low earth orbit

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pages: 352 words: 87,930

Space 2.0 by Rod Pyle

additive manufacturing, air freight, barriers to entry, Colonization of Mars, commoditize, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, experimental subject, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jeff Bezos, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, mouse model, risk-adjusted returns, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, telerobotics, trade route, wikimedia commons, X Prize, Y Combinator

Private-commercial space entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk can attempt to go wherever they choose, and Musk has identified human voyages to Mars as a priority for SpaceX, but how quickly they will accomplish this remains to be seen. Human destinations in space are a subject of hot debate. Low Earth orbit will continue to be the most heavily trafficked region regardless of where we go in deep space, since it is the most affordable and technically the easiest to achieve. Lots of productive work can be performed there, especially by commercial, research, and military satellites. China and Russia are both planning new crewed scientific outposts in LEO, and various private enterprises, primarily in the US, are planning both scientific and tourist-oriented orbital stations. So low Earth orbit is a given. There will be a vast amount of activity there, both human and robotic, indefinitely. View of an aurora from low Earth orbit, taken from the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA View of Hayn Crater near the lunar north pole, a likely location of water ice.

And the atmosphere is so very thin—less than 1/100th that of Earth’s—that you would experience similar smothering and dehydrating effects on your body as you would in open space. Radiation from the sun, and from beyond the solar system, is deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field. Once spacecraft travel beyond Earth orbit, they are no longer protected. Image credit: NASA There is another demon living in space: radiation. If you move beyond the region known as low Earth orbit, and are properly protected from the vacuum and the temperature extremes, you must still deal with deadly radiation. Here on our home planet, and even in low Earth orbit, you are protected from most space-originated radiation by the planet’s magnetic field, which redirects most incoming radiation to the poles. Our atmosphere further protects us by filtering out the ultraviolet radiation emitted from the sun. But once you get a few tens of thousand miles away from Earth, that protection disappears.

The above list outlines the current state of human-rated spacecraft and their immediate futures. What can we expect Space 2.0 to add to the mix in the next few years? The Starliner and Dream Chaser are designed specifically for operating in low Earth orbit. SpaceX’s Dragon 2 capsule is intended to be useful out to lunar orbit. NASA’s Orion and SLS should be capable of a diverse set of mission profiles, including journeys to Earth orbit, the moon, Mars, and near Earth asteroids. In the past, spacecraft have been very destination driven. The early Soviet spacecraft, Vostok and Voskhod, and NASA’s Mercury and Gemini capsules were designed for low Earth orbit. Soyuz and Apollo were intended for the moon. All were designed to be perfectly suited to their specific goals, though, in practice, the Soyuz ended up being very adaptable. As we move ahead, new spacecraft designs will be increasingly flexible regarding uses and destinations.


pages: 321 words: 89,109

The New Gold Rush: The Riches of Space Beckon! by Joseph N. Pelton

3D printing, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Buckminster Fuller, Carrington event, Colonization of Mars, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, full employment, global pandemic, Google Earth, gravity well, Iridium satellite, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, life extension, low earth orbit, Lyft, Mark Shuttleworth, Mark Zuckerberg, megacity, megastructure, new economy, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, post-industrial society, private space industry, Ray Kurzweil, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Thomas Malthus, Tim Cook: Apple, Tunguska event, uber lyft, urban planning, urban sprawl, wikimedia commons, X Prize

Fig. 7.3A representation of current space debris in low Earth orbit (Image courtesy of NASA.) There are now recommended procedures in place to seek to reduce space debris, but actual practice in terms of more and more satellites and especially the launch of large-scale constellations of satellites in low Earth orbit strongly suggests that the orbital debris problem under current activities will just get worse. The French law that puts enforcement power behind the requirement for all launched satellites to be de-orbited 25 years after end of life is currently one of the most important measures seeking to enforce debris mitigation. Plans by OneWeb to deploy some 800 low Earth orbit satellites and rumors that SpaceX might deploy a 4000 low Earth orbit constellation have occasioned even greater concern recently that the Kessler Syndrome could materialize sooner rather than later .

., has managed to receive backing from the Virgin Group, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Air Bus, HNS and SpaceX to create a network of some 700 small satellite s—including spares—to be deployed in low Earth orbit. The idea is to create a huge satellite constellation that is optimized for broadband Internet networking and particularly geared to serve developing countries. Greg Wyler, who waxes eloquent about the possibilities, told of his ambitious plans during a dinner in his honor when he received the Arthur C. Clarke innovation award. He sees a whole new ballgame for global satellite communications. His plan is to deploy in low Earth orbit about 500 miles (800 km) in altitude some 700 quite small satellites, including spares. These small satellites will weigh only 125 kg (275 lbs.) (see Fig. 3.4). Fig. 3.4The OneWeb 700 satellite low Earth orbit constellation planned for 2017 and 2018 (Image courtesy of OneWeb.) The objective is to churn out these small satellites like video cassette recorders or television sets and then quickly launch them at low cost via Virgin Galactic (Launcher One) and SpaceX (Falcon 9) launchers.

These systems include Inmarsat, Thuraya, Iridium, Globalstar, Skyterra, and Terrestar. Iridium and Globalstar only provide compressed telephone and limited data at 2.4–4.8 kb/s. The others provide video and broader band services in the 400 kb/s range. To state that the current offerings are fluid and difficult to define with precision is actually a very excellent summary. Iridium is deploying a new and more capable Generation NEXT in low Earth orbit. Globalstar is going from a low Earth orbit to a geo orbit system. Skyterra that was deployed by a company named LightSquared is going through bankruptcy proceedings and selling their satellite. Inmarsat is deploying a new Express system that is offering the ability to provide mobile- and land-based fixed satellite services. Satellite companies such as Intelsat that have traditionally offered so-called “fixed satellite services” are offering broadband video and telecommunications services to ships at seas while Inmarsat is offering not only land-based mobile services but also video links to broadcasters and military units in stable locations.


pages: 183 words: 51,514

Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration by Buzz Aldrin, Leonard David

Buckminster Fuller, Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, Elon Musk, gravity well, high net worth, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Ronald Reagan, telepresence, telerobotics, transcontinental railway, Tunguska event, X Prize

Second, I encourage collaborative projects like utilizing the Chinese Shenzhou crew-carrying spacecraft to help us burden-share in low Earth orbit. Why, if we can make use of Russian spacecraft, why not Chinese? What else can we do to make space development more universal, more valuable for all nations, and more internationally accessible? For one thing, we can offer incentives to make the private sector—not the taxpaying public sector—the primary tenant in low Earth orbit. There is an important step under way. An Obama Administration priority has been the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low Earth orbit. NASA has awarded contracts to private firms to reach that very goal. In 2012 NASA announced awards worth up to $1.1 billion to those companies—Boeing, SpaceX, and the Sierra Nevada Corporation—as they vie for a final contract.

Some have said, for instance, that this plan gives up our leadership in space by failing to produce plans within NASA to reach low Earth orbit, instead of relying on companies and other countries. But we will actually reach space faster and more often under this new plan, in ways that will help us improve our technological capacity and lower our costs, which are both essential for the long-term sustainability of space flight … There are also those who criticized our decision to end parts of Constellation as one that will hinder space exploration below low Earth orbit. But it’s precisely by investing in groundbreaking research and innovative companies that we will have the potential to rapidly transform our capabilities … Early in the next decade, a set of crewed flights will test and prove the systems required for exploration beyond low Earth orbit. And by 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the Moon into deep space.

Aerocapture is “putting on the brakes” proficiency, using the drag of a planetary object’s atmosphere to decelerate. This fuel-saving advance requires the spacecraft to have sufficient thermal protection and the ability to precisely guide itself during the maneuver. Orion should pioneer aerocapture by early testing of this ability from lunar distance to low Earth orbit, a precursor step needed for the human crossing to Mars. There’s another ingredient in the mix that can propel us beyond low Earth orbit. The International Space Station is first an indispensable test bed for ringing out long-duration life-support equipment. That orbiting outpost is also the place to prototype a specialized interplanetary exploration module, a component that can be modified to also serve as a safe haven for station crews. In addition, a specialized crewed interplanetary taxi should be evaluated at the space station.


pages: 476 words: 118,381

Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil Degrasse Tyson, Avis Lang

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, asset allocation, Berlin Wall, carbon-based life, centralized clearinghouse, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Gordon Gekko, informal economy, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Karl Jansky, Kuiper Belt, Louis Blériot, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, space pen, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, trade route

A trip to Mars takes about nine months. If you haven’t been out of low Earth orbit for forty years, sending people to Mars for the first time is a long way to go and a hard thing to do. A big thrust of the new space vision is to reengage the manned program in ways that haven’t been done during the past decade, and to recapture the excitement that drove so much of the space program back in the 1960s. Calvin Sims: So the reasons to go are to prove that we can do it again, because we haven’t done it in such a long time, and also to build consensus for it? NDT: We haven’t left low Earth orbit recently. We have to remind ourselves how to do that—how to do it well, how to do it efficiently. We also have to figure out how to set up base camp and sustain life in a place other than Earth or low Earth orbit. The Moon is a relatively easy place to get to and test all this out.

The one that has had hardly any resistance, and was broadly praised, was the urge to get NASA out of low Earth orbit and to cede that activity to private enterprise. Typically, the way our government has birthed new industries is to make the initial investments before capital markets can value them. That’s where the high risk lies. Innovative ideas become inventions. Inventions become patents. Patents earn money. Only when risks are managed and understood do capital markets take notice. Right now, plenty of business goes on in low Earth orbit—all the consumer products that thrive on GPS, direct TV, other satellite communications. These are all commercial markets. So the thinking is to get NASA back on the frontier, where it belongs. Massimo Pigliucci: Speaking of low Earth orbit, what exactly has the space station been doing up there?

The first and simplest answer to that concern is that one day there’ll be a killer asteroid headed straight for us, which means not all your problems are Earth-based. At some point, you’ve also got to look up. Under President Barack Obama’s space plan, NASA will be promoting commercial access to low Earth orbit. The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 makes NASA responsible for advancing the space frontier. And since low Earth orbit is no longer a space frontier, NASA must move to the next step. The current plan says we’re not going to the Moon anymore and recommends we go to Mars one day—I don’t know when. I’m worried by this scenario. Without an actual plan to go somewhere beyond low Earth orbit, we’ve got nothing to shape the career dreams of young America. As best as I can judge, NASA is like a force of nature unto itself, capable of stimulating the formation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technologists—the STEM research fields.


pages: 452 words: 126,310

The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility by Robert Zubrin

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, battle of ideas, Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological principle, discovery of DNA, double helix, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, flex fuel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, gravity well, if you build it, they will come, Internet Archive, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, more computing power than Apollo, Naomi Klein, nuclear winter, off grid, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, place-making, Pluto: dwarf planet, private space industry, rising living standards, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, telerobotics, Thomas Malthus, transcontinental railway, uranium enrichment

On the contrary, the energy per unit mass that must be added to an object to send it from the ground to low Earth orbit is about nine kilowatt-hours per kilogram. At a typical American price of $0.08 per kilowatt-hour, this would amount to a cost of $72 to send an eighty-kilogram person with twenty kilograms of luggage to the space station. Of course, as in air travel, sending passengers also requires sending a flight vehicle that might weigh ten times as much. Even so, the energy to send a spacecraft to orbit is about the same as that required to fly a jet from Los Angeles to Sydney and back. Right now, round-trip tickets for such flights can readily be bought for under $2,000. Trips to low Earth orbit for the few private tourists who have been able to afford them have run ten thousand times that figure, with the bill to taxpayers for launching astronauts costing as much as ten times greater still.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF CHEAP SPACE LAUNCH How cheap can spaceflight get? As noted above, the energy to reach orbit is about the same as a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Sydney: around $2,000 per passenger, or $20 per kilogram, including luggage. Air travel took a while before it could obtain such economies, so as a near-term goal for spaceflight, we'll estimate ten times that cost, or $200/kg to launch to low Earth orbit. To go to someplace interesting beyond low Earth orbit, we'll assume a cost ten times greater still, so $2,000/kg to go to the moon or Mars. As a check on these numbers, we note that it only takes about twenty-five kilograms of propellant to send one kilogram to orbit, and rocket propellant (for example, current kerosene/oxygen bipropellant—methane/oxygen would be cheaper) has a cost on the order of $0.40/kg. So the propellant cost of orbital launch is only about $10/kg—a figure that strongly supports the attainability of a $200/kg orbital delivery price for a reusable launch vehicle, with plenty of room for future improvement.

exhaust velocity: The speed of the gases emitted from a rocket nozzle. exothermic: A chemical reaction that releases energy when it occurs. fairing: The protective streamlined shell containing a payload that sits on top of a launch vehicle. Falcon: The Falcons are a line of partially reusable launch vehicles developed and operated by the SpaceX company. The Falcon 9 can lift twenty-three tons to low Earth orbit. The Falcon Heavy can lift sixty-two tons to low Earth orbit. free return trajectory: A trajectory that, after departing Earth, will eventually return to the Earth without any additional propulsive maneuvers. geothermal energy: Energy produced by using naturally hot underground materials to heat a fluid, which can then be expanded in a turbine generator to produce electricity. gigawatt: One billion watts. Equal to one thousand megawatts.


Moon Rush: The New Space Race by Leonard David

agricultural Revolution, Colonization of Mars, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Google X / Alphabet X, gravity well, Jeff Bezos, life extension, low earth orbit, multiplanetary species, out of africa, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, telepresence, telerobotics

Experiments and observations over time of crewmembers on the International Space Station have helped plot out the physiological and radiation problems encountered in the microgravity of low Earth orbit, and what measures can be taken to counteract these issues. Long-term residence on the lunar surface will present challenges unique to that environment—a different definition of being “moonstruck.” * * * WITH THE ADVANTAGES of so much robotic research and the important challenges waiting to be faced, why haven’t human footprints been imprinted in the lunar dust since 1972? What’s the holdup? For one thing, recent American presidential administrations haven’t seemed able to stick to long-term goals of crewed exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Presidential intentions go back decades. Honoring the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, President George H.

His precedent-making bid set a price for propellant bought either on the lunar surface or in Earth orbit. As a customer, he announced, ULA would be willing to pay about $1,360 a pound for propellant delivered into low Earth orbit. The going rate for fuel on the surface of the Moon was calculated to be $225 a pound. Having a source of propellant in space benefits anybody going anywhere in space, in Sowers’s view, especially if you can purchase propellant in orbit for less than it costs to ship it there from Earth. At those offered prices, the cost of any activity beyond low Earth orbit decreases dramatically. For example, this would reduce the cost to deliver mass to the surface of the Moon by a factor of three. It would have a similar effect for a Mars mission. Sowers testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in September 2017, outlining his perceptions of private-sector exploration of the Moon.

President Trump’s directive underscored the need for reinvigorating America’s human space exploration program and called upon NASA to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.” It specifically named a Moon return as a key factor in the program: “Beginning with missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations.” Many experts in the United States agree that long-term bipartisan political backing is essential to progress toward the Moon. “If America is serious about sending humans into space again, a consistent plan must be set with broad, bipartisan support,” say researchers with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.


pages: 319 words: 100,984

The Moon: A History for the Future by Oliver Morton

Charles Lindbergh, commoditize, Dava Sobel, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, facts on the ground, gravity well, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, low earth orbit, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, multiplanetary species, Norman Mailer, Pierre-Simon Laplace, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, UNCLOS, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize

It would combine, more or less, the roles of the third stage of a Saturn V—the stage that put the command module and LM on their trajectory to the Moon—and the LM. Launched on a Falcon Heavy, this flatbed would be capable of lifting eight tonnes of cargo from low Earth orbit to the surface of the Moon. The second new spacecraft is something like the ascent stage of the Apollo LM, but with a bigger propulsion system. Empty, this NewLM weighs two tonnes; full, it weighs about eight. Those six tonnes of propellant would give the NewLM enough delta-v to get itself up off the Moon and back into a low Earth orbit. A bare-bones mission using Mr Zubrin’s architecture—which he calls Moon Direct—starts with a crewless but fully fuelled NewLM being put on one of the flatbeds and lifted to low Earth orbit by a Falcon Heavy. A Falcon 9 then launches a Dragon with a couple of people on board. The Dragon docks with the NewLM on the flatbed, and the astronauts cross over from one spacecraft to the other.

If you chose to lift 150 tonnes of fuel to a low-Earth-orbit depot with that launch, you would be spending about $50 a kilo to get it there. It is possible to imagine a moonbase might be a competitive source of low-Earth-orbit fuel at $3,000 a kilo. But at $50 a kilo you need an imagination that extends to unicorns and fairy dust. Obviously, the same might be said of a BFR that performs so miraculously well. But a system 50 times costlier would still undercut that price point quoted for fuel from the Moon. Hence the fundamental paradox of commercial moonbase development. It is not really possible to build one without the low-cost ways to reach Earth orbit that systems like the BFR seek to offer. But if costs get that low, then the Earth will own the market for low-Earth-orbit fuel. If costs stay high, then maybe a moonbase can turn a profit on selling fuel.

Their exploitation might provide settlers with a reasonably plentiful local source of water as well as some of the carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen that life needs in moderate abundance but of which moonrocks offer more or less none. By raising the possibility that a settlement might have the wherewithal to provide its own water, volatiles on the Moon reduce the practical burden that any other reasons for returning to it might need to bear. And they might also provide a way to defray some of the costs. Getting a tonne of payload from the Moon to low Earth orbit takes a lot less fuel than getting it there from the Earth. So, if people doing things in low Earth orbit need fuel and water, it might be cheaper to send it to them from the Moon than from the Earth. Like the platinum-group-metals story, though, this highlights another issue about lunar resources. They may have competition. The helium-3, Mr Wingo’s metals and the polar volatiles all come from elsewhere; the helium, true to its name, from the Sun, the metals and volatiles from asteroids, comets and some water-rich inbetweenies.


pages: 370 words: 97,138

Beyond: Our Future in Space by Chris Impey

3D printing, Admiral Zheng, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, AltaVista, Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, butterfly effect, California gold rush, carbon-based life, Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, cosmic abundance, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, discovery of DNA, Doomsday Clock, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, Haight Ashbury, Hyperloop, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, life extension, low earth orbit, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, Oculus Rift, operation paperclip, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, phenotype, private space industry, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Rubik’s Cube, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, supervolcano, technological singularity, telepresence, telerobotics, the medium is the message, the scientific method, theory of mind, There's no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home - Ken Olsen, wikimedia commons, X Prize, Yogi Berra

Figure 15. Schematic view of the layers of the Earth’s atmosphere. Space is typically demarcated by the Kármán line at 100 km, where the atmosphere is too thin to support aerodynamic flight. Low Earth orbit is any altitude ranging from 160 to 2,000 km. Jet engines can’t work beyond 100 kilometers or 62 miles, where air is two million times thinner than air at sea level. This boundary is called the Kármán line. At that altitude, an airplane would have to move at orbital velocity to generate enough lift to stay aloft (Figure 15). Space has no edge. The atmosphere thins out gradually into a perfect vacuum. Low Earth orbits start around 100 miles up, below which the tenuous atmosphere would create enough drag on a satellite to make it descend and burn up. The International Space Station orbits at the magisterial altitude of 250 miles.

When he went through the air lock the next day to inspect the cargo, he said, “It smells like a new car.”2 Early in 2013, and again in 2014, Dragon was back in low Earth orbit, fulfilling the first stage of a twelve-mission, $3.1 billion contract with NASA to haul cargo to the ISS. In September 2013, the business became competitive for the first time as the Orbital Sciences Corporation docked its Cygnus capsule (after an aborted attempt a few weeks earlier), unloading hundreds of pounds of valuable supplies, including chocolate for the astronauts. Orbital has its own contract to ferry supplies to the station, valued at $1.9 billion.3 On the same day that Orbital was ferrying candy into low Earth orbit, SpaceX made a bold move with the first launch of a beefy version of its Falcon 9 rocket. After it successfully carried up a Canadian weather and communication satellite, flight controllers tested a new method of lowering costs by reusing the rocket.

It’s too early to tell how far they’ll drive down costs, but the early results are promising.20 A benchmark for efficiency in space technology is the launch cost per kilogram delivered to low Earth orbit. Saturn V, the Space Shuttle, the American Delta 2, and the European Ariane 5 rocket each delivered payloads for about $10,000 per kilo. The prolific Russian Soyuz, with nearly 800 launches, costs roughly $5,300 per kilo. Its sturdy successor, the Proton-M, comes in at about $4,400 per kilo. The Chinese are tight-lipped about the economics of their Long March rocket, but they say they can’t beat the cost of the Soyuz. Virgin Galactic’s price tag of $250,000 per person works out to $3,000 per kilo for an average adult, but that’s only suborbital. SpaceX aims to go one better. It claims its new Falcon Heavy rocket will lower the cost to low Earth orbit to $2,200 per kilo (Figure 26). Figure 26. Projected launch costs based on current rocket technologies.


pages: 437 words: 126,860

Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin

Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, gravity well, Johannes Kepler, Kevin Kelly, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, planetary scale, skunkworks, spice trade, telerobotics, uranium enrichment

The Prize: $2 billion The Conditions: The demonstrator must provide a soft landing exerting no more than 8-gravities deceleration on the payload during any part of the trip. CHALLENGE 9: To be the first to demonstrate a system that can lift at least 120 tonnes to low Earth orbit. The Prize: $2 billion The Conditions: The booster must launch from U.S. territory. Past history of the Saturn V is not eligible. A revived Saturn V system is eligible. CHALLENGE 10: To demonstrate the first system that can put 50 tonnes onto a trans-Mars trajectory. The Prize: $3 billion The Conditions: Hyperbolic velocity for Earth departure must be at leas 4 km/s. The system must be launched by a booster or boosters with a capacity of at least 120 tonnes to low Earth orbit per launch. The booster must be launched from U.S. territory. CHALLENGE 11: To demonstrate the first system that can deliver 30 tonnes of payload to the Martian surface.

., 55, 273–275, 277–279 Kepler, Johannes, 19, 22–24, 242, 270 Kerosene/oxygen propellant, 107 Kevlar fabric, 177–178, 195 Labeled Release experiment, 33 Labor shortage, 235, 236, 302 Landing site selection, 6, 9 Launch environment testing, 42 Law of Universal Gravitation, 24 Laws of Planetary Motion (Kepler), 23, 24 LEO. See Low-earth orbit (LEO) Levin, Gilbert, 33, 34 Lewis, John, 225, 226 Lewis and Clark expedition, 6 Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, 103 Life Sciences Company, 151 Life-support system, 7, 82, 83, 91, 94, 100, 131, 146, 153 Lindbergh, Charles, 283 Lindstrom, Marilyn, 311 Linne, Diane, 43 Lockheed Martin Corporation, 284 LOFT, 103 LOR. See Lunar orbital rendezvous (LOR) plan Low-earth orbit (LEO), 49, 53, 56, 87, 88, 96, 103, 105, 108, 136, 233, 234 Lowell, Percival, 26–27, 185 Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona, 26 Lunar missions, 13, 45, 46, 48–50, 135–137, 184, 220–223.

Starting in the spring of 1990, I led a team of engineers and researchers at Martin Marietta Astronautics in Denver in developing a plan to pioneer Mars in this way. The name of the plan is “Mars Direct,” and it represents the quickest, safest, most practical, and least expensive way to undertake the exploration and settlement of Mars. Mars Direct says what it means. The plan discards unnecessary, expensive, and time-consuming detours: no need for assembly of spaceships in low Earth orbit; no need to refuel in space; no need for spaceship hangars at an enlarged Space Station, and no requirement for drawn-out development of lunar bases as a prelude to Mars exploration. Avoiding these detours brings the first landing on Mars perhaps twenty years earlier than would otherwise happen, and avoids the ballooning administrative costs that tend to afflict extended government programs.


pages: 328 words: 96,141

Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race by Tim Fernholz

Amazon Web Services, autonomous vehicles, business climate, Charles Lindbergh, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, high net worth, Iridium satellite, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, minimum viable product, multiplanetary species, mutually assured destruction, new economy, nuclear paranoia, paypal mafia, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, pets.com, planetary scale, private space industry, profit maximization, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, sovereign wealth fund, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, trade route, undersea cable, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, X Prize, Y2K

That kind of increase was politically untenable, and for reasons of diplomacy, investment, and inertia, canceling the station wasn’t an option. Meanwhile, NASA’s in-house plan would produce a vehicle only after the station was gone and would cost $1 billion every time it flew—far too much for anything but the most grandiose missions. “The issue is that the Orion is a very capable vehicle for exploration, but it has far more capability than needed for a taxi to low-Earth orbit,” the commission concluded. The United States was caught between protecting its capabilities in low earth orbit and reaching beyond to the moon or Mars. The Augustine Commission attempted to find a suitable path forward. Nearly all of them involved three key steps: extending the space shuttle for two more flights to complete construction of the space station, canceling or postponing the Ares rocket, and expanding NASA’s commercial partnerships to include flying astronauts as well as cargo to the space station.

The proliferation of satellite schemes—Teledesic, Iridium, SkyBridge, Globalstar—implied rising future demand for rockets to get the satellites into orbit. Eyeing these schemes in the midnineties, as they developed proposals for new rockets, Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas, and ultimately Boeing were able to promise vehicles that, by the weird pricing standards of high-explosive space vehicles, were fairly cheap. The architects of the EELV program imagined rockets capable of carrying at least ten metric tons to low earth orbit and five metric tons to geostationary orbit. They thought the cost of each rocket launch would range between $50 and $150 million, in 1994 dollars. Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas won the development contracts, at $500 million apiece, and Boeing soon snapped up McDonnell. The next year, 1998, it was Lockheed’s turn to see one of its old reliables fail, this time during an attempt to launch a missile early-warning satellite from Cape Canaveral.

