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Archive for the ‘space’ category: Page 287

Nov 13, 2011

D’Nile aint just a river in Egypt…

Posted by in categories: business, complex systems, cosmology, economics, education, ethics, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, human trajectories, humor, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, neuroscience, open access, open source, philosophy, policy, rants, robotics/AI, space, sustainability

Greetings fellow travelers, please allow me to introduce myself; I’m Mike ‘Cyber Shaman’ Kawitzky, independent film maker and writer from Cape Town, South Africa, one of your media/art contributors/co-conspirators.

It’s a bit daunting posting to such an illustrious board, so let me try to imagine, with you; how to regard the present with nostalgia while looking look forward to the past, knowing that a millisecond away in the future exists thoughts to think; it’s the mode of neural text, reverse causality, non-locality and quantum entanglement, where the traveller is the journey into a world in transition; after 9/11, after the economic meltdown, after the oil spill, after the tsunami, after Fukushima, after 21st Century melancholia upholstered by anti-psychotic drugs help us forget ‘the good old days’; because it’s business as usual for the 1%; the rest continue downhill with no brakes. Can’t wait to see how it all works out.

Please excuse me, my time machine is waiting…
Post cyberpunk and into Transhumanism

Oct 25, 2011

Don Quijote — the podcast

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, space

The Don Quijote mission — so we don’t go the same way as the dinosaurs.

With some help from colleagues, I recently produced a report on the planned European Space Agency Don Quijote mission to divert an asteroid’s trajectory (kind of a test-run for the real thing that may happen some time in the future) as a 365 Days of Astronomy podcast.

It is reassuring to see humanity beginning to deal with this genuine risk to Earth’s survival — just in case we don’t all get swallowed up in a 2cm black hole in the next five years wink

The transcript is also available for reading on the 365 Days site if you are not a podcast fan.

Continue reading “Don Quijote — the podcast” »

Oct 22, 2011

ISDHuB – Supporting for 100 years

Posted by in categories: futurism, space

ISDHuB — International Space Development Hub — Hangar One/Nasa Ames Research Park

An aspect of support for the 100 year star ship program
A.H.Sinclair 11/11/11

For the formulation of a 100 year star ship prospectus and for a comprehensive and compatible100 year world view which will advance both the sciences of space exploration and the issues of a planetary sustainability we suggest the following discussion as being alternative to the more isolate modes of inquiry:

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Oct 15, 2011

Space Renaissance: Dawn of a New Age of Civilization

Posted by in category: space

A little more than 40 years ago – 42 years in July, to be exact – men walked on the moon for the first time. This achievement was a landmark for humanity – not only in that it demonstrated a vast technological ability but also because it was that “giant leap for mankind” – as Neil Armstrong so eloquently put it – in an eternal quest for the stars.

Most of us grew up watching the space program – the first orbiting satellites, the Apollo program, the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. We became accustomed to constant “leaps for mankind” in technological achievement. We shared in the sorrows – the Challenger explosion, the loss of Columbia high over Texas – and we shared in the numerous heroic successes of our astronauts and the scientists and engineers who formed NASA.

With the ending of the Shuttle program, many Americans are now beginning to feel that all those glory days are behind us. I’ve heard people lament the changes in direction of our policy of space exploration as though the adventure of discovery beyond the pull of Earth’s gravity is all but over.

I would like to remind you that we are not at the END of the Space Age. We are still merely at the beginning. Current circumstances – mainly economic ones – might make it seem that we are unable to advance – or that major advancements might not come in our lifetime. But there are still a lot of things going on that make me believe we are rapidly entering a new age of civilization that ultimately will take us beyond Earth and to the stars. All things considered, this new age is likely to be the kind of pivotal movement in history that occurred as Western civilization emerged from a state of decline through what became known as the Renaissance – literally the REBIRTH of civilization.

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Oct 4, 2011

Astronomers Win 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics

Posted by in categories: physics, space

Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess will share the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2011 has been awarded “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae” acknowledging the amazing discovery announced in 1998 that — based on the measured velocities of Type 1a supernovae — the rate of the universe’s expansion is increasing over time. The prize will be shared by three astronomers, now officially ‘outstanding in their field’, Saul Perlmutter of UC Berkeley, Brian P. Schmidt of the Australian National University and Adam G. Riess of Johns Hopkins University. (more…)

Sep 27, 2011

Solution In Search Of A Problem — Nationalism, Environmentalism, and Space’s struggle for cultural relevance.

