Monthly Archives: December 2010

“Carbon Nanotubes Could Create World’s First Space Elevator”

In a December 27th posting on, the statement was made that “…NASA has pledged $3 million over the next five years to research the idea and is working on scale models…”.

No reference to any specific NASA program was made, but my guess is that the author, Mr. Timon Singh, is referring to the $3 million still to be awarded by NASA in the Space Elevator Games.  I’ve emailed him to confirm and will post his response.

The article is also interesting in pointing out that Dr. Mark Miodownik, a materials scientist from Kings College in England announced a “new proposal”, creating a Space Elevator from Carbon Nanotubes.  Leaving aside the fact that this is not a new idea at all, it is cool that this idea was supposedly delivered at the Royal Institutions Christmas Lecture, set to be broadcast on BBC4 at the end of the month.

I have also emailed Dr. Miodownik, asking for more details about the lecture and broadcast and will post them if/when I receive them.

The article has been, in various forms, picked up in several blogs / sites around the ‘net.  The source is apparently an article in 12/26/2010 issue of The Sunday Times which one needs a subscription to access.

The Leeward Space Foundation

John Lee and his Leeward Space Foundation is a sponsor of the Pearson Prize – a prize awarded by the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) each year for the best paper on the yearly ISEC theme submitted by an undergraduate student.  We at ISEC are very grateful for John’s generosity and continuing support of all-things Space Elevator and I thought that it would be a good time to inform my readers about the many activities at Leeward.

The goals of the Leeward Space Foundation (LSF) are very straightforward; “…100% of all contributions are used to a) to develop the Space Elevator concept or any other technology that will offer the opportunity for an affordable access to space b) to develop local chapters of Leeward to be known as ‘Space Is The Answer’ chapters.

Some of LSF’s current activities include:

A local chapter and scholarship plan – the idea here is to encourage the creation of local LSF chapters to “…support the mission of Leeward Space Foundation by promoting the idea that the development of space and space resources can provide many, if not all the answers to Humanity’s most pressing concerns…” and to  “…help Leeward develop a Scholarship program for High School Seniors or equivalent and a separate scholarship for college level.”  This is a very worthwhile goal – more details about the local chapter and scholarship plan can be found here.

Fundraising by giving donors a chance to win a Space Elevator poster autographed by Yuri Artsutanov and Jerome Pearson.  You can donate for a chance to win here.

Fundraising by allowing you to purchase limited-edition pieces of some very cool items cast in silver and bronze.  You can find the details of this artwork here.

And finally, you can painlessly donate to LSF by getting a no-annual-fee Capital One Credit Card.  The first time you use this card, LSF receives $50!  Each time you use it after that, a percentage of the amount charged is donated to the Leeward Space Foundation.  I have my LSF Credit Card and use it all the time now.  Details on how you can apply for this card are here.

Please help the Leeward Space Foundation by participating in one or more of their activities.  They are a true friend of the Space Elevator, a direct contributor to ISEC and the yearly Space Elevator Conference and they deserve our support.

Thank you John!

A new Space Elevator Song

I was recently contacted by Tris Lucas of galaxyswan, letting me know that they have created a new Space Elevator song (titled, creatively enough, “Space Elevator”) and posted it on the web.

The vocals remind me a little bit of Julie Miller (of Buddy & Julie Miler fame) and I think it is a very worthwhile effort.

You can listen to the song here.

If we get 2-3 more versions of a Space Elevator song, I’ll be able to make a compilation – and that would be very cool.

(And thank you Michael Laine for putting them in touch with me.)

What’s Happening Magazine

ISEC’s own Dr. Martin Lades has written an introductory article about the space elevator for the the online What’s Happening Magazine.

It’s a good primer on what a space elevator is and what it can be used for.

Money quote from the article:

…Getting material from the ground to Earth orbit is tough. To reach a real orbit one needs approximately Mach 25 with a high lateral velocity component. A standard chemical rocket expends around 95% of its mass to do that. This leaves about 5% payload, following the rocket equation.

That is why most of today’s private space tourist industry only aims for ballistic launches. Anything going into orbit currently also has to be disassembled to fit into a rocket payload bay, i.e., down to 20-30tons.