But the high expectations that Musk set helped create a powerful culture of accountability at the company, reminiscent of the kind of shoestring projects that Garvey and SpaceX’s early employees learned their craft on: “Those programs which are fast-paced and exciting and you shut the door and work twenty-four hours with the techs.” This culture would be the company’s most powerful early advantage. “I was trying to figure out why we had not made more progress since Apollo,” Musk told a roomful of Stanford students in 2003, a few months after the Columbia disaster. “We’re currently in a situation where we can’t even put a person into low earth orbit. That doesn’t really jell with all of the other technology sectors out there. The computer that you could have bought in the early seventies would have filled this room and had less computing power than your cell phone. And so just about every sector of technology has improved. Why has this not improved?” To Musk, the now grounded space shuttle was “incredibly expensive and really quite dangerous.”


pages: 390 words: 108,171

The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos by Christian Davenport

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Burning Man, Charles Lindbergh, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, cuban missile crisis, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, high net worth, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, life extension, low earth orbit, Mark Zuckerberg, Mikhail Gorbachev, multiplanetary species, obamacare, old-boy network, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, private space industry, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, X Prize, zero-sum game

Beal hired some of the best engineers in the country, poaching them from Lockheed, Boeing, and Orbital Sciences. They began to make a massive heavy-lift rocket, the BA-2, which would have been the largest rocket engine since the F-1 engine that powered NASA’s Saturn V rockets during the Apollo era. The three-stage rocket would stand 236 feet tall and have the strength to carry nearly 20 tons to low Earth orbit. In early 2000, the company christened the McGregor facility with a successful test of its second-stage engine, the largest liquid-fueled engine built since the Apollo program. It roared to life before a crowd of a couple hundred, sending a fiery blast that consumed 63,000 pounds of propellant in just twenty-one seconds. But as his company grew, Beal grew concerned about its prospects. According to reports at the time, he had spent about $200 million of his own money on the venture without taking a cent of taxpayer money from NASA or the military.

It wasn’t on the website because there wasn’t a schedule. Although it had achieved enormous success sending robots to the corners of the solar system, NASA’s human space program was in a rut. Underfunded, overshadowed by 9/11 and the two wars that followed, space travel had become an afterthought. Since Eugene Cernan became the last man to walk on the moon in 1972, NASA had not sent an astronaut any farther than what’s known as low Earth orbit, a few hundred miles up. Musk, a ravenous reader of science fiction, had expected that by this point in his life there’d be a base on the moon and trips to Mars powered by the robust space program built on the Apollo lunar missions. If in the 1960s, the United States could send a man to the moon in less than a decade, surely there were more great things to come. He was overcome with what he called a “feeling of dismay.”

If others thought of their rockets as racecars, he was happy to compare his to a Honda—utilitarian, reliable, and cheap. “I would bet you 1,000-to-one that if you bought a Honda Civic that the sucker will not break down in the first year of operation,” he told Fast Company magazine. “You can have a cheap car that’s reliable, and the same applies to rockets.” For about $6 million it would be able to launch over 1,000 pounds of payloads, such as satellites, to low Earth orbit, far less than what competitors charged. It wasn’t long before the company’s first Falcon 1 rocket was assembled—“Falcon” an homage to the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, “1” denoting the number of first-stage engines it had. But even though Musk had built a rocket in just over a year, he couldn’t get anyone at NASA to pay attention. Washington snubbed Musk just as it had Beal. The establishment—the large contractors, members of Congress, even many in NASA—saw him as just another multimillionaire with a toy space company.


pages: 376 words: 110,796

Realizing Tomorrow: The Path to Private Spaceflight by Chris Dubbs, Emeline Paat-dahlstrom, Charles D. Walker

Berlin Wall, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, desegregation, Donald Trump, Doomsday Book, Elon Musk, high net worth, Iridium satellite, iterative process, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Mark Shuttleworth, Mikhail Gorbachev, multiplanetary species, Nelson Mandela, Norman Mailer, private space industry, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, technoutopianism, X Prize, young professional

The conference was a whir of activity: presented papers and ad hoc groups grappled with such heady ideas as growing food crops in space and shielding the colony from radiation. This was mind-boggling stuff that energized everyone. "I have never been to a conference where there was more energy and excitement," Mark Hopkins recalled. Hugh Davis, who presented a paper on the heavy lift vehicles needed to boost materials to low Earth orbit and to the colony's final orbital destination, got the impression from the conference that O'Neill was an absolute master at inspiring young people, getting them to work nonstop at developing these ideas. Among the key points they established was that the quantity of material that would have to be brought up from Earth to begin construction was well within the capabilities of 1970s technology and could be delivered by the space shuttle, then in development.

The first space facility, a virtual construction camp, might be ready by 1983-84, with space colonization beginning in the late L98os or early 199os. Puttkamer had already issued contracts to Grumman Aerospace and McDonnell Douglas to design a space station, referred to as a "construction shack" for its role as a base of operations for the construction of solar power satellites and other manufacturing operations. The station, which would be home to two hundred people, would be constructed in low Earth orbit out of materials brought up on the space shuttle, then would be boosted to geosynchronous orbit by solar electric propulsion. That same March 1976 issue carried an interview with Puttkamer's deputy, Robert Frietag, who shared the agency's vision on other space projects near and dear to the heart of L5 members, including the development of nuclear energy for use in space; servicing satellites in space; building large structures in space for many purposes; mining the moon or the asteroids; reflecting sunlight from huge mirrors to illuminate Earth; putting hospi tals in space, particularly to treat conditions like heart trouble; and establishing a base for disposing of nuclear wastes.

The white, conical-shaped ATV stood sixty-four feet high and twentytwo feet wide, with a single huge side window near the base. Scaled Composites, the company of aviation visionary Burt Rutan, had been contracted to build the strange craft. It resembled a number of SSTO projects that had come before it, but with one notable helicopter-type propeller blades atop the nose cone. It was estimated that when operational, the spacecraft would be capable of launching seven thousand pounds of payload into low Earth orbit for $1,ooo per pound. This would be quite a launch bargain for the booming wireless telecommunications satellite market. That lift capability would also allow it to carry a dozen people, making it wonderfully suited as well for the space tourism market. The project had its genesis about three years earlier, when Hudson sat in a conference room at American Rocket Company, a firm cofounded by his friend Bevin McKinney.


pages: 183 words: 54,731

Asteroid Mining 101: Wealth for the New Space Economy by John Lewis

3D printing, cosmic abundance, Elon Musk, gravity well, Jeff Bezos, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, zero-sum game

A handful of sensors are packaged into small spacecraft assembled from standardized cubes measuring four inches (10 cm) on a side. A single cube masses two pounds, while assembling three to six units creates “3U” or “6U” CubeSats massing 12 to 25 pounds (12 kg). Hundreds of 1U to 3U CubeSats have been released into low Earth orbit for communications, surveillance, and science tests. Universities and small companies have built CubeSats lacking propulsion and long-distance communications capabilities for less than $200,000. Launches are inexpensive as well, as CubeSats can hitch space-available rides on rockets carrying multi-ton primary payloads. To keep these small probes from cluttering low Earth orbit and becoming hazardous, U.S. rules require them to naturally deorbit from atmospheric drag in 25 years or less. Many reenter in only a few months if they are released at a low altitude. The current CubeSat revolution adds capable propulsion to kick these tiny probes out beyond the Moon into deep space, and provides them with upgraded radios or laser units to enable robust communication back to Earth.

The current CubeSat revolution adds capable propulsion to kick these tiny probes out beyond the Moon into deep space, and provides them with upgraded radios or laser units to enable robust communication back to Earth. Deep space CubeSats also require technologies to cope with sudden solar flares, a danger not faced by low Earth orbit spacecraft protected by the Earth’s magnetic field. Because journeys out to near Earth asteroids can take six months to two years, deep space CubeSats need to be more reliable than their short-lived Earth-orbit predecessors. Finally, actually seeing and closing on a small charcoal-colored asteroid in the darkness of space is far more difficult than orienting a spacecraft toward the giant and brilliantly illuminated Earth. While all these additional challenges do raise expenses, one-way asteroid prospecting missions using small spacecraft are still very affordable.

Commercial and science customers pay on the basis that at least one FireFly succeeds. Figure III.1: The FireFly campaign will deploy sets of three CubeSat-style spacecraft to prospect at near Earth asteroids. Credit: Deep Space Industries – Bryan Versteeg Arks to Carry Dozens of CubeSats As noted earlier, many universities and small companies have the skills to design and fabricate low Earth orbit CubeSats but there are hurdles to making them fit for deep space operation. One solution is to package several LEO-style CubeSats into a small carrier spacecraft, enabling wider involvement in the new age of asteroid mining and prospecting. A carrier can be loaded with a dozen or so CubeSats – from one unit to three units each – to give them a ride out to the target so they don’t need big thrusters.


Amazing Stories of the Space Age by Rod Pyle

centre right, desegregation, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan

If the pundits have their way, NASA and perhaps Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, will increasingly provide seed funding and support for commercial space enterprises, as the agencies themselves refocus on pure exploration and ventures beyond low Earth orbit. The new space age appears to be a place of great promise. Fig. 22.2. SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, a high-power booster that is set to revolutionize access to space in 2018. The most powerful American rocket since NASA's Saturn V of the 1960s, the Falcon Heavy will be capable of delivering about 120,000 pounds to low Earth orbit (roughly half the capability of the Saturn V, but double that of the space shuttle). Image from SpaceX. In a reflection of this trend, even Major Matt Mason has a new lease on life. Companies have popped up to provide replacement parts and reproductions of the now-collectable toy figures, and a new release of the space-age toy has been discussed.

., 142 KIWI rocket, 310n5 Komarov, Vladimir, 185, 189–90, 192, 193, 194–98, 199 open letter from fellow cosmonauts on, 199–200 Korolev, Sergei, 186–87, 191–92, 202, 204, 205, 285, 286 death of, 194 Kosmos (Russian Earth-orbiting flights), 192–93, 205, 206 Kranz, Gene, 149–50, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156 Kubrick, Stanley, 87 Langley Research Labs, 114, 221 lasers, 263, 275, 276–77 launches, choosing logistical location for, 45–46, 304n12. See also Cape Canaveral Lee, Pascal, 7–8, 52, 53 LeMay, Curtis, 111–12 LEO. See low Earth orbit Leonard Mason (destroyer), 128 Leonov, Alexi, 186 Lewis Research Center, 107 Ley, Willy, 85 life, search for, 222–24 Life (magazine), 83 Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963), 66 liquid-fueled rockets, 11, 12, 24, 284 LK lander, 191 Lockheed Corporation, 93, 101, 113 Loewy, Raymond, 236–37 Los Alamos National Laboratory, 59, 96 Lost in Space (TV series), 292 Lovell, Jim, 118, 124–25 low Earth orbit (LEO), 211, 217, 251 and commercial space enterprises, 296 dangers of debris found in, 258–59, 263 rescue plans for, 214–15 Lowell, Percival, 36–42, 222, 223 low-energy routes between planets, 93 Lunar Expedition Plan.

But the two most dangerous things about spaceflight are getting there and coming back. And for the last of these, the two prominent players in the space age—the US and USSR—had a variety of ideas of how they might attempt to rescue astronauts stranded in orbit. The dynamics of reentry are fairly simple. An object in orbit around the Earth at lower altitudes, say between 100 and 1,200 miles, will eventually slow down and fall out of that orbit. This range is called low Earth orbit, or LEO. The lower the orbit the faster it will decay. Various forces are at work here, but the primary one is atmospheric drag, the same force that brought Skylab crashing to Earth years before NASA had thought it would. Manned spacecraft in orbit around Earth operate in LEO, but do not remain there long enough to suffer orbital decay. More permanent structures, such as the International Space Station, will eventually reenter the atmosphere if not periodically boosted back to a higher orbit.


pages: 338 words: 112,127

Leaving Orbit: Notes From the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean

affirmative action, Elon Musk, helicopter parent, index card, Joan Didion, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Nelson Mandela, New Journalism, Norman Mailer, operation paperclip, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, sensible shoes

Near the Orbiter Processing Facility, Omar points out a gantry being constructed for Constellation, the program meant to follow the shuttle’s retirement. President George W. Bush had announced Constellation in 2004 with great fanfare—it is designed to be more modular and flexible than the shuttle program, allowing different boosters and different crew or cargo configurations for missions of varying lengths. The plan is to get astronauts and payloads into low Earth orbit again within ten years and, eventually, on to the moon, asteroids, and Mars. But even at the time of the announcement, few people believed a second wave of moon landings could actually take place on anything resembling the schedule Bush described, a schedule that required future Congresses to increase NASA’s budget precipitously. Like many ambitious projects, it’s set up such that a future president and Congress will be forced to either foot the bulk of the cost or else kill the program, a time-honored way for politicians to claim credit for a bold move without having to pick up the tab.

To no one’s surprise, President Obama announced in February 2010 that he planned to cancel Constellation and by doing so earned the ire of many NASA employees and spaceflight enthusiasts. That summer Congress voted to approve Obama’s NASA Authorization Act, a plan to increase NASA’s finding by $6 billion over five years, a continued commitment to support development of commercial capabilities in low Earth orbit, and a more streamlined long-range space vehicle, which would come to be called the Space Launch System. Constellation contracts would remain in place until Congress voted to overturn the previous mandate, leaving workers at the Cape to continue work that was almost sure to be undone sometime in the future. Obama’s bill also allowed for one more launch to be added, STS-135, on Atlantis, though this mission had yet to be funded and so was not certain to fly.

We envy him so much that at times it’s hard for us to see Buzz at all, to see his accomplishment as something he did, a risk he took gambling against his own death, rather than simply as something we will never get to do. Leading up to our day together, I’d tried to imagine what Buzz Aldrin would say about the retirement of the space shuttle. I anticipated that someone who has risked his life to walk on the surface of the moon probably thinks that the space shuttle, which can only reach low Earth orbit, has been a frustrating waste of energy and maybe a step in the wrong direction. But I would not have predicted that a conservative eighty-year-old Korean War veteran would support government funding for a massive science project as a general principle, or even less that he would support President Obama’s decision to cancel the Constellation project the following year, calling this “Obama’s JFK moment.”


Voyage by Stephen Baxter

Colonization of Mars, full employment, gravity well, horn antenna, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, place-making, Ronald Reagan

Enough bigwigs had finally moved out of NASA, it seemed, for his indiscretion to be forgotten, and he was back on flight status. But if the Moon flights got cut, so did he. He’d probably be too damn old for Mars. Jones didn’t want to go to the Moon for the thrill of exploration. For him it wasn’t the destination that counted but the journey: a mission that offered the most challenging flying test anyone could devise. The Skylabs just weren’t going to offer that. He had no wish for his career to climax in a low-Earth-orbiting trash can, where the job would be to endure, just logging days, boring a hole in the sky. He really would hate to miss out on the Moon. Jones hauled at floor bolts with a vigor that alarmed the surgeons who were monitoring his vital signs. When the floor was completed, the SimSup congratulated them. “Okay, boys; we’ll take a break and refurbish before the next session. Come out through the docking adapter.”

And Michaels wasn’t above drafting his predecessor, Paine — a great lover of the Mars option whom Michaels had replaced in September — to point out the Shuttle’s strong military flavor. It was no accident that the low, hundred-mile orbits which were all the Space Shuttle was capable of, and its wide-ranging flyback capabilities, were ideally suited to Air Force missions. The Space Shuttle would be cute technology, with nowhere to go except low-Earth-orbit reconnaissance missions. In an era in which detente was becoming the fashion, the military taint of the Shuttle was unpalatable. And besides, Kennedy and others never ceased to remind the public, there was nothing heroic about it. So Josephson had watched, not unhappily, as the Shuttle quietly faded from Nixon’s thinking. The next generation of launch vehicles for manned flight, instead, would probably be a series of upgraded Saturns.

As Ben kept telling her, York was the right age, with the right qualifications, to compete for a place in NASA. The problem was, she might actually try to do it. But joining NASA, trying to get to Mars, meant throwing away her whole life. It meant she’d have to go back to school, and she’d have to go through endless, meaningless training with those assholes at NASA, and she might spend years in low Earth orbit working on crap outside her specialty. It probably meant, too — it occurred to her suddenly — that she wouldn’t have any kids. Did she really want to sacrifice all that, to go through so much shit, just for an outside chance of walking on the slopes of Tharsis? But her fingers itched to get into that dirt, to dig around, to get beyond the loose surface crust of Mars. The very next day, she was supposed to meet Mike.


After Apollo?: Richard Nixon and the American Space Program by John M. Logsdon

John von Neumann, low earth orbit, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan

Space Shuttle Missions The report identified four “basic mission areas”: 1. Satellite placement, servicing, and recovery. In this mission area, a shuttle would deliver large satellites to low Earth orbit. Such satellites could be checked out in orbit before being deployed, and a future shuttle mission could rendezvous with a satellite “to replace non-operating or outdated” equipment or to return the satellite to Earth for refurbishment. N at i o na l S e c u r i t y an d S h u t t l e D e s i g n 165 2. Launch of propulsive stages, propellants and payloads for high energy missions. In this mission area, a shuttle would launch payloads destined for transfer from low Earth orbit to synchronous orbit or other destinations requiring additional propulsion. The shuttle would carry another new system, known as an “orbit-to-orbit shuttle” or “space tug,” to carry out such transfers. 3.

Mueller had become convinced that Newell’s effort was not likely to produce the kind of approach to the future that could gain political and public support, and viewed himself as a “white knight, saving the agency from itself.”20 Mueller had earlier come to the conclusion that high priority should be given to lowering the costs of space operations by developing not only a space shuttle but also reusable space “tugs” to move payloads from low Earth orbit to other destinations between the Earth and the Moon; he characterized the combination of the shuttle and tugs a “Space Transportation System.” His plan stressed three characteristics: ●● ●● ●● commonality: the use of a few major systems for a wide variety of missions; reusability: the use of the same system over a long period for a number of missions; and economy: the reduction of “throw away” elements in any mission.

This “core module” would be able to support a 12-person crew and have a ten-year lifetime; it was to be the first step on a path to having an increasing number of humans living and working in space. The FY1971 budget decision to suspend for an indefinite period production of the Saturn V cast an immediate pall over this plan. NASA would need one Saturn V to launch the initial module, and additional boosters if the subsequent low-Earth orbit infrastructure buildup contemplated in the STG report were to be pursued. However, the seven remaining Saturn V vehicles of the original 15 ordered at the start of Apollo were already committed to the six remaining Apollo missions after Apollo 13 and to Skylab, and prospects for restarting Saturn V production in a few years appeared dim. As noted in chapter 2, the process of shutting down the production line for the Saturn V had begun in 1968, even before Richard Nixon had arrived at the White House.


pages: 326 words: 97,089

Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars by Lee Billings

addicted to oil, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Colonization of Mars, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, full employment, hydraulic fracturing, index card, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, Magellanic Cloud, music of the spheres, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, planetary scale, profit motive, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, random walk, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, selection bias, Silicon Valley, Solar eclipse in 1919, technological singularity, the scientific method, transcontinental railway

Saddled with the financial strain of operating the shuttles and building the ISS, NASA saw its once-bold vision for a human future in space become a literal path to nowhere, in which astronauts looped endlessly around low Earth orbit waiting for their bones and muscles to waste away in microgravity. In nearly every aspect, the shuttle program was a ruinous white elephant that failed to deliver on its most crucial promises. The lone exception was arguably the shuttle program’s role in the Hubble Space Telescope, a school bus–size robotic observatory that was delivered into low Earth orbit by the space shuttle Discovery in 1990. After initially being proposed in the 1940s by the American astronomer Lyman Spitzer, the Hubble had been conceived and funded around the same time as the shuttles, and had taken decades and upwards of $2 billion to construct and launch.

Aberrations of the Light The sky was hazy and overcast above Cape Canaveral, Florida, on the morning of July 8, 2011. A light breeze from offshore was the only respite against the sticky summer heat for the estimated 750,000 people who lined the beaches and coastal causeways surrounding Kennedy Space Center. They were there to say goodbye, awaiting the launch of NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis into low Earth orbit and into history as it embarked on the final flight of the thirty-year-old space shuttle program. As the final countdown commenced, the shuttle’s last commander, Navy captain Chris Ferguson, contemplated the program’s end with the mission’s launch director, Mike Leinbach. “The shuttle is always going to be a reflection of what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow-through,” Ferguson radioed from his seat astride the eighteen-story-tall, 4.5-million-pound shuttle stack—the orbiter, side-mounted to a hulking rust-colored external fuel tank and flanked by twin white rocket boosters.

At the time, the expenditures weren’t so worrisome—this was the America of the mid-1990s, a robust post–Cold War hyperpower with low unemployment, high productivity, a nation headed toward a trillion-dollar federal surplus, with a GDP and stock market soaring into orbit. Projecting forward, NASA’s leaders thought they saw a bright future in which the agency’s budget would steadily rise year after year, allowing the construction of even more-ambitious space telescopes, as well as sample returns from Mars and, ultimately, the rekindling of human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. After Hubble reached the end of its useful life sometime in the first or second decade of the twenty-first century, it would be de-orbited into the Pacific Ocean, and a new, even more revolutionary observatory would take its place. Hubble’s successor was announced in 1996 as the Next Generation Space Telescope before being renamed the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2002 in honor of the NASA administrator who had guided the agency in the glory days of Apollo.


Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 by James Donovan

Charles Lindbergh, Hans Lippershey, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Monroe Doctrine, mutually assured destruction, Norman Mailer, operation paperclip, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, white flight

(And because no one knew what rockets would be needed or wanted after Apollo, that meant double the job security.) One variation on EOR would employ von Braun’s long-cherished space station idea. Even those at Houbolt’s home, Langley, thought LOR too complex and risky, and Time magazine opined that “at first glance [it] seems like a bizarre product of far-out science fiction.” If a crisis occurred in low Earth orbit during the EOR process, the spacecraft could most likely return home quickly—but what if there was a life-threatening problem near the moon, 239,000 miles away, during LOR? There would be no chance of rescue. The thought of astronaut corpses circling the moon indefinitely kept many people at NASA awake at night. Most at Langley preferred the direct-ascent method. As various NASA study committees passed on LOR, a frustrated Houbolt decided to make a leap of faith.

Since no one knew Deke’s criteria, everyone competed in any way possible to at least snag a backup role on a flight. About halfway through Gemini, a pattern began to emerge, though it wasn’t a hard and fast rule: after a mission, a backup crew would skip two flights and be named the prime crew on the third. The Gemini missions continued. On December 5, 1965, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell blasted into low Earth orbit on Gemini 7, beginning a marathon fourteen-day flight. Ten days later, Gemini 6, with Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford aboard, launched; their mission to dock with a radio-controlled Atlas-Agena target vehicle had been delayed when the Agena exploded six minutes after liftoff. After the craft reached orbit, Schirra skillfully maneuvered to within a foot of Gemini 7. During three revolutions of the Earth, the two vehicles kept within one hundred yards of each other in an impressive feat of station-keeping.

Launches became so “businesslike,” remembered Paul Haney, the NASA public affairs officer at the time, that it was “almost like working an airline terminal.” The last four involved perfecting rendezvous, docking, and EVA skills. The rendezvous and docking went well, but none of the first three EVAs did. Each spacewalker had a difficult time, especially when he ran into Newton’s pesky third law of motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction) and its peculiar effect in the microgravity environment of low Earth orbit. Every astronaut found that working for an extended time in a twenty-one-layer spacesuit, inflexible when pressurized, was much more difficult in space than it had been in the ground simulation. None of them had a harder time than Eugene Cernan on Gemini 9. He spent two hours and eight minutes on an EVA, during which he exhausted himself trying to maneuver in a spacesuit that had, in his words, “all the flexibility of a rusty suit of armor.”


pages: 221 words: 61,146

The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets by Alan Boss

Albert Einstein, Dava Sobel, diversified portfolio, full employment, if you build it, they will come, Johannes Kepler, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Pluto: dwarf planet, Silicon Valley, wikimedia commons, zero-sum game

The cancellation of SM4 meant that Hubble’s days were numbered; SM4 was to have installed six fresh new gyroscopes and replaced all six of the original batteries, which had been launched with Hubble in 1990. Even the Energizer Bunny slows down after a couple of decades of constant use in the harsh environment of space. O’Keefe said the decision to cancel SM4 was his decision and his alone. The reason lay in the fact that Hubble was in a low-Earth orbit unlike the low-Earth orbit of the International Space Station. Hubble’s orbit is inclined about 20 degrees closer to Earth’s equator than the Space Station’s orbit. Once it was launched toward Hubble, a Shuttle could not change its orbit enough to make it to the International Space Station in case of trouble. NASA had determined that the loss of Columbia was caused by falling foam insulation during launch, which had impacted the leading edge of Columbia’s left wing, punching an unseen hole that would prove deadly upon return to Earth.

Goldin concluded his address by suggesting that NASA would want to send robotic spacecraft to the closest habitable worlds by the end of the twenty-first century in order to take really close-up photographs of the planets and beam the images back to us at the speed of light. Goldin’s breathtaking proposals were enough to keep NASA’s engineers gainfully employed for the next century, giving them something much nobler to do than run a shuttle service for a chosen few from the east coast of Florida to low Earth orbit and back. June 8, 1998—Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski announced that Baltimore’s Space Telescope Science Institute had been chosen to operate the Next Generation Space Telescope, an infrared space telescope with a diameter three times that of Hubble. Hubble itself had been given a 5- year reprieve and was now scheduled to be de-orbited by a Space Shuttle mission in 2010. Letting Hubble fall on its own to Earth risked the public relations disaster of its massive 94-inch primary mirror crashing down in an inhabited area, as pieces of NASA’s Skylab space laboratory had done in Western Australia in 1979.

