Yes, today this blog celebrates its 8th anniversary - it’s hard to believe that I’ve been doing this for such a long time…
Much has happened in the Space Elevator field since I first began my missives. In no particular order they are:
The Space Elevator Games - this joint venture between NASA and the Spaceward Foundation created lots of interest in the power-beaming and strong-tether technologies over its many year run. Games were held in California (Mountain View and Mojave), New Mexico and Utah and produced a winner (Lasermotive) that took home $900,000. It’s unfortunate that NASA didn’t renew the contract, but they have other ‘fish to fry’ these days. However, it’s good to know that there are still organizations and groups trying to push the boundary of power-beaming. For example, the Kansas City Space Pirates recently set an unofficial record for beam-powered flight.
The birth of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC). This organization began in 2008 and, after a rough first year, has found its way. I was privileged to be its President for four years and it is now in the capable hands of Dr. Peter Swan. This organization has taken up sponsorship of the American Space Elevator Conference, produces year-long studies on various aspects of Space Elevator Technology and also CLIMB, the Space Elevator Journal. Recently, ISEC created the Space Elevator Research and History Committees to further knowledge in this field. And hey, lets not forget the posters ISEC creates too…
The birth of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA). This very active group holds a conference every year and hosts multiple competitions too. They have an active website and lots of members and are group of very good, committed people.
The Space Elevator Conferences. The American ones were originally hosted by the SESI organization and have now, as noted in a previous item, been taken over by ISEC. During the past few conferences, we’ve had luminaries such as Yuri Artsutanov and Jerome Pearson attend and give Keynote speeches and this year’s conference will be very exciting too, I’m sure. JSEA also hosts conferences in Japan each year and EuroSpaceward (apparently not active anymore, unfortunately) has hosted a few conferences in Europe where Space Elevator Technology and Research has played a central role.
The International Academy of Astronautics released a report about Space Elevators (An Assessment of the Technological Feasibility and the Way Forward), the first comprehensive study of Space Elevators since Brad Edwards and Eric Westling’s seminal publication in 2002. This report has been just recently published and has received a lot of Press coverage.
We’ve seen the growth and demise and then subsequent rebirth of LiftPort. They are now concentrating their efforts on building a Lunar space elevator. They were able to host a very successful Kickstarter campaign and raised a lot of money for their efforts.
While the Space Elevator is a familiar concept in Japan (Gundam rocks!), publicity about this enterprise is growing in the western world too. There have been articles published about the Space Elevator in such world-wide publications as the National Geographic Magazine (both online and in print) and a Google Search on “Space Elevator” will now turn up hundreds and hundreds of hits of articles about this concept. Also, several fictional and non-fictional books about the Space Elevator (or with the Space Elevator as a backdrop) have been published. The idea of a Space Elevator is no longer a strange concept and I’m hopeful that this blog has had some small part to play in that.
There have been many other developments in the Space Elevator field over this past eight years, too numerous to list here. I’ve highlighted major ones (IMHO) in my previous anniversary blogs: Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6. No posting, sadly, for Year 7.
While all of this is good and exciting, we continue to wait for science & engineering to come up with the material strong enough to construct an earth-based Space Elevator tether. Research in the Carbon Nanotube tensile-strength field has not made the progress that many of us had hoped for by now, but on the grand scale of things, we’re still in the ‘early innings’ of this project. And research is now proceeding with a second material theoretically strong enough to build an earth-based Space Elevator tether from, Boron Nitride nanotubes. Options are good things!
My faithful readers over the past several years have noted, I’m sure, this blog’s change in focus from “all-things Space Elevator” to “all-things ISEC”. This wasn’t deliberate, but was rather a side-effect of my being president of that organization for four years. Now that I’m no longer president (but I’m still very much involved as a Director and being in charge of publicity), the focus of this blog is returning to “all-things Space Elevator”.
So, thank you for reading and onward and upward!
April 1st, 2014
The latest issue of the ISEC eNewsletter has just been released. Lots of good information in this issue including how to register for the upcoming 2014 Space Elevator Conference (you ARE going, aren’t you?), updates on the ISEC Research Committee, ISEC being a supporter of the upcoming NSS/ISDC conference and more.
Check it out here.
And remember, you can join our eNewsletter list so you’ll always be one of the first to get updates from ISEC.
March 31st, 2014
Hey, a new Space Elevator website? Oh happy day!
Surely with a URL like www.spaceelevatoronline.com, this is a Space Elevator related site? Maybe a blog, like this one, or some other technical site? Perhaps a Q&A site where you can ask questions about a Space Elevator and get answers?
This is the home for a new music group, Space Elevator. They have a debut album out and you can sample it (and order it) on their website. Now this music may or may not appeal to you - I personally didn’t find the sample attractive enough that I was going to plunk down £9.99 (plus £3.50 shipping) to order it (and it’s not on iTunes). But perhaps you will enjoy it enough to do so.
However, I must register a strong complaint with them. Only Freddie Mercury was allowed to wear this outfit…
(Clicking on the picture thumbnails display a larger-size version of the picture)
March 26th, 2014
March 17th, 2014
As many people who follow developments in the Space Elevator ‘arena’ are aware, LiftPort has turned its attention to developing a Lunar Space Elevator. Leonard David, SPACE.com’s “Space Insider Columnist’ recently posted a story on the current status of this project. In this article (which includes a link to a video created by LiftPort), he interviews Jerome Pearson, the American co-inventor of the modern-day concept of the Space Elevator (and the first one, to my knowledge, that seriously discussed a Lunar Space Elevator) and LiftPort’s Michael Laine.
It’s a very good article, well worth the read…
March 12th, 2014
The official announcement for the 2014 Space Elevator Conference and its associated Call for Papers has been released. You can view the announcement here.
The Conference will be held at the same venue as the past few conferences have been, Seattle’s Museum of Flight. This venue has proven to be a wonderful facility for this event and we are looking forward to having it there once again. And once again, Microsoft is going to be a Key Sponsor of the Conference - Thank you Microsoft!
The Conference will be held from August 22 through August 24th. Start making your plans now - be there or be square!
March 8th, 2014
The February, 2014 ISEC eNewsletter is hot off the presses and can be accessed here.
Included this month are Dr. Peter Swan’s “The President’s Corner”, an updated Call for Papers for the 2014 edition of CLIMB (The Space Elevator Journal), and a summary of recent space elevator-related articles in the news.
And a reminder, if you are not already on the eNewsletter mailing list, you can join here to make sure you won’t miss an issue in the future…
March 2nd, 2014
At the www.space.com website, Leonard David has written a fine article about the Space Elevator and the recent IAA Study concerning Space Elevators. It’s well worth the read.
And, check out all the illustrations from Frank Chase. Frank has been the artist for ISEC for several years now; he has designed most of our posters, the covers for CLIMB and for the ISEC reports and has contributed his artwork in other ways too. He’s a very talented guy
Anyway, check it out…
February 20th, 2014
For the month of February only, ISEC has launched a Membership drive which features reduced rates for Professional and Student Level members! This applies to renewals and new members. Professional level membership can be purchased/renewed for only $58 (normally $68) while Student level membership can be purchased/renewed for only $20 (normally $25).
Full membership benefits (CLIMB and the ISEC 2014 Poster) apply, so don’t delay. Visit the ISEC Join/Renew webpage now and take advantage of this offer!