The payload has to be vibration-proofed because of vibrations encountered during a rocket launch. Once in orbit everything has to be reassembled and tested. The process ends up being really expensive and prevents substantial space infrastructure from being built.

There are few alternatives to chemical rockets to launch anything from the ground to orbit. The Space Elevator is one possibility that holds the promise to beat the rocket equation for scalable access to space…

I recently attended the EuroSpaceward conference where Dr. Lades gave a talk on Project Clavis – a proposal for an international research project on ultra-long CNT growth.

Thank you Dr. Lades and thank you What’s Happening Magazine.

Happy Birthday Sir Clarke!

Had the great man continued to be with us, today would have been Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s 93rd birthday.

I found this video of him (thank you Universe Today) from 1964 as he tried his hand at prognosticating.  Nothing about Space Elevators or anything like that, but he predicted the demise of cities because of the coming communications revolution.  He was wrong about the demise of cities – they’re bigger and more numerous than ever before, but he was spot on about the communications revolution, even successfully predicting that surgeons in one location could actually ‘operate’ on a patient in another.  We’re not quite there yet, but we’re darn close.

Happy Birthday Sir Arthur – and when we build it, we’ll name it after you!

LASER 2010

On November 21st, the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) held another of their LASER (Lego bricks Activity and Space Elevator Race) competitions.  Mr. Hideyuki Natsume, a Director at JSEA, informs me that 36 teams with more than 100 people participated and that the competition theme was “payload-juice can”.

The LASER website is here and they have posted several photos on Picasweb which you can access here.  The event looked like a lot of fun and I’m sure all the contestants and spectators had a great time.  JSEA is to be again congratulated on holding another successful event!

And, incidentally, their annual JSETEC conference (which I posted about earlier) should be underway as I write this.  I look forward to being able to post details about this conference when I receive them.

3rd JpSEC conference – JpSEC ’10

And, no sooner than we have wrapped up the Fourth EuroSpaceward conference than it’s time to remind people about the upcoming Japan Space Elevator Conference (JpSEC ’10) to be held next weekend (December 11th and 12th).

I would love to go, but the conference will be all in Japanese and my knowledge of that language is limited to a few uncomplimentary words and phrases I’ve heard from my (Japanese) wife…

The Director of the Japan Space Elevator Association, Mr. Hideyuki Natsume, has sent me an updated flyer of the conference – you can access it here (.doc format / .pdf format).  All of it looks very interesting, but the presentation I would like to hear above all is Dr. Yoku Inoue’s discussion of Progress in constructing Lightweight, High-Strength carbon nanotubes.  Dr. Inoue is from Shizuoka university – a CNT tether from them was the only entry in the 2009 Strong Tether Challenge.  I’m surprised they did not return for the 2010 competition and can only hope we see an entry from them for the 2011 competition.

I’m sure this will be a very successful conference and I hope to be able to report on some of the presentations which were made there.

2010 EuroSpaceward conference wrapup

So, the 2010 EuroSpaceward conference is over – it sure went by quickly.  It was a very enjoyable conference and Markus Klettner, the Executive Director of EuroSpaceward deserves a lot of credit for the work he did in organizing this event.  Dr. Vessilin Shanov remarked to me at the end of the first day that this conference “keeps getting better each year” and I can only agree.  Saturday’s presentations were all about CNTs and the state-of-the-art in their development while Sunday was focused specifically on Space Elevator topics.  The synergy between the two sessions and their speakers was wonderful to see.  Space Elevator people are obviously critically interested in the status of CNT development while the CNT theorists and developers were able to see what “the dreamers” (and I include myself in that group) want to do with the fruits of their efforts.