That meant the Russian space program was likely to be the source of the object, because the American and Russian space programs were the primary polluters of the skies (at least before the Chinese used a warhead to destroy one of their own failed weather satellites later in 2007). The fact that the object had fallen in New Jersey just two days before pieces of the old Soviet ICBM had fallen over Cheyenne Mountain was a powerful clue about its probable origin. The Nageswarans’ house may have been struck by an errant piece of CoRoT’s ticket to low Earth orbit. January 27, 2007—The Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on Hubble suffered an electrical failure and went blind. The camera was the newest instrument on Hubble, having been installed in the fourth Hubble servicing mission in 2002. The camera had twice the field of view of Hubble’s previous wide-field camera and could collect data 10 times faster. As a result, it quickly became the most popular of the four instruments still working on Hubble.


pages: 259 words: 94,135

Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA's Record-Setting Frequent Flyer by Jerry Lynn Ross, John Norberg

Charles Lindbergh, glass ceiling, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live

They have made and continue to make valuable contributions across NASA in line with their mission statement.The NESC has been called upon to apply their expertise to a wide range of challenges outside of NASA, including the rescue of the Chilean miners trapped underground in 2010. The last Shuttle flew in July of 2011, and as sad I was to see that, it was time for the program to end. The Shuttle was designed for low Earth orbit space missions, and the time had come for us to turn our human spaceflight program toward deeper space—the Moon and Mars. As long as the Shuttles continued to fly, NASA would not have enough funds to leave low Earth orbit, return to the Moon, and eventually go on to Mars. The Shuttles were also growing old. On nearly every mission we found additional issues about which we were concerned. If the Shuttles had continued to fly, statistically it would have been just a matter of time before we lost another vehicle and another crew.

It was incredible to silently float over the coast of Florida and see the beautiful blues and greens of the Caribbean, followed just minutes later by the coastlines of Africa and the Mediterranean Sea, the Nile River and Delta, the Dead Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Himalayas, the purplish tint of Australia, and the wide expanse of the south Pacific Ocean before crossing over the Baja Peninsula of Mexico and over the United States again. The southern island of New Zealand is among the most spectacular sights from space. It’s absolutely incredible—stark snow-covered mountains dropping steeply to the deep blue South Pacific. It made me want to visit what has to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. From low Earth orbit one can see a sunrise and a sunset every ninety minutes, each more vivid, unusual, and beautiful than the last. Within a few minutes each sunrise rapidly transitions from complete darkness to exceedingly brilliant daylight. One of the most unexpected parts of sunrises and sunsets is the layering of the atmosphere above the Earth’s horizon, much like the layering of a torte. The layers have distinctively different hues of purples or blues or oranges or reds, and they are constantly changing.

The second was the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which studied gamma ray and hard Xray sources in the universe. Third in the series was the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which studies soft X-ray emissions.The fourth telescope, the Spitzer, was launched aboard an unmanned rocket in 2003 and studies the infrared spectrum. The Gamma Ray Observatory was high priority. At thirty-five thousand pounds, it was at that time the heaviest satellite to be launched into low Earth orbit by the Shuttle. The first time I saw it I couldn’t believe its massive structure. It didn’t look like a delicate satellite. Most of the time when viewing a satellite at close range, it looks so fragile that one is afraid to even breathe on it; however, the Gamma Ray Observatory looked more like a diesel locomotive. Everything on it was bulky, thick, and heavy. Gamma rays are an invisible, high-energy form of radiation that can’t penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere.


How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight by Julian Guthrie

Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, cosmic microwave background, crowdsourcing, Doomsday Book, Elon Musk, fear of failure, Frank Gehry, gravity well, high net worth, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, Leonard Kleinrock, life extension, low earth orbit, Mark Shuttleworth, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Oculus Rift, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, packet switching, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, pets.com, private space industry, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, South of Market, San Francisco, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, urban planning

He and his elementary school friend Wayne Root made their own stop-motion movies, using Star Trek models on fishing line as props. Peter learned that he could scratch the film in postproduction to make spaceships fire laser beams. On weekends, Peter loved to sit his family down in the living room upstairs and give lectures on stars, the Moon, and the solar system, explaining terms like “LEO,” for low-Earth orbit. The launch of the Saturn V rocket on July 16, four days before the scheduled Moon landing, had been to Peter every Fourth of July rolled into one. Three men riding on top of a fiery rocket aimed at space! Five F-1 engines burning liquid oxygen and kerosene and producing 7.5 million pounds of thrust! It was like sending the Washington Monument rocketing skyward.* Peter littered his schoolbooks with sketches and doodles of planets, aliens, and spaceships.

NASA canceled its mission to send a spacecraft to do a flyby of the famed Halley’s Comet, set to pass close to Earth in 1986 and not return for another seventy-five years. Apollo 18, 19, and 20 were canceled even though most of the hardware had been bought and built. The Moon had been reached, and critics said the government was “shooting money into space.” Design and development of the space shuttle were delayed, and plans for a U.S. space station in low-Earth orbit ended. Lovers of space wondered what was next. It was the withering away of a dream. Desperate to do something space related at Hamilton, Peter created and circulated a pro-space petition to send to every elected leader he could find, from local representatives to President Jimmy Carter’s adviser on space affairs. Peter expressed his concerns about the “slow but sure degeneration of the U.S. space program’s goals and budget.”

Just when Peter was sure that his satellite company was at its bleakest hour, he would land an investor willing to put up $50,000 or $100,000, just enough money to keep the firm afloat. But how long could he keep this up? No longer burdened by medical school, Peter had expected International Microspace to take off quickly, in ways similar to SEDS and ISU. In his mind, the goals of the satellite company were straightforward: reduce the cost of getting something to space, offer an alternative to the government monopoly, and use the low-Earth-orbit launchers as a stepping-stone to reaching the stars. But nothing in this enterprise had been simple; in fact, most everything had been tedious—and contentious. For starters, fund-raising for the satellite company was harder than the launch of ISU and SEDS combined. And in stark contrast to the impassioned, idealistic space discussions that he had savored at MIT, Peter now found himself immersed in talk of legalities, contracts, licensing partners, strategic partners, vendors, customers, finance, government regulations, and valuations.


pages: 609 words: 159,043

Come Fly With Us: NASA's Payload Specialist Program by Melvin Croft, John Youskauskas, Don Thomas

active measures, active transport: walking or cycling, Berlin Wall, Elon Musk, gravity well, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ronald Reagan, X Prize, Yom Kippur War

America’s space shuttle was open for business, and the possibilities were limitless. 1 The Genesis of the Payload Specialist I believe that it is also important to insure that provisions are made to fly individuals assigned as mission specialists from the Astronaut Office at JSC as payload specialists. Christopher Kraft It was a hot and humid Florida afternoon on 29 July 1985 as space shuttle Challenger stood poised and pointed to the deep-blue skies on Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) launchpad 39A, fueled and ready for a planned seven-day scientific mission to low Earth orbit. Spacelab 2 was the primary mission for STS-51F, although this was the third Spacelab mission due to delays in critical hardware. Unlike the previous two Spacelab missions, which carried a pressurized module where the payload crew performed scientific experiments, Spacelab 2 consisted of a series of open pallets situated in Challenger’s payload bay. The thirteen instruments for astronomical observations located on the pallets would be operated from the flight deck inside the orbiter.

While NASA was struggling to define the duties of civilian researchers and engineers aboard space missions throughout the 1970s, the DoD was concurrently pursuing its own integration with the nascent program. The relationship between NASA, the U.S. military, and the various clandestine entities of the country had always been somewhat of a forced marriage of organizations with competing priorities and budget requirements. When the space shuttle was first conceived, it was thought that most major payloads destined for low Earth orbit would ride aboard a vehicle that had yet to be designed to accommodate any single type of cargo. During the shuttle’s development, the vision of it becoming the sole launch vehicle of the United States relied on a number of factors, most important being the flight rate. By keeping the orbiters flying regularly and spreading the operational costs over a greater number of customers, the price of taking payloads into orbit would, in theory, drop exponentially.

Oberth was one of the masterminds of the horrific and deadly German V-2 rockets that inflicted fear and suffering on the citizens of London and other Allied capitals in Europe during World War II. Following the war, he made his way to the United States, where he worked with the legendary Wernher von Braun—another V-2 pioneer—on developing rockets for the peaceful exploration of space. That day as he watched his fellow Germans ascend into low Earth orbit, the ninety-one-year-old Oberth believed that earthlings should set their sights on building an outpost on the moon. Challenger, circling Earth barely higher than two hundred miles, would not come close to meeting Oberth’s lofty expectations, but it carried a bevy of promising scientific experiments, many designed and built by his fellow Germans. The European Space Agency (ESA) held true to their commitment to assign Ockels to a later Spacelab flight following his bridesmaid role on the first Spacelab mission, STS-9, where he had served as backup payload specialist to Ulf Merbold.


pages: 571 words: 124,448

Building Habitats on the Moon: Engineering Approaches to Lunar Settlements by Haym Benaroya

3D printing, biofilm, Black Swan, Brownian motion, Buckminster Fuller, carbon-based life, centre right, clean water, Colonization of Mars, Computer Numeric Control, conceptual framework, data acquisition, Elon Musk, fault tolerance, gravity well, inventory management, Johannes Kepler, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, performance metric, RAND corporation, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, stochastic process, telepresence, telerobotics, the scientific method, urban planning, X Prize, zero-sum game

In-situ resource utilization will allow us to use lunar materials to build structures, manufacture very large solar panels for energy, and extract valuable elements from the lunar regolith that can be used to create an industrial infrastructure. This capability, and advanced manufacturing techniques – also known as 3D printing technologies – are the keys to a viable manned exploration and settlement effort. In order to advance the mission outlined above, we will need the following: access to orbit; low Earth orbital operations; human-rated transportation to the Moon along with all the technologies for descent and landing; lunar habitats; solar, battery and nuclear power systems; life-support and shielding systems to safeguard against radiation , micrometeorites, and zero- and one-sixth gravity ; the ability to perform surface missions; in-situ resource utilization in conjunction with necessary logistics and technologies; and fuel to ascend into lunar orbit for a return to Earth.

Research is progressing rapidly in these disciplines, but even the most advanced robots today cannot autonomously explore and build on the Moon. They require human guidance and participation. A lunar base will first be an engineering and medical laboratory, for the study of extraterrestrial infrastructure development and for the creation of a safe environment for human habitation. Access to lunar resources will drive industrial activity. Public interest in space travel will also develop as it has today for tours of low Earth orbit. Second, it will be a site for the scientific study of the Moon and the Solar System. In conjunction with these, the Moon will become an economic nodal point that will support space transportation in cislunar space, and outward to Mars and the asteroids and outer planets. Resources recovered on the Moon will be used to support the manufacture of items needed locally, as well as of use beyond the Moon.

Fire-proof/low-outgassing clothes Building material for inflatable structures Efficient food production Advanced understanding of food production/hydroponics Reduced logistics through local food production for spacecraft cabins, planetary habitats Dual-Use Technologies: Power Terrestrial Applications Technology Space/lunar/Mars applications Batteries for: autos – remote operations for DOD, NSF polar programs High-density energy storage Alternate energy storage (flywheels) Reduced logistics for planetary bases High reliability, low-maintenance power systems Spaceship power storage Clean energy from space Beamed power transmission Orbital power to surface base Surface power transmission to remote assets Remote operations for: DOD, NSF polar programs Small nuclear power systems Surface base power Pressurized surface Rover Interplanetary transfer vehicle Remote operations for: DOD, NSF polar programs High efficiency auto engines High efficiency, high reliability low-maintenance heat-to-electric conversion engines Energy conversion for planetary bases: low servicing hours – little or no logistics Table 2.3Partial list of dual-use technologies: Structures and Materials, Science and Science Equipment, and Operations and Maintenance Dual-Use Technologies: Structures and Materials Terrestrial Applications Technology Space/lunar/Mars applications Vehicles Fuel-efficient aircraft Modular construction, homes Composite materials: hard – soft Advanced alloys, high-temperature Cryogenic tanks Habitat enclosures Pressurized Rover enclosures Space transit vehicle structures Aircraft fuel tanks Home insulation Superinsulation Coatings Cryogenic tanks Habitable volumes Large structures, high-rise buildings, bridges Commercial aircraft: improved safety – lower maintenance Smart structures Imbedded sensors/actuators Space transit vehicle structures Planetary habitat enclosures Surface power systems Rover suspensions Dual-use Technologies: Science and Science Equipment Terrestrial Applications Technology Space/lunar/Mars applications Energy resource exploration Environmental monitoring, policing Spectroscopy: gamma ray – laser – other Geo-chem mapping Resource yield estimating Planetary mining operation planning Undersea exploration Hazardous environment assessments and remediation Telescience Remote planetary exploration Environmental monitoring Medicine Image processing: compression technique – storage – transmission – image enhancements Communication of science data Correlation of interferometer data Improved health care Sports medicine – cardiovascular Osteoporosis – immune systems Isolated confined environments/Polar operations Noninvasive health assessments Physiological understanding of humans Instrumentation miniaturization Countermeasures for long-duration and/or micro-g space missions Health management and care Dual-Use Technologies: Operations and Maintenance Terrestrial Applications Technology Space/lunar/Mars applications Military Systems and structures health monitoring Inventory management Task partitioning Reliability & quality assurance in long-term hazardous environments System health management and failure prevention through AI and expert systems, neural nets Systems and structures health monitoring Inventory management Self-repairing technologies Logistics improvement Crawford discussed what it would take to create and sustain a space development program that would last for centuries, eventually leading to interstellar spaceflight capability. ( 22 ) He pointed to the possibility of replacing war by space development as the adventure that humanity requires. Funds going to war fighting could be moved to space flying. Geopolitical stability could set the stage for this next generation of space activities. Beyond these hopes, also identified were “the following elements of a space-based infrastructure that can ultimately be capable of supporting the human colonization of the Solar System:efficient transportation between the Earth’s surface and low Earth orbit, for example single-stage-to-orbit spaceplanes, and a new generation of heavy-lift launch vehicles the ability to build large structures in space, for example space stations, space factories, interplanetary vehicles, and lunar and planetary outposts the ability to tap and utilize large quantities of solar energy, and the ability to extract and process extraterrestrial materials , especially from near-Earth and main-belt asteroids, but possibly also from the Moon and Mars.”


pages: 292 words: 85,151

Exponential Organizations: Why New Organizations Are Ten Times Better, Faster, and Cheaper Than Yours (And What to Do About It) by Salim Ismail, Yuri van Geest

23andMe, 3D printing, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Ben Horowitz, bioinformatics, bitcoin, Black Swan, blockchain, Burning Man, business intelligence, business process, call centre, chief data officer, Chris Wanstrath, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive bias, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, commoditize, corporate social responsibility, cross-subsidies, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, dark matter, Dean Kamen, dematerialisation, discounted cash flows, disruptive innovation, distributed ledger, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, game design, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, Google X / Alphabet X, gravity well, hiring and firing, Hyperloop, industrial robot, Innovator's Dilemma, intangible asset, Internet of things, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Joi Ito, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lean Startup, life extension, lifelogging, loose coupling, loss aversion, low earth orbit, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market design, means of production, minimum viable product, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, NetJets, Network effects, new economy, Oculus Rift, offshore financial centre, PageRank, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, paypal mafia, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer model, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, prediction markets, profit motive, publish or perish, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Ronald Coase, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, smart contracts, Snapchat, social software, software is eating the world, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, subscription business, supply-chain management, TaskRabbit, telepresence, telepresence robot, Tony Hsieh, transaction costs, Travis Kalanick, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, uber lyft, urban planning, WikiLeaks, winner-take-all economy, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

A calculation convinced Motorola that the cost of cell phone towers—about $100,000 each, not including spectrum utilization limits and the not-inconsiderable expense of producing brick-sized handsets—meant that it would be too expensive to blanket the vast majority of the landscape. Soon enough, however, a more radical but also more profitable solution presented itself: a constellation of seventy-seven satellites (Iridium is number seventy-seven on the periodic table) that would cover the globe at low Earth orbit and provide mobile telephony for one price—no matter the location. And, Motorola concluded, if just a million people in various developed countries paid $3,000 for a satellite phone, plus a $5-per-minute usage fee, the satellite network would quickly become profitable. Of course, we now know Iridium failed spectacularly, ultimately costing its investors $5 billion. In fact, the satellite system was doomed before it was even put in place, one of the most dramatic victims of technological innovation.

This search for new sources of information that can underpin new companies and businesses is at the heart of the revolution often labeled Big Data. By combining vast stores of data with powerful new analytical tools, there is an opportunity to see the world in a new way—and to turn the resulting information into new business opportunities. Sources of this Big Data are emerging everywhere. For example, we mentioned the three separate initiatives for low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite systems that within a few years will deliver real-time video and images anywhere on the planet. Despite the inevitable privacy and security concerns bound to arise with the launch of LEO satellite systems, there is no doubt that scores, even hundreds, of new businesses will emerge from access to this massive new information source. For instance, what if you could count the number of cars in any or all Sears or Walmart parking lots throughout the country?

Now, toss into this mix Google Glass, the smart eyewear that enables video or images to be recorded or transmitted in real time anywhere as people move throughout their day. Next, add drones, which cost less than $100 and can be flown at a variety of altitudes, their 5-gigapixel cameras capturing everything in the landscape below. And, finally, consider the several nanosatellite companies which are launching mesh configurations of hundreds of satellites into low Earth orbit, and which will provide real-time video and images anywhere on the planet. Given the staggering pace of technological innovation, the possibilities are endless. On a much more intimate level, the human body has approximately ten trillion cells operating as an ecosystem of unimaginable complexity. For all that intricacy, however, we usually track our health using just three basic metrics: temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate.


pages: 70 words: 22,172

How We'll Live on Mars (TED Books) by Stephen Petranek

California gold rush, Colonization of Mars, Elon Musk, Hyperloop, Jeff Bezos, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, nuclear winter, out of africa, Richard Feynman, trade route

When Goddard said that a rocket could reach the moon, the news made the front page of the New York Times, but on its editorial page, the paper mocked his vision. (Nearly five decades later, and a day after Apollo 11 took off for the moon, the Times printed a correction.) In the early 1950s, when von Braun proposed a serious plan for going to Mars, his vision must have been experienced as absurd—even by scientists and engineers. Hundreds of rockets sent into low Earth orbit to build ten giant interplanetary spacecraft filled with tens of millions of pounds of fuel and oxygen and food? Really? But it certainly captivated the American public. In 1954 Collier’s magazine published an eight-part series on space travel that included von Braun’s description of exactly how we could get to Mars. Plenty of dreamers had given serious thought to interplanetary space travel before von Braun, but no one had come up with designs and precise calculations.

His Mars Colonizer rocket “will have three times the thrust of the Falcon Heavy and twice the thrust of the Saturn V.” Meanwhile, there are likely to be many higher-priority customers for both Dragon spacecraft and Falcon Heavy rockets that could put Mars One farther behind. By the middle of 2014, Mars One had raised about $600,000 from donations. That is less than 1 percent of the cost of launching a Dragon spacecraft into low Earth orbit on a regular Falcon 9. Mars One charges applicants for astronaut positions a fee, which will bring them a few million dollars. It is also pursuing broadcasting rights, in the reasonable expectation that a Mars trip could be the most popular reality TV show of all time. Regardless, Mars One has a long way to go to raise the $6 billion that its CEO, Bas Lansdorp, says will be needed just for the first crew.


The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture From a Journey of 71 Million Miles by Astronaut Ron Garan, Muhammad Yunus

Airbnb, barriers to entry, book scanning, Buckminster Fuller, clean water, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, global village, Google Earth, Indoor air pollution, jimmy wales, low earth orbit, optical character recognition, ride hailing / ride sharing, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart transportation, Stephen Hawking, transaction costs, Turing test, Uber for X, web of trust

The lessons learned during the Shuttle–╉Mir program enabled the fifteen nations of the International Space Station partnership—╉which includes Canada, the nations of the European Space Agency, Japan, Russia, and the United States—╉to embark on the largest, most daring peacetime international collaboration in history. The first component of the ISS was launched in 1998, and the station has been continuously inhabited since November 2000, surpassing the previous record of nearly ten years’ continuous human presence in low Earth orbit—╉held by Mir, of course. However, the ISS program has also had its share of challenges to overcome to keep the partnership together, some of which we will detail in the next chapter. No challenge was more dire and critical, though, than the aftermath of the morning of February 1, 2003—╉the day Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on reentry, killing the crew of Rick Husband, William McCool, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon.

I had the honor of closing the hatch on that last shuttle flight and ringing the ship’s bell on board the space station as Space Shuttle Atlantis and the crew of STS-135 undocked and departed from the ISS for the last time. This was a very emotional experience for all of us. Closing that hatch signified the closing of a long chapter of the U.S. space program, a chapter filled with hard-won successes. But it also signified the fulfillment of a commitment and the opening of a new chapter in space exploration, beyond low Earth orbit. This new era of cooperation is the true fulfillment of a goal articulated nearly fifty years before that final shuttle flight to the ISS. In September 1962, President Kennedy famously stated: For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace.

To accomplish this, I am working with a powerful team of visionaries devoted to the democratization of space. Our first bold initiative is the creation of Star Harbor Space Training Academy, which will provide all the training necessary for upcoming private spaceflight participants and the crews that will fly them.3 Our hope is also to provide everyone with a powerful opportunity to experience the orbital perspective, even if they never leave the ground. Human operations in low Earth orbit are no longer the sole domain of large government agencies, and with a new and exciting commercial human spaceflight industry blossoming, it’s a very exciting time in history. My greatest passion and prime focus will be to continue bringing people together to work collaboratively toward solving the problems facing us all. Specifically, I want to continue those A W e b o f T r u s tâ•…  167 efforts that are following the Unity Node model and are working toward creating universal, open source, collaborative platforms.


pages: 409 words: 138,088

Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth by Andrew Smith

British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, full employment, game design, Haight Ashbury, Jeff Bezos, low earth orbit, Mark Shuttleworth, Mars Rover, Marshall McLuhan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Naomi Klein, Norman Mailer, nuclear winter, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, pensions crisis, Ronald Reagan

After these, more arrived at regular intervals as the space effort intensified and some of the Mercury astronauts retired, and together they fed three different programmes – Mercury, Gemini and Apollo – with three distinct purposes. When the Space Race began, the Soviets were way ahead, so six Mercury flights were needed to prove that American rockets didn’t inevitably blow up and could lob single astronauts into low Earth orbit and bring them back in one piece. After that, between March 1965 and February 1967, a series of nine missions involving the two-crew Gemini ships were used to develop techniques that would be necessary to get to the Moon. Of particular importance and intricacy were the challenges of “rendezvous” and “docking”; the ability of two craft to find each other and conjoin in space. The Gemini spacecraft, while remaining in Earth orbit, also gave American spacemen their first chance to leave the capsule and float free.

NASA was late catching on to the power of the image in an age where information was travelling further and faster all the time, and you can still feel this as you watch pasty-legged dads straight out of a Gary Larson cartoon dragging their kids – thought bubbles whining, “What about Disneyland?” – to an IMAX movie about the International Space Station. I sit through it myself and gradually become aware of a disturbance at the back of my mind, evolving into a strong sense of pathos. The movie was directed by Ron Howard and narrated by Tom Cruise and its remorseless tedium seems to say everything about the bind NASA finds itself in after three decades spent loitering in low Earth orbit. And in a flash I see the difference between the space shuttle’s 200-mile-high beat and Apollo ploughing 240,000 miles to the Moon: before me now is a space that’s been domesticated and rendered routine, while at a quarter of a million miles you’ve left the Earth and are on the outer edge of experience; are riding the skein between us and Deep Space, being dwarfed by infinity itself. Well over 400 people have now been into space, but only twenty-four have left Earth orbit and been out there, all with Apollo.

I can take a piece of paper and outline a few things, but I much prefer drawing a graph, where things move from left to right in time periods and I see what’s moving, or maybe I’ll look at orbits and try and work out progressions of orbits. Not just one mission, but what are the progressions, what are the buildups.” Once again, I’m not quite sure what is being said. “Right now, the basic scheme of things in my mind is different than NASA’s. NASA has been sitting there kind of doing nothing and now they’ve got a little bit of new leadership and it looks to me as though they’re going to say, ‘We, NASA, are tired of being in low Earth orbit – we’re going to go beyond!’ ” He sounds so much like Buzz Lightyear when he says this that I have to resist an urge to applaud. “But I think that’s just eyewash. I don’t think they’re going to be able to do that the way it should happen, until we get the people behind the programme. We do that by passenger travel, and we build up a transportation system that takes the people up and back efficiently, cost-effectively and reliably – and they have a place to go.


pages: 356 words: 102,224

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, germ theory of disease, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kuiper Belt, linked data, low earth orbit, nuclear winter, planetary scale, profit motive, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, telepresence

Many greeted it as a turning point in history. The Moon is no longer unattainable. A dozen humans, all Americans, have made those odd bounding motions they called "moonwalks" on the crunchy, cratered, ancient gray lava— beginning on that July day in 1969. But since 1972, no one from any nation has ventured back. Indeed, none of us has gone anywhere since the glory days of Apollo except into low Earth orbit—like a toddler who takes a few tentative steps outward and then, breathless, retreats to the safety of his mother's skirts. Once upon a time, we soared into the Solar System. For a few years. Then we hurried back. Why? What happened? What was Apollo really about? The scope and audacity of John Kennedy's May 25, 1961 message to a joint session of Congress on "Urgent National Needs"—the speech that launched the Apollo program—dazzled me.