February 11th, 2014
The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) has issued its official Call for Papers for Volume 3 of CLIMB, the Space Elevator Journal.
Volumes 1 and 2 of CLIMB were published in 2011 and 2013, respectively, and ISEC is targeting August of this year for the publication of Volume 3.
You can find the official Call for Papers document here, giving details as to the subject matter desired and the submission / publication process and schedule here.
Abstracts are required first and should be accepted before Papers are submitted (details are in the Call for papers announcement). For the most up-to-date information, please visit the CLIMB page on the ISEC website.
Questions can be emailed to climb [at] isec.org.
Volume 1 of CLIMB was the “Yuri Artsutanov” edition while Volume 2 of CLIMB was the “Jerome Pearson edition”. Volume 3 will be dedicated to the man who almost certainly popularized this concept more than anyone else, Sir Arthur C. Clarke.
So come on everyone, let’s get those writer juices flowing!
(Clicking on either of the CLIMB Cover thumbnails will display a full-size version of the Cover)
February 3rd, 2014
The January, 2014 ISEC eNewsletter is hot off the presses and can be accessed here.
Lots of good stuff this month, including the Call for Papers for the 2014 edition of CLIMB (The Space Elevator Journal), the 2014 ISEC membership drive (where you can join/renew an ISEC membership for reduced rates) and a report on the recently concluded IAA Space Agency Heads of Summit gathering in Washington, D.C.
And a reminder, if you are not already on the eNewsletter mailing list, you can join here to make sure you won’t miss an issue in the future…
January 31st, 2014
I received an email from Mr. Niles Heckman, letting me know about Auroras, a new sci-fi short film that he and his 3-person crew are creating, a”story about love, separation, and having to say goodbye.”
Niles tells me that it is “heavily influenced by Japanese anime” and is “an unconventional story about two women in love, with the backdrop of one leaving on a space elevator flight.”
Niles and his team have a Kickstarter campaign going on until the end of this month to fund the production of this film and, as of the writing of this blog post, they have raised about $8,600 towards their goal of $10,000 - almost there!
At the Kickstarter site, you can view the Project poster and the film Trailer - let’s hope this project comes to fruition!
January 22nd, 2014
The International Academy of Astronautics has just published its multi-year study about the Space Elevator (I first mentioned this study here). It’s conclusion was “Space Elevators Seem Feasible” and that’s, of course, good news, to all of us who are supportive of the concept. From the Press Release:
“Academy Concludes Space Elevators Seem Feasible”
The International Academy of Astronautics just approved this conclusion when it published the study report entitled: “Space Elevators: An Assessment of the Technological Feasibility and the Way Forward.” The report addresses the simple and complex issues that have been identified through the development of space elevator concepts over the last decade. It begins with a summary of ideas in Edwards’ and Westling’s book “The Space Elevator” (2003). Out of these beginnings has risen a worldwide cadre focused upon their areas of expertise as applied to space elevator development and operational infrastructure. The report answers some basic questions about the feasibility of a space elevator infrastructure. A preview of the main questions and answers shows the depth and breadth of this cosmic study.
- Why a Space Elevator?
- Can it be Done?
- How would all the elements fit together to create a system of systems?
- What are the technical feasibilities of each major space elevator element?
This study benefited from review and comments by numerous members of the Academy, as well as the International Space Elevator Consortium. The study could not have been completed to this level of detail without the timely and invaluable efforts of a diverse collection of experts from around the world who contributed not only their time and knowledge, but also provided material as well as their technical expertise for the study. There were 41 authors and five editors. The sponsors of this study report are: International Academy of Astronautics and the Heinlein Foundation Trust. To order a copy visit: www.virginiaedition.com or call (713) 861-3600. The prices are $29.95 for hardcopy and $9.95 for electronic version.
As noted in the press release, visit The Virginia Edition to purchase the hardcopy version or Amazon to purchase the Kindle eVersion.
December 14th, 2013
The current month’s email summarizes the availability of the pdf version of CLIMB, Volume 2, reminds everyone of the dates and venue for the 2014 Space Elevator Conference, a summary of the third of the workshops held at the recent Space Elevator conference and more.
You can access it here.
You can also sign up to be on the ISEC email list here if you want to have the eNewsletters sent directly to you.
December 1st, 2013
The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) has formed a History Committee to document the invention of the concept of the Space Elevator and the ever-increasing research and design which is taking place relating to this idea. Dr. Peter Swan, the President of ISEC, puts it this way:
“We are at a point in human history where there is activity to move off planet. As most of the world is limited by cost to orbit, we in the space elevator community believe we can make a difference in the future. However, as we go forward, we should also look back and record the progress that has occurred in the space elevator community. No one else will, until much later; so, we must step up and record our own history now.”
An initial team has already been formed and an aggressive agenda has been set, but Dr. Swan is looking for someone to head up the effort. The first Conference call of the History Committee is set to occur next Tuesday, November 12th. If you are interested in joining the team and/or heading up the effort, please contact Dr. Swan at pete.swan [at] isec.org.
November 5th, 2013
One year ago, the 2012 European Space Elevator Challenge (EUSPEC) was held in Germany, at TUM Campus Garching. A “highlights” video was created, which the EUSPEC team posted on its website. They recently re-announced it and it makes fine/fun viewing.
You can view it here (Post by European Space Elevator Challenge (EUSPEC)) on Facebook.
The organizers of the competition have this to say about it:
It has now been almost exactly one year since the last European Space Elevator Challenge. Take a trip down memory lane with this little video which was so far buried on our website.
We had a lot of fun during the event even though it was freezing cold at the time. In contrast, we had almost 20 degrees two days ago! Weather can be unpredictable…
We are hoping to bring back EUSPEC for 2014 or 2015. Stay tuned for any news on this site!
Looking forward to it!
October 30th, 2013
The current month’s email discusses the new “Historian” initiative by ISEC, dates and venue for the 2014 Space Elevator Conference, a summary of the second of the workshops held at the recent Space Elevator conference and more.
You can access it here.
You can also sign up to be on the ISEC email list here if you want to have the eNewsletters sent directly to you.
October 28th, 2013
I received this email today from Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates. It was sent out to all of their supporters:
We successfully beat the Laser Powered flight endurance record by double. Our flight time was 25 hours, 0 Minutes and 35 seconds. This was done at the VOX theater in Kansas City Kansas. We used a highly modified AR-Drone Quadcopter. We did this with 500 watts of laser power and non-exotic photovoltaic cells. Our total systems hardware costs were less than $30,000. I estimate this is well less than 1/3 of the 2009 record. Much of the hardware would cost even less if purchased today. This shows the exponential increase in human technological abilities is alive and well and that commercial laser powered flight applications are only a few years away. We can look forward to flying cell towers, autonomous shark patrols and countless other applications that only become practical with beam powered flight.
Achieving the record was not without drama. The planed for 48 hours got trimmed back to 24. We continued to 25 so we could double the previous record. Turns out that human endurance plays a role as we became tired human mistakes became a prominent concern. The lasers themselves worked flawlessly. The optics needed adjustment at the start. The quadcopter behaved like the finicky result of hacking a toy for purposes well beyond those it’s creators ever imagined. The Kansas City Star article covered all this well with this article.