I enjoyed all of the presentations, but a couple stood out in my mind.  First was the presentation by Dr. Yakobsen.  I think his theoretical insights as to how/why CNTs actually start growing and continue growing is crucial in understanding how to make them long/strong enough for our needs.  A second particularly noteworthy presentation (IMHO, of course) was Dr. Martin Lades’ presentation on Project CLAVIS – a new, European initiative on the study of CNTs.  One can only hope that they succeed in getting this project off the ground.  Third was Dr. Nicola Pugno’s presentation on ‘self-healing’ CNT tethers.  Being able to actually build this self-healing capability into a Space Elevator tether may prove to be critical to it actually succeeding.  The final presentation which I thought particularly noteworthy was ISEC’s own Dr. Peter Swan’s summarization of his group’s study of Space Debris and the mitigation strategies that must be built into the design of Space Elevator to deal with this hazard.  Dr. Swan’s efforts are not only important for the Space Elevator community in general, of course, but this study was the very first “Red Team” study produced by ISEC – giving our “official position” on this topic.  It’s something we all can refer to in the future when the naysayers and other skeptics throw questions/comments such as “Well, what are you going to do about space junk?”  “It’s going to blow your Space Elevator to hell!”  “You can’t avoid it!” at us.  We can now refer to this study and definitively say to them; “Look, it appears that one, small segment (LEO) will be subject to debris strikes every 10 days.  We’ll build in repair capabilities to deal with it.  It’s not a critical problem.”  If they still argue, we can show them the figures that Dr. Swan’s team came up with.  His team’s study satisfies an overall goal of ISEC – taking away reasons people can say “No” to the Space Elevator.

You did us proud, Dr. Swan, thank you!

One last picture thumbnail to share with you.  On the left is Akira Tsuchida and on the right is Dr. Martin Lades.  Both are well know in the Space Elevator community.  Akira gave Sunday’s presentation on a Japan roadmap for building the Space Elevator.  They now have their ‘estimated operational date’ as 2050 (twenty years later than they had previously predicted – mostly due to their opinion as to the state-of-the-art of CNT development).  This roadmap is going to be updated every year until 2017.  It’s too long to go into now, but part of his presentation was about toilets on a Space Elevator Space station and how they are being tested out in an orphanage in Mongolia (really!).  The discussion about this initiative was absolutely priceless – you had to be here to really appreciate it.  Akira also headed up the E-T-C team that competed in the 2007 Space Elevator Games and is famous for, among other things, selling his car (a Mercedes, no less) to help finance the project.  He is definitely a true believer and is a genuinely nice guy.

And on the right is Dr. Martin Lades.  Martin is one of those ‘behind-the scenes’ guys that just helps makes things work.  He was part of the Kansas City Space Pirates team that competed in the Space Elevator Games.  He is on the Board of Directors for ISEC and is also a key member in trying to get Project CLAVIS up and running.

So, if you weren’t here this year, you definitely missed a very worthwhile event.  I have tried to summarize the presentations in this blog, but I know that it is only a poor representation of what actually went on.  I would urge all of my readers to consider coming to the 2011 EuroSpaceward Conference – thank you again Markus!

(As always, click on the photo thumbnail to see a full size version of the picture)

2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Sunday afternoon (2)

First up is Akira Tsuchida from Japan (here in person!).  Akira headed up the E-T-C (Earth-Track-Controllers) Climber / Power-Beaming team that was in the 2007 competition in Salt Lake City.  He is a long-time believer in the concept of the Space Elevator and has done much to popularize the concept.  He is a member of JSEA – the Japan Space Elevator Association.  His talk is on a roadmap to building a Space Elevator that he and some collaborators have created.

I’m up next – I’ll post my presentation for all to see.  It contains an important announcement which I’ll cover in a separate post.

Markus wrap-up.


2010 EuroSpaceward conference – Sunday afternoon (1)

First up is Andreas Hein from WARR.  Andreas is a long-time contributor in the Space Elevator field.  His talk today uses the Brad Edwards model of constructing a Space Elevator and where he believes it must be changed / updated.  The upshot of his presentation is that, in his opinion, CNTs may not be strong enough to feasibly build a space elevator and that we should investigate an alternative material – colossal carbon tubes.  Andreas also believes an alternative method of deployment, reeling, will be needed along with a round cable in the atmosphere, rather than a ribbon.

Next up is Nelson Semino, the designer of the Space Shaft; an inflatable, atmospherically bouyant structure that allows one to haul up large amounts of cargo to low-space.  He proposes a 100km tall structure built out of Hypercubes – boxed-shape bladders that are filled with Helium.