For military reconnaissance it is much inferior to robotic spacecraft. There are no compelling economic or manufacturing applications. It is expensive compared to robotic spacecraft. And of course it runs some risk of losing human lives. Every shuttle launch to help build or supply a space station has an estimated 1 or 2 percent chance of catastrophic failure. Previous civilian and military space activities have littered low Earth orbit with fast-moving debris—that sooner or later will collide with a space station (although, so far, Mir has had no failures from this hazard). A space station is also unnecessary for human exploration of the Moon. Apollo got there very well with no space station at all. With Saturn V or Energiya class launchers, it also may be possible to get to near-earth asteroids or even Mars without having to assemble the interplanetary vehicle on an orbiting space station.

Nor is it fitting that such a historic step be taken by representatives of only a small fraction of the human species. But a cooperative venture among the United States, Russia, Japan, the European Space Agency—and perhaps other nations, such as China—might be feasible in the not too distant future. The international space station will have tested our ability to work together on great engineering projects in space. The cost of sending a kilogram of something no farther away than low Earth orbit is today about the same as the cost of kilogram of gold. This is surely a major reason we have yet to stride the ancient shorelines of Mars. Multistage chemical rockets are the means that first took us into space, and that's what we've been using ever since. We've tried to refine them, to make there safer, more reliable, simpler, cheaper. But that hasn't happened, or at least not nearly as quickly as many had hoped.


pages: 619 words: 197,256

Apollo by Charles Murray, Catherine Bly Cox

cuban missile crisis, fault tolerance, index card, low earth orbit, old-boy network, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, War on Poverty, white flight

NASA had called together representatives from the aerospace industry to introduce their plans for the sequel to Project Mercury. The day before the launch, they gathered in a State Department auditorium that John Disher had borrowed for the occasion—NASA wasn’t big enough to have an auditorium of its own—and Deputy Administrator Hugh Dryden used the name “Apollo” for the first time in public. George Low made a speech, telling his audience that during the 1960s NASA hoped to build a space station in low earth orbit and to conduct a circumlunar flight. Perhaps during the 1970s, if all went well, NASA would land on the moon. On the second day of the conference, July 29, even as recovery teams were preparing to retrieve the pieces of M.A.-1 from the ocean floor, Max Faget addressed the group on the topic of a lunar landing. In the middle of his speech, Faget signaled to a confederate. The auditorium dimmed to a half-light that was somewhat darker than a heavily overcast day but brighter than a moonlit night.

The Eisenhower Administration continued to be unsympathetic that fall of 1960, and in fact slashed NASA’s overall budget request for the next fiscal year. One of the casualties in the budget was the second stage of the Saturn, an especially disheartening turn of events. Just ten months earlier, Ike had directed Glennan to accelerate work on the super booster; now he was reversing himself. Without the Saturn and its heavy lift capability, manned space flight was going to limp along in low-earth-orbit flights indefinitely. Worse, there might be nothing at all after Mercury. A note attached to Eisenhower’s last budget request for NASA said that Mercury was an experimental effort, adding ominously that “further tests and experimentation will be necessary to establish if there are any valid scientific reasons for extending manned space flight beyond the Mercury program.” And this was a softened version.

A consensus emerged that if the United States was going to try to compete, the options were extremely limited. For the next few years, the Soviet Union had a lead in launch vehicles that the United States could not possibly close. The Soviets could put more weight into orbit, and weight was critical. The American launch vehicles that were going to be available for the next five years were going to limit the United States to small spacecraft flying in low earth orbit. To the five men gathered in Sorensen’s office, it seemed likely that the Russians were going to be the first to put crews of two and three into orbit, the first to establish a space station, the first to circumnavigate the moon. If the United States wanted to compete, it had to jump to the next step, to pick a goal that would use the next generation of space technology. As the meeting wore on it became clear to Sorensen that the United States had only one chance to be first, and that was a manned lunar landing.


pages: 308 words: 87,238

Apollo 11: The Inside Story by David Whitehouse

Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, low earth orbit, operation paperclip

And the entire flight should be carried through a sophisticated trajectory that would permit the Command Module to re-enter the atmosphere simulating a return from the Moon. In retrospect it is clear that without all-up testing the first manned lunar landing could not have taken place as early as 1969. Before Mueller joined the program, it had been decided that a total of about twenty sets of Apollo spacecraft and Saturn 5 rockets would be needed. The first manned Apollo flights would be limited to low Earth orbits. Gradually NASA would inch its way closer to the Moon, and flight 17, perhaps, would be the first lunar landing. Listening to the idea, von Braun said it sounded reckless but then added that ‘Mueller’s reasoning was impeccable’. Mueller told everyone, ‘You might as well plan for success, because you are going to have disasters anyway.’ Kennedy was having doubts. In a taped meeting at the White House he expressed concern that public support for the space program was waning.

May the spirit of peace in which he came be reflected in the lives of all mankind.’ Nearby, next to the abandoned Lunar Rover, drawn in the lunar soil, are the initials, TDC, standing for Tracy Dawn Cernan, who was waiting to welcome her father home. Apollo 17 splashed down on 19 December 1972. Within days of its return, US National Public Radio carried an interview with a farmer from Ohio who said, ‘I don’t think they went to the Moon.’ Since then no one has left low Earth orbit. Apollo 17 brought back 111 kg of lunar samples. One of them is particularly cherished by geologists. It is a 1-m-long tube of regolith taken from a deep drilling. It is kept as a reserve sample and has never been opened. The Melancholy of All Things Done In the final summary, 29 astronauts directly took part in the Apollo Moon program. Between December 1968 and December 1972 24 of them went to the Moon (three twice) and twelve walked upon it.

But the first man to walk on the Moon couldn’t be ‘just’ a university professor. In 1979 he resigned to be national spokesman for Chrysler automobiles and to sit on various corporate boards, and try to maintain a lower profile. Not everyone thought Armstrong should be so withdrawn, especially at a time when NASA was developing the Space Shuttle and had turned its back on going any further than low Earth orbit. Jim Lovell said to him that he should not be so Lindberghlike. Lindbergh, he said, flew across the Atlantic using private money, so he had a right to be withdrawn. Armstrong’s trip was paid for by taxpayer’s money, and it was they, as well as his own desire, that had put him in the position of being the most famous man on Earth. There must therefore be a certain amount of return due to them.


pages: 343 words: 89,057

Artemis by Andy Weir

accounting loophole / creative accounting, centre right, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ponzi scheme

He fidgeted for a few seconds. “So…do you have the ZAFO sample? The case from my hotel room?” “Yes. Not here, but it’s safe.” “Thank God.” He loosened up a bit. “Where is it?” “First tell me what ZAFO is.” He winced. “It’s kind of secret.” “We’re past secrets now.” He looked truly pained. “It’s just…it cost a lot of money to make that sample. We had to launch a dedicated satellite with a centrifuge to grow it in low-Earth orbit. I’ll be super-duper fired if I go home without it.” “Fuck your job. People got murdered! Tell me why!” He let out a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry. I didn’t want any of this to happen.” “Apologize to Lene Landvik,” I said. “She’s the crippled teenager who’s now an orphan.” Tears formed in his eyes. “No…I have to apologize to you too.” The door opened again. Lefty stepped in.

“A really awesome fiber-optic cable. One that reduced costs, increased bandwidth, and improved reliability.” She leaned back in her chair. “If the price point were comparable to existing cables, it would be a huge boon. And the manufacturer of that product would be swimming in money, of course.” “Yeah,” I said. “And let’s say the prototype of this new fiber optic was created in a specially made satellite in low-Earth orbit. One with a centrifuge aboard. What would that tell you?” She looked puzzled. “This is a very odd discussion, Jasmine. What’s going on?” I drummed my fingers on my leg. “See, to me that means it can’t be created in Earth’s gravity. It’s the only reason to make a custom satellite.” She nodded. “That sounds reasonable. I take it something like this is in the works?” I pressed on. “But the satellite has a centrifuge.

“But the satellite has a centrifuge. So they do need some force. It’s just that Earth’s gravity is too high. But what if the moon’s gravity were low enough for whatever process they’re using?” “This is an oddly specific hypothetical, dear.” “Humor me.” She put her hand on her chin. “Then obviously they could manufacture it here.” “So, in your expert opinion, where’s a better place to manufacture this imaginary product: low-Earth orbit or Artemis?” “Artemis,” she said. “No question. We have skilled workers, an industrial base, a transport infrastructure, and shipping to and from Earth.” “Yeah.” I nodded. “That’s kind of what I thought.” “This sounds very promising, Jasmine. Have you been offered a chance to invest? Is that why you’re here? If this invention is real, it’s definitely worth putting money into.” I wiped my brow.


pages: 400 words: 99,489

The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World by Sarah Stewart Johnson

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Astronomia nova, back-to-the-land, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Drosophila, Elon Musk, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Mercator projection, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Ronald Reagan, scientific mainstream, sensible shoes

Everything appeared to go smoothly for the first few minutes, but then the upper stage of the rocket began to oscillate and tumble. The payload was prematurely cut loose, and Mariner 8 fell through the dark sky. It splashed into the sea and continued falling, all the way down to the bottom of the ocean. The next day, the Soviet mission Kosmos 419 launched, but the upper stage of its rocket also had trouble, failing to fire the second time, marooning the spacecraft in low Earth orbit for two days before reentering the Earth’s atmosphere. It turned out that an eight-digit code to fire the engine had accidentally been issued in reverse by a human operator; embarrassing, but easy to fix. Over the next couple of weeks, the Soviet missions Mars 2 and Mars 3 soared into space on Proton rockets. Mariner 8’s failure had also been caused by something small, an integrated-circuit chip, no bigger than a sunflower seed.

It stood for the “Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter” and also, as was sometimes pointed out, the type genus of a family of “strange, large oceanic fishes.” MOLA was originally proposed in the 1980s as part of a NASA mission called Mars Observer. That spacecraft was meant to be the first in a line of “planetary observers,” orbiters based on commercial communications satellites that NASA could buy on a fixed contract. The plan was to use the space shuttle, which was already ferrying astronauts to low Earth orbit, to launch the orbiter. The Mars Observer mission was a big break for Maria, fresh off her PhD, her first chance to work on a spacecraft heading to Mars. She had grown up amidst the coalfields of Carbon County, Pennsylvania, a place where prosperity and economic opportunity had dried up with the decline of coal mining. No one in her family had gone to college, and her parents had difficulty understanding why anyone would want to stay in school as long as she did.

She had initially thought about a career as an astronaut, going so far as to submit an application before quickly withdrawing it. She’d wanted to have children and couldn’t quite fathom leaving them behind, particularly in the wake of the Challenger accident. But she soon discovered that there were many ways to explore and that probes built by human hands could take her farther than a space station in low Earth orbit ever could. Spacecraft could open up possibilities far beyond human reach, throwing light onto far-distant worlds. At the same time, she knew that the field was one of high risk and high reward—that no one sets off for the frontier with any reasonable feeling of certainty, and that space exploration lives and dies on the knife-edge of technology. She had felt the sting of that herself with Mars Observer.


pages: 398 words: 105,032

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve And/or Ruin Everything by Kelly Weinersmith, Zach Weinersmith

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 23andMe, 3D printing, Airbnb, Alvin Roth, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, connected car, double helix, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Google Glasses, hydraulic fracturing, industrial robot, information asymmetry, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, market design, megastructure, microbiome, moral hazard, multiplanetary species, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, personalized medicine, placebo effect, Project Plowshare, QR code, Schrödinger's Cat, self-driving car, Skype, stem cell, Tunguska event

If we could dramatically reduce the cost, we would have better space science, better communication systems, access to off-planet resources, better ability to control our climate, and best of all, the solar system would open up for exploration and settlement. To understand why it’s currently so expensive to get stuff up to space, you need to understand what you’re looking at when you see a rocket. A rocket is essentially a tube of explosive propellant with a liiiittle bit of cargo on top. For a typical mission going to Low Earth Orbit (LEO; about 300 miles high, and where most launches go), by mass you’re looking at 80% fuel, 16% the rocket itself, and 4% cargo (4% is actually on the high end, and if you’re going farther out, it gets closer to 1 or 2%). But when you look at cost, things are inverted. The propellant is a negligible component of price—it’s gonna run you a mere few hundred thousand dollars. So most of the cost is taken up by the rocket itself, which is almost always discarded after use.

After all, the big initial expense is going to be launching all that cable by conventional means. Most likely, we will also have base stations along the way up. These can serve as fuel and maintenance depots, as well as launch points for satellites and spacecraft. One of the best features of this design is that you can reach different altitudes just by climbing up and down the cable. Once you reach 300 miles up, you’re in Low Earth Orbit, like most satellites. Go a lot higher and you get to geostationary orbit, which is great for communications satellites, but right now costs a fortune to reach. Beyond that, you get to where Earth has very little gravitational pull. So you’re like a rock at the tip of a sling. If you want to get fired into space, just hop out of the station. This last point is especially exciting for those of us who watched a lot of Star Trek.

Craig Venter Institute, 214–15 Jell-O, 298 Jell-O shots, 161 jet fuel, 209–10, 218 Jin, Yaochu, 122 joinery, 143–44 Joint BioEnergy Institute, 210 Joint European Torus (JET), 89 Josephson, Brian, 5–6 Josephson junction, 6 Jurassic Park (film), 222 Kazakhstan, 100 Keasling, Jay, 199 Keating, Steven, 146–48, 153, 155, 253 Kennedy, Philip, 315–17 Kevlar, 35 Khoshnevis, Behrokh, 145, 146, 147, 158 kidneys (organ), 280 Kilobot project, 115, 119 Kohler, Matthias, 152 Kurman, Melba, 159 Lake Chagan, 100 lasers, 2, 27–29, 84, 86–87 Law of the Sea, 33 leukemia, 238, 239, 242 Leuthardt, Eric, 303, 314–15 Levin, Gilbert, 334 levitation, 326–27 LiDAR, 174 life insurance, 250 LIFT (laser-induced forward transfer), 265–66 Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), 99 Lipschultz, Bruce, 91–92, 93 Lipson, Hod, 159 Lipton, Jeffrey, 162 liquid hydrogen, 39 liquid oxygen, 20, 39 lithium, 77 LIT ROOM, 110–11 livers (organs), 257–59, 260–61, 280 lizards, 187 locked-in syndrome, 316 Lockheed Martin, 90 lossless power transmission, 325 Low Earth Orbit (LEO), 14, 15–16, 21, 34, 38 Lowther, William, 50 lung cancer, 238–40 lungs (organ), 261 Lyme disease, 255 lymphoma, 242 McAlpine, Michael, 271 McCracken, Garry, 77 Magee, John Gillespie, Jr., 13 “magic book,” 176 MagLIF (Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion) project, 87–88 “magnetic confinement”-type reactors, 85 magnetic levitation (MagLev) trains, 24–25, 30, 327 magnetosphere, 59 magnets, 5 MakerBot, 162 malaria, 198–203, 207 mammoth genome, 222–24 Mankins, John, 320 marble, 144 marching bands, 119–20 Mars, 19, 40, 45n, 52, 55, 158–59 Mars One project, 45n Masiello, Carrie, 210–11 Massachusetts General Hospital, 242 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 102, 103, 104, 106, 107n, 108, 214, 216 Mediated Matter lab at, 146 Plasma Science and Fusion Center at, 91 matching markets, 275–81 Matthews, Kirstin, 250 Maus, Marcela, 242–43 Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, 212 µBiome, 2 M-blocks, 118 MD Anderson Cancer Center, 232, 234 Mediated Matter lab, 146 medical tourism, 272 medical trials, 254–55, 268–69 medicine, 221 augmented reality in, 179, 185–86 bioprinting and, see bioprinting origami robots in, 106–7 programmable matter in, 127–28 synthetic biology in, 198–207 see also precision medicine Meetup.com, 175, 179 MEG (magnetoencephalography), 289–90, 291 Meissner effect, 326 meltdown, 91–92 memory, 220, 304, 307–8, 311 Mendelsohn, John, 232, 234 Meng, Yan, 122 Menges, Achim, 104 Menon, Sandeep, 235 messenger RNA, 193 metabolome, 244–46 meteorites, 53, 67 Michigan Array, 296, 298 microRNA, 239–40, 246–47 Microsoft, 272 Miller, Jordan, 261, 269, 270–71, 274 miniaturization, 176 “Minibuilders,” 151–52 miRBase, 240 mirror humans, 332–35 MIT Technology Review, 6n molds, configurable, 134 molecular scissors, 212, 213–14 molecules, mirror, 334 monogenic traits, 196–97 mononucleosis, 230 moon, 55 moon landing, 19 moral hazard, 273–74 Moravec’s Paradox, 139 mosquitoes, 200, 203, 218 Mossad, 50 motion sickness, 168 movies, 183 MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), 290–91 M-type (metal) asteroids, 53, 54 mucociliary escalator, 187–88 mucus, 236 Mukhopadhyay, Aindrila, 210 multiverse, 329 Munger, Steven, 334–35 Musk, Elon, 19 mutation breeding, 191–92 mutations, 219, 236–37 Mycoplasma genitalium, 214–15 Mycoplasma laboratorium, 215 Mycoplasma mycoides, 215n Nagasaki bombing, 98 nano-bio-machines, 3 nanobots, 118 nanotechnology, 221 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), 25, 31, 35 nasal cycle, 186–89 nasal venous sinusoids, 188 NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), 20, 47, 60, 65, 92, 158, 159–60 National Academy of Sciences, 203 National Cancer Institute, 238 National Defence Department, Canada, 47 National Ignition Facility (NIF), 86–87 National Institutes of Health, 214, 234, 235 Native Americans, 196n natural gas, 73, 98–99 Nebraska, University of, 176 Neufert, Ernst, 135 neural dust, 299 neural implants, 310 Neurobridge, 312 neuro-cyber-connection, 312–13 neurons, 286–87, 290, 298, 306 EEGs and, 287–90 NeuroPace, 302 neuroprosthetics, 311, 315, 322, 324 neurotrophic electrodes, 297–98, 315, 316 Neutron Club, 80 neutron gun, 80–81 neutrons, 73, 91 New Jersey, 299 New Mexico, 96 nickel, 54 Nocera, Dan, 208 North Carolina State University, 63 Norway, 22n nostrils, 186–89 Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy, 100 nuclear reactors, 58 Nucleon (concept car design), 97 nucleus, 192, 193 nutrition, 245–46 Olestra, 334 Oliver, John, 326n Open Humans Foundation, 252n “optical mining,” 63 orbiting factory, 24 organ donation, 257n organ markets, 274, 275–81 Organovo, 268 organ rejections, 275 organ sales, 258, 280–81 organ transplant list, 257–58, 272 organ transplants, 206–7 origami robots, 105–8, 129 OSIRIS-REx, 65 “Our Friend the Atom” (Disney cartoon), 97 Outer Space Treaty (1967), 63–64 oxidizer, 20 Oxman, Neri, 146, 148 oxygen, 208–9 oxygen deprivation, 205 oxygen gas, 82 Pacific Ocean, 35–36 Paddon, Chris, 199 Palo Alto Research Center, 116 Panama Canal, 97 pancreas, 236 parallel universe, 329 paralysis, 312 Parkinson’s disease, 301 patenting, 124 patent law, 272 peacekeepers, 181 Pennsylvania, University of, 108 Personal Genome Project, 252–53 personal security, 124–25 PERVs, 207 pesticides, 200 Petersen, Kirstin, 149, 150–51 Pfizer, 235 phobias, 179 Phobos (moon of Mars), 55 phosphenes, 306 photosynthesis, 208 Picon, Antoine, 138 pigs, 206 Piraha (Amazonian tribe), 140n Pitt, Brad, 167 Plait, Phil, 36, 38 plants, 125 Chinese sweet wormwood, 198–99 plasma, 85, 88 Plasma Science and Fusion Center, 91 platinum, 52, 55 pluripotent stem cells, 273 plutonium, 58 pogo sticks, 27 Pokémon GO, 8n, 166, 182–83 pollution, 94 porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs), 207 positive transcriptional autoregulation, 205n potassium iodide pills, 60 poverty, 157 precision medicine, 229–56 benefits of, 254–56 cancer diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring in, 238–44 concerns about, 248–53 data collection in, 234–35 genetic disorders and, 235–37 metabolome and, 244–46 privacy issues in, 248, 250–53 Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program, 234 predictive ability, 1–2 Princeton University, 142, 271 privacy issues, 130, 182, 248 of AR, 180–81 in brain-computer interfaces, 309–10 in precision medicine, 248, 250–53 programmable matter, 101–32 benefits of, 125–29 computers as, 101 concerns about, 122–25 in everyday life, 105 hacking of, 122–23 military applications of, 123–24 origami robots as, 105–8 power for, 118 reconfigurable houses and, 109–11 see also robots programmed materials, 103–5 Project Babylon, 48–49 Project Esper, 185 Project HARP (High Altitude Research Project), 47, 48 Project Plowshare, 96–100 Project Rulison, 98 Promobot, 129 Promobot IR77, 129 propellants, 14–15, 18, 20, 23 prostate cancers, 239n, 247 prosthetics, advanced, 322–24 proteins, 193, 194, 195, 221, 234, 239, 332 protium, 73 protons, 73, 77 Pryor, Richard, 328n QR code, 169–71 quantum computing, 328–30 quantum mechanics, 329, 330 Quinn, Roger, 151n radiation, 59–60, 62, 99 radiation therapy, 241 radioactive waste, 91 railgun, electromagnetic, 24–25 ramjet, 21, 22, 26 Reaction Engines, 22 Recognizer, 180 Reconfigurable House exhibit, 111 recycled fecal matter, 160 recycling, 128 Reece, Andrew, 247 refining, 56 refrigeration, 4 “Registry of Standard Biology Parts,” 216 Reichert, Steffen, 104 Reiss, Louise and Eric, 99 RepRap, 269–70 “repugnance,” in markets, 276 reuse, 128 ribosome, 193–94, 195 Rice University, 200n, 210, 250, 261 rigid airship, 29–30 Ringeisen, Bradley, 259 RNA, 193–94, 195, 332 RNS System, 302 Robinette, Paul, 130 Robot Baby Project, 120n robotic construction, 134–63 benefits of, 156–59 concerns about, 153–56 and space travel, 158–59 swarm robots in, 149–53 3D printing for, 144–49 robots, 102, 129–32 autonomous, 113–16 as construction workers, 139–44 coordinating movement of many, 119–22 evolving of, 120–22 generalization in, 142 industrial, 136 in medicine, 127–28 modular, 112–16 neuroprosthetics and, 311 origami, 105–8, 129 termite-inspired, 150–51 see also programmable matter rocket launches, 3 rockets, 23, 39 air-breathing, 19–24 aircraft-launched, 29–30 cost of, 14 laser ignition for, 27–29 propellant for, 14–15, 18, 20, 23 reusable, 14, 15, 18–19, 39 simplicity of, 22 stages of, 18n rocket sled, 25, 26 rockoon, 29 rod from God, 38 roller coaster, 23, 42 Romanishin, John, 118 Roombots, 112–13, 121, 127 Roth, Alvin, 276, 277, 279, 280 “Ruby Red” grapefruit, 192 Rus, Daniela, 106–7, 108, 118, 128 Russia, 67, 99, 217n SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine), 22 Saddest Generation, 166 Safe Is Not an Option: Overcoming the Futile Obsession with Getting Everyone Back Alive That Is Killing Our Expansion into Space (Simberg), 44 Sahara Desert, 321 SAM (robot), 141, 142, 153–54 Sandia Labs, 85, 87 San Francisco, Calif., 154 sanitation, 157 satellites, 20, 34, 41, 47 Schalk, Gerwin, 313 Schall, Gerhard, 177 Schrödinger’s cat, 329 Schrödinger’s Killer App (Dowling), 330n Schwenk, Kurt, 187 See No Evil, Hear No Evil (film), 328n seizures, 300, 301, 302 Select Sires, Incorporated, 197n self-driving cars, 123 Sensorama, 168 Shapiro, Beth, 222, 223–24 Shotwell, Gwynne, 19 Shtetl-Optimized (blog), 330n Siberia, 224 sickle cell amenia, 237 Silberg, Joff, 210–11, 218–19 silicon, 52, 54 Silver, Pamela, 204, 205–6, 208–10, 219 Simberg, Rand, 44 Skylon, 22 Skype, 314 Skywalker, Luke (char.), 324 Slingatron, 25–26 slums, 157 smallpox, 216, 217 Smart Helmet, 179 “smart homes,” 111 smartphones, 169 smell, sense of, 174–75, 186–89, 334 Smith, Noah, 153n, 154 snakes, 187 social media, 248, 250 privacy issues of, 180–81 software, 102, 104–5, 124 hacking of, 122 solar flares, 60 solar panels, 58 cost of, 320 solar photovoltaic cells, 92, 208 solar power, space-based, 319–21 solar wind, 37 Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium, 162 solid rocket boosters, 39 solid tumors, 238, 240–41 Solomon, Scott, 200n sound, speed of, 21 South Africa, 48 Southern California, University of, 145, 308 Soviet Union, 38, 58, 99, 100, 135 space cannon, 23–26 space debris, 39–40 space elevators, 31–38, 39, 41, 42–43, 314, 320 spaceflight, 13–50 air-breathing rockets and spaceplanes for, 19–24 benefits of, 41–45 concerns about, 38–40 cost of, 41, 44–45 present cost of, 13–14 reusable rockets for, 18–19 space elevators and tethers for, 31–38 starting at high altitude, 29–30 spaceplanes, 19–24, 39 space settlements, 40 Space Shuttle, U.S., 18, 39 space tethers, 31–38 space tourism, 42 space travel: fusion energy in, 94 supergun for, 23–26 SpaceX, 8n, 18–19, 30 spatial resolution, 288, 289, 292–93 spearmint, 334 spinal damage, 312 Sputnik, 39 SR-71 spy plane, 21 Starbucks, 180 Star Trek franchise, 34, 86 Star Wars franchise, 78n, 82, 263 steam turbine, 76 stem cells, 263, 272–73 Stevens Institute of Technology, 92, 122 STL-file, 267 storytelling, 178 stratospheric spaceport, 29–30 straw, reconfigurable, 103–4 stress, 246 stroke, 247 strong nuclear force, 77 strontium-90 (Sr-90), 99 Stuttgart, University of, 104, 143 S-type (stony) asteroids, 53, 54 sugar molecules, 210 sugar sintering, 270–71 sun, 59, 78 Sung, Cynthia, 108, 119, 127 superconducting levitation, 326–27 superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID), 4, 6, 290 superconductors, 4–6 room-temperature, 325–28 supergun, 46–50 supersonic ramjet (“scramjet”), 21–22, 26, 126 Sure Shot Cattle Company, 197n surgery, 185–86 Surrey, University of, 122 swarm bots, 119–20, 121–22 SWARMORPH project, 113–15 swarm robots, 149–53 switchgrass, 209–10 Switzerland, 22n SYMBRION, 115 Syn 3.0, 215 synthetic biology, 190–225 benefits of, 220–21 concerns about, 216–19 environmental monitoring by, 210–12 fuel production by, 208–10 generalizing of, 212–14 grassroots approach to, 216 “Synthetic Biology for Recycling Human Waste into Food, Nutraceuticals, and Materials: Closing the Loop for Long-Term Space Travel” project, 160 synthetic materials, 101–2 syphilis, 230n Syria, 156 Systems & Materials Research Consultancy, 159 T cells, 242–43 technology, 3–4 asteroid-moving, 67 contingent nature of development of, 3–7 discontinuous leaps in, 2 Telegraph, 183 Teller, Edward, 98 temporal resolution, 288, 292–93 Terminator (film), 103 termites, 120, 149, 150–51 terrorism, 36, 38, 217 Tethers Unlimited, 63 tetracycline, 200 theft, 130 3D printers, 144–49, 151–52, 259 prosthetics and, 322 3D printing, 125, 152 of food, 159–63 of organs, see bioprinting software for, 267 3554 Amun, 53 Throw Trucks with Your Mind (game), 312 thyroid, 60 Tibbits, Skylar, 103–5, 118, 123, 126 titanium, 35 “tokamak” configuration, 88, 92 tornados, 25 touch, sense of, 175 Tourette’s syndrome, 301 transcranial magnetic stimulation, 302, 304 transfer RNA, 193–94, 195 Transformers series, 102 The Tree of Life (Web site), 234n tritium, 74, 77n, 91 tumor cells, 205 tumors, 290 “Tunable Protein Piston That Breaks Membranes to Release Encapsulated Cargo, A” (Silver, et al.), 206 “Tunguska event” (1908), 67 turbofan engine, 20–21, 22 Turner, Ron, 35, 36, 37 23andMe, 251, 252 Twitter, 20n, 187, 250 Two and a Half Men (TV show), 310 Type II superconductors, 326 Umbrellium (Haque Design + Research), 111 Underground Railroad, 178 UN-Habitat, 157 Unilateral Forced Nostril Breathing (UFNB), 189 United Nations, 96 United States, 39, 135–36 Universal Semen Sales, Inc., 197n uranium, 58 U.S.


