Monthly Archives: October 2007

View from a Climber

One of the things which was hoped to have happened this year was cameras mounted on the climbers (or at the top of the tether) to show a different perspective of a Climb.

For whatever reason, it didn’t happen with the exception of one climb from the KC Space Pirates which had a camera mounted on the Climber.  It’s very reminiscent of those cameras that are put on the Shuttle when it launches (though not to the same scale, of course).  Brian Turner from the Space Pirates put this video on YouTube – it’s mega-cool…

LaserMotive wraps it up

LaserMotive was one of two Laser-powered teams in this year’s games.  I had great hopes for their performance, but alas, things did not work out well for them.  I’ll be posting more about them in the future (along with some videos and pix I have).

This is from the LaserMotive blog:

“Back From Utah, and Recovering

The entire LaserMotive team is back from Utah. Equipment is safely stowed, and everyone is working to fight off sleep deprivation and various illnesses that have cropped up (probably due to the aforementioned sleep deprivation). No one won this year’s competition, which means that next year the prize purse will be $900,000.

We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to show the world the power of our system. A detailed analysis of what happened will have to wait for another time, but the brief summary is that our system was working before we left Seattle, and we demonstrated it working again during the first qualifying run on Wednesday (10/17). We then made adjustments to the on-board electronics for Thursday’s attempt, but those changes prevented the motor controller from working properly the first time Thursday night. More frustrating, the vehicle tried to climb on our second attempt Thursday but due to miscommunication and lack of visibility, the person holding the belay line wound up pulling both the up and down directions and held the vehicle in place so that it couldn’t climb (he was standing outside our safety curtain and couldn’t see in, and given that it was midnight and rainy, it was difficult to figure out the problem on the fly). Such errors are what happens for a team that hasn’t entered the competition before and hence hasn’t had enough time to practice. Next year we will, of course, be much more practiced.

Bad weather prevented any climbs on Friday and Saturday, and just as we were getting ready to mount the ribbon for a climb on Sunday, winds forced Spaceward to take down the crane. We then had to pack up our system for people to get home Monday for their other jobs.

Now that we have some time, I will soon post the qualifying video we submitted to Spaceward at the beginning of October (I need to compress it for YouTube).

I want to thank the entire team, their families, and all of the other volunteers (including Howard Tayler and his friend Tim) who helped us out at the event. As we figure out our plans for the future over the next few weeks, I will try and post more information.”

Marc Boucher appears on The Space Show

Almost everyone who is interested in Space Elevators and is at all Internet-savvy knows the website The Space Elevator Reference.  This site is the original Space Elevator site and remains a “must-visit” for anyone who is interested in the subject.

Marc Boucher is the author of this site (as well as others, most notably, IMHO, – a site I’ve written about several times before – if you’re not already signed up for their daily alerts/news, you should be).  One of the many good things which happened to me at the recent Space Elevator Games was the opportunity to meet and work with Marc.  He and I had corresponded a bit over the past year, but I’d never met him before this year’s Games.

Marc was the person responsible for the webcams at this year’s Games (thank you Marc) as well as a number of notable photos posted on the Space Elevator Reference website.  If you haven’t visited this site and seen Marc’s coverage of the games, you’re missing a treat.

He was also interviewed yesterday (the 30th) by Dr. David Livingston on the Space Show.  Dr. Livingston does a very thorough job on biographies – here is an excerpt from Marc’s bio…

“Marc Boucher is an entrepreneur, technologist, explorer and bon vivant. He came into his own when spurred on by his brother, he decided to start his first business in 1991 and hasn’t looked back since. Boucher is the founder of aTerra Technologies, co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive, co-founder of the Mars Institute and has ideas about starting other new ventures. aTerra Technologies focuses on Internet technologies, in particular data gathering and aggregation, vertical search, web development and is best known for developing original content properties and web crawlers…In June of 2000 SpaceRef announced it had licensed SpaceRef content to the Discovery Channel. Today SpaceRef is one of the leading online space news sites comprising 14 web sites in its network and growing. SpaceRef has also begun to modestly sponsor research by first donating the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse to the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) in 2002. In addition SpaceRef has been managing webcams for the HMP since the summer of 2000. Boucher himself has had the pleasure to participate in the HMP as an Exploration Research Co-Investigator for five field seasons and has been to the high-Arctic base three times, once in the summer of 2000, then 2002 and in 2005. The Mars Institute is a non-profit research institute co-founded by Boucher in the fall of 2002 at the World Space Congress in Houston.”

His interview is quite interesting and is well worth listening to.  It can be found here.

It was very nice to meet you and work with you Marc – here’s hoping that we’ll be working events together in the future.  And, thank you so much for your photo showing proof positive that aliens were monitoring the Games…

KC Space Pirates wrap it up

A few days ago, Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates, sent out his version of the 2007 Spaceward Games wrap-up.  I’d like to emphasize that this is HIS viewpoint, not necessarily mine nor Spaceward’s.  But I think he’s pretty accurate and it makes for very interesting reading.

“The good news is that we finished 2nd the bad news is that we did not finish fast enough to win the money. Our best time was 1:15. The first place team managed :54 seconds. They pulled this off in the last minutes of the last hour of the last day.