Posted by in categories: business, futurism, space, sustainability

Space is a hard sell these days. Aside from the persistent small community of die-hard space advocates and New Space entrepreneurs, the relevance of space to the society at large has generally declined since the grand achievements of the Space Race and even such great feats as the building of the ISS have garnered rather modest public attention. In recent years we have had more active astronauts than ever in history, yet few among the general public can name a single one. An appreciation of space science seems to have improved in recent years by virtue of the impressive visuals offered by orbital telescopes, space probes, and rovers. But the general public commitment to space development still dwindles in the face of mounting domestic issues. Most recently we have seen a drastic contraction of national space agencies in response to the current global economic turmoil. Programs are reduced, cut, or under looming threat. We hear pronouncements of deemphasis of costly manned space activity by the major national players in space development. The world leader in space, NASA, now drifts aimlessly, its premier launch system–controversial from the start, often dismissed as a boondoggle, and dragged along for far too long–finally succumbing to obsolescence without a replacement at-hand, leaving the agency dependent upon foreign nations and struggling for a semblance of direction and purpose. In this past few years, finding itself abandoned on both right and left sides of the political fence, it faced the very real possibility of being shut down altogether and now its partner DARPA talks of century-long space programs with no government involvement at all because the very idea of the US government having the coherence to accomplish anything that takes more than one electoral cycle to do has become implausible.

Overconfident to the extreme after recent very significant, yet still modest in the broad perspective, successes, the newest faction of the commercial space community, the New Space entrepreneurs, boast their readiness to pick up the slack, not quite cluing into the fact that the rope isn’t just dropped, it may be cut! Space industry has never been a very big industry despite the seemingly gigantic sticker prices of its hardware. The global space industry accounts for around 160 billion dollars annually. Soft drinks account for 350 billion. Coca Cola is bigger than NASA. Meanwhile, the lion’s share of commercial space service has always been for governments and the remaining largely telecommunications applications –after 50 years still the only proven way to make money in space- face slow decline as latency becomes increasingly critical to mainstream communications. The ‘grand convergence’ long anticipated in computing has now focused on the Internet which is steadily assimilating all forms of mainstream communication and media distribution. Despite a few service providers of last resort, satellites simply don’t work as a host for conventional Internet and physics precludes any solution to that. We owe recent surges in launch service demand more to war than anything else. Ultimately, we’re not looking at a privatization of national space systems. We’re looking at their outright obsolescence and an overall decline in the relevance of space activity of any sort short of science applications, which have no more need of astronauts than for manned submersibles and for the same reasons. The need for space services will not disappear but, as it stands now, has little likelihood of growth either–except on the back of war. Logically, what commercial space desperately needs is a program for the systematic cultivation of new applications the space agencies have never seriously pursued–new ways to make money there, particularly in an industrial context. And what do the mavericks of New Space have on offer in that context? Space tourism for the rich, during a time of global recession…

There is a great misconception today that the challenges of commercial space are merely technological problems waiting to be solved by that one new breakthrough propulsion technology that never materializes. But commercial air travel did not become ubiquitous by virtue of flight technology becoming miraculously cheap and powerful like microprocessors. It became ubiquitous by realizing markets of scale that supported aircraft of enormous size needing very large minimum operation economies of scale, where populations of millions in communities with well-heeled comfortable middle-classes are necessary to generate sufficient traffic to justify the existence of a single airport. A single A380 airliner costs almost as much as the development of a typical unmanned launch system. Air travel was never particularly successful in an industrial sense. Most stuff still moves around the world at the 20mph speed of ships. The New Deal and the remnant air support infrastructure of WWII were together probably more responsible for the modern airline industry than any engine or aircraft design–because they created the market. If it takes a population of millions to justify the existence of a single conventional airport for conventional airliners, what then a Pan-Am Orion?

