Category Archives: Interviews / Presentations


Michael Laine Interview

I just ran across this June, 2005 interview with LiftPort’s Michael Laine.  It was conducted by American Antigravity.

One of my favorite parts of this interview came near the end when Michael talked about how LiftPort chose their (original) date to have the Space Elevator built by; April 12th, the date of Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight and also the date of the maiden flight of Columbia, the first Space Shuttle.  No such glamour is attached with their current estimated completion date of October 27th.  Outside of it being John Cleese’s birthday, I don’t see much else to celebrate – here’s hoping that LiftPort will add to that…

Note: At some point in the future, I’m going to move this posting from this date back to the date when the interview occurred – just to keep it in historical context.

Dr. Bryan Laubscher to appear on the Space Show

Dr. Bryan Laubscher is scheduled to appear on Dr. David Livingston’s “The Space show” tomorrow, Tuesday, January 23rd, from 7:00pm to 8:30pm, Pacific time.

According to the email I received from The Space Show’s email list, “Dr. Bryan Laubscher is our guest. We will be discussing the space elevator, the coming SEC 2007 along with the space elevator conference.”

You can hear the show live by going to The Space Show website.  If you miss the show, it will also be available by podcast afterwards (I’ll post a link to it when its up).

This should be a great interview and I encourage everyone to tune in.  Dr. Livingston also takes phone and email questions during the show, so if you have a question for him, this is a great time to ask.

Interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson

I just stumbled across this January 5th, 2007 interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson.  He and the interviewer briefly discuss the (then) upcoming episode on Nova Science Now about the Space Elevator.

The discussion concerning the Space Elevator is just past the midway point of the interview.

I enjoy listening to Dr. Tyson; his enthusiasm is quite infectious.  Interesting facts about Dr. Tyson include the tidbits that an asteroid (13123 Tyson) is named after him and that in 2000, he was voted the “Sexiest Astrophysicist alive” by People magazine.

Interview with Ben Shelef

Recently, I had an (email) conversation with Ben Shelef, co-founder of Spaceward and CEO of Elevator2010.  We discussed the recently completed Space Elevator Games and the ones scheduled for next year.

Q. In your opinion, what was the most significant accomplishment of the 2006 Games?

The most significant accomplishment was the scale of what happened – this was the first “real”, or full-form competition, and we had 12 teams arriving with real hardware, 2 from Europe, 3 from Canada, 7 from the US – we’ve got ourselves a Space Elevator competition now!  A few more teams were registered and couldn’t produce hardware in time – all in all we had 20 teams that tried.  This is a good base to building the 2007 games from.  Obviously this year USST was head and shoulders above everyone else, with their 2-seconds-too-slow climb, but I’m betting in 2007 we will see plenty of climbers zooming up at over 2 m/s.

Q. The biggest mistake made by entrants in the 2006 Tether competition, was, in hindsight, fairly obvious; trying to push the 2 meter minimum length requirement too far.  What, in your opinion, was the biggest mistake made by entrants in the 2006 Climber competition?

That would be maturity.  Several of the climbers had it in them to go 1m/s, but they were just not fully prepared, were debugging the system on the pad – one of our strongest pushes this year is to whip the teams into starting early, and keeping a constant pace.  We will require video evidence of a complete working system 1 month before the competition so they can spend the next remaining time fine-tuning and putting a nice paint job on the climber. This is a concept we came up with this year, but were too late to enforce properly.  This year, it will be very high on our radar screen.

Q. What was your biggest regret about the 2006 Games?

None really.  All you have to do is step outside of the day-to-day activities and look back – we’ve covered a huge amount of ground, and have a path forward that is both exciting and feasible – We couldn’t have asked for more.

Q. What are your thoughts on how well the “Games partnership” worked with XPrizeCup this year?

It was a good call for both of us to do this together.  We complement each other, and it worked out fine for both of us.

Q. I know it’s early, but do you have any preferences on working with XPrizeCup for the 2007 games?

We’re already talking about this, but won’t know for sure for a couple of months.