22 teams entered

8 teams showed

4 teams qualified

2 teams made credible runs for the money.

We qualified on the very first hour of the very first day with a climb that was a factor of 5 stronger than the next nearest competitor. The other three qualifiers squeaked in with weather adjusted climbs in the closing hours of Thursday. Our qualifying climb had a top speed of 3.47 Meters per second (7.75MPH). Things went down hill from there. The weather got bad and kept us from having any good climbs to find the problems that would eventually make the difference between $0 and $500,000.

We were confronted by numerous problems through the week, none of which were critical by themselves, but collectively too much. We did a practice climb on Thursday with cloud cover. Team ETC was kind enough to lend us their spotlight power so we could test our top switch and brake.

Friday was too windy. Saturday was rainy and cloudy all day. The light racer competition was on Saturday. Because we had down time we decided to build a racer at the last minute. In about 45 minutes we built a racer that was able to win the adult class and a $2500 prize. We used spare parts, borrowed parts, scraps and trash.

Sunday was looking good. With the weather predicted to be cloudy and windy in the morning getting somewhat clear and calm right around the peak sun. I decided we should run at that time. The big detail I missed was that the clouds were already gone and the wind was dead calm when I picked our time slot.

The other 2 solar teams had excellent conditions similar to the conditions we had on monday. both of them failed to make even the 1 Meter per second qualifying speed. When our time rolled around the clouds and wind were picking up. The first attempt the climber sucked the safety rope into it’s top roller and came to a stop. We backed down, removed the slack from the safety rope and tried again. On the second attempt the climber stalled out twice on the way up. The ribbon was twisting and bucking more than during any other climb during both this years and last years competition. Through all of this we still managed to put up the best climb seen up to that point.

After hitting the top the wind picked up even more and the bucking was enough to cause our brake to seize up and not let the climber descend. The climber was stuck close to the top and was getting beat to death by the ribbon. Pieces of high dollar solar cells and entire modules were falling off like a mixture of silver confetti and oak leaves. I was at the bottom frantically messing with the throttle and brake controls trying to break it loose. We finally hauled it down with the safety line.

The climber was seriously wounded with over half of it’s solar modules seriously damaged. We had to stop climbing for the day and missed our second slot in the next hour. We had to work like bandits to get the climber put back together for the next day. We had to quit from Midnight to 7:00 AM while the fairground buildings were closed. We managed to get it all back together by 1:00 on Monday only to have missed the nice calm morning conditions and be facing the same conditions at the same time of day as Sunday. As we approached the ribbon with the clock on our time slot already ticking away the ribbon snapped in two and went sailing in the wind. If it had done that while I was attaching the climber it could have taken off a finger. As it was, conditions were getting worse and the broken meant more delays. I had a moment of faith realizing that all of this was well outside the averages of randomness and thinking I should get to church more often.

We used the delay to test the newly reassembled climber in the beautiful sunshine. We found that the motor just shuts off after about 30 seconds for no real reason. It starts back up fine but costs us from 5 to 10 seconds each time it does this. With the ribbon fixed and the procedures changed to keep my fingers out of harms way as we mounted the ribbon.

Then, we…. waited. The clouds would build and dissipate as fast as they moved, making it impossible to predict even a 60 second spot of sunshine. The wind was a little higher than the day before. We could pull off and try again in about an hour. But the sun was decending and there were some high thin clouds moving our way. The bottom safety rope was broken and if we got caught at the top again there would be nothing to save the climber. It was time to bet all in or go home. I glanced at my team mates, made the call and we went for it.

The climb was spectacular by any standard but our own, and at 1:25 with several motor stalls it fell short of the mark needed to win the money.

Well, we have a number of ideas abut the various problems and hope to do the testing needed to find out everything that went wrong. The motor controller was just stopping. The solar panel was only putting out 1/3 of power estimations. Thursday was the last time the brake performed well. I found an adjustment screw had come loose on the brake on Monday. I now suspect that this is what caused the bulk of the problems on Sunday.

The $500,000 was not awarded and will likely roll into next year. That will make the prize money a staggering $900,000.

Of the other competitors only the 2 laser teams appear to have enough power to compete with us. One did not qualify for the same kind of simple problems that plagued us. The microwave teams seemed better this year but still could not get it together and qualify. 3 of 4 solar teams qualified, however there was a clear difference in “bang” between them and us once on the ribbon. So that, in my estimation, leaves only 3 favorites for next year. Us and the 2 laser teams. It has not yet been decided how high and how fast next years competition will be. We will not be able to estimate expenses to go next year until after that. Most of the team members have expressed interest in competing again next year. I personally have to talk that over with my wife. Again we have to stare down the fundraising dragon. The KC Space Pirates as an organization is starting to take on a life of it’s own that I do not have to be the constant center of. So clearly, there will be more competitions in the future.”

Kansas City Space Pirates tuning their mirrors

The Kansas City Space Pirates used a series of mirror arrays to redirect the sunlight onto the solar cells on the bottom of their climber.  Each of these arrays had several (8?) mirror panels.  These mirror panels were “focus-able” as they were mounted to the array panel by supports that could be adjusted in and out.  They adjusted the support screws to bend the mirror slightly inward, allowing them to focus the mirror beam.  I think the length of each mirror panel was about four feet.  The mirror panels were made of glass and obviously couldn’t be bent too much or they would crack and/or shatter (a fairly common occurence I was told).

