Monthly Archives: August 2008

LaserMotive shows us what 1km looks like

In the latest posting on the LaserMotive blog, a series of pictures are displayed, showing distances of 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m and 1,000m (1km) and gives a very good idea of how far the Climbers will have to travel, a full kilometer, in this year’s Space Elevator Games in order to have a chance at the prize.

Keep in mind that last year, the distance to be travelled was only half the distance shown in the first picture, only 100m.

Great post, LaserMotive – thanks!

On the subject of the upcoming games, readers may have noticed that the timing for these has been changed yet again.  As noted on this blog’s list of Upcoming Events, the Games are now scheduled for some time in November.  We’re still not sure where they’re going to be yet, either.  I know, I know, we all want to know (especially the teams).

We’re all waiting as fast as we can…

More Space Elevator miscellany…

A few odds ‘n ends, related to our favorite subject…

First of all, a new video has been posted on YouTube.  This is not the first Line Rider video I’ve seen, but it’s the first one I’ve seen with a Space Elevator in it.


Next we have this blog post by Mike Brotherton (“Rocket Scientists are Stupid Smart People”) relating to Space Travel, Space Elevators and the short-sightedness of some people which, IMHO, very effectively replies to this article in (“Rocket Scientists Say We’ll Never Reach the Stars”).  Mark is clearly a kindred spirit…

Finally, a portion of a  review (in Christianity Today no less) of Joe Haldeman’s new book “Marsbound” mentions;

“As the story opens, Carmen Dula and her family have been chosen by lottery for a six-year trip to Mars. On the beach, waiting for the Space Elevator that will left them up to their space ship, she meets a man, fifteen years older, named Paul Collins—who turns out to be the pilot who will fly them to Mars. Two weeks in the crowded confines of the Space Elevator gives her no chance to get to know Paul better, but during the six-month flight on to Mars, she manages to find enough privacy to form a relationship with him.”

I wonder how the interior of the Space Elevator Climber (or whatever the author calls it) and the trip itself is described.  I think I’ll wait ’til the paperback version comes out – but I’ll be interested in finding out.

Mirror, mirror, on the table, play a tune, if you’re able…

In the latest update from the LaserMotive blog, we are given a video glimpse of their tracking mirror, one which is ‘musically inclined’ (pun intended).


Kind of gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘tuning the mirrors’, doesn’t it? 

This is the second post LaserMotive has given us like this – I blogged about the last one here.

I identify with the last line in the current post; “If we get the time, maybe we’ll program the mirror to play a song…”  If you’re an old hand in the data processing / IT field like I am (and I’m talking the 60’s and 70’s here), you might remember how some of us (who had too much time on our hands) programmed the various computer peripherals to play songs.  There were no speakers or music software involved, these were tunes which were ‘played’ on line printers, with the different series of print keys striking the paper and producing different notes.  Card readers provided snare effects while the access arms on the disk drives provided percussion.  Some of this stuff got pretty exotic – I remember hearing “She”ll be coming ’round the mountain” in two-part harmony (two different printers) while a half-dozen other peripherals provided the background beat.  Oddly enough, IBM was a big provider of this kind of stuff – they used it for computer demos.  I wish I could find a video of one on YouTube or something – it really was cool.

I love geeky stuff…

10September, 2008 – Update.  I’ve been able to locate some tunes, on the Computer History Museum website, being played on an IBM 1403 Printer.  There is no video (pity), but there are mp3 files of several songs (no ‘She’ll be coming ’round the mountain, though).  I’ve copied one here (“Born Free”) which you can play by clicking on the arrow, below.


According to the website, these songs were a gift from Ron Mak.  Thanks Ron – it brings back great memories.

News from USST

We have some news from some of our friends up north, the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team (USST):

“Hungry spies have infiltrated USST Headquarters and have managed to capture these few rare pictures from the otherwise secretive team.”

The picture shown is ‘possibly a (crunchy) cupcake’…  Check out the link to see the rest of the pictures posted.

Oh, and if you go to their Home page, you’ll see that they’ve added a fundraising meter (as the KC Space Pirates did last year).  Looks like they’re doing pretty well.

New translations…

Additional translations for “Space Elevator” have been added to the Translation Project tab.

First, we now have the pronounciation for the Hindi translation, ‘Anthariksh elevator’.  This was sent to me by Ravi Shankar (he of KC Space Pirates fame, not the Sitar player 🙂 )

Next, we now have a Latin translation; Ascensor ad astra.  This was sent to me by Martin Lades, an organizer of the recent Space Elevator Conference and also a member of the KC Space Pirates team).