Q. What are the most significant changes in this year’s Climber (Power Beaming) competition rules?

Other than the increased difficulty, it’s mostly about instilling process in both the teams (see the list of deliverables) and pad operations. We need to increase the level of technical maturity of the climbers, since it is clear now that plenty of people have ideas about how to build the power beaming part, but are failing at the nuts-and-bolts level.  We also have to build a more complicated anchor point to deal with the effects of wind on the climbers.  In space, there is no wind, so we have to provide a more protective environment for the climbers.

Q. What are the most significant changes in this year’s Tether competition rules?

Very little, actually.  We have a slightly more clever way of rating a tether’s performance (best of its losing point and all of its winning points) and so now can have 1st, 2nd and 3rd places.

Q. How did the idea for a Climber “newbie” event come about?

We actually had “limited” registration this year.  Experience obviously counts, and the 2006 format seems feasible as a first shot (e.g. TurboCrawler, MClimber, and of course – Kansas City).

Q. With the Prize money now up to $500,000 for a single winner, do you expect to see more significant corporate sponsorship in the 2007 Games?

We’d better….   we’re working on it.

Q. Do you think we have a realistic chance of seeing any entrants in the 2007 Tether competition that employ carbon nanotubes in their tethers?

Yes, and you can quote me on that.

Thank you Ben.

One other note; Elevator2010 is publishing the comments submitted to them on the 2007 Rulebooks and their response.  You can find that here.

2 Days and Counting (Part 5) !

Final post for today from the competition.  As always, click on the picture thumbnails to see a larger version.  For the audio clip, double-click on the arrow next to the speaker icon to hear a short narration of what the picture is about.

Ben Shelef congratulating the University of Michigan team for qualifying.




Climber Weigh-in trellis (narration by Ken Davidian).

[audio: ClimberWeighInTrellis.mp3]



More tomorrow !

3 Days and Counting (Part 3) – First Qualification attempt !

The Kansas City Space Pirates were the first team to attempt to qualify their Climber for the 2006 Space Elevator Games.  Unfortunately, while their climber did make it to the top and within the allotted time, it failed to descend properly and had to be hauled down.  Nevertheless, the fact that they made it to the top is quite encouraging.  I talked to their team captain, Brian Turner, and he told me that they knew what the problem was, were in the process of fixing it, would be ready to make another attempt in the morning, and still hoped to be first to qualify.  Below is a thumbnail version of a picture of their climber sitting at the top of the test tether.  Click on it to get a larger version and double-click on the arrow next to the speaker icon to hear my brief interview with him as he discusses their results.

Sitting at the top of the tether…





Below are pictures taken during preparations for their attempt.  Again, click on the picture for a larger version of it and double-click on the arrow icon next to the speaker to hear a brief narration of what is going on.

Part of the KC Space Pirates reflector array (narration by Ken Davidian).




Preparation for Qualifying Run (narration by Ken Davidian).




Getting ready (narration by Ken Davidian).





4 Days and Counting (Part 2) !

I had a short conversation yesterday with Vince Lopresti of the Dallas SpaceMiners Team.  By the time you’re reading this, he should be in Las Cruces with two complete Climbers and parts for third.  Listen to what Vince has to say about the competition and his chances by double-clicking the arrow to the right of the speaker, below.


And, on a happy note, Team TurboCrawler (the German Team) had their equipment clear customs and arrive today, onsite.  So, we should have the benefit of their best efforts.

Two videos from the German Space Elevator Games entry

Over on YouTube, there are two videos now available about TurboCrawler – the entry from the German team that is coming to compete in this year’s Space Elevator games.  This video is mostly a short TV interview with the team (you’ll need to understand German to understand the interview), though there is a shot of a version of the Climber.  This video is shows another version (at least the two look different to me) and shows the climber doing it’s thing.

Interview with Spaceward Foundation’s Ben Shelef

On Ben King’s Blog, he mentions that he has just completed a TV spot discussing the Space Elevator.  The Blog entry is here.  When I went to view the spot, I found that, in addition to a brief summary of what the Space Elevator is, there is also an interview with The Spaceward Foundation / Elevator 2010’s Ben Shelef.

There is a link to the TV spot on Ben’s blog – or you can access it directly here.

Punkworks Interview

Another in the series of interviews with teams competing in this year’s Space Elevator Games is now posted.  Last Friday, I interviewed Allen Atamer and Kevin Estrabillo of the Toronto-based Punkworks.  This team is first-time entrant in this event.