This video shows how they would “tune” the mirror arrays.  They would reflect a light onto the side of a building – the pattern would show how focused their mirrors were.

This video was taken on the night of October 15th.

Videos of USST climbs

I’ve finally been able to upload the videos of the five runs that USST did on the last day of competition (Monday, October 22nd.)  The first video shows a climb in the daylight.  Therefore, you can’t actually see the laser-beam as my camcorder shot it in “normal” (i.e. not night) mode.  But there is a nice sunset in the background to compensate 🙂

Runs 2 through 5 were all run after nightfall and were shot in night-mode.  The laser beam clearly shows and is incredibly futuristic looking.

Runs 1 through 4 were done under competition conditions and any one of them could have won the prize if it had been fast enough.  The fifth and last run was done after the time limit had expired.  USST ran it anyway, just to see if they could meet the required 2 meters/second condition.  You’ll note that in this run, the climber sat motionless for several seconds after the laser beam was applied.  It then shot up the ribbon in about 50 seconds.  IF this run had been in the required time limit and IF the climber hadn’t sat there for several seconds before moving, this run may have been a winner.  I gave a copy of these videos to USST before I left Monday night and I’m sure they’ve been hard at work at analyzing them.

I apologize for the overexposure of the climber in runs 2 through 5 – it’s the best my camcorder can do.  The overexposure (and the darkness) prevents one from seeing when the climber actually hits the top of the ribbon.  But you can tell when their climber hits the top of the ribbon by the (very) audible noise of two wooden “stops” banging into each other.  Because of the earlier ribbon breakage, Spaceward was not able to mount the normal climber “stop” on the ribbon, but actually I liked this jury-rigged one better.  The noise made when the climber hits it is quite audible and clearly signals the end of the run.

The videos are shown in the order the runs were made.  The first one (the top one in this posting) was Run 1 and the last one (the bottom one in this posting) was Run 5.  The fourth climb resulted in their best time, approximately 54 seconds.  You’ll hear me in some of the videos saying things like “Mark one-ten” or “You have to finish at two minutes.”  The times I’m referring to are the times on the clock on the camcorder – it helped me do some rapid seat-of-the-pants calculations as to how long the actual climb itself was.

I was not the official time-keeper of these runs; that job fell to Ken Davidian, the official NASA representative.  When we compared times, however, we were very close.






Thank you…

I’m back, and the first thing I want to say is THANK YOU to all of my readers who took the time to post comments on the blog and/or to email me with their thanks.

It is truly appreciated.

Most of you can imagine how hard this is, but your comments make it all worth while.  This blog is truly a labor of love for me – I receive no compensation for my efforts (nor do I want any – you’ll note that there are no ads on this blog and there never will be) – I only want to see a Space Elevator built.

I think this blog is doing its part by helping to keep up the enthusiasm of the “Space Elevator Crowd” and to introduce the concept to newbies…

So, thank you again for letting me know that my efforts are appreciated.  I will respond personally over the next several days to those who sent me emails and will “comment on the comments” where appropriate.  But I just wanted to say a general “thank you” now to everyone…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 77)

THIS is what I came to see.

USST made a total of 5 runs.  All were spectacular.  None, unfortunately, were fast enough to claim the prize.  Their fastest run was 54 seconds.  We’re not sure exactly how quick that was as we need to measure the ribbon.  This will be done tomorrow.  But we’re sure that the ribbon was not 108 meters, and therefore there was no way they could have met the 2 m/s requirement.

But the runs were spectacular.  They actually picked up speed in a few runs the higher they climbed.  It looks like they have some work to do on their tracking software, but I’m sure they’re going to be taking care of that.

So, unfortunately, the results were like last year – USST was just a few seconds too slow to claim the prize.  But they greatly increased their speed over last year (approximately double) and are fulfilling NASA’s and Spaceward’s goal of advancing the state of the art.

Laser-powered climbs and carbon nanotube tethers were at the 2007 Space Elevator Games – how cool is that!!??!!

I don’t know how much blogging I’ll be doing over the next few days.  I’m off to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary – to fulfill a long-held ambition of mine.  If I have any time, I’ll upload some of the videos and link to them.  But I may not be able to blog again until I’m home on the weekend.

Either way, I’ll be sure and post the rest of the footage I’ve taken.

Thanks for reading…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 75)

F L A S H   U P D A T E ! ! !

There will be one more attempt tonight – USST is setting up again right now.

Safety is now a concern.  People know that this ribbon might break.  USST knows that if this happens, it may damage their climber, perhaps irrepairibly.  Nevertheless, they’ve decided to go for it – and who can blame them.  They’ve been working for this prize for, literally, years, and it would be a shame to have to turn back now.

Special procedures are being put into place to minimize the amount of personnel near the ribbon while setting up for this run.

There is obviously something wrong with this ribbon or the conditions here have been too much for it.  It’s too early to know what happened – obviously Spaceward will be sending the ribbon back to Siegling for a failure analysis.  You’ll note that, in addition to the break, there is fraying along the edges.  Perhaps this indicates where maximum stress was being applied (during the ribbons constant twisting in the wind) and is the cause of the break.  But that’s for the engineers to decipher.