We are on the cover of the online version of the paper today. We also have 3 of the top photos of the day.
We are in the Monday print version.
Thanks to all our supporters and sponsors. We would not be here without you.
Lasers by TRUMPF
Optics by Thorlabs
Control software by National Instruments
KC Space Pirates
Congratulations again to KCSP!
October 1st, 2013
Over the past 25 hours, the Kansas City Space Pirates have been continuously flying a quadcopter, powered solely by laser beam. At about 4:11am this morning, they passed the LaserMotive unofficial record time of 12 hours and 27 minutes. Once they got the new record time, their goals shifted to double the previous record, or about 24 hours and 54 minutes. They then slightly modified this goal to run a full 25 hours - and succeeded!
It was a very boring event, as you might imagine - watching a quadcopter hover a few feet above a target mounted on a table. Very boring that is until about 9 hours into the record flight. I had just tuned back in and noticed that the uStream feed was down (they DVR’d the entire run, but also broadcast it live on uStream so that people could watch in real time while it was happening). I called Brian Turner, captain of the Space Pirates who, unbeknownst to me was taking a quick nap. I apologized for waking him and he went to see what was wrong. Once he fixed the problem (the cable modem for their internet feed to uStream had to be reset), he decided to sit with the crew and watch what was going on. It’s a good thing he did because at about 9 hours and 10 minutes, a random air-current knocked the quadcopter off its target. It started searching, moving in wider and wider swings, sending out messages about “Target Lost” and, more ominously, “Battery Low”. Brian quickly grabbed the manual controls and brought the quadcopter back over the target. Things settled down and the rest of the run was fairly uneventful. I’m glad I woke Brian up!
No one officially judges or keeps tracks of records like these (their was no representative from Guinness at the original LaserMotive record flight or at this one), so the records are unofficial. But they’re real nonetheless. Having an aircraft continuously fly, non-tethered, for 12 hours as LaserMotive did or 25 hours as KCSP has just succeeded in doing, is very impressive and shows how reliable this type of technology can be.
KansasCity.com, the online version of the Kansas City Star, just published a story about this - a very nice summary of the entire event.
Congratulations KCSP - now let’s see how long this record stands!
(The photo thumbnail is a snapshot of the uStream presentation and you can click on it to see a larger version. The video in the top left-hand corner is from above and a bit behind the quadcopter - you can see it hovering over the target on the table. The video in the top right-hand corner is from in front of and slighly below the quadcopter. You can clearly see the overlapping laser beams (there were five, I think) on the photo cells and the shadow on the target board behind the quadcopter. The video in the lower left-hand corner shows the 90 foot distance from the lasers to the quadcopter. The timer in the lower right-hand corner ran continuously. This snapshot was taken just a couple of minutes before the end of the run, just when they had doubled the previous time. Once it got to its first 24 hours, it recycled to zero, so the timer is actually showing 24 hours, 56 minutes and 55 seconds).
September 29th, 2013
The Kansas City Space Pirates are now making their fourth attempt to break the unofficial power-beaming record set by LaserMotive. Brian Turner, captain of the Space Pirates, gives us this update:
- Recap. We have flown 3 previous times. 1 hr, 2 hrs, 5 hrs.
- First run failed because the laser aim was out of adjustment.
- Second run failed when drone lost track of it’s bottom target and drifted into the wall causing crash.
- Third run failed when we moved our broadcast system and interfered with the Drone comms.
They’ve also had some “environment” issues (had to partially open some shades to create better airflow) and they think that the simple act of people walking around was causing an issue. They’ve pretty much stopped that now and things are very stable.
As of this blog post, they are about 3 hours into run #4 and, if all goes well, they hope to eclipse the old mark of 12 hours and 27 minutes about 4:12am, Sunday morning, CST.
You can view the live broadcast and participate in the chat session by going here.
September 28th, 2013
Not a lot of commentary from the organizers, so I can’t be sure, but it looks like the attempt to break an unofficial power-beaming record is underway.
Read more about it here…
September 27th, 2013
The current month’s email discusses ISEC’s new affiliation with the National Space Society (NSS), reveals the summary of one of the workshops held at the recent Space Elevator conference and more.
You can access it here.
You can also sign up to be on the ISEC email list here if you want to have the eNewsletters sent directly to you.
September 27th, 2013
The Kansas City Space Pirates are going to be going for an unofficial record this coming weekend, the record set by LaserMotive Technologies in late October of 2010. What LaserMotive did then was make a quadrocopter (an AscTec Pelican) fly continuously for 12 hours and 27 minutes. powered solely by laser beam. A video of that flight can be found on the LaserMotive website.
Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates writes the following:
All is set for this weekends record attempt. You can tune in live and check it out at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/brianturner
Launch is set for Friday 6:30 PM CDT We plan to fly till 6:30 pm Sunday. The previous record of 12 hours 27 minutes should be passed at about 7 am Saturday.
Helping me with this record are Chad, Don, Frank, Quinn, Ravi, and Joe. Ustream has a chat function that we will be active on during the flight.
If you visit the ustream channel, you can see a couple of videos from previous tests run by the Space Pirates.
Ah, this brings back memories of the “glory years” of power-beaming competitions, culminating in the victorious run by LaserMotive.
I’ll be posting further news as I receive it - good luck to Brian and his team!
(The picture thumbnail is picture of the KCSP computer screen with the quadcopter’s view of the hall - click on it to see a larger version.)
September 25th, 2013
Science writer David Appell attended all 3 days of the recent Space Elevator Conference and, in the current issue of Pacific Standard, he writes about the Conference and what he learned there.
It’s a very good overview article and accurately summarizes where things are in this effort at the moment. He also talks about the exciting LiftPort effort to build a Space Elevator on the moon.
September 5th, 2013
The current month’s email discusses the recent conference, our new slate of Officers and more.
You can access it here.
You can sign up to be on the ISEC email list here if you want to have the eNewsletters sent directly to you.
August 30th, 2013
James May (aka “Captain Slow”), the English journalist, recently posted on his HeadSqueeze BBC column an article about the advantages a Space Elevator could bring to humanity. It’s a very good video and well worth the 7+ minutes of your time to view it…
The article and video are here…
(Hat tip - Peter Swan)
August 30th, 2013
The 2013 Space Elevator Conference wrapped up today with another full schedule. Attendees got one last “fill” of informative and interesting presentations as well as a chance to participate in 2 more workshops.
The first activity of the day was an informal polling of the audience as to this question: What would you do with a space elevator? The answers ranged from the serious (colonize the Moon & Mars, send radioactive waste to the sun or to the moon for storage) to the whimsical (bring old cars up the tether and drop them from several kilometers up and then watch them burn up in the atmosphere!). This activity happens at every Conference and it’s always interesting to see what new ideas arise. The exercise does serve a serious purpose, helping to identify potential customers for a functioning Space Elevator.
The first presentation of the day was Electric Currents on the Space Elevator and was given by Dennis Wright. He addressed one of the objections that is commonly raised against the space elevator, the concern of electrical currents which might be induced in the Space Elevator by various space-related factors and the fact that a Space Elevator is, in fact, a 100km long object that rotates along with the earth. There are many unknowns about a structure like this, but Mr. Wright took the “knowns”, added some reasonable guesses for the “unknowns”, and came up with some preliminary conclusions. In general, it doesn’t look like these induced currents are much of a problem (big caveat about the unknowns of course), but he did point out a potential electrical danger from broken strands of the elevator. It was a very interesting talk and it’s clear that this type of investigation needs to be ongoing.