pages: 385 words: 111,113

Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane by Brett King

23andMe, 3D printing, additive manufacturing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Amazon Web Services, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Apple II, artificial general intelligence, asset allocation, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, business intelligence, business process, call centre, chief data officer, Chris Urmson, Clayton Christensen, clean water, congestion charging, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, deskilling, different worldview, disruptive innovation, distributed generation, distributed ledger, double helix, drone strike, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Fellow of the Royal Society, fiat currency, financial exclusion, Flash crash, Flynn Effect, future of work, gig economy, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Hans Lippershey, Hyperloop, income inequality, industrial robot, information asymmetry, Internet of things, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telephone, invention of the wheel, James Dyson, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job-hopping, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Kodak vs Instagram, Leonard Kleinrock, lifelogging, low earth orbit, low skilled workers, Lyft, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, Metcalfe’s law, Minecraft, mobile money, money market fund, more computing power than Apollo, Network effects, new economy, obamacare, Occupy movement, Oculus Rift, off grid, packet switching, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Metcalfe, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), self-driving car, sharing economy, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, smart transportation, Snapchat, social graph, software as a service, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strong AI, TaskRabbit, technological singularity, telemarketer, telepresence, telepresence robot, Tesla Model S, The Future of Employment, Tim Cook: Apple, trade route, Travis Kalanick, Turing complete, Turing test, uber lyft, undersea cable, urban sprawl, V2 rocket, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white picket fence, WikiLeaks

Figure 1.7: The launch of Sputnik started a “race” for space. On 4th October 1957, the USSR launched a sphere with a diameter of 58 centimetres into an elliptical low earth orbit. It was called Sputnik (official designation “Sputnik-1”). Sputnik is a Russian word used to describe “satellites” (спутниковое or Sputnikovoye) but it can also be literally translated as “fellow traveller”. In 1955, US president Dwight D. Eisenhower had announced the intention of the United States to launch an artificial satellite, but the Soviet Union caught the West completely off guard when Sputnik launched in 1957, sparking a rush of analysis and concerns. Following the launch of Sputnik, the race for low earth orbit and the moon was on. The first man in space—Yuri Gagarin—almost didn’t make it back to earth. As he fired his retro rockets, problems with an equipment module that hadn’t detached meant that Gagarin experienced an uncomfortable ten minutes of wild gyration before the modules broke free of each other and Gagarin’s re-entry capsule settled into a proper orientation.

Of course these early suits had limitations, but they worked on the same principles as exoskeletons, which had been around for close to 30 years. Elon Musk’s SpaceX had already sent landers to Hellas Planitia and rovers that were beaming back pictures of Olympus Mons. The race was on between whether Musk or NASA was going to get there first, with China being the outlier in the race. SpaceX had a contentious relationship with NASA. They played well together when it came to low-earth orbit (LEO), but when it came to Mars, Musk was just in too much of a hurry for the engineers at NASA, having staked his legacy on making Mars colonisation affordable for the average earthling. While SpaceX had succeeded thus far, NASA was betting that the commercial organisation was going to have some major setbacks due to the risks inherent in SpaceX adopting an accelerated programme. Musk’s approach was iterative and since the early days of the Dragon programme, he had been known to be willing to send up early prototypes and test them out with the expectation that they might fail the first few times, but that his team would learn faster through that approach.


pages: 361 words: 110,905

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson

Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, low earth orbit, Mahatma Gandhi, Maui Hawaii, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics

* * * — To fly to the Moon and land a man on its surface, the Apollo spacecraft required three components: Command Module—the cone-shaped spacecraft where the three astronauts lived, worked, and conducted most of their mission Service Module—the storehouse for the craft’s life support systems, its electrical power, and a large rocket engine with sufficient propellant Lunar Module—the small landing craft that shuttled two astronauts between the orbiting spacecraft and the lunar surface NASA needed to test all three modules—both in Earth orbit and around the Moon—before it could attempt a lunar landing. For months, this is how the test schedule stood: FLIGHT OBJECTIVE LOCATION ESTIMATED DATE Apollo 7 Test Command and Service Modules Low Earth orbit September/October 1968 Apollo 8 Test Command, Service, and Lunar Modules Low Earth orbit December 1968 Apollo 9 Test Command, Service, and Lunar Modules High Earth orbit February 1969 Apollo 10 Test Command, Service, and Lunar Modules Lunar orbit Mid-1969 Apollo 11 Lunar landing Lunar surface Late 1969 Apollo 1 had ended in a fatal fire in early 1967.

Slayton addressed him without even sitting down: “We just got word from the CIA that the Russians are planning a lunar fly-by before the end of the year. We want to change Apollo 8 from an Earth orbital to a lunar orbital flight. A lot has to come together. And Apollo 7 has to be perfect. But if it happens, Frank, do you want to go to the Moon?” The idea startled Borman. Apollo 8 was meant to fly in December, just four months from now, but certainly not to the Moon. Apollo 8 was a conservative mission designed for low Earth orbit, perhaps at 125 miles altitude. It was one of several essential steps leading up to a manned lunar landing, hopefully before the end of 1969. Everything went in steps at NASA. Everything. But Slayton meant exactly what he said. He wanted Borman to change missions and fly to the Moon. At a distance of 240,000 miles. In just sixteen weeks. Slayton didn’t discuss the fact that the lunar module couldn’t possibly be ready by then.


Chasing the Moon: The People, the Politics, and the Promise That Launched America Into the Space Age by Robert Stone, Alan Andres

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, desegregation, feminist movement, invention of the telephone, low earth orbit, more computing power than Apollo, New Journalism, Norman Mailer, operation paperclip, out of africa, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, the scientific method, traveling salesman, Works Progress Administration

When Kennedy addressed Congress, the suborbital flight of the only American to venture into space had been less than fifteen minutes. But by July 1969, as America readied to launch Apollo 11 from the space center bearing the name of the late president, the Soviet space threat had receded. This would be the twenty-first piloted NASA space mission; in comparison, the Russian total was twelve, and all had remained in low earth orbit. Now the richest nation on Earth was about to undertake a daring technological feat of unprecedented magnitude, a demonstration of national will framed as a world media event. It was a story of courage, adventure, and scientific exploration as well as an exercise in geopolitics. If not for the persuasive influence of a select group of visionaries, this moment in history would have been inconceivable.

Built from existing component parts, the huge rocket’s first stage was composed of a cluster of eight individual cylindrical Redstone rocket-size fuel tanks—each eighty feet high and five feet in diameter—surrounding a single, slightly larger Jupiter rocket tank. Five of the tanks, including the Jupiter tank in the center, carried liquid oxygen; the remaining four carried kerosene. Together, the Saturn’s six engines would produce 1.5 million pounds of thrust, enough to place a payload of ten thousand to forty thousand pounds into low earth orbit. While the Department of Defense and the Advanced Research Projects Agency had been planning large reconnaissance satellites, von Braun was thinking of other possible uses. He knew that if he could obtain funding to produce a small yet very powerful heavy-lifting booster and demonstrate its ability, the decision makers in Washington were more likely to approve the design of the next, slightly larger model.

Specifically, they needed to determine the best method for successfully accomplishing Kennedy’s challenge on time and on budget. NASA had previously undertaken a long-term study of a moon landing as a thought experiment, but the details of how to accomplish Project Apollo—as it had been named in mid-1960—were still very much up for debate. A decade earlier, in his Collier’s article, Wernher von Braun had proposed a landing on the Moon using multiple large vehicles assembled near a revolving space station in low earth orbit. A few years later he proposed launching men from the Earth to the Moon in a single gigantic rocket. After jettisoning the large stages that boosted it into space, a single piloted vehicle would then proceed to the lunar surface and subsequently return to Earth, much like the British Interplanetary Society’s moon-ship scenario of 1939. In contrast to the “earth-orbital rendezvous” approach utilizing the space station, this straight-line approach became known as “direct ascent.”


pages: 945 words: 292,893

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

clean water, Colonization of Mars, Danny Hillis, digital map, double helix, epigenetics, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, Filipino sailors, gravity well, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, kremlinology, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, microbiome, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, phenotype, Potemkin village, pre–internet, random walk, remote working, selection bias, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, statistical model, Stewart Brand, supervolcano, the scientific method, Tunguska event, zero day, éminence grise

Then heliocentric,” Dinah answered with a trace of a smile. “But I thought we were already in a geocentric orbit.” “The wrong one, as far as Sean is concerned. Izzy’s orbit is angled with respect to the equator. It has to be that way so Baikonur can launch to it—Baikonur is as far north as Seattle. But when you are doing interplanetary stuff, which is what Sean has in mind—basically, whenever you want to get out of low Earth orbit—you want to be in an orbit that’s closer to the equator. Because that’s pretty much where the rest of the solar system is—including the big chunk of ice that Sean wants to grab and bring back here.” “Ymir,” Luisa said, pronouncing it as she’d heard Sean do: ee-meer. A word from Norse mythology referring to primordial ice giants. Sean’s code name for a particular hunk of ice that his project had identified, and that he meant to bring back.

“Sean Probst,” Dinah said. “I think it’s the Ymir expedition.” Doob got a distracted look. “Man, I haven’t thought about those guys in ages.” IT WAS STRANGE THAT A STORY AS EPIC AND AS DRAMATIC AS THE voyage of Ymir could go forgotten, but those were the times they lived in. The ship had stopped communicating and then disappeared against the backdrop of the sun about a month after its departure from low Earth orbit (LEO) around Day 126. A few sightings on optical telescopes had confirmed that it had transitioned into a heliocentric orbit, which might have happened accidentally or as the planned result of a controlled burn. Assuming it was following its original plan, Ymir should then have made almost two full loops around the sun. Since its orbit was well inside of Earth’s—the perihelion was halfway between the orbits of Venus and Mercury—it would have done this in just a little more than a year, grazing the orbit of Greg’s Skeleton—Comet Grigg-Skjellerup—a couple of hundred days ago.

Maybe the radiation got to them.” “Well, it sounds like they are coming back,” Doob said. “Yeah, unless—” “Unless what?” “Unless he just wants to hang out at L1. That would be a hell of a lot safer. I don’t think any moon shards are going to make it out that far.” Doob reread the message. “You’re right,” he said. “All he says is that they’re thrusting. Nothing about transferring back to low Earth orbit. Then he asks for a situation report.” He put his hands over his face and rubbed it. “I’m fading,” he announced. “I should be Skyping my family right now.” “Get outta here,” Dinah said. “I can work on the report. And I can encrypt it, now that you showed me how it works.” Doob pushed off and drifted to the exit, then caught himself and turned back. “I could figure this out myself,” he said, “but it’s late.


pages: 265 words: 74,807

Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy by David A. Mindell

Air France Flight 447, autonomous vehicles, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Charles Lindbergh, Chris Urmson, digital map, disruptive innovation, drone strike, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, fudge factor, index card, John Markoff, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, telepresence, telerobotics, trade route, US Airways Flight 1549, William Langewiesche, zero-sum game

A year after the Columbia accident, NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe announced the shuttle would not do further Hubble repairs. As justification, O’Keefe cited the risks: because Hubble sat in an unusually high inclination, astronauts could not access the space station as a “safe haven” if they had a Columbia-like problem that would preclude safe reentry. But O’Keefe’s decision came just two days after President George W. Bush announced his new “Vision for Space Exploration” to focus on a return to the moon. Low earth orbit was out of favor; space observers saw the Hubble as the first “victim” of the new Bush policy. Advocates went to work persuading NASA and Congress to reverse the decision. In the meantime experts at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center began designing a mission to do the final Hubble upgrades as an unmanned robotic mission. From March 2004 a team of more than a thousand people, based at Goddard but including numerous other NASA centers and contractors, spent a year working the problem, planning for a 2008 mission and carrying the project through its preliminary design reviews.

My goal here is not to argue for or against human spaceflight, the justifications for which have always been, and will continue to be, primarily about engineering demonstrations, national prestige, and international competition more than any cognitive or motor task advantages. Rather, spaceflight offers a dramatic and salient example of the relationships among space, time, task complexity, robotics, and human experience. In low earth orbit, with relatively low latencies, telerobotic systems can accomplish a great deal through direct manipulation. On the moon, with only slightly longer delays, teleoperation offers great potential not yet explored by NASA. Mars, with its much longer delays, requires distributing human action and agency across time, through both work practices and technologies like autonomy, and creating new ways of working.


pages: 294 words: 80,084

Tomorrowland: Our Journey From Science Fiction to Science Fact by Steven Kotler

Albert Einstein, Alexander Shulgin, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Burning Man, carbon footprint, Colonization of Mars, crowdsourcing, Dean Kamen, epigenetics, gravity well, haute couture, interchangeable parts, Kevin Kelly, life extension, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, North Sea oil, Oculus Rift, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, personalized medicine, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, private space industry, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, theory of mind, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks

The Spirit of America, his vehicle, was pretty much a miniature Saturn V — 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, 6 feet high, and powered by a turbojet engine that burned, well, rocket fuel. During those long days in the desert, I spent a lot of time talking to aerospace engineers. They all made one thing clear: Driving a car through the sound barrier was a lot harder than sending a rocket ship into low-earth orbit. In fact, when I asked Breedlove’s crew chief, former Air Force pilot turned aerospace engineer Dezso Molnar — who we’ll meet again later as the inventor of the world’s first flying motorcycle — what he was going to work on when all this was over, he said, “I want to do something easy, something relaxing. I think I’m going to build a spaceship.” He wasn’t kidding. Plus, Breedlove’s effort was exactly the kind of big-budget project you would expect an agency like NASA to get behind.

This original XPRIZE was a demonstration project, both proof that a private company could produce an affordable, reusable spaceship and the necessary first step in opening the space frontier. The idea behind SpaceShipTwo is the next step: tourism — taking paying customers on suborbital cruises. This is why Baumgartner’s jump is critical. We’re going to space. That’s what’s next. Within a few years, human beings will be routinely visiting low-Earth orbit. In fact, Bigelow Aerospace, another private space company, is now developing an inflatable space hotel that’s scheduled for 2017 deployment. With these developments around the corner, having basic space evacuation procedures in place — including a supersonic-capable space suit — just seems to make sense. But if you want to really talk about the adjacent possible: The combination of Baumgartner’s success and the birth of the space tourism industry means that space diving could be the next extreme sport frontier.


pages: 278 words: 88,711

The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman

American ideology, banking crisis, British Empire, business cycle, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, illegal immigration, immigration reform, invisible hand, low earth orbit, mass immigration, megastructure, Monroe Doctrine, pink-collar, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, working poor

The Battle Star will be indestructible, they will posit, so no capacity for maneuvering will be needed. Like the Titanic, it will be billed as unsinkable. The Japanese will consider the problem of how to take out a Battle Star as early as the 2030s. They will develop a robust space program after 2020, substantially ahead of the Turks, whose attention will be focused on events closer to their border. Both will develop low earth-orbit reconnaissance satellites and geostationary communications systems, but the Japanese will be looking into the commercial uses of space as well and will be particularly interested in energy generation in space. Hungry for energy at a rate that new nuclear reactors would find difficult to keep up with, the Japanese will have been investing for a generation in all varieties of alternative energy, including space-based systems.

Pearl Harbor nearly cost the United States control of the sea in 1941. Conversely, the war in the 2050s will almost cost the United States control of space. The resulting obsessive fear of the unexpected, combined with an obsessive focus on space, means that enormous amounts of both military and commercial money will be spent on space. The United States is therefore going to construct a massive amount of infrastructure in space, ranging from satellites in low earth orbit to manned space stations in geostationary orbit, to installations on the moon and satellites orbiting the moon. Many of these systems will be robotically maintained, or will be robots themselves. The disparate advances in robotics in the previous half century will now come together—in space. One key development is that there will now be a steady deployment of troops in space. Their job will be to oversee the systems, since robotics, no matter how good, are far from perfect, and in the 2050s and 2060s this effort will be a matter of national survival.


pages: 294 words: 87,986

4th Rock From the Sun: The Story of Mars by Nicky Jenner

3D printing, Alfred Russel Wallace, Astronomia nova, cuban missile crisis, Elon Musk, game design, hive mind, invention of the telescope, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, placebo effect, Pluto: dwarf planet, retrograde motion, selection bias, silicon-based life, Skype, Stephen Hawking, technoutopianism

Although that specific claim is likely to have more than a hint of clickbait about it, NASA has certainly used the publicity from The Martian very effectively, even coordinating their scientific press releases with big release dates and movie deadlines, and releasing web articles and interactive tools that plot Watney’s fictional journey across the surface of Mars. In an article for Astronomy magazine, one of the scientific consultants on the film, NASA’s Jim Green, claimed this to be a concerted effort to reach ‘“the Mars generation” – millennials who’ve never seen humans leave low Earth orbit’. ‘Hopefully the message in a movie like The Martian is one that really galvanises participation in stuff like [space exploration] and makes people excited about science,’ said Matt Damon in a press interview for The Martian. ‘I mean the writer of the movie, when I first met with him, he said, “I see this as a love letter to science, that’s really what I want to make”. We talked a lot about it and said, “Yeah, that’s a cool thing to put out into the world right now”.’

There may be even greater issues here that we’re currently unaware of; there are warning signs that astronauts who travel to deep space may have a far greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and complications. A 2016 study found that 43 per cent of deceased Apollo astronauts died from a cardiovascular problem – a percentage ‘four to five times higher than non-flight astronauts and astronauts who have [only] travelled in low Earth orbit’. Brain and cognition The brain appears to work slightly differently in space. Basic tasks like coordination, critical thinking and attention span appear to be impaired and slightly slowed. This could possibly be due to a curtailed blood flow caused by microgravity, but we’re unsure. Vision Space may be beautiful, but it’s certainly not easy on the eye. Many astronauts returning from the ISS experience severe problems with their eyesight.


pages: 300 words: 87,725

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

low earth orbit

Here’s why they’re floating: When you launch something into orbit, whether it’s a spacecraft or a communications satellite or Timothy Leary’s remains, you have launched it, via rocket thrust, so powerfully fast and high and far that when gravity’s pull finally slows the object’s forward progress enough that it starts to fall back down, it misses the Earth. It keeps on falling around the Earth rather than to it. As it falls, the Earth’s gravity keeps up its tug, so it’s both constantly falling and constantly being pulled earthward. The resulting path is a repeating loop around the planet. (It is not endlessly repeating, though. In low Earth orbit, where spacecraft roam, there’s still a trace of atmosphere, enough air molecules to create a teeny amount of drag and—after a couple years—slow a spacecraft* down enough that without a rocket engine blast it falls out of orbit.) In order to escape the Earth’s gravitational pull completely, an object must be hurtling at Earth’s escape velocity: 25,000 miles per hour. The more massive a celestial entity, the harder it is to break its hold.

Corpses in spaceships take them to places they’d rather not revisit: Challenger, Columbia, the Apollo 1 fire. And partly, they are unaccustomed to it. I have come across only one project that made use of human cadavers in the past twenty-five years of aeromedical research. In 1990, a human skull rode Space Shuttle Atlantis, kitted out with dosimeters, to help researchers determine how much radiation penetrates astronauts’ heads in low Earth orbit. Worried that the astronauts would be unnerved by their decapitated crewmate, the researchers covered the bone with pinkish plastic molded to approximate a face. “The result was far more menacing than plain bone would have been,” noted astronaut Mike Mullane.* Back in the Apollo era, the agency’s discomfort over using dead people in capsule impact studies appeared to transcend any discomfort they felt about using live ones.


The Signal: Watch Out for the Darkness by Nick Cook

Carrington event, cuban missile crisis, low earth orbit, zero-sum game

‘Well, there is certainly one major flaw in that theory. If it were a space-based weapon, we would be able to triangulate its position. However, we’ve already learnt from the other MERLIN receivers that this signal seems to be coming from all areas of the sky at the same time.’ ‘Yes, we realised that, but that idea has already been countered with the suggestion that Russia has somehow managed to launch hundreds of stealth satellites into low Earth orbit.’ ‘Oh, come on,’ I said. ‘How would you not know about a single one of these launches? And anyway, a satellite with a miniature nuclear reactor on board wouldn’t be able to sustain the level of power we’re currently seeing in this signal. Do you really think the Russians have made some sort of major breakthrough that would allow them to pull this off?’ ‘That’s precisely the question that has got the security agencies of all the Western powers currently scratching their collective heads,’ Kiera replied.


pages: 370 words: 100,856

Moonshot: The Inside Story of Mankind's Greatest Adventure by Dan Parry

Charles Lindbergh, en.wikipedia.org, low earth orbit, Norman Mailer, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, undersea cable, white flight

Without any elaborate preamble, Deke simply announced that 'the guys who are going to fly the first lunar missions are the guys in this room'.10 Five manned flights were scheduled, labelled C, D, E, F and G. The first would be led by Mercury veteran Wally Schirra, who would test-fly the Block II command module. Then Jim McDivitt (the commander who had attempted the first Gemini rendezvous) would test both the command and lunar modules in low Earth orbit. The E mission would repeat these tests in deep space, 4,000 miles from Earth. This flight would be commanded by Frank Borman, who had helped investigate the fire. Borman's crew included Michael Collins, while the backup crew consisted of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell. After Borman's flight, the F mission would stage a full dress rehearsal of the landing, while the G crew would make the first attempt to reach the lunar surface.