The next talk was by ISEC Board Member, Peter Swan.  His talk is “Space environment for space elevators: new insights on space elevator and debris collision probabilities.”  Peter headed up the ISEC “Red Team” that has produced a definitive study of the problem of space debris as it relates to a space elevator.  Right now, this paper is in peer review.  The details (and calculations behind them) are in this report and I recommend that you read it when it comes up, but the upshot is that only at LEO do we have an issue and then, only from the untrackable pieces.  It is estimated that the Space Elevator at LEO (200-2000km above earth) will be hit on average every 10 days by a piece of this untrackable debris.  A self-repair mechanism must be built into the Space Elevator system, but if that is done, and the design is correct, there should not be a concern that a piece of space debris will ‘take out’ the Space Elevator.


2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Sunday morning

First up is Dr. Pugno of the Laboratory of Bio-inspired Nanomechanics at the polytechnic Institute of Torino, Italy.  Dr. Pugno originally came tot he notice of the Space Elevator community when he began to discuss defects and other potential problems with making a tether suitable for a Space Elevator.  I remember Brad Edwards being somewhat dismissive of Dr. Pugno’s work, but I think time has proven him correct.  Dr. Pugno has been turning his attention to making these cables as strong as possible and today’s talk was on the same theme.  He drew parallels to the organic world; if bones, for instance, can heal themselves, why can’t CNTs?  If some sort of self-healing capability could be introduced into a cable, then it could become more robust.  This was a very interesting presentation and I think there is a real future in this work.  The SE community had always postulated repairing the tether, but from macro-size breaks (introduced by space debris, etc.).  Dr. Pugno brings this down to the atomic level and his idea may turn out to be vital.  He still believes that the maximum strength possible for a cable is 38 GPa…

Next up is Sourabh Kaushal and Nishant Arora from India, presenting via Skype.  Sourabh and Nishant prepared a paper, entering the 2010 Pearson prize and also presented at the 2010 Space Elevator conference in Redmond, Washington.  Their presentation was general in nature, discussing Space Elevator concepts.  We had technical difficulties with Skype and so their presentation was abbreviated.  I believe they were proposing using graphene as an alternative to CNTs, but I’ll have to review their presentation slides to be sure.  All of us at the conference were very happy to have a presentation from India.


Professor Kai from Japan then presented his talk; “Who can establish the space elevator?”.  Dr. Kai presented the case that only an international organization would be allowed by the world community to build & operate a space elevator.  He uses Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty as his justification.  This organization would initially be modeled on the existing treaty for the International Space Station, but must be open-ended so that any country can join it.  Professor Kai presented his paper via Skype – no technical issues this time.

Professor Kai was followed by Shuichi Ohno, the president of the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA).  Ohno-san talked about the 2010  JSETEC (Japan Space Elevator Technical & Engineering Competition) event hosted by JSEA, including summarizing the teams that competed and the results of the competition.  Ohno-san included several very interesting pictures from the competition in his presentation.  Next year, JSEA plans to double the height the climbers must ascend from 300 meters to 600 meters – it will be interesting to see what they use to hold the tether aloft.  Ohno-san said that there will be teams from Japan competing in the upcoming EuSEC (European Space Elevator Competition).  The JSEA-sponsored LASER competition was also discussed.

Next up was a presentation by Franciska Volgyi (from the Technical University of Munich – TUM) on EuSEC, Europe’s first Space Elevator Challenge.  This is targeted towards student teams and the goals are to establish a European Space Elevator Community, to introduce the Space Elevator concept to he European public and to increase the understanding of the Space Elevator System.  They have set up four categories of team entries, starting with remote-controlled, battery powered systems working their way up to autonomous, beamed-power systems.

The last presentation before lunch was by Mikhail Schwarzbart from the Institute of Mechanics and Mechatronics on the stability of the Space Elevator.  This presentation had the most equations of any of them ? but I think the upshot of his presentation was that the modern day concept of a Space Elevator is long enough and has enough mass to be inherently a stable system.  His model was a simple one, including only the earth and the tether – climbers were not included.