So, no promises for a successful climb, or even a climb at all, but another attempt is being made.

I’ll keep everyone posted.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 74)


Snakebit, snakebit, snakebit…

USST had mounted their Climber on the ribbon.  They were getting ready to start their run when the ribbon snapped AGAIN, this time from the top (the last time was from the bottom).

The picture shows the USST climber with the snapped ribbon draped over it.  Fortunately no one was hurt.

We don’t know what happened.  This Siegling ribbon is rated at 4,500 lbs.  The maximum pressure put on it was 500-1,000 pounds.  Maybe the ribbon is old or defective.  Maybe the constant twisting, twisting, twisting it underwent over this last 9 days proved too much.  Maybe its something else entirely (sabotage from Skronk & Greezle?)

Whatever it is, it looks the competition is over for now.  Spaceward is going to get together with the NASA representative and probably the USST team captain and decide what to do.

Major, major bummer…

As new information appears, I’ll keep you all posted.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 73)

Two more unsuccessful attempts.

The Technology Tycoons Climber did not make it to the top this time.  The wind caught it and flipped it on it’s side when it was most of the way up – you can clearly see this in the picture.

The Kansas City Space Pirates DID make it all the way, but they did so in an unofficial time of 1 minute, 25 seconds.  They needed to be less than a minute to have a chance.

So we’re down to one attempt left – that of USST.  We’ll have to see if they have fixed their climber and can really take a run at this.

Here’s hoping…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 72)

The Kansas City Space Pirates just made their attempt, but did not meet with success.  Their climber got about half-way up (perhaps a bit more) but then it stalled.  After they took it down, I overhead their captain, Brian Turner, comment “we had something wired wrong” and they were working to fix it.

The picture is of their climber once back on the ground.

Spaceward personnel have also pulled the trolley (the mechanism at the top holding the ribbon, anti-rotation wire and belay line) down to examine it and will be putting it back up shortly.

The Technology Tycoons are up next.

0-2 today – let’s hope for better luck soon…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 71)

Sometimes I think we’re snakebit.

The ClimberRibbon snapped just as the Kansas City Space Pirates were getting ready to mount their climber.

One picture shows the cable wafting in the breeze while the other shows the snapped end of it.

The stop plate came rattling down the cable and fell to the ground – no one was underneath it, but it made it abundantly clear why the inner circle of the launch area is Hard hat only.

More soon…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 70)

Another disappointment…

USST’s climber failed to move on the ribbon.  Laser power was applied, but nothing happened.  I talked (very briefly) with one of the USST team members who told me the initial, preliminary read is an issue with their solar cells.

I don’t know what it is, but they only have one shot left.

KC Space Pirates are up next and are now moving their equipment into position.

More soon…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 68)

Here is a video of E-T-C’s last run last night.  As with the previous runs, it moved very little (if at all) on the ribbon – but a noble try nonethless.


I asked Akira Tsuchida, team leader of E-T-C, why he thought the climber failed to ascend.  He told me that after his team had viewed UBC’s climber shaking and losing some pieces, they added additional bracing to their climber.  This made it too heavy to ascend (the first time around).  They tried some additional climber and software modifications this time, but still no luck.

And, one thing I have to mention about Akira, this guy is the personification of dedication.  He actually sold his Mercedes to help finance the construction of his team’s climber.  The bicycle he bought to replace it was stolen, too, so he just had no luck in that regard.

Thank you coming Akira and the entire E-T-C team.  Everyone enjoyed your company and your good spirits and your willingness to talk to anyone and everyone.  Here’s hoping that your entry for next year will be a winner!

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 67)

We just finished our all-hands meeting (now greatly diminished as most people have gone home).

3 teams have stayed to make a try at the Prize; Technology Tycoons, KC Space Pirates and USST.  Each team will make two runs today.  The schedule is:

11:00     USST

12:00     KC Space Pirates

1:00       Technology Tycoons

2:00       KC Space Pirates

3:00       Technology Tycoons

4:00        USST

Let’s hope for some great runs today – I will keep everyone posted…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 66)

Here is a video of USST’s attermpt to win the Prize money last night.  It didn’t succeed because of an issue they had with the climber, but it has to rank as one of the coolest videos ever.

USST uses an Infrared laser, something normally invisible to the human eye.  However, it shows up just fine on something equipped with infrared-seeing capabilities.  Most any device that has a “night vision” option can see this and, fortunately, my camcorder has it too.  So you can actually see the laser-beam itself – absolutely and monumentally cool.

There are a couple of chunks within the video when I switch my camcorder back to “normal” vision, just to see what I could see – not much as you’ll find out when you watch this.  And the climber itself is drastically overexposed with this “laser-vision”.

Nevertheless, this easily ranks as the cooliest clip this video rookie has ever shot.


USST assures me that they have the problem taken care of – let’s hope they rock today.

THIS is the future…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 65)

The future is on hold…

USST ran tonight, but their system performed pretty poorly – nowhere near their expectations.  They were actually stopped before they got to the top, but a knot was found in the belay line and this prevented them from fully ascending.  Obviously this needs to be taken care of before tomorrow.  But even if the knot had not been there, the slowness of the climb would have prevented it from being considered for Prize Money.