This talk was followed by multiple “Shotgun Science Sessions”. This is a fixture of Space Elevator conferences now, a series of “5 minute”, “not ready for prime time” presentations where people can stand up and propose practically anything they want. The audience then has a chance to ask questions and, perhaps, shoot the idea down. These sessions ranged from being a Sci-Fi author, to how to dig regolith on the moon, to using a Space Elevator to send radioactive waste to the sun to everything in between. These are lots of fun and have the added benefit of really getting the audience involved. Presenters also know that they can speak without fear of being ridiculed - every idea is treated respectfully (even when it gets shot down!).
Following lunch, we then had the final two Workshops of the Conference. This first was conducted by Dr. Bryan Laubscher and was entitled Balloon Experiments Workshop. Dr. Laubscher wants to set up a competition for school age kids (middle school through College) that would, loosely defined, have teams who build Climbers that ascend/descend tethers that hang from balloons. Teams would be judged on the kind of data they could collect, robustness, and several other suggestions made from the audience. I hope Bryan gets this off the ground (pun intended) - it sounds like a lot of fun!
The last workshop was the Space Elevator Operations Workshop and was orchestrated by Skip Penny. Skip was the chief author of the recently published ISEC study on Space Elevator operations. Skip reviewed the report and its updates and then gave a brief talk on challenges / opportunities in operating a Space Elevator. The group then broke up into several sub-groups, each tasked with looking at a different problem or challenge in Space Elevator operations. It was interesting, but not really unexpected, that the sub-groups came up with more questions than answers…
The day wound up with an open conversation between the audience and the Conference organizers as to possible improvement for future events & conferences. There were lots of good ideas presented as to advertising, affiliations and workshops and I’m sure the conference organizers will use this input to make next year’s conference even better.
So, the 2013 Space Elevator Conference has come to a close - and it was a wonderful 3 days. Once again I learned a lot, met a lot of interesting and fun people and had my enthusiasm for the Space Elevator project brought to new heights (once again, pun intended).
See you here next year!
(The top picture thumbnail is of Dennis Wright giving his presentation on Electric Currents on the Space Elevator. The middle thumbnail is of one of the Shotgun Science presenters - Jun Kikuchi - giving his presentation on why a Space Elevator would be very handy to have - to lift radioactive waste off of the planet and to fling it towards the sun. The bottom thumbnail is of Skip Penny, orchestrating the Space Elevator Operations Workshop. By clicking on any of the thumbnails, you can see a full-size version of the picture.)
August 25th, 2013
Well, the second day of this year’s Space Elevator Conference has come and gone. As with Day 1, it was filled with very interesting presentations and a useful and thought-provoking workshop. And, as happens at these conferences, people have had a chance to get to know each other now and the personal interaction is increasing greatly - there are a lot of really interesting people here!
Today was very full too - beginning with a presentation from Bryan Laubscher, the CEO of Odysseus Technologies, Inc. (OTI). OTI is in the business of creating strong CNT tethers. It has had entries in a couple of the NASA/Spaceward Strong Tether challenges and has been trying some very novel approaches in the search for macro-level strong tethers (full disclosure: I am an investor in OTI). Bryan’s presentation was on OTI’s PANG (Proximate Atom Nanotube Growth) Technology, an attempt to counter the phenomena that slow and halt the growth of CNTs when grown using chemical vapor deposition (CVD) techniques. As we all know, creating a tether that is strong enough remains the single most difficult problem to deal with in building an earth-based space elevator. As an investor in OTI and as a space elevator enthusiast, I hope that PANG bears fruit!
The next presentation was an overview of the just-completed International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) study on the Space Elevator. In the study, entitled Space Elevators: an Assessment of the Technological Feasibility and the Way Forward, the 40 contributing authors (some from ISEC) and five editors expand on innovative ideas that increase the probability of a Space Elevator being built. This study is to be released near the end of this year and its release will, of course, be announced on the blog.
The last presentation of the morning was on the 2013-2014 ISEC Theme. Each year (and we’re talking about an “ISEC year” here - beginning and ending with the Space Elevator Conference), ISEC chooses a Theme to focus many of its activities around. Past year’s themes include the study of Space Debris, the study of a possible Operations scenario for an earth-based elevator and the just-completed year’s theme, Tether Climbers. For the first two Themes, ISEC prepared and published an in-depth report. This same process is occurring for the just-completed year’s Theme, Tether Climbers. The Theme that ISEC chose for the 2013-2014 ISEC year is Architecture and Roadmaps. Dr. Peter Swan, the new President of ISEC and Michael Fitzgerald, a newcomer to ISEC, gave the presentation. The 2013-2014 ISEC study will focus on comparing and contrasting the multiple approaches to building and operating a Space Elevator that have been proposed over the past 10 or so years. A preliminary report will be presented at next year’s Space Elevator conference with the final report to be produced and distributed some months after that.
After a lunch break, the entire afternoon session was devoted to the Lunar Elevator workshop, orchestrated by LiftPort president, Michael Laine. Long time space elevator fans know that Michael has been involved in the Space Elevator effort since the early days. Michael grew frustrated with the slow pace of carbon nanotube (CNT) development and decided to try and find something to kick-start the development of a Space Elevator. The project he chose was to build a Space Elevator on the moon, something that can theoretically done with materials available today. Michael and Liftport and the many allies & partners he’s gathered are making a serious attempt at this - something that all of us in the space elevator community should enthusiastically support. Michael and several of his key partners gave short presentations on the advantages of a Lunar Space Elevator and how something like this should be built. It was serendipitous that Jerome Pearson was at this conference - after all, he was THE inventor of the idea of a Lunar Space Elevator and I don’t think anything would please him more than to see this idea actually get off the ground (to coin a phrase)…
If you want to find out anything more about this project, check out the LiftPort website. Many of you might also know that simultaneously with last year’s Space Elevator Conference, Michael and Liftport raised money on Kickstarter to jump-start this project. His initial goal was to raise $8,000. By the time it was all said and done, he had raised well over $100,000 - the power of group funding!
After the workshop, it was time to watch the finals of the Space Elevator robotic competition that was being held at the Museum of Flight. This is always a fun time, watching teams of children (up to and including high-school age) build robotic climbers to compete with one another for prizes donated by one of the Space Elevator Conference’s sponsors, Microsoft. Jerome Pearson was asked, and graciously agreed, to announce the winners and hand out the prizes. Many people in the audience, including competitors and their parents, were thrilled to be able to meet Jerome and get their picture taken with him. It has been absolutely wonderful to have him at this year’s conference.
The day wound up with the annual Space Elevator Conference banquet. This year it was held at the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. This Gallery hosts the Space Shuttle Trainer that was built to train the various Shuttle crews. Every one of the crews from all 135 Shuttle missions were trained on this trainer. It’s hard to imagine how big it is until you actually walk inside it. While the front section was the subject of a guided tour (which I was unable to make), the back section, including the cargo bay, can be freely entered. It’s an awesome sight. And above the Trainer was a 50%-sized model of the Hubble Telescope hanging from the ceiling. The Gallery is über-cool and it made it hard to concentrate on the excellent dinner we enjoyed.