' ( ) The far side of the Moon had eluded man's curiosity until October 1959 when the first eye-opening pictures were sent home by a Russian probe. Astronomers were taken aback by the far side's heavily cratered landscapes, devoid of seas and strewn with what Collins later described as an 'uninterrupted jumble of tortured hills'.43 Anxious to demonstrate prowess in the emerging space-race, in December 1959 NASA commissioned its own series of probes, named Ranger. Rangers 1 and 2, however, never got beyond short-lived low-Earth orbits, and Ranger 3 missed in its attempt to reach the Moon. Ranger 4 suffered electrical failure, 5 also missed, and for good measure also suffered electrical failure, and 6 was disabled at launch; but Ranger 7 proved, five years later, that NASA could also snap pictures of the Moon. Deliberately plunging towards the lunar surface, before it was destroyed on impact Ranger 7 briefly transmitted TV images that were a thousand times sharper than anything that had been seen through a telescope.44 They revealed not the jagged mountains that appeared in the speculative paintings by Chesley Bonestell, but rolling hills and open spaces.


pages: 368 words: 96,825

Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis, Steven Kotler

3D printing, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Charles Lindbergh, cloud computing, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dematerialisation, deskilling, disruptive innovation, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Exxon Valdez, fear of failure, Firefox, Galaxy Zoo, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, gravity well, ImageNet competition, industrial robot, Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, John Harrison: Longitude, John Markoff, Jono Bacon, Just-in-time delivery, Kickstarter, Kodak vs Instagram, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lean Startup, life extension, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, minimum viable product, move fast and break things, Narrative Science, Netflix Prize, Network effects, Oculus Rift, optical character recognition, packet switching, PageRank, pattern recognition, performance metric, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, rolodex, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Skype, smart grid, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, superconnector, technoutopianism, telepresence, telepresence robot, Turing test, urban renewal, web application, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

They’re so simple to build that almost anyone can pull it off (free instructions are available online), yet they can be deceptively powerful when deployed as a swarm, often taking the place of much bigger satellites. CubeSats themselves are cheap to make (about $5,000 to $8,000).19 Launching them is the real expense (still tens of thousands of dollars). But that’s today. If we wait a few more years, Made in Space can solve this problem for pennies on the dollar. “Turns out,” says Dunn, “the ISS [is] a perfect platform for launching things into low-Earth orbit. Already our printers can print the cube portion of a CubeSat, and we’ve also printed the electronics in our lab. It’s hard to say for sure, but around 2025, we should be able to print electronics aboard the ISS. This means we’ll be able to email hardware into space for free, rather than paying to have it launched there.” Of course, the big dream is to be able to create 3-D printers capable of printing entire space stations in space and, even better, to do it with materials mined from space.

To look at this from a more expansive angle, consider that we now live in a world where Google’s autonomous car can cruise our streets safely because of a rooftop sensor called LIDAR—a laser-based sensing device that uses sixty-four eye-safe lasers to scan 360 degrees while concurrently generating 750 megabytes of image data per second to help with navigation.5 Pretty soon, though, we’ll live in a world with, say, two million autonomous cars on our roads (not much of a stretch, as that’s less than one percent of cars currently registered in the United States),6 seeing and recording nearly everything they encounter, giving us near-perfect knowledge of the environment they observe. What’s more, ubiquitous imaging doesn’t stop there. 360-degree LIDAR imaging in Google’s driverless car Source: http://people.bath.ac.uk/as2152/cars/lidar.jpg In addition to these autonomous cars scanning the roadside, by 2020, an estimated five privately owned low-Earth-orbiting satellite constellations will be imaging every square meter of the Earth’s surface in resolutions ranging from 0.5 to 2 meters.7 Simultaneously, we’re also about to see an explosion of AI-operated microdrones buzzing around our cities and taking images down in the centimeter range. Do you want to know how many cars are in your competitor’s parking lot in Moscow or Mumbai? Or how about following your competition’s supply chain as trucks or trains deliver raw materials to their plant and final product to their warehouses?


pages: 634 words: 185,116

From eternity to here: the quest for the ultimate theory of time by Sean M. Carroll

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Columbine, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, gravity well, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Lao Tzu, Laplace demon, lone genius, low earth orbit, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, pets.com, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Schrödinger's Cat, Slavoj Žižek, Stephen Hawking, stochastic process, the scientific method, wikimedia commons

How would that affect the experiments we were doing inside the ship? Einstein’s answer was: They wouldn’t affect them at all, as long as we confined our attention to relatively small regions of space and brief intervals of time. We can do whatever kinds of experiments we like—measuring the rates of chemical reactions, dropping balls and watching how they fall, observing weights on springs—and we would get exactly the same answer zipping around in low-Earth orbit as we would in the far reaches of interstellar space. Of course if we wait long enough we can tell we are in orbit; if we let a fork and a spoon freely float in front of our noses, with the fork just slightly closer to the Earth, the fork will then feel just a slightly larger gravitational pull, and therefore move just ever so slightly away from the spoon. But effects like that take time to accumulate; if we confine our attention to sufficiently small regions of space and time, there isn’t any experiment we can imagine doing that could reveal the presence of the gravitational pull keeping us in orbit around the Earth.

Here I am sitting in my chair, and it’s gravity that’s keeping me from floating up into the room.” But how do you know it’s gravity? Only by looking outside and checking that you’re on the surface of the Earth. If you were in a spaceship that was accelerating, you would also be pushed down into your chair. Just as you can’t tell the difference between freely falling in interstellar space and freely falling in low-Earth orbit, you also can’t tell the difference between constant acceleration in a spaceship and sitting comfortably in a gravitational field. That’s the “equivalence” in the Principle of Equivalence: The apparent effects of the force of gravity are equivalent to those of living in an accelerating reference frame. It’s not the force of gravity that you feel when you are sitting in a chair; it’s the force of the chair pushing up on your posterior.

Therefore, the orbiting clock will experience more elapsed time per orbit than the tower clock—compared to the accelerated clock on the tower, the freely falling one in orbit appears to run more quickly. Figure 18: Time as measured on a tower will be shorter than that measured in orbit, as the former clock is on an accelerated (non-free-falling) trajectory. There are no towers that reach to the heights of low-Earth orbit. But there are clocks down here at the surface that regularly exchange signals with clocks on satellites. That, for example, is the basic mechanism behind the Global Positioning System (GPS) that helps modern cars give driving directions in real time. Your personal GPS receiver gets signals from a number of satellites orbiting the Earth, and determines its position by comparing the time between the different signals.


pages: 424 words: 114,094

Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew by Michael Leinbach, Jonathan H. Ward

back-to-the-land, low earth orbit, Maui Hawaii, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics

Incident Management Team (IMT)—a group that responds to an emergency using the incident command system framework. IMTs are “typed” according to the scope and complexity of the incidents they are certified to manage. Inconel—an alloy of nickel, chromium, iron, and other metals used for spacecraft parts subject to high-temperature and/or high stress environments. International Space Station (ISS)—a microgravity and space environment laboratory in low Earth orbit, funded and manned by the United States, Russia, Japan, the European Space Agency, and Canada. It has been continuously occupied since November 2, 2000, recently by six astronauts at a time. Major assembly of the ISS occurred between 1998 and 2011 with unmanned vehicles delivering the Russian segment modules and the space shuttle delivering the components for the US side of the ISS. Johnson Space Center (JSC)—NASA’s center in Houston, Texas, which is home to the astronaut corps, the engineers who designed the space shuttle, the Space Shuttle Program Office, training facilities, and the Mission Control Center.

At 15,000 feet in length, the SLF is one of the longest runways in the world. Solid rocket booster (SRB)—one of two large solid-propellant motors that together provided 83 percent of the thrust in the first two minutes of the space shuttle’s flight. SRBs separated from the external tank and parachuted into the ocean, to be reused on later missions. Soyuz—the Russian manned spacecraft used to ferry crews of up to three people to and from low Earth orbit. Spacehab—a pressurized module carried in the shuttle’s payload bay and connected to the crew module’s air lock by a tunnel. Spacehab modules carried scientific and medical experiments the crew could operate in a shirtsleeve environment while on orbit. Space shuttle—see Orbiter. STS-xxx—abbreviation for “Space Transportation System.” NASA designated space shuttle missions as STS followed by a number.


pages: 431 words: 118,074

The Ultimate Engineer: The Remarkable Life of NASA's Visionary Leader George M. Low by Richard Jurek

additive manufacturing, affirmative action, Charles Lindbergh, cognitive dissonance, en.wikipedia.org, fudge factor, John Conway, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, operation paperclip, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Stewart Brand, undersea cable, uranium enrichment, Whole Earth Catalog, Winter of Discontent, women in the workforce

The Saturn rocket first stage would eventually have five Rocketdyne F-1 engines—four outer engines that could be turned, or gimballed, and one stationary one right smack in the center, as von Braun wanted “to fill that hole that was just crying out for an engine.” During the Apollo program a total of fifteen flight-capable Saturn V rockets would be built, but only thirteen would be flown. For more than a half century, it has been the only launch vehicle to ever carry humans beyond low Earth orbit. During this period, Gilruth again tried several more times to poach Low, but he always declined. The management structure down in Houston had not yet changed to Low’s liking, and he was making important progress with Holmes in Washington. Holmes also hired several other key figures, including Joe Shea, as a deputy for systems. Shea, a charismatic Irishman with a crew cut, soft voice, and a penchant for wearing red socks, had worked for AC Delco, Bell Labs, and TRW before joining NASA.

Like developing a spacecraft, developing suitable budgets took iterative steps, too. During this period, Low was keenly aware of the need for speed in judiciously rightsizing the agency as its budget allocations rapidly declined. The enormous buildup for Apollo created bloat across the entire NASA supply chain and internal managerial and operational organization. Since Apollo’s days were numbered and the congressional and White House appetite hinted more and more toward a low Earth-orbit future, the center budget situation demanded action. During his tenure in Washington, Low would become preoccupied by NASA workforce issues. His biggest concern from his first days in office involved attracting and retaining the young, dynamic talent that would be needed to keep the space program relevant and innovative, while at the same time transitioning the institutional base steeped in Apollo to the new priorities of the shuttle.


pages: 366 words: 119,981

The Race: The Complete True Story of How America Beat Russia to the Moon by James Schefter

Berlin Wall, Burning Man, Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, Kitchen Debate, low earth orbit, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan

They’d been the backup to the Grissom crew; now they’d be first in space with Apollo, using the smaller Saturn 1B to get there. Their job was to stay in orbit for up to eleven days and give the command and service modules a hard workout. The D mission belonged to Jim McDivitt, Dave Scott, and Rusty Schweickart. They’d be first to ride a Saturn 5 and to take a lunar module along for a manned trial in low Earth orbit. But their LM had problems, and after it arrived at the Cape, it was being torn down and fixed. It wouldn’t be ready to fly on the planned schedule of December or January. Another crew was in training for the E mission. Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Mike Collins would have the job of going to a high Earth orbit with the full set of Apollo ships in February or March 1969. There were no crews assigned yet for the F and G missions, taking a LM into lunar orbit on F and then landing on G.

Buzz Aldrin was delighted with his assignment as lunar module pilot (LMP). Everyone knew that the lunar landing flight plan called for the LMP to be the first man to set foot on the moon. If Apollos 9 and 10 worked right, Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin’s name would forever be the answer to a question on school kids’ history tests. But 9 and 10 had to be right. Jim McDivitt, Dave Scott, and Rusty Schweickart were in low Earth orbit—the D mission—on March 3, 1969. McDivitt was the crew commander and Scott was the command module pilot. Schweickart was lunar module pilot. McDivitt’s and Scott’s job titles reflected their real assignment. McDivitt was the overall boss and Scott controlled the command module in its maneuvers. Schweickart was in a different category. The LMP was really a copilot; when the time came, flying the lunar module was the commander’s job.


pages: 357 words: 121,119

Falling to Earth by Al Worden

illegal immigration, low earth orbit, Menlo Park, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, scientific mainstream, Silicon Valley

Flying to the moon is one of the most incredible things that could happen to anyone. I am lucky it happened to me. CHAPTER 1 FARMER Only twenty-four humans have left Earth orbit and journeyed to the moon. I’m one of them. It’s an exclusive club, so small that I am still surprised they let me in. After all, hundreds of people have traveled into space. Yet most spacefarers have never strayed beyond low Earth orbit. Our little group traveled a great deal farther—more than a thousand times farther. The size of our group hasn’t grown because no one has returned to the moon. In fact, our number has dwindled to eighteen as my friends and colleagues pass away. I sometimes think we will all be gone by the time humans return there. We went to the moon in an exceedingly brief span of four hurried years, four decades ago.

Dave generally kept himself strapped in his couch, explaining that “Otherwise, you’re fighting the panel all the time.” He was right: the slightest movement in the couch floated us into the instrument panel. There was nothing I could do about the stuffy feeling in my head—as if I were hanging upside down. I could see Dave and Jim felt the same. Their faces were flushed and puffy, and their eyes bulged a little. There wasn’t time to let the discomfort affect me. We were all very busy. We were in a low Earth orbit—too low to linger long—and could only go around the Earth for a couple of hours before we needed to head to the moon. This was the only time in the mission I would see Earth up close, but so far I’d barely had a glimpse of it out of the window. The clock was ticking. Fortunately, our spacecraft had made it into space in good working order. I now had time to briefly reflect on the mission so far.


pages: 469 words: 124,784

Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Apollo Moon Landings by Jay Barbree, Howard Benedict, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Neil Armstrong

Charles Lindbergh, clockwatching, gravity well, invisible hand, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, MITM: man-in-the-middle, operation paperclip, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, place-making

Democratic and Republican leaders were generally bipartisan on the future of American spaceflight. The blueprint for the twenty-first century called for sustaining the International Space Station and its fifteen-nation partnership until at least 2020, and for building the space shuttle’s heavy-lift rocket and deep spacecraft successor to enable astronauts to fly beyond the friendly confines of low earth orbit for the first time since Apollo. That deep space ship would fly them again around the moon, then farther out to our solar system’s LaGrange points, and then deeper into space for rendezvous with asteroids and comets, learning how to deal with radiation and other deep space hazards before reaching for Mars or landings on Saturn’s moons. It was the clearest, most reasonable and best cost-achievable goal that NASA had been given since President John F.

$9.4 billion already spent on heavy-lift rockets and deep space ships was unashamedly flushed down America’s toilet. The fifty-year dream of new frontiers was replaced with the shortsighted obligations of party politics. As 2011 dawned, NASA, one of America’s great science agencies, was effectively defunct. While Congress has so far prohibited the total cancellation of the space agency’s plans to once again fly astronauts beyond low earth orbit, Obama space operatives have systematically used bureaucratic tricks to slow roll them to a crawl. Congress holds the purse strings and spent most of 2010 saying, “Wait just a minute.” Thousands of highly skilled jobs across the economic spectrum have been lost while hundreds of billions in “stimulus” have been spent. As of this writing only Congress can stop the NASA killing. Florida’s senior U.S.


pages: 158 words: 46,353

Future War: Preparing for the New Global Battlefield by Robert H. Latiff

Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, cyber-physical system, Danny Hillis, defense in depth, drone strike, Elon Musk, failed state, friendly fire, Howard Zinn, Internet of things, low earth orbit, Nicholas Carr, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, self-driving car, South China Sea, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, Wall-E

The V-1 presaged the development and introduction of cruise missiles, while the V-2 rocket and its designer, Wernher von Braun, were hugely important in the U.S. space program and the development of ballistic missiles. The V-2 could carry a 2,000-pound warhead. Launched straight up, it could achieve an altitude of 128 miles. NASA is presently developing a rocket that will be more than thirty stories high and will be able to lift 130 tons into low earth orbit. The British invention of radar, and the U.S. development of it, constituted a great leap in technology that fundamentally changed warfare as well as civil and commercial operations to this day. It is a long way from the rudimentary radars so critical to the Battle of Britain to the MIT Lincoln Laboratory “Haystack” radar, which can image a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, but the basic technology is the same.


pages: 370 words: 129,096

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

addicted to oil, Burning Man, cleantech, digital map, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, global supply chain, Hyperloop, industrial robot, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Mark Zuckerberg, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Mercator projection, money market fund, multiplanetary species, optical character recognition, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, paypal mafia, performance metric, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, Tesla Model S, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, X Prize

As Shotwell saw it, a number of new nations were showing interest in launches, eyeing communications technology as essential to growing their economies and leveling their status with developed nations. Cheaper flights would help SpaceX take the majority of the business from that new customer set. The company also expected to participate in an expanding market for human flights. SpaceX has never had any interest in doing the five-minute tourist flights to low Earth orbit like Virgin Galactic and XCOR. It does, however, have the ability to carry researchers to orbiting habitats being built by Bigelow Aerospace and to orbiting science labs being constructed by various countries. SpaceX will also start making its own satellites, turning the company into a one-stop space shop. All of these plans hinge on SpaceX being able to prove that it can fly on schedule every month and churn through the $5 billion backlog of launches.

“SpaceX is not seeking to be awarded contracts for these launches,” the company said on its freedomtolaunch.com website. “We are simply seeking the right to compete.”* SpaceX’s main competitor for ISS resupply missions and commercial satellites in the United States is Orbital Sciences Corporation. Founded in Virginia in 1982, the company started out not unlike SpaceX, as the new kid that raised outside funding and focused on putting smaller satellites into low-Earth orbit. Orbital is more experienced, although it has a limited roster of machine types. Orbital depends on suppliers, including Russian and Ukrainian companies, for its engines and rocket bodies, making it more of an assembler of spacecraft than a true builder like SpaceX. And, also unlike SpaceX, Orbital’s capsules cannot withstand the journey back from the ISS to Earth, so it’s unable to return experiments and other goods.


pages: 492 words: 141,544

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson

artificial general intelligence, basic income, blockchain, Brownian motion, correlation does not imply causation, cryptocurrency, Deng Xiaoping, gig economy, Hyperloop, illegal immigration, income inequality, invisible hand, low earth orbit, Magellanic Cloud, megacity, precariat, Schrödinger's Cat, seigniorage, strong AI, Turing machine, universal basic income, zero-sum game

After we reached those places, when it seemed we had been everywhere, people began to cross the Pacific on primitive rafts, to see if those ancient first voyages could be reproduced by modern people. This was the archeological sublime, as it seemed an end point had been reached, because we had been everywhere else on the planet. Then, to everyone’s amazement, Russians and Americans put animals and people in low Earth orbit, above the sky. Then, even more amazing, the Americans put men on the moon. Who could have imagined it could be done! But my friend Oliver once asked me to notice how always, after these feats were accomplished, people’s interest in the places involved moved on. People now live at the South Pole, cruise ships visit the North Pole, tourists are taken on the dangerous climb to the top of Mount Everest.

“It’s an American operation?” The engineer nodded. They were sending the potassium and phosphorus to the north pole base to aid the local agriculture, and they threw the rare earths home to Earth. Some heavy-duty high-capacity launch rails had been built at the north end of Procellarum, to be as near the north pole base as possible. These launch rails cast freighters full of refined rare earths down to low-Earth orbit, and later piecemeal down to Earth. It was the biggest American operation on the moon by far, and almost the only way the moon was actually proving of use to humanity, in this miner’s opinion. “You’re not breaking the Outer Space Treaty?” Valerie asked. The engineer didn’t think so. The mines were kept underground and the surface therefore was left mostly unmarked. No open pit mines or strip mines.


pages: 472 words: 141,591

Go, Flight!: The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control, 1965-1992 by Rick Houston, J. Milt Heflin

Berlin Wall, cuban missile crisis, en.wikipedia.org, Fall of the Berlin Wall, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Skype

“Buck’s call was a major contributor to the mission’s ultimate success,” said Aaron of Willoughby, a former marine fighter pilot who passed away on 8 September 2009 after a battle with Alzheimer’s. “Had the platform continued in the mode of max rate of tumble, it is doubtful that the platform could have survived. With the IMU platform failed, the mission would have been aborted after a couple of revolutions in low-Earth orbit. Although not well recognized, Buck likely also saved the mission to the moon that day.” In the Trench, everyone except for Van Rensselaer was having troubles. Booster was good to go throughout the incident. “The ol’ Saturn V just chugged along,” Van Rensselaer said. “It was independently grounded from the Command Module, so the lightning strike did a number on the Command Module, but we didn’t even lose a piece of data on the Saturn V.

“I can tell you that all of us thought that we’d probably be on Mars in twenty years from that time,” said Gerry Griffin, the lead flight director on Apollo 17. “It just never happened. Frustrated? I think disappointment might be an ever better word. There was just something that was empty about it. I could see it coming. I was off doing other things, but I knew we were going to be stuck in low-Earth orbit for a long, long time.” Those who worked in the MOCR during Apollo continued to leave their marks on the human spaceflight community for years. Don Puddy, Phil Shaffer, Neil Hutchinson, and Chuck Lewis would eventually become full-fledged flight directors, while others like Tommy Holloway, Harold Draughon, Gary Coen, Jay Greene, Randy Stone, and Al Pennington would join them at the console during the Space Shuttle era.


pages: 194 words: 49,310

Clock of the Long Now by Stewart Brand

Albert Einstein, Brewster Kahle, Buckminster Fuller, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, Danny Hillis, Eratosthenes, Extropian, fault tolerance, George Santayana, Internet Archive, Jaron Lanier, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, life extension, longitudinal study, low earth orbit, Metcalfe’s law, Mitch Kapor, nuclear winter, pensions crisis, phenotype, Ray Kurzweil, Robert Metcalfe, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, Thomas Malthus, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog

Typically, outdated legacy systems make themselves so essential over the years that no one can contemplate the prolonged trauma of replacing them, and they cannot be fixed completely because the problems are too complexly embedded and there is no one left who understands the whole system. Teasing a new function out of a legacy system is not done by command but by conducting a series of cautious experiments that with luck might converge toward the desired outcome. Here’s the real fear. Thanks to proliferating optical-fiber land lines worldwide and the arrival of low-Earth-orbit data satellite systems such as Teledesic, we are in the process of building one vast global computer. (“The network is the computer,” proclaims Sun Microsystems.) This world computer could easily become the Legacy System from Hell that holds civilization hostage: The system doesn’t really work, it can’t be fixed, no one understands it, no one is in charge of it, it can’t be lived without, and it gets worse every year.


pages: 215 words: 56,215

The Second Intelligent Species: How Humans Will Become as Irrelevant as Cockroaches by Marshall Brain

Amazon Web Services, basic income, clean water, cloud computing, computer vision, digital map, en.wikipedia.org, full employment, income inequality, job automation, knowledge worker, low earth orbit, mutually assured destruction, Occupy movement, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Stephen Hawking, working poor

Drake's equation suggests that there should be many other intelligent species in the universe. And some of them should be far more advanced than humans because they would have gotten started earlier. So imagine the following scenario. The first extraterrestrial species arrives at planet earth. It truly arrives, and in the most impressive way possible. The alien's ship is the size of a small continent and it parks in low earth orbit for all to see. The ship is utterly amazing, and a super-intelligent alien species emerges – millions of aliens beam down to interview the human species. We each have an interview with one of the aliens – every single human being is interviewed. Think of all the people that the aliens would meet it they thoroughly interviewed every single human being on the planet. The aliens interview everyone: People who work in factories People who work at Wal-mart and Target Elderly and retired people, some independent, some in nursing homes Farmers and other people living in the country People living in cities People living in slums People who work in fast food restaurants and coffee shops Construction workers Doctors Nurses Teachers Truck drivers Engineers Scientists Computer programmers Artists Web designers Clerks and assistants Janitors, maids and custodians Billions of Christians, Muslims and Hindus People struggling through cancer and other diseases Depressed people, suicidal people, insane people People living in squalor, with no hope Celebrities and billionaires living is stunning luxury People going to college with dreams for the future Students of every shape and size Drug addicts Criminals Prisoners Terrorists Politicians Conservatives Liberals Hawks Doves People who just don't care Mothers Fathers Rhodes scholars High school dropouts People with no education at all Athletes Cops Firefighters Dictators Presidents CEOs Military personnel Mercenaries Guerillas Rebels Members of Al Quieda, Hamas, ISIS, the Taliban White supremacists, neo-nazis, right wing extremists Priests, nuns, pastors, rabbis Drug lords War lords Slaves Prostitutes, both voluntary and not The aliens would meet every single human being, from the most powerful to the least, from the happiest to the saddest, from the richest to the poorest, from the healthiest to the most crippled, from the kindest to the most malicious.


pages: 641 words: 153,921

Eon by Greg Bear

dematerialisation, low earth orbit, Menlo Park, Ralph Nader, urban renewal

“Everyone’s in first and fourth chambers by now,” Gerhardt said. “Then get me fourth chamber. Wherever. I want Heine”Lead ship returning fire,” said an anonymous voice from within the bore hole. “Looks like they’re aiming for the tanks, maybe the cables.” “Maybe they don’t see the cables,” another voice suggested. The tone of both soldiers was calm, expectant. Lanier noticed a monitor showing the tiny star of Station Sixteen, in low Earth orbit of one thousand kilometers. As he watched, the star became a glowing smudge of white light. The light winked out. “Heineman on your button five,” Pickney told Lanier. He punched the button. “Lawrence, this is Garry.” “I was almost out the door and they pulled the back in. I’m in fourth chamber, Garry. I was on my way—” “Lawrence, we’re in—we’re being attacked. Just get to the V/STOL and take it up.

Priests and vampires engage angels two, Jesus’lhrist”-an obvious expletive, not coder”they’re at two ldicks–” Kirchner flinched as the message was cut off. “I should be down there,” he said. “Right in the middle of the barbecue.” “How many OTVs did Station Sixteen get off?.” Lanier, “Besides OTV 45, five. Three are coming for us. TWo for the Moon.” “Warn the three we are under attack and may not be able to receive them. Suggest they divert to the Moon.” “If they can make it,” Pickney said. The evacuation of the low Earth orbit platforms and other stations had already begun. The war was expanding now; not just beam defense platforms, but research and industrial stations were becoming targets. “Some diversion,” Pickney said bitterly. “Looks like it’s getting out of control.” “Of course it is,” Gerhardt said on the comlink. “Only an idiot or somebody very desperate would have thought otherwise. Garry, you done done all you can there.


pages: 570 words: 151,609

Into the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew Her by Rowland White, Richard Truly

Albert Einstein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, low earth orbit, Maui Hawaii, Mercator projection, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ronald Reagan, William Langewiesche

The DORIAN system carried a primary mirror built by Perkin-Elmer in Connecticut that was just shy of six feet in diameter. Larger than the mirrors inside many ground-based telescopes, the silica glass blank—the unfinished disk from which the mirror was made—would require thousands of hours of precision grinding, polishing and testing. But when it was finished, its performance was expected to be extraordinary. From low Earth orbit at an altitude of between 150 and 160 miles, MOL’s DORIAN camera was, on paper at least, capable of focusing on an object as small as a softball. Operationally, because of the distortion caused by moisture in the atmosphere, that figure might double. But that still meant that MOL could zero in on any single square foot of the globe. Or, rather, any single 8-by-8-inch square. With its mission clear, MOL, although still led by the Air Force, was assigned the code number KH-10 and became part of the KEYHOLE program, which covered the activities of all America’s spy satellites.