2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Saturday wrap-up

The first day of the 2010 EuroSpaceward Conference has ended and it’s been an excellent first day.  There is just so much going on in the CNT world – hearing about new research from the people who are doing it is intellectually very stimulating.

For a Space Elevator fan such as me, listening to the presentations about the development of CNTs is both exciting and depressing.  It’s depressing hearing about all of the problems that the researchers are running into in trying to create the “long strong tubes” that we need to build an SE, but it’s exciting to hear about the new approaches being tried, advances being made and real, undeniable progress (though not fast enough for me ?).

I have a couple of photos to share with you.  The first is a ‘formal picture’ of, from left-to-right, Markus Klettner (Executive Director of EuroSpaceward – the person principally responsible for these conferences), Dr. Boris Yakobsen of Rice University and Dr. Vessilin Shanov of the University of Cincinnati.  Dr. Yakobsen and Dr. Shanov are at the absolute forefront of CNT research.

The second picture is a more informal one of Dr.’s Yakobsen and Shanov comparing notes during a break in the proceedings.

And the third picture is kind of neat.  It is a screenshot of the cover of the issue of American Scientist magazine where Dr. Yakobsen and the late Dr. Smalley published their article talking about CNTs and Space Elevators (I blogged about that issue here).  However, this is a cover that never made it to publication.  Dr. Yakobsen talked about how difficult it was for the artist to get the concept right.  When he finally had something to Dr. Yakobsen’s satisifaction, he requested one more change – putting in a couple of 5-7 (Stone-Wales) defects in the nanotube structure to make it a bit more realistic.  The artist did so and the cover you see in this post is the result – if you look carefully, you can see the defects.  However, the magazine editors decided to run with the cover with the perfect nanotubes (no defects) and that was the issue which was printed.

I’m looking forward to today’s sessions very much…

(As always, click on any photo thumbnail to see a full size version of the picture) 

2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Saturday afternoon

First up is Dr. David Ruch who heads up the department of Advanced Materials and Structures (AMS) at the Centre Recherche Public Henri Tudor.  He talked about the work they were doing at their institute including using CNTs for “…plasma polymerization of materials to make them suitable for energy and barrier systems.”  Possible applications include fuel cells, anticorrosion layers on galvanized steel, etc.

Next is Dr. Jerome Guillot, a researcher on CNT functionalisation at the Department for Science and Materials Analysis (SAM) at the Public Research Centre Gabriel Lippmann.  Dr. Guillot is a partner in the proposed Project CLAVIS I posted about earlier.  His work centers on research about the concept of gas detection using functionalized carbon nanotubes.  The number of potential applications that CNTs have is truly amazing.  In this application (and in many others), it relies on the very huge surface / volume ration that CNTs enjoy.  Because of my interest in using CNTs to build a Space Elevator tether, I am guilty of having ‘tunnel-vision’ regarding what CNTs can do, but the nanotube workshop I attended in Cincinnati a couple of months ago opened my eyes – and now what I’m seeing here at the 2010 EuroSpaceward conference is just reinforcing it.  Dr. Guillot’s work with CNTs is ‘backwards’ in what others are trying to do with them.  When trying to maximize the strength of CNTs, you want them to be as defect-free as possible.  However, when doping them with metals (or whatever), as Dr. Guillot is doing, he wants to have defects – these are the nucleation sites.

The next speaker was Dr. Philippe Poulin, a CNT fiber production expert at Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal.  His talk was entitled “Liquid processing of carbon nanotube composite fibers”.   This approach to creating CNT fibers (or composite fibers) is an alternative to the “forest growth” which comes from carbon-vapor deposition (CVD) CNT growth.  One type of Liquid processing is good for low CNT concentration, very useful for making items such as conductive textiles. (‘smart’ fabrics, anti-static packaging, strain sensors, etc.).  Another type of liquid spinning is good for high CNT concentrations, a method similar to how other synthetic fibers (such as Kevlar) are spun.