We now also have a Hebrew translation (ma’alit Khalal) courtesy of Ben Shelef (he of the Spaceward Foundation).

Finally, Ben introduced me to “Leet speak” – something which I was unfamiliar with.  There are several possible versions of Space Elevator in “Leet”, but the one from the Speak Converter gives us 5P4(3 3L3\/470R

This makes 31 translations – only about a million more to go 🙂

Building big stuff in space

Even though this post from the website (a very strange site, to be sure) only lightly touches on the subject of Space Elevators, it’s overall theme; building big things in space, is a subject which is interesting all by itself.

The post also briefly mentions Dextre, the Canadian-built robot now sitting on the ISS.  I would imagine that robots similar to Dextre will play a major role in actually building and maintaining a Space Elevator.

This post also contains a clip from one of the most under-rated movies ever, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

(Picture of Dextre – click to enlarge – from the Canadian Space Agency website)

The Last Theorem

Anyone who has paid any attention to this blog knows that I am a HUGE fan of Sir Arthur C. Clarke.  His works, fiction and non-fiction, are compelling, well-researched, out-of-the-box, etc., etc., etc.  No one who knows me should be surprised that I pre-ordered his final book (The Last Theorem, co-authored with Frederik Pohl) from Amazon, just to ensure that I would receive it as soon as it came out.

Alas, the book was quite a disappointment – the collaboration between these two great authors maybe just didn’t work or Sir Clarke’s inability, due to his illness, to contribute more fully might have been a problem, or something.  I kept waiting for the book to GO SOMEWHERE, but it never did.

The list of flaws is long; the aliens introduced were cartoonish and plastic, the sub-plot with the main character’s son (who seemed to have some sort of advanced mental capability) went nowhere, the title of the book didn’t have anything to do with the main storyline (whatever that was – it was difficult to tell), previous ideas of Sir Clarke’s (a fascination with pentominoes, solar sail racing, low-gravity olympics) were revisited in a boring, copycat manner, etc., etc., etc.

Oh yes, a Space Elevator is mentioned and briefly discussed, but no new ideas are talked about.

Ah well, I have many of his other books I can re-read and re-enjoy.  IMHO, his best works were The Sands of Mars (even as out-dated as it now is), Songs of Distant Earth, Rendevous with Rama and Childhoods End.  And, of course, Space Elevator afficianados are huge fans of his The Fountains of Paradise.  Finally, if you like short stories with a good bit of (English) humor in them, check out Tales from the White Hart, a series of stories told at the White Hart pub.

My advice on The Last Theorem, wait for the paperback version or get it from the library.

Design and Deployment of a Space Elevator

I received an email from ScienceDirect listing their “TOP 25 Hottest Articles“, a list of the 25 most downloaded articles from Acta Astronautica.  Number 4 on the list is titled “Design and Deployment of a Space Elevator“, a November, 2000 article from Dr. Brad Edwards.  The abstract of the article reads:

“The space elevator was first proposed in the 1960s as a method of getting into space. The initial studies of a space elevator outlined the basic concept of a cable strung between Earth and space but concluded that no material available at the time had the required properties to feasibly construct such a cable. With the discovery of carbon nanotubes in 1991 it is now possible to realistically discuss the construction of a space elevator. Although currently produced only in small quantities, carbon nanotubes appear to have the strength-to-mass ratio required for this endeavor. However, fabrication of the cable required is only one of the challenges in construction of a space elevator. Powering the climbers, surviving micrometeor impacts, lightning strikes and low-Earth–orbit debris collisions are some of the problems that are now as important to consider as the production of the carbon nanotube cable. We consider various aspects of a space elevator and find each of the problems that this endeavor will encounter can be solved with current or near-future technology.”

Obviously the thinking about how the ‘Edwards-Westling model’ of the Space Elevator has evolved over the past several years, but it’s encouraging to see how even this relatively older article is still of such interest to the Acta Astronautica readership.

Click here to see the entire list (list in pdf format – links intact so you can preview all of the article abstracts).

Iron Man to build the Space Elevator!

I’m not a big comic book fan, and haven’t kept up with all of the creations in the Marvel Universe.  However, even I have heard of Tony Stark, aka the Iron Man.

Evidentally, he’s outlived his usefulness, so his demise may be in the works.  In November, Marvel Comics is scheduled to release “Iron Man: The End” in which:

“Decades in the future, a 70+ Tony Stark is overseeing his ultimate project of his lauded career—the completion of Earth’s first commercial space elevator, whose inauguration will change the world’s economy and the future of space exploration forever. However, not everyone is looking forward to this project’s launch with the same enthusiasm as the head of Stark Universal. Sinister forces are at work, behind-the-scenes, to insure that Stark’s pinnacle scientific achievement ends in disaster.”

