironies dept.
(No, this isnít about nanotech. Itís an item in an occasional series of off-topic news and information for Fridays.)

United Press International reports that, according to White House tapes released by the Kennedy Library archives, President John F. Kennedy clashed with NASA's top officials over his desire to gain political points by landing a man on the moon before the Soviet Union ("Tapes: JFK pushed for lunar landing", 23 August 2001). According to UPIís transcription, Kennedy made the following comments during a White House meeting over spending for the space program on Nov. 21, 1962 (about a month after the Cuban Missile Crisis):

"This is important for political reasons, international political reasons, and this is, whether we like it or not, in a sense, a race," Kennedy said. "Everything that we do ought to really be tied to getting onto the moon ahead of the Russians."
"I do think we ought to get it really clear that the policy ought to be that this is the top priority program of the agency and one … of the top priorities of the United States government," Kennedy said. "Otherwise, we shouldn't be spending this kind of money because I'm not that interested in space."

On the same day the Kennedy tapes were released, UPI also reported that a Russian Progress M-45 cargo ship docked safely with the International Space Station, the day after the U.S. space shuttle Discovery departed for landing, carrying the crew of three who had staffed the station for over five months. That crew was commanded by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev and included American astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms. They were launched into orbit on 8 March 2001 as the ISS's second permanent crew and logged almost 70 million miles during 5 ½ months aboard the orbital complex. The Progress cargo craft, which lifted off Tuesday from Kazkahstan's Baikonur cosmodrome, was carrying supplies to the current ISS crew that includes Russian cosmonauts Vladimir Dezhurov and Mikhail Tyurin and their commander, U.S. astronaut Frank Calbertson.

The shuttle Discovery landed at the Kennedy Space Center on 22 August 2001.

McKendree MNT & Space Dissertation Accepted

Posted by RichardTerra on May 8th, 2001

from the congratulations! dept.
Tom McKendree writes "I am extremely happy to announce that last week I passed the defense of my Ph.D. dissertation at USC, on the subject of "Technical and Operational Assessment of Molecular Nanotechnology for Space Operations". This is a rewrite of my earlier dissertation draft, making molecular nanotechnology for space the explicit central focus of the document. The basic conclusion, that systems designed and built to atomic precision can outperform current technology for space operations, should not be a surprise to this audience. The heartening aspects are that I was able to substantiate this conclusion in much more detail, and that I was able to convince a dissertation committee of six, including five lecturing professors at USC, that this was sufficiently credible and important to deserve a Ph.D."

NASA study points to nanotubes as key material for orbital towers

Posted by RichardTerra on May 3rd, 2001

from the going-(way)-up;-watch-your-step! dept.
Brian Wang writes "An article from New Scientist posted at EurekAlert describes recent NASA studies on the feasibility of space elevators and orbital towers. The interesting aspect is the view of some solutions to making nanotubes cheaply and long enough to be the primary structural material."

According to the article, two independent NASA teams recently work out the technological requirements and found them to be feasible. The article also notes that "carbon has been elevated to the material of choice. In the form of diamond, it shows record-breaking mechanical properties. Diamond can't be spun into filaments, but there is a form of carbon that combines strength with length: nanotubes. These . . . exceed the tensile strength of steel by at least a factor of 100." The problem, as the article notes, is synthesizing nanotube molecules long enough construct the cable at the heart of the orbital tower.

Additional information about the space elevator studies can be found at this NASA website.

Nano Cells, Nano Sails & Heliovores

Posted by BryanBruns on February 7th, 2001

from the space-creatures-II dept.
David Coutts writes "I was writing A Crude Guide To Energy Levels In Our Solar System, and my mind started racing with ideas related to nanotechnology. Perhaps they are far-fetched and extreme, perhaps not. So I thought I'd subject them to readers for some constructive criticism. Please be gentle… As you can see, this time I re-read some sections of Engines Of Creation before submitting my article."

The Cassandra Prophecy: population problem

Posted by Christine Peterson on January 28th, 2001

from the billions-of-billions dept.
David Coutts writes "I enjoyed reading the recent CNN article about Stephen Hawkings' predictions for the human colonisation of our solar system in the next 100 years. In particular, he narrows it all down to 2 possibilities: (1) either we destroy ourselves )2) we engineer one or more species which surpass us… [About] option 2, at least I wrote an article recently with a similar view, called The Cassandra Prophecy. This is only the second draft, so I would appreciate constructive criticism:" CP: Read more for an excerpt from Engines of Creation pointing out that space colonization postpones but does not solve the problem.

Space colonization via nanotech

Posted by Christine Peterson on January 23rd, 2001

from the there's-plenty-of-room-at-the-top dept.
David Coutts writes "I'm a big fan of the Living Universe Foundation, and a member. I agree with their goal of the human civilisation of space, starting with our own solar system (they call this phase "Solaria", the equivalent of Kardashev Level 2) and then on to the Milky Way galaxy ("Galactica", or K-3). Until recently, they don't appear to have taken nanotechnology seriously, so I was delighted to read the following article on nano fibers in the online "Distant Star" magazine: Personally, I would like to see Foresight Institute and the Living Universe work together to ensure that there is a place for humanity in space, starting with our own solar system." CP: One point of disagreement would be that LUF wants to colonize the ocean surface first.