Next up is Mr. Matthew James from Cambridge University.  This is the home of Dr. Alan Windle and his “special kind of smoke” CNTs.  His topic ks “Advancements on CNT fibre strength” – a topic near and dear to my heart (and to anyone else who wants a Space Elevator).  They claim for a 1 mm fiber a specific strength of 9GPa-g/cm3.  This would be strong enough to win the $2Million Strong Tether competition if they (and a to-be-named US partner) would enter.  They also claim numbers of 1pound 35 to send a kilogram to LEO!  I have to see how they came up with their numbers.  Also, he discussed using the SE tether itself as a solar panel, collecting energy from the sun and transmitting it to the Climber(s).  I have to think about this – I’m going to write up a separate post on his presentation.  Very innovative, but too good to be true, I fear…

Now up is Dr. Karl Fleury-Frenette from the University of Liege in Belgium.  His topic is Laser micro-processing of carbon nanotubes, including laser ablation, laser generation of nanoparticles, laser induced forward transfer (a coating technique), thermo-reflectance, local laser continuous heating (early 2011) and laser assisted CVD (2012)


2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Saturday morning (2)

Next up is Dr. Martin Lades.  Martin is a long-time Space Elevator guy.  He was a member of the Kansas City Space Pirates and a founding member of The Internatinal Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC).  Martin is a Board Member of ISEC as well as taking care of all of our day-2-day IT issues.  I’ve know Martin for several years now and am happy to count him among my friends.  His talk is on Project CLAVIS, a European CNT initiative.  The CLAVIS objectives are 1) Overcome CNT growth termination, 2) Determine appropriate catalyst selection, 3) Develop techniques for in-situ tracking of CNT growth and 4) Increase growth rate of CNT array to minimize defect formation and amorphous carbon.  This is the first time I’ve heard of this project – I hope that it gets off the ground as the more minds that are working on this problem, the better.

Next is Dr. Boris Yakobsen.  I was able to have dinner with him and a few others last night and participated in a very stimulating discussion about carbon nanotubes, politics, Wikileaks and all the rest…  He opened his presentation by quoting a section of Arthur C Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradise – always ‘red meat’ for a Space Elevator enthusiast.  He then discussed trying to understand why carbon nanotubes failed under stress.  This was followed by a theoretical discussion of why carbon nanotube growth starts and how does it continue to grow.  I am reminded of a comment that Ben Shelef made to me once when he was talking about why nanotube growth stops after a while.  He said that someone (Dave Lashmore from Nanocomp?  Steve Steiner from MIT?) said “Why does CNT growth stop?  We don’t even know why it starts!”  I’m not a physicist nor a chemist, so much of what he said was over my head, but the talk was fascinating…

We then heard from Dr. Michael De Volder talking about Tailoring the self-organization of CNT growth.  I was introduced to this topic at the Nanotube workshop in Cincinnati from a talk given by John Hart from the University of Michigan.  It turns out that Dr. De Volder is collaborating with Dr. Hart and so his subject matter is a bit familiar to me.  His talk centered on using capillary forces to create nanotube structures.  A nanotube ‘forest’ is mostly empty space.  This forest is saturated with a liquid and then the liquid is removed.  This causes the nanotubes to form various structures, depending on how they were originally grown.  According to Dr. De Volder (and Dr. Hart), these structures are much more rigid than the original nanotube forest – this process is called capillary densification.


2010 EuroSpaceward Conference – Saturday morning (1)

And we’re off.  Markus Klettner, Executive Director of EuroSpaceward, is giving the kickoff address.  He is talking about why we are having this conference.  His rationale is to help humanity become a Type I civilization and a Space Elevator (and all of its associated technologies) is a key to making this happen.  EuroSpaceward brings together leading scientists & engineers, supports research on mechanical properties of CNT and expects cross-fertilization of ideas & activities in order to achieve a breakthrough in growing ultra long (m) CNTs for the development of the SE mega cable.  Here’s a news flash – a European Strong Tether Challenge?  EuroSpaceward is working on this.  More details later…

Next up is Dr. Vessilin Shanov from the University of Cincinnati.  I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Shanov at the recent workshop held at the U of C last October and it is a great pleasure to be able see him again.  His talk is about developments at the U of C including growing CNTs that approach 1 inch in length this past January.  He is NOT talking about why CNT growth seems to stop and the CNTs detach from the catalyst saying he doesn’ know why and it is the “Million Dollar question”,  With respect, I would call it the “Billion Dollar question”.  CNT applications he is discussing include tiny biosensor electrodes, ‘dry’ adhesives, etc.  They’ve patented the name of the type of CNTs they grow; “Black Cotton”.