So ends Day 2 - I eagerly await Day 3!
(The top picture thumbnail is of a train carrying several airplane fuselages from, presumably, one construction plant to another, a site we saw outside of the Conference windows while we were on break.. The Museum of Flight is located amidst much of the Boeing manufacturing plants. The middle thumbnail is of Michael Laine and the Lunar Space Elevator project’s mascot, LSEI (Lunar Space Elevator Initiative) - it’s pronounced “Elsie”. She even has her own Facebook Page! The bottom thumbnail is of Jerome Pearson posing with one of the winning Robotic Team members. You can view a full-size picture of any of the thumbnails just by clicking on them.)
August 25th, 2013
Today, Friday - August 23rd, was the first day of this year’s annual Space Elevator Conference, hosted by ISEC. For the second year in a row, it is being held at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, a truly outstanding venue for conferences such as ours.
We had a very full first day - several presentations, including a Keynote speech by one of the co-founders of the Space Elevator, American engineer Jerome Pearson, and a Tether-Climber workshop.
The day started out with a welcoming speech from the ISEC Conferences Chair David Horn, followed by a Space Elevator System Overview given by Dr. Peter Swan. This was followed by a short ISEC Officers report (more about this in another post).
Then Jerome Pearson gave the Keynote address - Sir Arthur Clarke and the Space Elevator. Jerome talked about his long relationship with Sir Arthur, how they met, how they worked together on projects, including Sir Arthur’s brilliant book The Fountains of Paradise and many other related topics. His anecdotes about their relationship and other stories from Sir Arthur’s life were truly interesting. Anyone who is a fan of the Space Elevator and/or Sir Arthur would see this speech as a “must-view”. I video-taped it and, when I get home and can punch up the audio to a respectable level, I’ll post it on the ISEC YouTube channel for all to see. Mr. Pearson has a brilliant and agile mind and it was very enjoyable to get to meet him again. He is currently doing work with NASA (his EDDE project) to help remove Space Debris - a necessary and long-overdue task.
After a short break, Dr. Martin Lades gave a remote presentation (he is in Germany where he resides) on Climber-Tether Interfaces for a Space Elevator. I think most people, when they think about the problem at all, just assume that you can equip a Tether-Climber with some sort of pinch-roller mechanism to propel the Climber up/down the tether. Alas, it’s not so simple - the devil is always in the details. The profile of the tether is very small and it is believed that a carbon nanotube-based tether will have a very low friction co-efficient. Solving this with brute-force (i.e. having the rollers pinch the ribbon very tightly) introduce their own problems. Dr. Lades discussed the various options which might be used to solve this problem.
Mechanical Engineer Larry Bartoszek (making his first appearance at a Space Elevator Conference in 9 years) then talked about the difficulty of Getting the Mass of the First Construction Climber under 900kg (something postulated in Dr. Edwards book). The problem appeared difficult, if not impossible to solve 9 years ago, and little has changed today. If a way is not found to solve this problem, then it may not be possible to have a series of construction Climbers “build up” the tether as originally envisioned - another solution will need to be found. As with Dr. Lades presentation, Mr. Bartoszek showed us that the devil is in the details…
After lunch, Dr. Bryan Laubscher gave a presentation on various methods that might be used in Powering Space Elevator Climbers and the status / likelihood of each. This was followed by Dr. John Knapman’s presentation on the First 40kms Danger and Approach. Both presentations gave the audience an opportunity to further their understanding of how a Space Elevator might actually be constructed and operated.
Following these presentations and a break, the first workshop of the Conference then took place, this on Tether Climbers. I gave a short intro and description of a possible “hybrid” climber (using a combination of conventional, laser and solar power) and this was followed by Dr. Knapman presenting the possibility of thinking of how to power climbers in terms of “Constant Power” rather than “Constant Speed” and the tradeoffs that would result. Both of these brief presentations were to get the audience in the mind of thinking about alternatives when it comes to imagining how the Climbers would work. The audience then broke up into 5 brainstorming groups where these ideas and others were discussed. Each group then made a brief presentation about their deliberations and some very interesting ideas were proposed. Dr. Peter Swan and Skip Penny are going to summarize these and post them on the ISEC website within 60 days. Of course I’ll have a post here on the blog about it.
The day wound up with an Evening Mixer at the Museum of Flight’s Red Barn Gallery.
It was a wonderful first day and everyone who attended thoroughly enjoyed it - more tomorrow!
(Top picture thumbnail is of Jerome Pearson. Bottom picture thumbnail is of Dr. Peter Swan (with an assist from David Horn) showing a scale model of the earth and a space elevator tether. Click on either thumbnail to see a full-size version of the picture.)
August 23rd, 2013
An oldie, but still goodie, and, with the Space Elevator Conference coming up in just a few days, this seems apropos…
In 2011 and 2012, the Science Channel aired 8 shows in the Prophets of Science Fiction series. Episode 4, originally aired on November 30, 2011, featured Sir Arthur C Clarke (my all-time favorite sci-fi author).
One of his best books was the Fountains of Paradise, Sir Arthur’s concept of a Space Elevator. The show devotes a good portion of time to the concept and also to Michael Laine, head of LiftPort, and someone very active in the Space Elevator community.
You can see the movie as it is occasionally re-aired on the Science Channel and also, online, thanks to the awesomeness that is YouTube.
The Space Elevator segment starts at about 26:20 and the bit with Michael Laine starts at about 30:28. Michael, incidentally, will be attending this year’s Space Elevator Conference as he usually does and I will look forward to seeing him again there.
August 20th, 2013
The Japanese construction company Obayashi (remember them?) recently released a “conceptual construction” video about the Space Elevator. You can view the webpage with the video here. Actually, there’s no actual construction shown, but it’s a cool video nonetheless.
The webpage is in Japanese, of course, so if that’s not a language you can read, I would recommend you open up this page with the Google browser Chrome and let it translate it for you.
There doesn’t appear to be any audio however, but as I don’t understand Japanese, I don’t miss it. But some music would have been a plus There IS audio - lesson here is to have a headset plugged in AND properly configured. The music is very reminiscent of the Alan Chan video.
August 17th, 2013
A final reminder, registration for the upcoming Space Elevator Conference closes on Sunday, midnight, US Pacific time.
We have a great conference planned. Jerome Pearson will be the Keynote speaker and we have over a dozen presentations, 4 workshops, a Family Science Fest and much more for your enjoyment and edification.
Be there or be square!
August 16th, 2013
This is truly interesting. As reported in the paper Carbyne from first principles: Chain of C atoms, a nanorod or a nanorope? (and if I’m reading the paper correctly), the specific strength of Carbyne is on the order of 75 MYuris, well within the range needed to build an earth-based space elevator.
However, there does appear to be at least one fly in the ointment - material stability. It seems that if you have more than one strand of Carbyne that contacts another one, cross-links will form and will degrade the material’s strength. Money quote from the article; “…This barrier suggests the viability of carbyne in condensed phase at room temperature on the order of days…” So, maybe not quite there yet.
I did a little net-sleuthing and found a short article/comment (Carbyne and other myths about carbon) by Dr. Harry Kroto, a co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel prize in Chemistry. It is almost 3 years old and in it, he also raises the issue of material stability (to put it mildly).