For those who look to space as an insurance policy for life and the human civilization, this situation should be of much concern. Whether it be for averting the potential disasters of asteroid strikes or as a redoubt for some fraction of civilization in the event of any terrestrial disaster, a vast space-based infrastructure must be continually at-hand for such capability. Yet these kinds of threats do not themselves seem to have ever inspired sufficient concern in the general public or political leaders to demand such capability be established and maintained for its own sake. You cannot talk in public about such space contingencies and be taken remotely seriously. One could say we have been a bit too lucky as a civilization. There have been no small asteroid impacts in historic memory and few global existentially threatening events beyond those we human beings have created –and we’re very good at systematic denial of those. So this contingency capability relies on being incidental to other space development. That development has been inadequate for that to date, counting on future expansion that has never materialized. What then as we watch that development fizzle-out altogether? The essential cultural relevance of space development can be seen as crucial to the long-term survival of our species, and that’s in marked decline.

Continue reading “Solution In Search Of A Problem — Nationalism, Environmentalism, and Space's struggle for cultural relevance.” »

Sep 13, 2011

Economics and Survival: An In-space 2-for-1 Bargain

Posted by in categories: economics, existential risks, habitats, space, sustainability

There is growing recognition that the Moon is the logical next step for sustainably opening space to human settlement. It is now confirmed that both lunar poles contain appreciable quantities of ice containing water and also carbon and nitrogen containing compounds. Since the Moon is always only a 3-day trip away, it easily beats low-gravity asteroids as the most economic place to mine water ice. Similarly, since the Moon has only a 3-second roundtrip communications delay, teleoperated robots could mine and process the lunar ice at a fraction of what human miners would cost. That ice, brought back to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) could establish a new space economy including on-orbit refueling, boosting large communications satellites to GEO, sending tourists around or even to the Moon, and facilitating NASAs Beyond Earth Orbit activities. So the Moon is a great place to develop economic in-space resources.

But, what does all of this do with survival?

Amongst those people who understand extinction risks to humanity, it is generally recognized that an off-Earth, self-sufficient colony would go a very long ways to ensuring the survival of humanity as a species. An orbiting colony would not be a good choice because, if the Earth’s biosphere were contaminated with an ecophage, the Earth itself would not anymore be a source of supplies, and Earth orbit contains no resources except for sunlight. Mars, an asteroid, or a distant moon could be a location for an off-Earth colony, but all of these would be considerably more expensive to establish than on the Moon. For those of us who think it prudent that we should purchase “insurance” against the extinction of humanity sooner rather than later, the least expensive location makes the most sense. So the Moon is a great place to establish a colony for the purpose of survival.

Interesting, so the Moon is the best place for both economics and survival. Perhaps the two could be combined into a single program. But, in the Age of Austerity, it is unlikely that our governments are going to fund a large new space program. So how can this be done economically?

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Sep 9, 2011

365 days of astronomy podcast

Posted by in category: space

Hi,

My esteemed colleague the Ordinary Guy from the Brains Matter podcast and I recorded a 365 days podcast for 8 September 2011 - talking about saving the world through science education and research, as well considering issues of cheap telescopes and the George Foreman grill.

The 365 days of astronomy podcast is a not-for-profit user driven science communication initiative — in its third year now, but it may be on its last legs. If you have a burning desire to create 10 minutes of audio on a space science-related podcast, this may be your last chance.

And a big woo-hoo to the Lifeboat Foundation for a whopping $250 donation to keep the 365 days podcast going — at least for the rest of 2011.

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Sep 3, 2011

Space Junk! Environmental concerns!

Posted by in categories: space, sustainability

Dear Team and readers,

I am particularly concerned about the damage we cause to the environment starting with junk in space, earth, and the ocean.

As a participant of Singularity University ’11 at NASA Ames, I am very happy to share with you my video about space debris:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI3V09tfcAc

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Jun 5, 2011

Our History Shapes the Future

Posted by in categories: counterterrorism, futurism, geopolitics, human trajectories, military, nanotechnology, philosophy, policy, space

Abstract

American history teachers praise the educational value of Billy Joel’s 1980s song ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’. His song is a homage to the 40 years of historical headlines since his birth in 1949.

Which of Joel’s headlines will be considered the most important a millennium from now?

This column discusses five of the most important, and tries to make the case that three of them will become irrelevant, while one will be remembered for as long as the human race exists (one is uncertain). The five contenders are:

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