Clayton Ruszkowski, captain of USST, told me that they have figured out what the problem is and it will be corrected by tomorrow.

The top picture is of their Climber as it’s being wheeled out to the Launch pad.  The bottom, left picture is of the laser, taken with my camera on a “Night” (infrared) setting.  I don’t know what the extra beams are – perhaps just optical artifacts from the camera.  The picture on the bottom, right, is another infrared shot of the lit-up climber as it nears the top of the ribbon.  It’s overexposed, but it’s the best my poor camcorder can do.  To be able to see the laser in infrared through the camera’s viewfinder (but not with the naked eye) is just way cool…

The Kansas City Space Pirates look like they will have reconstructed their climber by tomorrow morning and the Technology Tycoons have rented some spotlights to give their climber an extra boost.

So, hopefully we’ll have three real competitors tomorrow.  The all-hands meeting is at 9:00am and the running schedule will be set then.  The weather is supposed to be great, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.

More tomorrow…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 63)

Here’s the video of the Kansas City Space Pirates run.  There was a “whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on, that’s for sure”.


Here are a couple of pictures of the “Solar Cell Salvage Operation” currently in process.  On the left is one of the array supports.  You can clearly see the damaged individual cells.  On the right is a pile if broken and to-be-discarded solar cells.

The captain of the Space Pirates, Brian Turner, has truly earned the title of “Master of Disaster.”  But then Pirates are supposed to break things, aren’t they?

We’ve had no further runs since the Pirates went.  We’re in a wind delay, but are hoping to get things started again at 7:00pm local time.  Both laser teams, LaserMotive and USST are scheduled to run.  E-T-C may run also with their spotlights.

I’ll keep you all posted…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 62)

Well that was exciting.  The KC Space Pirates made all the way to the top, and they did it in about one minute and eighteen seconds.  Not enough to win the Prize money, but certainly close enough (especially considering that they didn’t have full sunlight AND some of their Climber’s cells flew off partway up) to make them feel optimistic about their next run (assuming the weather lets them, of course).

The thumbnail (click on it for a larger version) shows their climber once it returned to earth.  You can see tha some of the solar panels are missing.  Hopefully they are undamaged and re-usable.

So, I think we have some downtime now – I was able to record the entire climb and will be uploading that to YouTube now.  As soon as it’s ready, I’ll post it.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 60)

UBC just finished their attempt.  They were running very slowly (it appeared to be well under 2 m/s, but I’ll get the official word later) and they didn’t make it to the top (they ran out of time).

But it was an elegant try.

The picture is of the underside of their climber being reflected from their massive mirrors.  Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.

Technology Tycoons are up next.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 59)

The Space Elevator Games have been extended to tomorrow.  We finally have some decent weather and the decision was made, not without some controversy in this morning’s all-hands meeting, to extend the competition one day.  It’s unfair to the teams that have to leave (right now only UBC) at this point, but we’re in a situation now where there are no perfect solutions.

Climbs start today at 11:00am, local time.

The schedule is:

11:00   UBC

12:00   Technology Tycoons

1:00    KC Space Pirates

2:00   KC Space Pirates

3:00    LaserMotive

4:00    Tech Tycoons

5:00    E-T-C

6:00    USST

7:00    USST

Tomorrow’s schedule will be decided tomorrow.

I’ll post the results as the occur…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 58)

I have an exclusive scoop for all of my readers…


Don’t believe me?  Take a look at this thumbnail of a picture provided to me by Marc Boucher from the Space Elevator Reference.  If you click on the thumbnail you will, as always, see a full-size version of the picture.

It’s a picture of USST’s successful qualification climb.  Marc has much better low-light photography equipment than I do, so he was able to capture this picture.  You’ll note that on the right side of the picture (and illuminated by USST’s laser), you’ll see a UFO!  It’s a spy-ship from an Alien civilization.

Now, even though Marc has the better low-light camera, I’m the one who has contact with a super-secret guy who works at a super-secret sub-agency of the super-secret NSA.  These guys listen to everything, as you know.  They are even able to tap into the transmissions of these Aliens.  The aliens, as many people are aware (but our government refuses to acknowledge) have been monitering us for many decades.  But our double-extra-super-secret agency has been monitering the Alien transmissions as well, and have been able to translate them into English.

Following is the transcript (provided by my most-hidden contact who resides in an undisclosed location a safe distance away from Dick Cheney’s shotgun) of the conversation in the cabin of the spy ship plus the transmissions between them and their mother-ship (located in the L5 Lagrange point).

So that you can better understand this transcript, let me explain who the “players” are.  Skronk and Greezle (phonetic translations of their names) are the captain and co-captain of the spy ship (the one captured in the photograph).  Skippy is the commander of the mother-ship.

The transcript begins just before USST’s qualification run.

Skronk: Stupid humans.  They’ll never get laser power-beaming to work.  You need a government to do something like this.  It’s so funny to watch these pathetic creatures try to do this as part of a competition.