The Six-Day War highlighted the critical failing of the KEYHOLE program: it was incapable of delivering real-time intelligence from space. The MOL crews were briefed on what CORONA and GAMBIT could do. And they knew that their manned program offered something more. They could rotate the DORIAN camera’s reflecting mirror as they passed over a target so that pictures could be taken from two different angles. Combining the pair made stereo imagery possible. And they could also look down from low Earth orbit with their camera and sensors and tell Washington what was going on now. SEVEN 1966–67 Like those from GAMBIT and CORONA, the pictures taken by the Manned Orbiting Laboratory’s KH-10 DORIAN camera had to be physically returned to Earth. There were two options: use one of either a limited number of reentry buckets similar to those used by the National Reconnaissance Office’s unmanned spy satellites or, at the end of their thirty-day mission, the two-man MOL crew could suit up, then pull themselves through the 5-foot-long tunnel linking the lab with their Gemini-B spacecraft, carrying with them a data capsule of the take.


pages: 219 words: 61,720

American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us to Greatness by Dan Dimicco

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, American energy revolution, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, Bakken shale, barriers to entry, Bernie Madoff, carbon footprint, clean water, crony capitalism, currency manipulation / currency intervention, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, fear of failure, full employment, Google Glasses, hydraulic fracturing, invisible hand, job automation, knowledge economy, laissez-faire capitalism, Loma Prieta earthquake, low earth orbit, manufacturing employment, oil shale / tar sands, Ponzi scheme, profit motive, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, smart grid, smart meter, sovereign wealth fund, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, uranium enrichment, Washington Consensus, Works Progress Administration

Americans came together to meet the Sputnik crisis head-on, passing the National Defense Education Act to pump millions of dollars into science and math programs in public schools, and investing additional millions in the U.S. space program. But that wasn’t enough. America got a second wake-up call in 1961, when the Russians sent Yuri Gagarin into space, another Soviet first. We answered by launching Alan Shepard into low earth orbit, followed by John Glenn’s trip into outer space a year later. Kennedy knew we had to do better. If we were going to beat the Russians in the space race, we needed to innovate and develop new technology to put an American on the moon first. “We choose to go to the moon,” Kennedy said. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”2 Kennedy also knew he couldn’t just talk about going to the moon.


pages: 558 words: 164,627

The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency by Annie Jacobsen

Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, colonial rule, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Dean Kamen, drone strike, Edward Snowden, Fall of the Berlin Wall, game design, John Markoff, John von Neumann, license plate recognition, Livingstone, I presume, low earth orbit, megacity, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Norman Mailer, operation paperclip, place-making, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, social intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, zero-sum game

According to DARPA documents, “at HTV-2 speeds, flight time between New York City and Los Angeles would be less than 12 minutes.” The Mach 20 drone will be able to strike any target, anywhere in the world, in less than an hour. As the Defense Department grows increasingly reliant on satellite technology, DARPA must provide the Pentagon with “quick, affordable and routine access to space,” says DARPA. The XS-1 experimental space drone, announced in the fall of 2013, is DARPA’s seminal hypersonic low-earth-orbit drone, designed to be able to fly faster on consecutive around-the-world missions than any other drone in U.S. history. Specifics about the weapons systems on board the XS-1 are classified. The oceans are vast, and DARPA’s plans for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) are equally immense. One program is Hydra, an undersea system that includes a fleet of baby submersibles combined with a mother ship.

Bozkurt, “Early Metamorphic Insertion Technology for Insect Flight Behavior Monitoring,” Journal of Visualized Experiments, July 12, 2014, 89. 16 animated video: online at “Armed with Science,” the DoD’s official science blog. 17 DARPA’s hypersonic stealth drones: DARPA News, “Hypersonics—The New Stealth: DARPA investments in extreme hypersonics continue,” July 6, 2012; “Darpa refocuses Hypersonics Research on Tactical Missions,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, July 8, 2013. 18 Falcon HTV-2: Animated performance videos of Falcon HTV-2 at Lockheedmartin.com. 19 hypersonic low-earth-orbit drones: Toshio Suzuki, “DARPA Wants Hypersonic Space Drone with Daily Launches,” Stars and Stripes, February 4, 2014. 20 Hydra: John Keller, “DARPA Considers Unmanned Submersible Mothership Designed to Deploy UAVs and UUVs,” Military Aerospace Electronics, July 23, 2013. 21 Unmanned Ground System robots: Demonstration videos on DARPA’s YouTube channel, DARPAtv. 22 LANdroids: USC Information Sciences Institute, Polymorphic Robotics Laboratory, “LANdroids,” n.d. 23 what “autonomy” is: U.S.


pages: 238 words: 46

When Things Start to Think by Neil A. Gershenfeld

3D printing, Ada Lovelace, Bretton Woods, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Dynabook, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, invention of movable type, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, low earth orbit, means of production, new economy, Nick Leeson, packet switching, RFID, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, telemarketer, the medium is the message, Turing machine, Turing test, Vannevar Bush

National attempts to limit and regulate Internet access are increasingly doomed, as the means to send and receive bits gets simpler and the available channels proliferate. Borders are just too permeable to bits. While China was busy worrying about whether to allow official Internet access, packets were already being sent through a satellite link that had been set up for high-energy physics experiments. Now constellations of low-earth-orbit satellites are being launched that will bring the convenience of a cell-phone network everywhere on the globe. Motorola's Iridium system comprises 100 + WHEN THINGS START TO THINK sixty-six such satellites. (It was originally named after the seventyseventh element, iridium, because it was going to have seventyseven satellites, but when it was reduced to sixty-six satellites the name wasn't changed because the sixty-sixth element is dysprosium.)


pages: 243 words: 65,374

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

A. Roger Ekirch, Ada Lovelace, big-box store, British Empire, butterfly effect, clean water, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, germ theory of disease, Hans Lippershey, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, indoor plumbing, interchangeable parts, invention of air conditioning, invention of the printing press, invention of the telescope, inventory management, Jacquard loom, John Snow's cholera map, Kevin Kelly, Live Aid, lone genius, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Marshall McLuhan, mass immigration, megacity, Menlo Park, Murano, Venice glass, planetary scale, refrigerator car, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, transcontinental railway, Upton Sinclair, walkable city, women in the workforce

Global air travel, telephone networks, financial markets—all rely on the nanosecond accuracy of the atomic clock. (Rid the world of these modern clocks, and the much vilified practice of high-frequency trading would disappear in a nanosecond.) Every time you glance down at your smartphone to check your location, you are unwittingly consulting a network of twenty-four atomic clocks housed in satellites in low-earth orbit above you. Those satellites are sending out the most elemental of signals, again and again, in perpetuity: the time is 11:48:25.084738 . . . the time is 11:48:25.084739. . . . When your phone tries to figure out its location, it pulls down at least three of these time stamps from satellites, each reporting a slightly different time thanks to the duration it takes the signal to travel from satellite to the GPS receiver in your hand.


pages: 213 words: 70,742

Notes From an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back by Mark O'Connell

Berlin Wall, bitcoin, blockchain, California gold rush, carbon footprint, Carrington event, clean water, Colonization of Mars, conceptual framework, cryptocurrency, disruptive innovation, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Donner party, Elon Musk, high net worth, Jeff Bezos, life extension, low earth orbit, Marc Andreessen, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, New Urbanism, off grid, Peter Thiel, post-work, Sam Altman, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the built environment, yield curve

But then that was the thing about Mars: when people talked about it, they were always simultaneously talking about something else. As often as not, when people were talking about Mars, they were talking about America. But then nobody was ever just talking about America, either, because America, famously, was not so much a country as an idea: it was, specifically, the idea of itself as being an idea. The topic was, in this way, always threatening to spiral off into the low Earth orbit of abstraction. Something like this point had been made decades ago by Carl Sagan, the beloved astronomer and host of the enduringly popular 1980s PBS show Cosmos. (Sagan was always being invoked by Mars enthusiasts—often, it seemed to me, as a kind of emotional shorthand for a childlike cosmic optimism that had been lost since the twilight of the space age.) “Mars,” he said, “has become a kind of mythic arena onto which we’ve projected our earthly hopes and fears


pages: 684 words: 188,584

The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era by Craig Nelson

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, Charles Lindbergh, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, continuation of politics by other means, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Doomsday Clock, El Camino Real, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, music of the spheres, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, Project Plowshare, Ralph Nader, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Skype, Stuxnet, technoutopianism, too big to fail, uranium enrichment, William Langewiesche, éminence grise

On June 29, 1961, the first atomic satellite powered into orbit—the US Navy’s Transit 4A—using plutonium-238 in a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) to fuel a battery, the System for Nuclear Auxiliary Power—SNAP. RTGs have since made their way into the satellites that explore the universe for NASA: Pioneer, Viking, Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, New Horizons, Curiosity—as well as in the experimental apparatus left on the surface of the moon by Apollos 12–17. Russia has sent about forty nuclear-powered reconnaissance satellites into low-earth orbit; one crashed into Canada on January 24, 1978, irradiating six hundred miles, while on April 21, 1964, an American satellite collapsed, releasing seventeen thousand curies from its SNAP over the skies of Madagascar. As fears of being incinerated by thermonuclear war subsided in the twilight of the Cold War, worries of an attack from a very different source intensified. On the banks of the Susquehanna River on March 28, 1979, at 4:00 a.m., pumps moving steam to the electrical generator and returning water to the nuclear reactor in the thee-month-old Unit 2 of Metropolitan Edison Company’s Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI), which warped and woofed electricity for the residents of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, stopped functioning.

A giant X-ray satellite, floating in space, could do what Rabi had told Eisenhower decades before—intercept and destroy incoming missiles before they could kill American citizens. Instead of Mutual Assured Destruction, with Teller’s help the president could offer the nation Mutual Assured Survival with an atmospheric shield so powerful it would render all nuclear weapons obsolete. It is unclear to this day whether Teller explained to Reagan that all of this was based on enormous nuclear weapons floating continuously overhead in low-earth orbit. Just as Eisenhower had great hopes with Atoms for Peace, Reagan became enthralled with the Strategic Defense Initiative. But in many quarters, the news was not well received. After hearing the president announce his new program in a televised speech, Gorbachev met with the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy’s deputy director, Yevgeny Velikhov, who told him that Russian physicists had tried for decades to create exactly the weapons Teller and Reagan were talking about, including the same space laser cannon, as well as antimissile rockets fired from satellites.


pages: 259 words: 73,193

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris

4chan, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Andrew Keen, augmented reality, Burning Man, Carrington event, cognitive dissonance, crowdsourcing, dematerialisation, en.wikipedia.org, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Google Glasses, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, Loebner Prize, low earth orbit, Marshall McLuhan, McMansion, moral panic, Nicholas Carr, pattern recognition, pre–internet, Republic of Letters, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social web, Steve Jobs, the medium is the message, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing test

When we are hit, at any rate, we won’t be able to save ourselves with some missile defense system meant for meteors; no missile could halt the wraithlike progress of a megaflare. What will happen, exactly? Electricity grids will fail; some satellites will break down; aircraft passengers will be exposed to cancer-causing radiation; electronic equipment will malfunction; for a few days, global navigation satellite systems will be inoperable; cellular and emergency communication networks may fail; the earth’s atmosphere will expand, creating a drag on satellites in low earth orbit; satellite communication and high-frequency communication (used by long-distance aircraft) will probably not work for days. I daydream about a latter-day Carrington Event weirdly often, actually. (It’s pleasant to have something truly morbid to fix on while sitting on a subway, and if Milton isn’t doing the trick, then I switch to other celestial damnations.) Joseph Weizenbaum, the creator of ELIZA whom we met in chapter 3, was able to notice even in the mid-1970s how computers had become as essential to human life as our most basic tools: If extracted from us cyborgs, “much of the modern industrialized and militarized world would be thrown into great confusion and possibly utter chaos.”


pages: 280 words: 74,559

Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastani

"Robert Solow", autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Bretton Woods, capital controls, cashless society, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, computer age, computer vision, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, double helix, Elon Musk, energy transition, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial independence, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, future of work, G4S, housing crisis, income inequality, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, land reform, liberal capitalism, low earth orbit, low skilled workers, M-Pesa, market fundamentalism, means of production, mobile money, more computing power than Apollo, new economy, off grid, pattern recognition, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, post scarcity, post-work, price mechanism, price stability, private space industry, Productivity paradox, profit motive, race to the bottom, RFID, rising living standards, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sensor fusion, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Slavoj Žižek, stem cell, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, the built environment, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transatlantic slave trade, Travis Kalanick, universal basic income, V2 rocket, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, working-age population

That breakthrough was particularly important as many believe that reuseable first stage rockets will significantly lower the cost of sending a payload into space. A viable private market in off-world transport was ready to arrive. Since then a glut of newcomers have emerged in the quest to push prices for space transport lower still. While they lack the means to conduct manned missions of their own, by providing cheap, weekly launch opportunities for low-Earth orbit, they will enter the slipstream of larger companies like SpaceX, Boeing and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin. One such company is Rocket Lab. Founded in New Zealand in 2009, it was the first private company in the Southern Hemisphere to send a booster rocket into space. Now based in the United States, its stated mission is to remove the barriers to mass space commerce by providing frequent, low-cost launch opportunities on its Electron booster rocket.


The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy

active measures, airport security, cuban missile crisis, invisible hand, low earth orbit, mutually assured destruction, Stephen Hawking

Or maybe both. Whatever the actual reason, they have trouble aiming more accurately than three seconds of arc. That means they're only going to accurate plus or minus two hundred forty meters for a geostationary satellite-of course, those targets are pretty stationary, and the movement factor could count either way." "How's that?" Ryan asked. "Well, on one hand, if you're hitting a moving target- and low-earth-orbit birds move across the sky pretty fast; something like eight thousand meters per second-there are fourteen hundred meters per degree of arc; so we're tracking a target that's moving about five degrees per second. Okay so far? Thermal blooming means that the laser is giving up a lot of its energy to the atmosphere. If you're tracking across the sky rapidly, you keep having to drill a new hole in the air.

They still have a problem with thermal blooming because they haven't learned how to copy our adaptive optics. They've gotten a lot of technology from the West, but so far they don't have that. Until they do, they can't use the ground-based laser as we have, that is, relaying the beam by orbiting mirror to a distant target. But what they have now can probably do great damage to a satellite in low-earth orbit. There are ways to protect satellites against that, of course, but it's the old battle between heavier armor and heavier warheads. The warhead usually wins in the end." "Which is why we should negotiate the weapons out of existence." Ernie Alien spoke for the first time. General Parks looked over to him with unconcealed irritation. "Mr. President, we are now getting a taste-just a taste-of how dangerous and destabilizing these weapons might be.


pages: 301 words: 85,126

AIQ: How People and Machines Are Smarter Together by Nick Polson, James Scott

Air France Flight 447, Albert Einstein, Amazon Web Services, Atul Gawande, autonomous vehicles, availability heuristic, basic income, Bayesian statistics, business cycle, Cepheid variable, Checklist Manifesto, cloud computing, combinatorial explosion, computer age, computer vision, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Charles Pickering, Elon Musk, epigenetics, Flash crash, Grace Hopper, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, index fund, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, late fees, low earth orbit, Lyft, Magellanic Cloud, mass incarceration, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Moravec's paradox, more computing power than Apollo, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, North Sea oil, p-value, pattern recognition, Pierre-Simon Laplace, ransomware, recommendation engine, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, speech recognition, statistical model, survivorship bias, the scientific method, Thomas Bayes, Uber for X, uber lyft, universal basic income, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, young professional

Hubble would later go on to use the pulsating-star technique to discover many more galaxies—or, as he put it, “Whole worlds, each of them a mighty universe, are strewn all over the sky … like the proverbial grains of sand on the beach.”7 Yet it was that first pulsating star that he found in Andromeda—known today as “Hubble variable 1,” or V1—that went down in history. Decades later, in 1990, when the space shuttle Discovery carried the Hubble Space Telescope into low Earth orbit, it also carried something whose value was entirely sentimental: a copy of Hubble’s original photograph of V1 from 1923.8 It was a photograph that made Hubble a household name and that changed the course of astronomy forever. But it was also a photograph whose significance Hubble could have seen only by standing on the shoulders of Henrietta Leavitt—for she was the one who showed Hubble, and everyone else, how to measure the size of the universe.


pages: 330 words: 88,445

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler

Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Clayton Christensen, data acquisition, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, fear of failure, Google Earth, haute couture, impulse control, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Lao Tzu, lateral thinking, life extension, lifelogging, low earth orbit, Maui Hawaii, pattern recognition, Ray Kurzweil, risk tolerance, rolodex, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Silicon Valley, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Steve Jobs, Walter Mischel, X Prize

SpaceShipTwo’s flight was a test burn, the first in a series that ends with actual space flights (some 550 people have purchased $200,000 tickets). According to Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, if everything goes according to plan, the plan is to have paying customers going rocket man before 2015. This is why Baumgartner’s jump is critical. We’re going to space. That’s what’s next. Within a few years, human beings will be routinely visiting low-Earth orbit. In fact, Bigelow Aerospace, another private space company, is now developing an inflatable space hotel that’s scheduled for 2017 deployment. With these developments around the corner, having basic space evacuation procedures in place—including a supersonic-capable space suit—just seems to make sense. But if you want to really talk about the adjacent possible: the combination of Baumgartner’s success and the birth of the space tourism industry means that space diving could be the next extreme sport frontier.


pages: 288 words: 92,175

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt

Bill Gates: Altair 8800, British Empire, computer age, cuban missile crisis, desegregation, financial independence, Grace Hopper, Isaac Newton, labor-force participation, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, music of the spheres, new economy, operation paperclip, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Steve Jobs, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, Works Progress Administration, Yogi Berra

In this atmosphere, the Space Task Group proposed an ambitious program composed of a space shuttle, space station, and manned missions to the moon and Mars. It was too much. The proposal belonged to a different era, one in which NASA was still expanding. However, the idea of the space shuttle appealed to Nixon. Unlike the space station and the crewed missions, the shuttle oozed practicality. It was a shift away from space exploration and toward application. With reusable rockets and a trajectory that wouldn’t extend beyond a low Earth orbit, it had the possibility of making space travel available to everyone. The idea behind it could be traced to Wernher von Braun’s vision for space discovery, termed the “von Braun paradigm” and first described in the 1950s. Bizarrely enough, this vision was rooted in von Braun’s World War II background. He based the design for the space shuttle on the Nazi Amerika Bomber project, a winged rocket that would ascend to suborbital space before dropping bombs on New York City.


pages: 307 words: 90,634

Insane Mode: How Elon Musk's Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil by Hamish McKenzie

Airbnb, Albert Einstein, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Bay Area Rapid Transit, Ben Horowitz, business climate, car-free, carbon footprint, Chris Urmson, Clayton Christensen, cleantech, Colonization of Mars, connected car, crony capitalism, Deng Xiaoping, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Google Glasses, Hyperloop, Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, low earth orbit, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, megacity, Menlo Park, Nikolai Kondratiev, oil shale / tar sands, paypal mafia, Peter Thiel, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Shenzhen was a fishing village, short selling, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Snapchat, South China Sea, special economic zone, stealth mode startup, Steve Jobs, Tesla Model S, Tim Cook: Apple, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, universal basic income, urban planning, urban sprawl, Zipcar

What those folks didn’t know was that there would be a man who would make sport of creating companies that did what others said was impossible. They didn’t know that someone could come along with enough money, enough intellect, and enough drive to upend everything the world thought it knew about electric cars. They didn’t know about Elon Musk. * * * As long as the laws of physics allow it, Musk believes it can be done. Before SpaceX, no private company had ever returned a spacecraft from low earth orbit. Before Tesla, few people believed it would be possible for a high-performance electric car to travel more than two hundred miles on a single charge of its battery. “One of Elon’s greatest skills is the ability to pass off his vision as a mandate from heaven,” Max Levchin, who cofounded PayPal with Musk, said in 2007. “He is very much the person who, when someone says it’s impossible, shrugs and says, ‘I think I can do it.’”


pages: 317 words: 98,745

Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace by Ronald J. Deibert

4chan, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Brian Krebs, call centre, citizen journalism, cloud computing, connected car, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, failed state, Firefox, global supply chain, global village, Google Hangouts, Hacker Ethic, informal economy, invention of writing, Iridium satellite, jimmy wales, John Markoff, Kibera, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, low earth orbit, Marshall McLuhan, MITM: man-in-the-middle, mobile money, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, new economy, Occupy movement, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, planetary scale, rent-seeking, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart grid, South China Sea, Steven Levy, Stuxnet, Ted Kaczynski, the medium is the message, Turing test, undersea cable, We are Anonymous. We are Legion, WikiLeaks, zero day

However, some intelligence observers speculate that U.S. and other signals intelligence agencies have capabilities to tap undersea fibre-optic cables by cutting into them and collecting information through specifically designed splitters. • • • Like undersea cables, satellites illustrate the fragile nature of cyberspace. In 2009, a defunct and wayward Russian satellite collided with an Iridium low Earth orbit satellite at a speed of over 40,000 kilometres per hour. The collision caused a massive cloud of space debris that still presents a major hazard. NASA’S Earth observation unit tracks as many as 8,000 space debris objects of ten centimetres or more that pose risks to operational satellites. (There are many smaller objects that present a hazard as well.) The Kessler Syndrome, put forward by NASA scientist Donald Kessler in 1976, theorizes that there will come a time when such debris clouds will make near-Earth orbital space unusable.


pages: 302 words: 90,215

Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do by Jeremy Bailenson

Apple II, augmented reality, computer vision, deliberate practice, experimental subject, game design, Google Glasses, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), iterative process, Jaron Lanier, low earth orbit, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, nuclear winter, Oculus Rift, randomized controlled trial, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, telepresence, too big to fail

., “Embodying self-compassion within virtual reality and its effects on patients with depression,” British Journal of Psychiatry 2 (2016): 74–80. 29. Ibid. 4. WORLDVIEW 1. Overview, documentary directed by Guy Reid, 2012; “What are the Noetic Sciences?,” Institute of Noetic Sciences, http://www.noetic.org/about/what- are-noetic-sciences. 2. In fact, a start-up VR company called SpaceVR has launched a satellite with a VR camera into low Earth orbit and will allow subscribers to gaze at real-time images of the Earth from space. 3. Leslie Kaufman, “Mr. Whipple Left it Out: Soft is Rough on Forests,” New York Times, February 25, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/science/earth/26charmin.html. 4. Mark Cleveland, Maria Kalamas, and Michel Laroche, “Shades of green: linking environmental locus of control and pro-environmental behaviors,” Journal of Consumer Marketing 29, no. 5 (May 2012): 293–305, 22 (2005): 198–212. 5.


pages: 302 words: 95,965

How to Be the Startup Hero: A Guide and Textbook for Entrepreneurs and Aspiring Entrepreneurs by Tim Draper

3D printing, Airbnb, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, blockchain, Buckminster Fuller, business climate, carried interest, connected car, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Deng Xiaoping, discounted cash flows, disintermediation, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, family office, fiat currency, frictionless, frictionless market, high net worth, hiring and firing, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Lyft, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Metcalfe's law, Metcalfe’s law, Mikhail Gorbachev, Minecraft, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Nelson Mandela, Network effects, peer-to-peer, Peter Thiel, pez dispenser, Ralph Waldo Emerson, risk tolerance, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, Sand Hill Road, school choice, school vouchers, self-driving car, sharing economy, short selling, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, Snapchat, sovereign wealth fund, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Tesla Model S, Uber for X, uber lyft, universal basic income, women in the workforce, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

I put a team together with local Anchorage real estate businessman Jim Yarmon and fellow Harvard Business School alum Jim Lynch. The three of us agreed to put half the money in Alaska, and half in Silicon Valley. We called the fund Polaris Fund to give it local appeal, and we were off to the races. We made it work, funding a bone-stretching technology company (seemed painful, but it grew people’s bones), a low-Earth orbit satellite company, and the fish head splitter company as well as a few great Silicon Valley companies. It took a few years, but we ended up returning the $6 million to AIDEA and much more. Burt can now rest easy knowing that the money was well invested. This Polaris Fund in Alaska turned out to be the first of many network partners we would set up. Because the Polaris Fund worked out so well, I started to believe that there might be a full-blown franchise opportunity in venture capital, and with it an opportunity to significantly expand our network.


pages: 308 words: 98,729

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte

clean water, low earth orbit, Maui Hawaii, Norman Mailer, Parkinson's law, RAND corporation, Silicon Valley, thinkpad, upwardly mobile, working poor

We stroked downstream through black water flanked by mudflats and brown grasses. A raft of mallards pivoted in the rising wind. Then suddenly, as we rounded a bend, the mound of Fresh Kills’ Section 6/7 rose before us. (The garbage at the landfill was heaped into four enormous mounds, called sections.) I had expected something massive—the size of the dump impresses every visitor, and few media accounts fail to mention that astronauts can see Fresh Kills from low Earth orbit. But from the water, Section 6/7 was just a steep hill jutting maybe a hundred feet above the deck of our bow, its knee-high brown grasses undulating in the breeze. A few dump trucks, burdened not with garbage but with dirt, trundled up switchbacks, black dots on the landscape. The air smelled lightly of methane. Crushed plastic bottles and old tires festooned the creek sides. With our fingers growing numb, we shipped our paddles and shoved our hands inside our jackets.


pages: 398 words: 100,679

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, clean water, Dava Sobel, decarbonisation, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, global village, Haber-Bosch Process, invention of movable type, invention of radio, invention of writing, iterative process, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, lone genius, low earth orbit, mass immigration, nuclear winter, off grid, Richard Feynman, technology bubble, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route

Away from the cities, fleets of ghost ships will be adrift across the oceans, occasionally carried by the vagaries of wind and currents to ground themselves on a coastline, slicing open their bellies to bleed noxious slicks of fuel oil or releasing their load of containers onto the ocean currents like dandelion seeds in the wind. But perhaps the most spectacular shipwreck, if anyone happens to be in the right place at the right time to watch it, will be the return of one of humanity’s most ambitious constructions. The International Space Station is a giant 100-meter-wide edifice built over fourteen years in low Earth orbit: an impressive assemblage of pressurized modules, spindly struts, and dragonfly wings of solar panels. Although it soars 400 kilometers over our heads, the space station is not quite beyond the wispy upper reaches of the atmosphere, which exert an imperceptibly slight but unrelenting drag on the sprawling structure. This saps the space station’s orbital energy so that it spirals steadily toward the ground, and it needs to be repeatedly boosted back up with rocket thrusters.