Carbyne from first principles… has five authors. Three of them (Dr. Boris Yakobson, Vasilii Artyukhov and Mingjie Liu) are also the authors of a paper in the current issue (Vol 2 / No 1) of CLIMB. They also presented a paper at the 2011 Space Elevator conference which won an Honorable Mention in the Artsutanov competition.
I will be corresponding with these authors (and, hopefully, Dr. Kroto) over the next several days and will report back on what additional information I can glean - stay tuned!
(Hat Tip: Andy Price & Michael Fischer)
August 15th, 2013
The ISEC eNewsletter for July has just been released and is available here. All ISEC eNewsletters are available here.
Stories include announcements about the upcoming Conference, the recently released CLIMB Volume 2 report and the IAA Space Elevator report, scheduled to be released in the near future.
You can sign up for our eNewsletters at the ISEC Web site.
July 30th, 2013
Volume 2 / Number 1 of CLIMB, the Space Elevator Journal, is now available in printed format! This issue contains some of the best, peer-reviewed Papers relating to a space elevator that have been written since Volume 1 was released in December of 2011. It also includes, as Volume 1 did, several Additional Reading articles which we at ISEC think will be of great interest to the Space Elevator enthusiast.
Volume 1 of CLIMB was the “Yuri Artsutanov” issue and Volume 2 of CLIMB is the “Jerome Pearson” issue. We have honored these engineers in the first two issues of CLIMB as they were the original inventors of the Space Elevator concept that is referenced today in all serious work on this subject. I’d like to also note that Jerome Pearson will be the Keynote speaker at this year’s Space Elevator Conference (you are coming, aren’t you?) and will be at the conference all 3 days. It will be a great opportunity for you to purchase a copy of CLIMB at the Conference (unless you have already received it as part of your membership benefits) and have Jerome autograph it for you.
The plan is now to publish future issues of CLIMB each year in the June/July timeframe, this to be coordinated with the annual Space Elevator Conference. So, you can look forward to future issues of CLIMB each year.
To purchase Volume 2 of CLIMB, or any other ISEC publication, visit the ISEC Store or our publisher, Lulu.com.
July 29th, 2013
In the National Geographic children’s book Weird but True 4: 300 Outrageous Facts, one of the items mentioned is the Space Elevator. It shows the Mondolithic conceptual graphic of a Space Elevator and the fact mentioned is “In the future, you may be able to take a Space Elevator thousands of miles above the earth.”
I’m pretty sure this is a direct result of the NatGeo article on the Space Elevator that ISEC was able to contribute to a couple of years ago.
(Hat Tip - “Fitzer” via Peter Swan)
(Click on the picture thumbnail to see a larger version)
July 26th, 2013
Earlier this year, Markus Landgraf, a Mission Analyst at the European Space Agency, gave a TEDx talk about the Space Elevator. It was well done and worth the 19+ minutes of your time it will take you to listen to it.
He discusses the long CNT fibers made by a company in China and proposes using these to make an SE Cable. The problem is, is that they’re just not yet “pure” enough to do so. Nano-threads spun from CNTs are, so far, full of kinks and defects - the technology is just not yet there to make them like we need to have them be. But technology continues to attack the problem and I think it’s only a matter of time…
July 13th, 2013
The Proceedings for last year’s Space Elevator Conference are now available at the ISEC Store. This was an excellent conference, with many strong presentations. If you attended the Conference, this CD will be mailed to you in the next several days. For those of you who may have missed the conference, the $20 purchase price for the CD is a bargain.
Also available on the ISEC Store are the Conference proceedings for the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Space Elevator conferences as well as the Space Elevator Journal, CLIMB, the ISEC Reports and the ISEC Posters.
July 4th, 2013
Just a reminder about ISEC’s unified social presence - and that is ISECdotORG!
The (new)ISEC Facebook page is ISECdotORG!
The ISEC Flickr Photostream is ISECdotORG!
The ISEC Twitter Feed is ISECdotORG!
And The ISEC YouTube channel is ISECdotORG!
The old ISEC Facebook page, International Space Elevator Consortium, has been discontinued.
So, Like, Follow and Watch ISEC at ISECdotORG!
July 1st, 2013
Sunday is the last day to purchase tickets for the upcoming Space Elevator Conference at the “Early Bird” prices. Beginning Monday, July 1st, ticket prices revert to full-board…
This conference, scheduled for August 23rd through the 25th, is talked about in more detail in a previous post on this blog and in the current ISEC eNewsletter.
It’s going to be a GREAT conference and I hope to see all of you there!
June 27th, 2013
A recent article in The Economist talked about the KONE corporation, based in Finland, introducing a new, high-strength, carbon-fiber based rope for the conventional elevator industry called “KONE UltraRope“. I was unable to find any information on the KONE website about actual strength measurements of the material, but did glean some snippets from other articles discussing it. For example:
NewScientist reports: “UltraRope beats steel for tensile strength but weighs only one-seventh as much.”
Gizmag says: “…UltraRope is said to be twice as strong as steel…”
Several sources, including Phys.org report: “UltraRope has a carbon fiber core with high friction coating. The carbon fiber core lasts longer than conventional steel ropes, said KONE. UltraRope is highly resistant to wear and abrasion and, unlike steel, the structure does not densify and stretch.”
For comparison purposes, Toray Carbon Fibers America reports that its own carbon fibers have a tensile strength of approximately 6 GPa-cc/g but in useful (i.e. composite) form, “only” about 3 GPa-cc/g, on the order of the same strength as Dyneema or Spectra.
So, can we build an earth-based Space Elevator yet with UltraRope? We can definitively say “No” to that. But is this material strong enough to have won the NASA Strong-Tether challenge? The answer is, well, “maybe”… There just isn’t enough material out there (that I have been able to find) to make a determination one way or the other.
But I have emailed KONE for more info and if they provide it, I will post it here.
Regardless, it’s exciting to see carbon-fiber materials being used in applications like this (and in an elevator no less!) and one can only hope that the manufacturing knowledge being gained here will, someday down the road, be applicable to an earth-based space elevator. The Economist understood this well when they concluded:
“Nor need carbon-fibre lift-cables be confined to buildings. They could eventually make an idea from science fiction a reality too. Space lifts, dreamed up in the late 1950s, are a way of getting into orbit without using a rocket. Building one would mean lowering a cable from a satellite in a geosynchronous orbit above the Earth’s equator while deploying a counterbalancing cable out into space. The cable from Earth to the satellite would not be a classic lift rope because it would not, itself, move. But it would perform a similar function of support as robotic cars crawled up and down it, ferrying people and equipment to and from the satellite—whence they could depart into the cosmos.”
June 25th, 2013
I received an email from Shuichi Ohno, President of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) telling me about a new racing event they are holding - SPIDER. Shuichi had this to say about it:
“Today, I would like to introduce to you our new category SE climber activities. It is called SPIDER from it’s characteristic, right weigh, speedy, smart(will be).
