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.)