It looks like EVERYONE wants to destroy the Space Elevator.  Guess we’re just going to have to build a bunch of them…

This is one comic book I’m going to buy.  No one can doubt the talent and creativity of the Marvel artists and I’m looking forward to their “concept drawings” of a Space Elevator.

(Picture of Iron Man from here.  Click on it for the larger version)

A Greek perspective on Space Tourism

In this recent article in To BHMAOnline (which my search engine just turned up), author Tasos Kafantaris discusses the future possibilities of Space Tourism.

A Space Elevator is briefly mentioned; the article says that a ticket to space today costs ‘…20 to 22 million Euros”.  Kafantaris speculates that a Space Elevator ticket to an orbital hotel might only cost “100 Euros”.  Of course these days, that’s a lot of American money… 🙂

The original article is in Greek – the Google translation into English can be found here.

Space Elevator interview

Several days ago, I was interviewed by Jon Udell, he of the Perspectives podcast fame.  The subject was, of course, the Space Elevator.

This interview has now been posted; you can access it here.

I read the partial transcript he put up on the website and listened to the interview and I think I made only one serious gaffe; when I spoke about the solid-state lasers that Boeing had recently developed, I said that they were capable of generating 25 MEGAwatts of power.  That should have been 25 KILOwatts of power (I had posted about these lasers earlier, here).

Those of you who attended the recent Space Elevator Conference also almost certainly met Maurice Franklin, a Microsoft employee (actually, I think he’s left Microsoft now and is up in New Hampshire learning how to build boats) who was largely responsible for getting the Microsoft conference center for us and making the venue work very well for us.  Jon also interviewed Maurice about the conference and the Space Elevator – you can view/listen to that interview here.

Thanks again Jon – I enjoyed our conversation and very much appreciate the work you’ve done to put these interviews together and on the web.

Space Elevator customers

A few days ago, I was interviewed by Jon Udell, he of the Perspectives podcast fame.  The subject was, of course, the Space Elevator.

One of the questions he asked me was “Who would be the potential customers for a Space Elevator?”  This is a common question, of course, and I gave him the “stock” answer; satellite companies, governments (for satellite launches), tourists and other exotic applications, presently unknown.

I bring this up because The Washington Post recently had an article about how many satellite companies were now in, essentially, a “Mark II” phase – they have been through the ringer with previous investments (some of which had worked out and others which had not) and, with this increased experience under their belt, were looking to increase their investments in the satellite arena.

These are companies / Investors who are willing to place these bets at thousands of dollars per pound of payload.  What will these people do when the payload cost drops by an order of magnitude (or more)?  There will be no shortage of customers as I think we’re just scratching the surface…

(Picture from here; I’ll let people know when the interview with me is posted)

PBS NOVA Science Now to rebroadcast Space Elevator clip

In January of 2007, the PBS show NOVA Science Now aired a short clip (about 12 minutes) on building a Space Elevator.  This clip was narrated by the esteemed Neil deGrasse Tyson.  I blogged about it a few times, including here and here.

Jim Dempsey has let me know that this show is being rebroadcast TONIGHT.  Check your local listings for playing times.

Thanks Jim!

Who will build the first, Earth-based Space Elevator?

At the recent Space Elevator Conference, I gave a presentation entitled “Who will build the first, Earth-based Space Elevator”?  This was also the title of the presentation which I gave at last year’s SESI conference.

To arrive at a reasonable, defendable answer for this question, I looked at the problem from two different angles:

  • What would be the motive for building the first, earth-based Space Elevator
  • Who would have the technical capabilities to actually build an earth-based Space Elevator

My conclusion was essentially the same as last year;

  • Only the profit-motive would be strong enough to drive the building of the first Earth-based space elevator
  • There are 7 ‘entities’ who would be capable (considering a 2025 ‘earliest-build-date) of actually building a Space Elevator

Based on that assumption, I believe that the two most likely probabilities are:

  • A consortium of US Companies partnering with the US Government
  • A Joint Venture between the Governments of Dubai and India

A third group I picked as a possibility (the ‘dark-horse’) in this race was an effort by the Japanese Government.  Based on what we saw at the recent conference, there is the beginnings of a serious effort underway in Japan to make this happen.

For details on why I picked what I did, you can view the presentation here (it’s a pdf file) and for more detailed reasons on why I picked a possible Joint Venture between the governments of Dubai and India, please read my post (‘Emerging Asia’) I put up about this last year.

You heard it here first…