Until this spring, we have been holding some kind of SE climber activities. But now, we categorize them in 3 series:
- LASER : Lego bricks Activities with Space Elevator Race (weight <500g)
- SPEC(SPEC in Japan, JSPEC for the world) : Space Elevator Challenge (weight > 1.5kg)
Sub category ; SPEC class (<1km height) and Full-SPEC (>1km)
- SPIDER : Light weight , inexpensive climber activities (500g < weight < 1.5kg)
Sub category ; Spider (Radio controlled) and Auto Spider (automated)
Distinction of SPIDER :
- Cheap : It is possible to build up with RC car kit parts and total amount in Japan is under $160 except RC controller or micro board computer. ( Type 540 motor and Ni-mH battery, no expensive Li-Po battery)
- Easy to build ( but not too much easy) : Builder must work with drill and jig saw and file. EST to finish by high school techie student is 30 hours.
- Safety awareness : Builder must study and think about dropping provision and safety mechanism with break. Those are very different point from other robot building activities.
- Automation : I t is very easy to change RC receiver to micro computer like Aruduino.
On June 8th, we held a mini-race with collage and university students. 8 climber came and 4 climber succeeded to climb in almost 10km/h ascend speed.
I would like to ask you to introduce this kind of activities on you blog. It is not so difficult to build a smart climber with RC kit / parts of recent-day.
Important thing : Energy of recent battery and power of motors may cut the belt very easily if tire/roller run idle much. Please consider to use the heat-stable material tether/belt. In Japan we strongly suggest to use aramid fiber belt. Before you climb, please do the run idle and tether cutting experiment.
He also posted a video on YouTube relating to this:
Thank you Ohno-San and congratulations to JSEA. Let’s hope that this competition gets copied around the world…
June 19th, 2013
The ISEC eNewsletter for June has just been released and is available here. All ISEC eNewsletters are available here.
Stories include announcements about the upcoming Conference, the recently released ISEC CONOPS report, results from a recent Climber competition in Japan and a description of our new Social Media presence.
You can sign up for our eNewsletters at the ISEC Web site.
June 10th, 2013
Tickets for the upcoming Space Elevator Conference are now on sale! Prices have been reduced from previous years and are a better bargain than ever. “Early Bird” prices are available through the end of June after which registration fees will revert to the full price.
The conference, to be held on August 23rd through the 25th, will again be hosted at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. Last year was our first at this new venue and it was truly outstanding. The seating arrangement (large, round tables) was much more conducive to conversation among the attendees and the ‘backdrop’ of the Museum of Flight has to be experienced to be believed.
So, don’t wait - sign up now! We have a very full schedule including several presentations and a few workshops. And, as an added bonus, Jerome Pearson, the American Engineer who independently invented the idea of a tensile-based space elevator, will be the Keynote speaker!. This year’s version of CLIMB is the “Jerome Pearson” edition and if you bring your copy to the conference (or purchase a copy at the conference), I’m sure Jerome will be happy to autograph it for you.
See you there!
June 7th, 2013
The second in an ongoing series of ISEC reports has been released; Space Elevator Concept of Operations. This report was written by ISEC Board Members Skip Penny and Peter Swan and co-authored by Cathy Swan. Other ISEC Board members made suggestions and critiques during the creation process and comments and suggestions were also made in a workshop at the 2012 Space Elevator Conference devoted to this report.
From the Introduction:
This report addresses initial commercial operations of a space elevator pair with robotic climbers. This report has been developed to help define a starting point for an initial space elevator infrastructure. It is assumed that there are two space elevators in place to ensure continuation of our escape from the gravity well. It also assumes that a sufficient number of climbers are available for delivering of spacecraft and other payloads to orbit, and, if required, return them to earth. In addition, this report is designed to be the initial operations concept from which many improvements will occur as future knowledge and experience drives infrastructure concept revisions. The description of a concept of operations, including a quick look at the transportation to space infrastructure, is broken into four sections:
Part I: Mission Description
Part II: System Characteristics
Part III: System of Systems Operations
Part IV: “A Day-in-the-Life”
Priced at only $7.00, this study is an important step in fulfilling an ongoing goal of ISEC: - taking away reasons why people can say “No” to the idea of a Space Elevator.
The report is now available from the ISEC shop at Lulu.com and will also be available from the ISEC Store.
(Click on the thumbnail picture of the cover to see a full-size image).
May 31st, 2013
The 2013 Space Elevator Conference will be held from Friday, August 23rd through Sunday, August 25th at the Museum of Flight, in Seattle, Washington. Last year’s conference was the first one held at this new venue - and the venue truly lived up to its billing.
Planning for the Conference is well under way. Conferences Chair David Horn has been hosting bi-weekly planning calls for several months now and this conference promises to be better than ever.
A Call for Papers for the conference has been issued and papers are now starting to trickle in. If you’re interested in submitting a paper for the conference, or just learning more about the conference, visit the website.
Mark your calendars now - be there or be square!
March 21st, 2013
I’m very remiss / late in posting this…
Longtime Space Elevator enthusiast, Keith Curtis, the owner / maintainer of the Space Elevator Wiki website has also created a publication entitled “Software Wars”. From the website:
“The average computer user is unaware there is a war for freedom going on that will determine the path of modern society. Software Wars is a movie about the battle for our right to share technology and ideas. Your phone is perfectly happy to add zero + zero billions of times per second, all day long. The shiny hardware gets the love, but software is the magic behind it all.
The software we need will not be “owned” by corporations like Microsoft, Apple, and Google, who are mostly impeding technological progress. (Google supports efforts such as Linux via Android, but their AI code in Google Now, language translation and driverless cars are not built in an open way.)
This software will be built by a global community, taking on problems too big for any one company or team to even understand. We should have been working together all along, but it is necessary now for the few big problems that remain.
Greater use of free software and the ideas in this movie will lead to faster progress on the Linux desktop, improve the way children learn math, finally build computers that think, decode DNA, and more. The movie’s experts explain what is possible, and the audience decides what happens.”
Keith is trying to crowdsource the funding of turning his publication into a movie. You can see the trailer, below, visit the Indiegogo funding site here, and read/view an interview with Keith here.
Keith states that the movie will have “…a number of minutes about the space elevator…” - there are just a couple of days left in the fundraising campaign - good luck Keith!
January 15th, 2013
Reader Christophe Charron sent me this short animation a few days ago. While not directly targeted towards a Space Elevator, it’s funny and, I think, relevant nonetheless.
Christophe sends me this explanation:
Here is “Un petit plat pour l’homme”, one of the funniest short film, I think,about cooking in space (a french and epicurean vision of).
This is Corentin Charron (aka Onectin’s) third year’s short-film, from Supinfocom Arles.
- Assigned topic: “The Kitchen”
- Used softwares: 3ds Max 2012 (scanline only), After Effect, Premiere and Photoshop
Neil Amstrong’s “That’s one small step for man…” could be translated “Un petit pas pour l’homme” and the title of the film is “Un petit plat pour l’homme” (phoneticly near) that can be translated as “One small dish for man”
Nothing like a good bottle of wine to make the meal complete - thank you Christophe!