Now you can model solar system population online

Posted by Christine Peterson on December 11th, 2000

from the more-people-than-you-can-shake-a-stick-at dept.
David Coutts brings to our attention SolarPop, a program for modeling solar system demographics in the third millennium, now available as a Java applet. This follows up our earlier piece on the game 6 Billion, which David points out is now listed at number 9 its category in Games Magazine's Games 100 buyers guide. Read More for David's full post.

NASA to aerospace companies: embrace nanotech

Posted by Christine Peterson on October 29th, 2000

from the hey-flyboys-wake-up-and-smell-the-molecules dept.'s Leonard David writes on Yahoo News of NASA's advice: "There is a global wake-up call ringing loudly for spacefaring nations. The aerospace industry faces a major overhaul if promising commercial space markets are to be realized in coming years…But after four decades of development, is the promise of a booming commercial space sector more high hope than profitable, bottom-line marketplace?…The key to the space future, [NASA Administrator] Goldin emphasized, is in aerospace companies that embrace biology, nanotechnology and information systems." As a first step, we suggest they read up on work by Tom McKendree, currently at Raytheon.

MNT & space dissertation needs reviewers

Posted by Christine Peterson on September 11th, 2000

from the let's-help-change-Mr-Tom-to-Dr-Tom dept.
Senior Associate Tom McKendree writes "I am wrapping up the last substantive chapter of my dissertation [on space applications of molecular nanotechnology]. After that, I still have the conclusions chapter to finish, and the introduction to write, but there is a lot of content in what is already done. My target is to actually defend and complete this year. So, in the spirit of parallel processing, I am looking once again for people interested in reviewing sections of the dissertation." Read More for the outline.

Test your theories of population in solar system

Posted by Christine Peterson on August 26th, 2000

from the Malthus-had-a-point dept.
From Australia comes news of an easy, enjoyable way to play out various scenarios of human population growth. David Coutts has designed a game called 6 Billion which enables players to model exponential growth of human population in our solar system. Users can set their own timescales for scientific progress, population growth, and even sociological change. Sounds like a fun method to get a feel for exponential growth of population, which the designer correctly describes as "scary". Here's some background and history on the game. Read more for David's full post.

Mir visitor to be selected on reality TV

Posted by Christine Peterson on August 21st, 2000

from the OK-we're-amused dept.
From the press release: MirCorp announced today that it has signed an agreement with Mark Burnett, executive producer of the internationally known Survivor television series, for the creation and marketing of a TV program in which the winner will travel to Mir…"Destination Mir" will be a multi-week televised story of the selection process that the TV program's civilian "guest cosmonauts" will undergo. Russian space officials will make the determination of who has "the right stuff." See also the article in Florida Today; thanks to Space Frontier Foundation for the pointers.

Los Angeles: MNT & Space talk, Aug 19

Posted by Christine Peterson on August 17th, 2000

from the ad-astra-per-nano dept.
Senior Associate TomMcKendree will speak on space applications of advanced nanotech at the LA Nanotechnology Study Group:
Title: Appropriately Ambitious Aerospace Goals: A Reprise of the Keynote Address to NASA's "Turning Goals Into Reality" Conference
Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) offers a number of capabilities that can dramatically improve aerospace systems (such as aircraft and spaceships). Tom McKendree is completing a Ph.D. that looks specifically at space applications of MNT, and was thus invited to give the keynote to NASA's recent Turning Goals Into Reality conference, where NASA reviewed their last year of technology research, and planned for the future. This talk is a second presentation of that keynote. It focuses on MNT-based air transportation, space transportation, and advanced concepts, tying these to NASA's previously stated technology goals, and outlining what appropriate goals for the next century that take advantage of MNT would be. The talk should be interesting to anyone interested in space technology, or applications of robust MNT. Read More to attend.

Space sails take off

Posted by Christine Peterson on July 6th, 2000

from the Charles-plans-new-use-for-his-sailing-skills dept.
Senior Associate Charles Vollum reports "An article on CNN's website discusses recent successful demonstrations of sails for space propulsion at JPL and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base."

Freeman Dyson on New Species of Humans

Posted by Christine Peterson on July 5th, 2000

from the my-new-wings-don't-work-in-Earth-gravity-anyway dept.
Ralph Brave reports in Salon: Princeton's Dyson has his own ideas on what is to be done. In his view, the speciation of humans into different groups is inevitable — and it would be a disaster to allow such diversification without restraint. "We must travel the high road into space, to find new worlds to match our new (genetic) capabilities," Dyson writes in The Sun, the Genome and the Internet, published last year. "To give us room to explore the varieties of mind and body which our genome can evolve, one planet is not enough." CP: What is the "restraint" here — getting to colonize space? Oh, OK…since they insist.

Space: the Final (Nanotech) Frontier

Posted by Christine Peterson on June 27th, 2000

from the turning-space-into-a-place dept.
Senior Associate TomMcKendree is the only one we know working on a PhD in nanotechnology for space applications. He spoke at an internal NASA planning conference, "Turning Goals into Reality": I put together a new presentation, based on NASA's technical goals, my work on MNT and space, and lifting heavily from JoSH's aircar study, since a majority of their technical goals related to aircraft. The charts are available at link …A partial transcript is at link "Read More" for the full story.