Coffee break…

In Luxembourg…

I arrived in Luxembourg yesterday afternoon (local time) – cold and snowy in Europe already.  The flight from Chicago to Munich was delayed by several hours due to the snow in Europe.  I neglected to pack my power adapters so had to buy new ones here – the walk to the bus stop was on snowy, icey sidewalks – winter is here for sure…

Elton John was in town last night and his conference was only a few blocks from the hotel.  I’m not a huge fan of his, but do enjoy his music.  I thought (briefly) about seeing if I could get a ticket, but the bed in my hotel room looked much too inviting after 15 hours on airplanes and in airports…

I’ve got my first picture to share with all of you – can anyone guess what it is?  I hope to have a ‘better’ picture of it later on in the conference…

Click on the picture thumbnail to see a full-size version of it…

(Update: 05DEC10 – Both David and Brian are correct – this is a “Space Elevator (Kit) in a box”, produced by Lego of Japan.  The white straps are the elevator tether / tape that the climbers run up and down on…  No instructions came with it, so no one has been brave enough yet to try and put it together.  However, Akira Tsuchida is supposed to be here today, so maybe he can give us some guidance.)

I guess he shouldn’t have done that…

Will “Lick the Owl” join the lexicon?


Don’t mess with Chuck Norris or you’ll lick the owl“…

If you don’t leave me alone, you’re going to lick the owl“…

When the Lions play the Bears on Sunday, they’re going to lick the owl“…

I’m sure someone can do better than this – come on guys, let’s get creative!

On my “To-Do” list…

One of the things which I should be able to accomplish at the upcoming EuroSpaceward Conference is to finally meet Dr. Boris Yakobson.  He is a professor of material science, mechanical engineering and chemistry and works out of the Smalley Institute (yes, that Smalley) at Rice University.  Rice University has its own unique way of processing carbon nanotubes and that will be fascinating to hear about.

Dr.’s Yakobson and Smalley also discussed carbon nanotubes as a material possibly strong enough to build a space elevator in their paper Fullerene Nanotubes: C1,000,000 and Beyond, published by American Scientist in August of 1997.  Money quote from this paper:

In a 1978 science-fiction novel called Fountains of Paradise Arthur Clarke described a strong filament or cable being lowered from a geosynchronous satellite and used by the engineers of the future to move things up and down from earth-a space elevator. Let’s ignore for a moment the tremendous problems involved-atmospheric turbulence, the Coriolis forces, the ravages of ozone and radiation up there-and think about how strong such a cable should be. It takes freshman college physics to figure that the tension in a cable is proportional to its specific gravity ? = 1.3, a square of the earth radius R, and a simple integral: ?(1/r 2 – r/R s 3)dr. The integral spans 22,300 miles all the way from the ground to the synchronous orbit, accumulates a lot and produces a strength requirement of 63 gigapascals. As speculative as it is, the story benchmarks this number. None of the materials now known to humankind get close to such strength. Fullerene cables someday may.

I’m very much looking forward to meeting him.

The upcoming 2010 EuroSpaceward Conference

I get on a plane in a few hours to travel to Luxembourg to attend and present at the 2010 EuroSpaceward Conference.  I attended this very worthwhile event last year and enjoyed myself very much.  It’s nice to stay in personal touch with so many people and it’s exciting to hear people talk about technologies that are near and dear to my heart…

The final set of abstracts for the presentations have been released and you can view them here (Saturday / Sunday).  Carbon Nanotube technology is the focus on Saturday while Space Elevator systems are the focus for Sunday’s presentations.  As you can see, I give the penultimate presentation on Sunday, so I’m hopeful that people will still be awake ?

I’ll be blogging from the conference as time permits and will also post a few pictures for everyone to enjoy.  For those of you attending – I’ll see you in a couple of days!