Greezle: I agree.  I mean, look at the last attempt at laser power-beaming, just a bunch of smoke…

Skronk: It took 852 plonkers (120,000 earth years) for our government to develop this technology.  I’m so happy that they control the technological development of our civilization.  If we had left it up to our private sector, it would never have happened and we wouldn’t have been to colonize this quadrant of the galaxy.  Hey, you want to hear a joke?

Greezle:  Sure.

Skronk:  What do you call humans who are too stupid to build a Space Elevator?

Greezle:  I don’t know, what?

Skronk:  Normal!!  Hah hah hah!

Greezle: Hah hah hah!

Skronk:  Commander Skippy is such a hoot…

Greezle: So here goes the test – get ready to laugh…

(USST fires off its laser) 

Skronk and Greezle simultaneously:  What the &%$#(&%* was that?

Skronk:  Greezle, did you see what I think I just saw?

Greezle:  I hate to say it, but it looks like the humans have just successfully demonstrated Power Beaming.  Zoom in your equipment for a closer look…

Skronk:  Doing so…   What the %$(&)^% is a “Saskatchewan”?

Greezle:  I don’t know – maybe a candy bar?

Skronk:  Why would a candy bar company be interested in Power-Beaming?

Greezle:  It doesn’t matter.  You know what this means, don’t you?

Skronk:  Yes I do.  We have to contact Commander Skippy immediately and let [him] know the bad news.

(Communications with the mother ship are established)

Skronk: Commander Skippy, I have the unfortunate task of informing you that the humans have just successfully demonstrated laser power-beaming.

Skippy:  Are you sure?  Do you know what this means?

Greezle:  Yes.  It means that the humans are one step closer to building a Space Elevator.

Skronk:  That would be disastrous.  If they ever developed one, well, there goes the neighborhood.

Skippy:  You’re right.  Let’s just be thankful they can’t make tethers out of carbon nanotubes.  If that happened, we’d really be in trouble…

The transcript ends there.  My extra-double-with-a-cherry-on-top-super-secret-agent from the extra-double-super-secret-agency is going to get me a transcript from their monitering of the Tether competion.  I can hardly wait to hear what Skronk and Greezle will say about that!!

So stay tuned – I will keep my readers posted about the latest communications from Commander Skippy, Skronk and Greezle…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 57)

Touching the future.

That’s what I was able to do tonight, actually touch the future.  Even though the tether brought by MIT’s Delta-X team was not the winner in tonight’s Tether competition, it represents, IMHO, the future.  We get excited when reading articles about how carbon nanotubes are now “1 cm long” or “2 cm long”, etc., but Delta-X brought a tether, made purely out of carbon nanotubes, that was 2 METERS long.  Stephen Steiner, head of the Delta-X team gave it to me to study and to handle.

I had a feeling of awe while doing so, truly I did.  This is the future.  Yes, carbon nanotubes are not yet equal to other technology.  And yes, it will take some time.  And yes, it represents the future.

I’ll post some good close-up shots of the Delta-X carbon nanotube tether tomorrow.  I can’t wait to see what they bring next year.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 56)

Well that was anticlimactic…

Astroaraneae and Delta-X both mounted their tethers on the machine (this was after the judges determined that both tethers met the weight and length requirement).  Pressure was applied and almost immediately the Delta-X tether parted – the knot slipped.  Delta X had a second tether they mounted, but this was just for show.  It only weighed 1.3 grams (as opposed to the Astroaraneae tether of 2 grams) and all were sure it would not stand a chance.  Pressure was applied and the Delta-X tether parted almost immediately.

Then Ken Davidian, the NASA rep for the Centennial Challenges, announced that the Astroaraneae tether would now be competing against the house tether for the Prize money ($500K).  However, at that point, Michael Remington, team leader of Astroaraneae, took the microphone and announced they would NOT be competing against the house tether – they forfeited their chance to win the prize.  They said their goal in coming here to was to prove they still had the strongest tether in the world (but not 50% stronger than a COTS tether – the house tether) and that they were “still champions” of all the teams.  Obviously they felt like they had no chance to win, but it was a major disappointment to me (and I’m sure other) to not be able to see how far the state of the art has advanced.

So, no winner in the Tether challenge this year and I think I can speak for everyone in the audience in saying that the out come was very disappointing, both in what it was and in the way it happened.

The $500K prize money rolls over to next year – next year’s Tether Challenge purse will now be $900K (the $200K rolling over from 2006 plus the $300K rolling over from this year and the $400K allocated to $2008). 

Let’s hope for a better competition and better results next year…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 55)

Latest news:

The weather looks like it will clear up tomorrow.  The crane operator is scheduled to arrive at noon and, hopefully, we’ll start having climbs shortly after that.  Whether or not this will constitute the entire climbing competition will depend on how many runs we can get in.

The Light Racers competition just finished.  The only team to traverse the entire race course in an “official run” was the Kansas City Space Pirates and for this, they won a prize purse of $2,500.00.  The McGill team also travelled the entire course (and in the best time), but it wasn’t an official run.

The tether pull is getting to start in the next several minutes.  As soon as the results are in, I’ll post them.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 54)

The Spaceward Light Racers competition is now happening.  This is lots of fun and has been generating great crowd enthusiasm.  I’ll be posting several videos of this over the rest of the day.

Here is a practice run by the Technology Tycoons Light Racer.  It did pretty well.


And here is a last-minute entry from McGill University.