Tagline; “Our climber’s name is Jack, and we’re … building a better beamstalk ….”

The interview (an .mp3 file) can be found here.

Reminder – Dr. Brad Edwards to appear on the Space Show tomorrow night

On August 29th, from 7:00pm to 8:30pm Pacific time, Dr. Brad Edwards is scheduled to be interviewed on Dr. David Livingston’s The Space Show.

The theme of the interview will be “for space elevator updates and to discuss his views and understanding of energy from space.”

All of The Space Show interviews are available via podcast in case you cannot listen in at that time.

“Something to see, eh?”

My search engines just turned up this interview by our Canadian friends at with Sir Charles Shults III and his views on the Space Elevator.  This broadcast was originally aired in December, 2005.

As an aside, I’ve greatly enjoyed reading the postings at various forums arguing about whether “Sir” Charles is really a knight or not.  I’m not a Brit, so I don’t know (and I don’t care).  But the arguments are great fun.

In this interview, he does have his Space Elevator “facts” correct.  In addition, he mentioned a possible use of the Space Elevator that I hadn’t heard of before, using it to deliver payloads to various earth locations.  I’d always heard/read about using the Space Elevator to launch payloads to the moon and some of the planets, but I don’t see why what he suggests wouldn’t work.  There will be those, of course, who will suggest that such deliveries could be designed with hostile intent.  Yet another reason why we Americans need to do this first…

Kansas City Space Pirates Interview

Another in the series of interviews with teams competing in this year’s Space Elevator Games is now posted.  Last Friday, I interviewed Brian Turner of the Kansas City Space Pirates team.  This team is first-time entrant in this event.  However, they have a secret weapon; one of the team-members used to design robots for the TV show “BattleBots”.  If I was someone from another team, I’d be very sure to keep my climber away from the Space Pirates entry 🙂

Money quote; “All the big money has been spent, so we can’t back out now.” 

The interview (an .mp3 file) can be found here.

SnowStar Interview

Another interview with the competitors in this year’s Space Elevator games is now available.  I talk with Steve Jones of Team SnowStar.  Steve and his team are veterans from the 2005 Space Elevator games and their team has to be considered as one of the favorites in this years climber competition.  Last year, they won the “Most likely to win  in 2006 award”  In addition, Steve and his team are also entered in the Tether competition.

These people are very serious about both competitions and I look to them to set this pace in this year’s games.  You can listen to the interview (an .mp3 file) here.

Note: An earlier interview with this team by Seth Shostak can be found here.\

16OCT06 – Snowstar has kindly sent me a full-size version of their logo.  If you click on the logo in this posting, you will be able to see it.

Scorpions for Cancer Therapy and Space Elevator Contests

The Boston Museum of Science produces a series of podcasts on various technical topics.  In the current week’s offering, the Space Elevator games coming up in October are described, along with a “Space Elevator 101” primer for the uninitiated.  Despite the technical errors in the presentation (geosynchronous orbit is defined as 27,000 Kilometers above the earth and all of the rest of their measurements are proportionally incorrect), it’s good to see yet another outlet talking about Space Elevators.

The presentation is linked to here and covers two topics.  You can skip the first topic if you like (Scorpions for Cancer Therapy – as a cancer survivor, I found it quite interesting); the Space Elevator Games section begins at 7 minutes, 42 seconds in and lasts for a little over 11 minutes.

Fischer28 Interview

The third in the series of Interviews with the competitors in this year’s Space Elevator games is now available.  I talk with Michael Fischer of Team Fischer28.  Michael is a veteran of the 2005 Space Elevator games and his climber has a rather novel way of propelling its way up the tether.  In addition, Michael presented a paper at this year’s 2006 ISDC conference on his method.  You can find the paper here (Bob Munck alert – it’s in pdf format).

You can listen to the interview (an .mp3 file) here.

(Note that the sound quality is not that great; I’m not sure why – I’ll be working on cleaning it up and reposting it as soon as I can)

USST Interview

The second in the series of Interviews with the competitors in this year’s Space Elevator games is now available.  I talk with Clayton Ruszkowski from the University of Saskatchewan (USST) team, the group with the Lifter that climbed the highest in last year’s competition.  Find out if they attribute their success last year to superior Canadian beer.

You can listen to the interview (an .mp3 file) here.