December 12th, 2012
Today was the second and last day of the 2012 BEST Competition - South Regional. Like the first day, it was frenetic, well-organized and a lot of fun. To get the main bit of business out of the way, the overall winner of the competition was the Cornerstone Christian Preparatory Academy from a suburb just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their overall score in several categories, Competition, Engineering Notebook, Display Booth, and some other categories, was the highest and so they were the overall winners. After the competition was over, I was able to track them down (not very hard - I just followed the sound of the loudest cheers) and spent several minutes talking with them and taking pictures - a great bunch of kids. They were trying very hard to talk me into visiting their school in the near future and talking about a Space Elevator - maybe we’ll be able to do it via Skype…
Regarding the Climber competition itself, there were certainly no new Engineering principles at work here - they were robots, assembled from a Kit. I have posted a video of one of the competition runs at our new channel on YouTube: ISECdotORG. But the whole idea of the BEST competition, as I have written about earlier, is to encourage middle-school and high school level kids to get interested in techie stuff, science, engineering and technology. It certainly seems to have succeeded in doing that and I’m truly grateful that Mr. Brent Percival of Auburn University (where this competition was held) called me up (out of the blue) one day earlier this year and asked if ISEC would be interested in participating. We did spend some of our funds on sponsoring this competition and a few more of our dollars on hand-outs (posters, business cards, CLIMB Volume 1 and the ISEC report on Debris Mitigation) and I think it was very well worth it. I had people talking to me almost the entire time I was there about the Space Elevator.
Just before noon, one of the competition organizers came up to me and told me that I and 9 other vendors / sponsors would be stationed at tables outside the arena. The idea was to give each of the kids participating in the competition a card with spaces on it for 8 different types of “stamps”. Each of us at a table would have a stamp and, as the kids came around and talked to us, we would stamp their card. If they were able to get all 8 of the stamps on their card, it would go into a drawing for a door prize. However, there were only 8 stamps for our 10 tables. At any one time, 2 of us would not have them. I had a steady stream of kids and their parents coming up to my table, wanting to get their card stamped and wanting to talk about the Space Elevator. Even when it wasn’t my turn to have a stamp, very few of the kids drifted away when they found that out - they really like the idea (and kids love posters and I had a lot of them to give away!). I had no idea this was going to happen - completely caught me by surprise. But it was a fun way to spend 2 hours, even if the back of my neck did get a little bit sunburned…
People sure treat you nice when they find out you’re a sponsor :). I was given an ‘all-access’ pass and was able to go anywhere I wanted and talk to anyone I wanted. I made a point of introducing myself to the event announcer. When I found out that his son was very much into robotics and the idea of a Space Elevator, I made sure to give him a copy of CLIMB, an ISEC Report, all 4 years of posters that we have and a couple of years of Conference proceedings to give to his son. I wasn’t looking for any favors, just trying to get the word out, but boy, did ISEC get top billing whenever they thanked their sponsors! Every other sponsor was just mentioned by name. When he mentioned ISEC, he raved about how this group was really working on the idea / project of building a space elevator. I would say, with a very high degree of confidence, that fewer than 10 people at the event knew about ISEC when the event started. But by the time we were finished, I had people coming up to me to talk to me, people would point me out when I walked by, everyone would say “Thank you for helping out this event”, etc., etc., etc… We truly did get some excellent publicity at this event.
A case in point was at the end of the competition and I tracked down the team from Cornerstone. Many of them knew who I was and what ISEC was about and they insisted that I join them for a group photo (which you can find on our Flickr account; ISECdoORG, along with other photos from the 2-day event). That was pretty cool…
There was just a lot on fun, techy-nerdy stuff going on too. Each of the teams could submit a short video which was then displayed several times during the competition - and a winner was chosen at the end of the competition. The winning video was a play on Star Wars, with the punch line being “May the Centrifugal Force Be With You” - I love it! But my personal favorite (which took 2nd place) was about how Thor was banished from Asgard by his father. Naturally, he landed in a Science Class and, after he told the students his plight, they built him a Space Elevator so he could return home - very creative.
Each of teams had a mascot. There were robots (lots of different kinds), Sharks, Eagles, Tigers, etc., and, today, they held a “Dance-off” - again the top three each being awarded a prize. The audience really got into it (and so did the referees!). I took a video of the first round of competition, but didn’t post it as it did get a bit long. But the finals were short and fun and I’ve posted a video of that too. Sorry for the not-great quality. I tried to make my Canon point-and-shoot do double-duty (pictures and videos) and it just doesn’t do a great job on videos. But the final result was OK and I think you’ll enjoy watching it. And I’m also sorry that the song they danced to was “Gangnam Style” - it seems to be everywhere!
I think that’s it. I do want to sincerely thank the BEST organizers and the Auburn staff, especially Mr. Brent Percival who invited ISEC to participate, for all their kindnesses - they truly showed what Southern Hospitality was all about and they ran a great competition.
(The top photo thumbnail is of the representatives from Cornerstone, hoisting their trophy in triumph. Not great quality - taken on a camera phone so I could Tweet it right away. The bottom thumbnail is of my favorite poster at the event. Click on either to see a full-size picture and visit ISECdotORG on Flickr to see more photos from the Event).
December 3rd, 2012
70 degrees today here in Auburn, Alabama. Sunny skies, very little wind - just a delightful day. So what am I doing? I’m inside all day watching the South Regional BEST competition!
I’ve posted before about what BEST is, so will concentrate on today’s event in this post. Most of the day was setup and practice - actual competition didn’t begin until 5pm. These were preliminary, ’seeding’ matches - 4 teams competed at one time, with the best 2 moving on to tomorrow’s finals. On the ISEC Flickr account, I’ve posted the best of the pictures I took today - more tomorrow, I promise. Also, I’ll have a video tomorrow of one of the competition runs. I captured one today but it turned out to be of very poor quality. Memo to self - don’t use the zoom feature of my Canon point-and-shoot when recording video.
Each team was given a kit to make a climber out of. In this sense it is very similar to the LASER competition held by the Japan Space Elevator Association. The tether belt was shorter than the one at LASER - maybe 5-7 meters tall. There were various types of ‘payload’ that the Climbers had to grab and either go up the tether with it and put it in its proper location or else grab it from the top of the run and bring it back down to the bottom. The teams have 3 minutes to get as much payload moved as possible.
The results of the competition are only one part of a team’s final score. The booth they had, the engineering project workbook they made and a few other items all were part of it too.
The competition is really well organized. They have lots of judges and referees, teams are staged before they actually are let into the competition area, scores are kept electronically and, in general, it is a very orderly process. But it’s not quiet, oh no! Each team has a cheering section and it reminded me of a European Soccer match. Waving flags, chants, etc., and with music pounding in the background. Each team also has a mascot, so there were high-school kids dressed up as robots (many varieties), sharks, war eagles (the Auburn mascot) wandering around all day too, just to add to the festivities.
As ISEC is a sponsor of this event, we have our logo in all of the literature and it is also shown on the Scoreboard over the Arena - the first time, I think we’ve been up in lights! I also have my own table where I spent a good part of the day hanging around. I brought several copies of CLIMB, the ISEC Report on Space Debris Mitigation, posters from all 4 years, some Conference proceedings and a few copies of the National Geographic that the Space Elevator and ISEC was featured in. And, oh yes, lots of ISEC Business cards. I only put out half of the material today which was a good thing, because by the end of the day it was all gone. I’ll hand out the rest of it tomorrow. It was also a lot of fun talking to the competitors, their teachers and their parents about the Space Elevator. Even with the cold I have, all in all, a great day.
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(Picture thumbnail is a close-up of one of the Climbers. Click on it to see a full-size version or visit our Flickr page (ISECdotORG) to see more photos).
December 2nd, 2012