Yes, both of these teams also entered the Climber / Power-Beaming competition.  There are several other entries too, and will be posted soon.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 53)

There will be no climbs today.  The weather is , unfortunately, as forecast; extremely windy, not to mention cold and rainy.  Let’s hope that tomorrow is better.

The Light Racers competition is scheduled to start at 10:00am.  Several of the teams are here, and the competition is indoors, so this should occur on time.

The other tether team (Delta-X out of MIT) has arrived, so we WILL have a tether team competition today, Delta-X vs. Astroaraneaea, with the winner to face the house tether, starting at 5:00pm (also indoors so also not weather-dependent).

So that’s the scoop – Stay tuned and I’ll keep you up-t0-date…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 52)

Tether torture…

The Tether competition is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, at 5:00pm.  That time is subject to change (visit for the latest details).  We have only two competitors this year, last year’s champion (Astroaraneae) and a newcomer to this event, MIT (yes, THE MIT).  Astroaranaea is not saying what kind of tether they’re bringing this year, but I’m sure it’s going to be better than last years. And that tether was good enough to beat everyone else who had entered. It was even stronger than the house tether, but it wasn’t 50% stronger (as the rules stipulate), so it wasn’t eligible for the NASA Award.  MIT is said to be bringing a carbon nanotube-based tether.  This will be very interesting to see.  From a very recent article in;

Stephen Steiner, who leads one of the entries, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says he is taking an academic attitude to the games. The MIT tether is the first ever entry to be made entirely of carbon nanotubes — touted as the most promising material to make a rope strong and light enough to reach space. “We know that our materials cannot win this year,” he says, but predicts that by 2010 carbon nanotube fibres will be up to the job.

I hope he’s right.  There are so many companies and governments pouring money into this type of research, one would expect the state of the art to be advancing very rapidly.

The competition will be run similarly to last year.  Two tethers will be mounted on a “tether torture rack”.  Pressure is applied slowly and evenly to each tether.  They are stretched and stretched and stretched until one breaks.  That one is the loser.  The winner goes up against the “house tether”, made from Commercial, Off-The-Shelf (COTS) materials.  The house tether will weigh 50% more than the competition tether (3 grams vs. 2 grams).  Then the same torture test will be applied.  If the house tether breaks first, we have a winner; a winner that will receive $500K from NASA.

Last year’s tether machine was horizontal.  It had some problems (see my post from last year on this subject).  The machine has been redesigned and is now vertical in nature.  The thumbnail on the left shows a front view of the machine while the one on the right shows a side view of the machine.



This thumbnail demonstrates a kind of “macro-view” of what a carbon nanotube tether could look like.  The individual fibers would be held together by some sort of adhesive horizontal band.  For a real tether, of course, the fibers would be bound (or woven, or perhaps both) tightly together.




This thumbnail is of a sign that is posted at the tether exhibit, hosted in the middle of “Climber Row” (Building 2).  Other items in this exhibit include the “tether torture rack”, the demonstration ribbon and some other tethe-related items.




(As always, click on the thumbnails to view a larger version of the picture)

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 50)

There will be no climbs today.

The operator of the 400′ crane that we will be using for our competition climbs told us that the anemometer at the top of the crane was registering a wind speed of 10 meters per second.  That translates to about 22.4 miles per hour.  The crane is not supposed to operate in speeds about 6 meters per second, but the load we’re putting on it is so small, the crane operator felt confident in leaving it up.  But the climber teams don’t want to run in this wind.

And the wind has picked up since that reading was made.  See the video below for a demonstration of this.  It’s a shame, really.  The weather is really nice today; about 75 degrees and a mostly sunny sky, a real relief from the last two days (complete with cold rain, hail and a bit of snow).

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 48)

The latest newsletter from the Spaceward Foundation:

Spaceward Foundation News Bulletin

Hello Folks!

Sorry for the lack of communications so far – we’ve been battling very bad weather and have had to stay indoors with a lot more equipment than originally intended.

We will be setting up the light racers area for tomorrow.

One of our searchlights is still in lost in transit somewhere, but we’ll be able to run you, in the worst case, one by one.

We’re getting a slight weather break today and tomorrow, Saturday is still looking iffy.

We’ll keep you posted, but you’re welcome to come test out your racers tomorrow starting at noon. If we don’t communicate again, we’re on as originally planned Saturday morning.

Another note – Brian Turner of the Kansas City Space Pirates is looking for added volunteers to steer his mirrors.  If you’re interested, please contact him at, or call him at 816-716-7077.


The Spaceward Foundation is a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit dedicated to furthering Space exploration in educational curriculums and the public mindshare –

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 47)

No one ran at 11:00.  The KC Space Pirates were out there and ready to go, but the wind picked up to about 24 mph, more than the Space Pirates were willing to risk.  As their captain, Brian Turner, told me, “I’m a brave man, but 24mph is more than I’m willing to chance.”

Let’s hope for a climb at 12:00.

In the meantime, here are a few shots of the venue today.

One of the “almost-made-its” was the Michael Harvey’s Andromeda Connection.  He brought his climber to the show to demonstrate the technology he was using to build his competition entrant.  This is a thumbnail of his entrant.




Here is a thumbnail of Dr. Brad Edwards using a meter to accurately measure the length of the competition ribbon.


Posters and signs are on display throughout the venue.  Here’s a closeup of one of them.





There is also also a small “forest” of signs which explain about the technology, applications, etc.  Here’s a shot of the “forest” and one of the “trees”.

As always, click on the thumbnails for a larger version of the picture.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 46)

It’s October 19th, 2007 – the first day of the 2007 Space Elevator Games.

In this morning’s all-hands meeting, the official Qualification results were announced.  As I posted last night, the KC Space Pirates, the Technology Tycoons, UBC-Snowstar and USST are the only teams to have qualified.

Climbs are scheduled to take place every hour, on the hour, while the fairgrounds are open to the public.  That is from 11-6 today and 10-6 tomorrow and Sunday.  All of this is weather-permitting, of course.

The four non-qualifying teams will also get a chance to climb the 400′ tether if slots are available.  But preference will be given to the teams competing for Prize money of course.

The first of the two teams competing in the Tether competition have arrived – Astroaranaea attended the all-hands meeting this morning.  It’s good they are here – now we are just waiting for MIT and their tether.

The following video was taken shortly after I arrived at the fairgrounds this morning.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 44)

Centaurus failed to qualify.  They were unsure of the reason, but the climber only moved a few inches, not enough to consider this a qualification.

There may be one more run tonight.  LaserMotive may get one more shot at this.  I don’t know at the moment, but will put up at least one more post tonight, letting all of you know what is happening and summarizing the evening’s results.

It’s starting to rain pretty hard here…

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 43)

USST has qualified!!

They took two shots at it.  The first failed for reasons I will find out.  In the second attempt, their climber moved upward several feet very rapidly, but then began to slip.  It had just started raining out and the belt was beginning to be slippery.

So, the judges determined that weather related conditions prevented a full climb (as they had determined with Technology Tycoons).  Weather conditions are not allowed to disqualify a climb.  USST’s climber clearly moved up under power.

So, finally a success tonight.  I have no pictures – my new Sony HDR-CX7 just doesn’t do this well.  Marc Boucher, from the Space Elevator Reference DID get good pictures and I will link to them as soon as they are up.

Congratulations USST!!

Next (and last) up tonight is Centaurus with their second attempt of the evening.

Update – I posted earlier on this blog that USST’s climber had been slipping on the ribbon (due to the rain) and this is why it had stopped.  I had heard this comment from someone in the crowd who I thought was a USST member.  It turns out this person is NOT from USST, and was just speculating.  Clayton Ruszkowski, team captain, told me that USST had deliberately shut the laser down.

Also, in listening to a conversation between Clayton and Dr. Brad Edwards, Dr. Edwards said that USST’s climb represented the FIRST laser-powered climb of this type outside of a lab.  So, double-congratulations are due to USST!

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 40)

LaserMotive did not succeed in this qualification run.  They had many problems, but at the end, they had a problem with the motor arming in the climber – they couldn’t get it to happen.

This system was massively complex.  They took their alloted half hour, plus the next (which was open), but still couldn’t get it going.

What a shame.

Click on the thumbnail for a larger version of the picture.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 38)

I’ve not written a lot about the laser-powered teams until now.  Most of the attention has been focused on the solar teams and making sure that they could find conditions that they could run in.  And, in truth, it’s just neater to video something which is climbing on the ribbon rather than on a workbench.

USST is one of the two laser-powered teams in this year’s Games.  Their laser operates at 808 nanometer wavelength.

The thumbnail is a picture of their climber.  Click on it for a larger version. 

The video is a copy of one they kindly gave me.  It shows a test of their laser.  It’s shining on a welding cloth at a distance of 59 feet.  You can the laser being turned on and then being focused in the video.  It’s quite impressive.

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 37)

Here is a video of UBC-Snowstar’s successful qualifying run this morning.  You’ll note that they DID reach the top of the ribbon, successfully engage the stop mechanism and return under power.

This was their fourth attempt, the source of my comment “Maybe four’s a charm?” at the very beginning of the video.

Though their Climber didn’t travel as fast as people would have liked, the weather was quite cloudy and they did very well under the circumstances.

Congratulations UBC-Snowstar!

2007 Space Elevator Games – (Entry 36)

Here are couple of videos of E-T-C’s attempts to qualify this morning.  They went first, followed by UBC-Snowstar, Technology Tycoons, KC Space Pirates (for a practice run as they are already qualified) and then went again.  The first video is one of the climbs in their first set of attempts while the second video is one of the climbs in their second set of attempts.

They used a combination of smaller spotlights placed directly underneath the climber and two larger spotlights placed off to the side and angled toward the underside of the climber.  I have to remark about the smaller spotlights.  They wanted to be able to simulate a simultaneous “On” switch for these 8 spotlights.  What they did is cover them with some aluminum covers (looking remarkably like pie plates, though I don’t know what they are).  They had strings attached to them and, on signal, four people would each pull the strings to take their “pie plates” off the spotlights, letting them beam up to the climber.  Pretty cool 🙂



It’s truly a shame they didn’t qualify.  I went looking for some of their team members a little while ago to ask what happened, but I think they’ve gone home.  I’ll catch up with them tomorrow or Saturday.