Interplanetary Robots by Rod Pyle

autonomous vehicles, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Pluto: dwarf planet, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, X Prize

This undertaking was ultimately deemed to be too complex, and the mission was scaled down. In its final iteration, two spacecraft would be launched on two Proton boosters. By the mid-1970s, the Proton could claim a launch success rate of 90 percent, which must have been a stunning relief after the fiasco of the N1 booster (which had a failure rate of 100 percent). The Proton was capable of lifting 50,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, but two would still be required for this complicated and audacious mission. Fig. 27.2. The Mars 5M sample-return lander. The inverted umbrella structure at the bottom would have replaced a parachute to slow the massive machine's descent. Image from NASA. The lander alone would still be a porker at almost 16,600 pounds—far heavier than any previous robotic craft. Even NASA's massive Cassini Saturn orbiter, which would not launch until 1997, was “only” 12,600 pounds, so in terms of robotic spacecraft 5M was a big one.


pages: 360 words: 101,636

Engineering Infinity by Jonathan Strahan

augmented reality, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, gravity well, low earth orbit, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, post scarcity, Schrödinger's Cat, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski

I dreamed about homesteading on Mars." He looked defensive; but Gennady understood the romance of it. He just nodded. "Then, when I was twelve, the Pakistani-Indian war happened and they blew up each other's satellites. All that debris from the explosions is going to be up there for centuries! You can't get a manned spacecraft through that cloud, it's like shrapnel. Hell, they haven't even cleared low Earth orbit to restart the orbital tourist industry. I'll never get to really go there! None of us will. We're never gettin' off this sinkhole." Gennady scowled at the ceiling. "I hope you're wrong." "Welcome to the life of the last man to drive on Mars." Ambrose dragged the tufted covers back from the bed. "Instead of space, I get a hotel in Kazakhstan. Now let me sleep. It's about a billion o'clock in the morning, my time."


pages: 379 words: 108,129

An Optimist's Tour of the Future by Mark Stevenson

23andMe, Albert Einstein, Andy Kessler, augmented reality, bank run, carbon footprint, carbon-based life, clean water, computer age, decarbonisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, flex fuel, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hans Rosling, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, Leonard Kleinrock, life extension, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, off grid, packet switching, peak oil, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart cities, social intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, the scientific method, Wall-E, X Prize

Hotel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow already has two ‘inflatable’ test habitats circling the planet and hopes to put a chain of space hotels and commercial residences into space, on the surface of the moon and, eventually, Mars. Before leaving for America I’d spent a mind-blowing afternoon with Xavier Claramunt of Barcelona-based Galactic Suite, who claims he’ll have his first two paying guests in a space hotel by 2012. ‘Our philosophy is the socialisation of space,’ he’d told me over gin and tonics in the bar below his office. ‘In fifty years we’ll have sixty hotels around the world in Low Earth orbit. Space is nearer than people know. In the next fifteen or twenty years, space will be like going to the seaside. I am sure you will go to space.’ Xavier is also team leader of the Barcelona Moon team competing for the Google Lunar X prize, an international competition for privately funded companies ‘to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel five hundred metres over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth’ (a competition in which over twenty teams are taking part).


pages: 331 words: 104,366

Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins by Garry Kasparov

3D printing, Ada Lovelace, AI winter, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, business process, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, clean water, computer age, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, factory automation, Freestyle chess, Gödel, Escher, Bach, job automation, Leonard Kleinrock, low earth orbit, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nate Silver, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, pattern recognition, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, rising living standards, rolodex, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero-sum game

Despite my blunder, I had every expectation of coming back and beating it with black in the next game and then to win the tie-break and move on in the tournament. I again got a very good position and this time won a pawn to enter another queen plus knight endgame. But Genius found a long series of improbable queen maneuvers that prevented me from advancing my pawns. Head in my hands, I had to agree to a draw. I was out. It was rapid chess, yes, but a serious event and the machine had played quite well in parts. Still no moon landing, but low Earth orbit had been achieved. Both games with Genius reflected the unique nature of computer chess, especially the second game. Chess players have the most trouble visualizing the moves of knights because their move is unlike anything else in the game, an L-shaped hop instead of a predictable straight line like the other pieces. Computers, of course, don’t visualize anything at all, and so manage every piece with equal skill.


pages: 385 words: 103,561

Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Our World by Greg Milner

Ayatollah Khomeini, British Empire, creative destruction, data acquisition, Dava Sobel, different worldview, digital map, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, experimental subject, Flash crash, friendly fire, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, land tenure, lone genius, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Mercator projection, place-making, polynesian navigation, precision agriculture, race to the bottom, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, smart grid, the map is not the territory

We’ve learned from watching over the years that for any given location on the planet there’s an amount [of vapor] above which there is a very good chance it’s going to begin falling back as precipitation.” The most advanced form of GPS-enabled meteorology (Holub calls it the “Holy Grail of weather forecasting”) involves a space-based technique called radio occultation. It measures the time required for the signal to travel from the GPS satellite to a GPS receiver on a satellite in low-Earth orbit. That calculation creates a profile of water vapor distributed over several hundred miles. Even the “wasted” part of a GPS signal can be useful. When the GPS signal reaches a GPS receiver on the ground, some of it travels directly to the antenna, and some of it hits the ground near the receiver and bounces back. The receiver picks up this bounced signal a moment after the direct signal. Kristine Larson, the University of Colorado geophysicist, has developed a method of using these bounces to draw conclusions about the moisture content of the ground, based on the time elapsed between the arrival of the direct signal and the bounced signal.


pages: 422 words: 113,525

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto by Stewart Brand

agricultural Revolution, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, back-to-the-land, biofilm, borderless world, Buckminster Fuller, business process, Cass Sunstein, clean water, Community Supported Agriculture, conceptual framework, Danny Hillis, dark matter, decarbonisation, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Elon Musk, Exxon Valdez, failed state, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, glass ceiling, Google Earth, Hans Rosling, Hernando de Soto, informal economy, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, Jane Jacobs, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Kibera, land tenure, lateral thinking, low earth orbit, M-Pesa, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, microbiome, New Urbanism, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, out of africa, Paul Graham, peak oil, Peter Calthorpe, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, smart grid, stem cell, Stewart Brand, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Thomas Malthus, University of East Anglia, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, wealth creators, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, William Langewiesche, working-age population, Y2K

Named the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), it would measure variations in Earth’s ozone levels, aerosols, water vapor, cloud thickness, and the reflected and emitted radiation—the total energy budget—of the whole planet. “DSCOVR would offer a global, rather than myopic, perspective of the planet,” said the mission’s principal investigator, Francisco Valero, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. (I can imagine Jacques Cousteau cheering.) It would also calibrate the instrument readings from all the low-Earth-orbit satellites that we currently rely on. Still Republican-dominated, Congress approved the money—$100 million—and the satellite was built, ready for launch in 2001. But between the construction and the launch there was an election. The incoming Bush administration was hostile to Gore, to science in general, and to climate science in particular. Out of spite, the new administration postponed and then canceled DSCOVR’s launch.


pages: 463 words: 118,936

Darwin Among the Machines by George Dyson

Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, British Empire, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer age, Danny Hillis, Donald Davies, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, finite state, IFF: identification friend or foe, invention of the telescope, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, low earth orbit, Menlo Park, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, packet switching, pattern recognition, phenotype, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, spectrum auction, strong AI, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Turing machine, Von Neumann architecture, zero-sum game

“The number of geographically dispersed users that can be simultaneously accommodated by a fixed spectrum varies as the inverse square of the transmission distance,” Baran has pointed out, predicting that the meek and unlicensed may, in the end, inherit the earth. “Cut the range in half, and the number of users that can be supported is [quadrupled]. Cut the range by a factor of ten, and 100 times as many users can be served. . . . In other words, a mixture of terrestrial links plus shorter range radio links has the effect of increasing by orders of magnitude the usable frequency spectrum.”30 While technologies such as low-earth-orbit satellite networks have received wider attention, Baran has been working to eliminate telecommunications bottlenecks in down-to-earth ways. The growth of a communications network, like any other arborescent, dendritic system, is driven by what happens at the root hairs, the leaf tips, the nerve endings, or, in telecommunications jargon, the network tails. The limit to network growth is peripheral; it is known as the last mile problem, or how to make the connection reaching the subscriber at the end.


pages: 396 words: 112,354

Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger

Charles Lindbergh, cuban missile crisis, indoor plumbing, Isaac Newton, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, white flight

There would no repairing the spacecraft or replacing it with a fresh one before the end of Gemini 7’s mission. Overhead, Borman and Lovell had not been able to see the brief fire that had lit and died on pad 19. Elliot See radioed the development up to their spacecraft. “They got an ignition and a hold kill right afterward,” See said, using the crisp, technical phrasing that the moment called for. Lovell and Borman looked at each other bleakly. They were still alone in low-Earth orbit, and still awaiting the promised visitors. “Roger,” Lovell responded. “This is 7, your friendly target vehicle, standing by.” * * * President Lyndon Johnson was already in a foul temper when the news broke that a Gemini 6 mission had flopped yet again. The morning papers held nothing but bad news, with the New York Times reporting that congressional Republicans and five Republican governors had issued a unanimous declaration warning that Johnson’s escalating conflict in Vietnam was starting to look like “an endless Korean-style jungle war.”


pages: 393 words: 115,263

Planet Ponzi by Mitch Feierstein

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Bernie Madoff, break the buck, centre right, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, disintermediation, diversification, Donald Trump, energy security, eurozone crisis, financial innovation, financial intermediation, fixed income, Flash crash, floating exchange rates, frictionless, frictionless market, high net worth, High speed trading, illegal immigration, income inequality, interest rate swap, invention of agriculture, light touch regulation, Long Term Capital Management, low earth orbit, mega-rich, money market fund, moral hazard, mortgage debt, negative equity, Northern Rock, obamacare, offshore financial centre, oil shock, pensions crisis, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, price anchoring, price stability, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, too big to fail, trickle-down economics, value at risk, yield curve

You’d have a stack approximately 4 feet high and light enough to be picked up by a single person without assistance. But that’s a mere million bucks. A trillion is a million million, so three trillion dollars‌—‌which is what that ‘net outlays’ figure really means‌—‌would form a tower well over 12,000,000 feet high. That’s a tower approximately 10,000 times as high as the Empire State Building; a tower whose middle and lower sections would risk damage from satellites in low earth orbit‌—‌and whose upper sections would lie well out of their range.6 Additionally, of course, the complexity and non-transparency of the various bailout programs make it hard to keep tabs on their cost. Take another look at that table. In the last row, you’ll notice that $7,621 billion has been guaranteed primarily via the FHFA and the FHLB guarantees. Do you even know what those things are? I don’t mean: Do you know the acronyms?


pages: 442 words: 115,860

Effendi by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

clean water, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, sensible shoes

Solder shut every normal door on level Dminus4, then leave an exit through the back wall of a strong room. The safe’s entrance had featured antique defences: tear gas between inner and outer layers, tasers positioned down both sides of the frame, all the stuff that putting a gun to the wounded suit’s head had miraculously disabled. But the trapdoor at the back, that had tripped an alarm satellite in low-earth orbit. And half the intelligence agencies in Europe were busy going ape-shit . . . It looked like one of them had arrived. Climbing the first twist of stairs was easy. More so since Colonel Abad showed Avatar how to adjust the spectacles to infrared. The cold the Colonel could do nothing about, except get Avatar back to the warmth of an upper deck as soon as possible. Although, at Colonel Abad’s suggestion, Avatar did empty his rucksack of its handcuffs, pepper gas and rope, and slice a hole in the bottom and another on either side, then invert the bag to wear as a tunic.


pages: 425 words: 116,409

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

affirmative action, Charles Lindbergh, cognitive dissonance, desegregation, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, glass ceiling, Gunnar Myrdal, low earth orbit, Mahatma Gandhi, New Journalism, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, RAND corporation, Rosa Parks, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, upwardly mobile, women in the workforce, éminence grise

That didn’t stop Langley engineers from imagining how the missile bodies and rocket engines and reentry problems involved in high-speed flight research might also apply to space vehicles. Any craft that traveled into space first had to traverse the layers of Earth’s atmosphere, accelerating through the sound barrier and increasing numbers on the Mach speed dial, before escaping the pull of Earth’s gravity and settling into the eighteen-thousand-mile-per-hour speed that locked objects into low Earth orbit, following a circuit of between 134 and 584 miles above the planet. On the return trip, the vehicle skidded through the friction of the increasingly dense atmosphere, building up heat that could reach 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. NACA engineer Harvey Allen discovered, somewhat counterintuitively, that although the most aerodynamically streamlined shapes were best for slipping out of the atmosphere, a blunt body that increased rather than decreased air resistance was best for dissipating the extreme temperatures on the way back down.


pages: 389 words: 112,319

Think Like a Rocket Scientist by Ozan Varol

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, airport security, Albert Einstein, Amazon Web Services, Andrew Wiles, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Arthur Eddington, autonomous vehicles, Ben Horowitz, Cal Newport, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, dark matter, delayed gratification, different worldview, discovery of DNA, double helix, Elon Musk, fear of failure, functional fixedness, Gary Taubes, George Santayana, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Inbox Zero, index fund, Isaac Newton, James Dyson, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, late fees, lateral thinking, lone genius, longitudinal study, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Marc Andreessen, Mars Rover, meta analysis, meta-analysis, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, multiplanetary species, obamacare, Occam's razor, out of africa, Peter Thiel, Pluto: dwarf planet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Upton Sinclair, Vilfredo Pareto, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, Whole Earth Catalog, women in the workforce, Yogi Berra

The episode then cuts to the NASA headquarters, where a concerned rocket scientist explains to an administrator that they have run into a serious problem with the mission: The TV ratings for the launch are the lowest ever. In 1994, when this episode aired, the heyday of human space exploration had become a distant memory. It took a dizzying six and a half decades from the Wright brothers’ first powered flight in 1903 to humankind’s first footsteps on the Moon in 1969. Yet, in the next five decades, we stopped looking up. We planted a flag and returned home, preferring to send humans into low Earth orbit for repeated trips to the International Space Station. For many, after watching Apollo astronauts brave the roughly 239,000-mile voyage to the Moon, seeing astronauts fly 240 miles up to the station was as thrilling as “watching Columbus sail to Ibiza.”1 Politicians used spaceflight for political ends, effectively hanging a guillotine over NASA’s head. Ambitious missions were announced in John F.


pages: 399 words: 120,226

Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas by John S. Burnett

British Empire, cable laying ship, Dava Sobel, defense in depth, Exxon Valdez, Filipino sailors, illegal immigration, Khyber Pass, low earth orbit, Malacca Straits, North Sea oil, South China Sea, transcontinental railway, UNCLOS, UNCLOS

Captain Noel Choong of the Piracy Reporting Center advocates the use of a satellite tracking device equivalent to LoJack (a stolen-vehicle recovery unit) that transmits a vessel’s exact location in case of a hijacking to anxious shipping company officials back on land. The unit is attached and wired secretly to the ship without captain or crew knowing its whereabouts or, in some cases, that it is even aboard the ship.16 Based on the same principal used to track wolves in Montana or whales in the Pacific, the transponder automatically sends a location signal to low earth-orbiting satellites that is interpreted and relayed as a position report to the shipping company’s computers. Although the ship’s master routinely sends the vessel’s location, the device provides a backup in case the captain is unable to transmit his daily report—or in case a ship is attacked. (While initially designed in response to the growing number of hijackings, the U.S. Coast Guard, in a security review following 9-11, now recommends that every ship carry such a device, “which could not be switched off, to track a ship if it is hijacked.”)


pages: 415 words: 103,231

Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence by Robert Bryce

addicted to oil, Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, decarbonisation, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, energy transition, financial independence, flex fuel, hydrogen economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), John Markoff, Just-in-time delivery, low earth orbit, Nelson Mandela, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, price stability, Project for a New American Century, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Stewart Brand, Thomas L Friedman, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize, Yom Kippur War

Eight years later, a previously unknown American named Charles Lindbergh collected that prize.67 More recently, aviation whiz Burt Rutan, backed by billionaire Paul Allen, collected the $10-million Ansari X Prize, which was offered to the first privately built vehicle that could fly to the edge of space, return to earth, and repeat the feat within two weeks. In 2004, their creation, SpaceShipOne, made two trips into low-earth orbit, and Rutan and Allen claimed the $10-million prize. In doing so, they ushered in an era of privately financed spaceflight.68 In early 2007, British billionaire Richard Branson offered a prize (called the Virgin Earth Challenge) that relates directly to energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions: He offered $25 million to anyone who could invent a technology that would remove 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere.69 And while Branson’s prize is laudable, a better solution would be one that prevents the release of carbon dioxide.


pages: 432 words: 128,944

Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air by Richard Holmes

colonial exploitation, Columbine, Edmond Halley, Fellow of the Royal Society, friendly fire, Google Earth, Isaac Newton, Louis Blériot, low earth orbit, music of the spheres

Both birds and insects have been detected at the lower edge of the stratosphere, around seven miles up. But in general the sustaining troposphere (or ‘biosphere’) is not thick. Moreover, the upper limit of the ionosphere, where true planetary space begins, is only slightly ‘higher’ above the surface of the earth than the distance between London and Paris, or New York and Washington. The so-called ‘low-earth’ orbits of the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station remain here, on the edge of the ionosphere, around three hundred miles up. Such man-made satellites (approximately three thousand of them in 2012) represent perhaps the ultimate metamorphosis, and historic destiny, of the balloon. See Douglas Palmer, The Complete Earth: A Satellite Portrait of Our Planet (Quercus, 2006). fn32 Glaisher’s high-altitude ascents continued to be admired by French aeronauts and meteorologists for the rest of the century.


pages: 502 words: 124,794

Nexus by Ramez Naam

artificial general intelligence, bioinformatics, Brownian motion, crowdsourcing, Golden Gate Park, hive mind, low earth orbit, mandatory minimum, Menlo Park, pattern recognition, the scientific method, upwardly mobile

Despite its hundred and thirty-meter length, the Boca Raton presented a radar cross section the size of a rowboat, and a sonar signature even smaller when still. The high seas and surface sounds of crashing waves made the ship effectively invisible. Still, dumb luck had killed plenty of men. His crew was on constant alert. Atop the conning tower, a directional maser powered through the monsoon rain and clouds, bouncing a narrow beam of data off a constellation of low-earth orbit satellites, hopping from one to the next as they hurtled through the sky at eight kilometers a second. Unless something should fly directly into that narrow beam, the uplink was undetectable. Two decks below the bridge, in a cramped control center covered in displays, Garrett Nichols analyzed data Cataranes had produced from the walk down Sukchai Market. Next to him, Jane Kim sifted through databases and the web, looking for additional information on two of the students at the party, the anarchist Baroma Nantakarn and the loose-lipped Chuan Suttikul.


Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

biofilm, buy low sell high, carbon footprint, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, discovery of penicillin, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, Kickstarter, late capitalism, low earth orbit, Mason jar, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, moral panic, NP-complete, phenotype, randomized controlled trial, Ronald Reagan, the built environment, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Malthus, traveling salesman

International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 53: 847–51. Jones MP, Lawrie AC, Huynh TT, Morrison PD, Mautner A, Bismarck A, John S. 2019. Agricultural by-product suitability for the production of chitinous composites and nanofibers. Process Biochemistry 80: 95–102. Jönsson KI, Rabbow E, Schill RO, Harms-Ringdahl M, Rettberg P. 2008. Tardigrades survive exposure to space in low Earth orbit. Current Biology 18: R729–R731. Jönsson KI, Wojcik A. 2017. Tolerance to X-rays and heavy ions (Fe, He) in the tardigrade Richtersius coronifer and the bdelloid rotifer Mniobia russeola. Astrobiology 17: 163–67. Kaminsky LM, Trexler RV, Malik RJ, Hockett KL, Bell TH. 2018. The inherent conflicts in developing soil microbial inoculants. Trends in Biotechnology 37: 140–51. Kammerer L, Hiersche L, Wirth E. 1994.


pages: 411 words: 140,110

Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly, Margaret Lazarus Dean

clean water, dark matter, game design, inventory management, low earth orbit, Skype, the scientific method, twin studies, Y2K

Our three new crewmates, due up in a little less than a month on May 26, are about to trust their lives to the same hardware and software. The Russian space agency must investigate what went wrong and make sure there won’t be a recurrence. That will interfere with our schedule up here, but no one wants to fly on a Soyuz that’s going to do the same thing this Progress did. It would make for a horrible death, spinning out of control in low Earth orbit knowing you will soon be dead from CO2 asphyxiation or oxygen deprivation, after which our corpses would orbit the Earth until they burn up in the atmosphere months later. I finish making all the connections on the urine processor. Some of the cargo that was lost on Progress was fresh water, and unless we can make our own, the six of us won’t last long. I double-check all the connections, then ask the ground to power it up.


pages: 519 words: 136,708

Vertical: The City From Satellites to Bunkers by Stephen Graham

1960s counterculture, Berlin Wall, Boris Johnson, Buckminster Fuller, Buy land – they’re not making it any more, Chelsea Manning, Commodity Super-Cycle, creative destruction, deindustrialization, digital map, drone strike, Edward Glaeser, Edward Snowden, energy security, Frank Gehry, ghettoisation, Google Earth, Gunnar Myrdal, high net worth, housing crisis, Howard Zinn, illegal immigration, Indoor air pollution, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jane Jacobs, late capitalism, low earth orbit, mass immigration, means of production, megacity, megastructure, moral panic, mutually assured destruction, new economy, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, planetary scale, plutocrats, Plutocrats, post-industrial society, Project Plowshare, rent control, Richard Florida, Right to Buy, Ronald Reagan, Skype, South China Sea, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, trickle-down economics, urban decay, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, white flight, WikiLeaks, William Langewiesche

., Ground Truth: The Social Implications of Geographic Information Systems, New York: Guilford Press, 1995. 16The satellite images of the imagined ‘WMD’ facilities presented by the US government to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq are a sobering example here. See David Shim, ‘Seeing from Above: The Geopolitics of Satellite Vision and North Korea’, GIGA Institute of Asian Studies, August 2012, available at http://giga.hamburg/de/. 17Benjamin S. Lambeth, Mastering the Ultimate High Ground: Next Steps in the Military Uses of Space, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp., 1999. This ‘high ground’ of terrestrial space is split into three zones. Low Earth orbits (LEOs), between 150 and 2,000 km up, are dominated by fast-moving reconnaissance and communications satellites and inhabited craft for living astronauts. Here orbit the latest reconnaissance satellites – such as the US GeoEye-1, which can spot objects on Earth that are only 30 to 40 cm in size. Higher up, between 800 and 36,000 km above the earth’s surface, are a range of communications, GPS and navigation craft in medium Earth orbit (MEOs).


pages: 459 words: 138,689

Slowdown: The End of the Great Acceleration―and Why It’s Good for the Planet, the Economy, and Our Lives by Danny Dorling, Kirsten McClure

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Boris Johnson, British Empire, business cycle, capital controls, clean water, creative destruction, credit crunch, Donald Trump, drone strike, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Flynn Effect, full employment, future of work, gender pay gap, global supply chain, Google Glasses, Henri Poincaré, illegal immigration, immigration reform, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Isaac Newton, James Dyson, jimmy wales, John Harrison: Longitude, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Mark Zuckerberg, market clearing, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mortgage debt, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, Ponzi scheme, price stability, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, QWERTY keyboard, random walk, rent control, rising living standards, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, sexual politics, Skype, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, structural adjustment programs, the built environment, Tim Cook: Apple, transatlantic slave trade, trickle-down economics, very high income, wealth creators, wikimedia commons, working poor

But in reality, each of these was a less fundamental change than the preceding one. Although we may be planning to build spaceports—the U.K. government committed £2 million in 2018 toward their development—we know in our heart of hearts that these are not going to be the next great leap forward.1 The U.S. space shuttle program was supposed to be an even greater leap forward, but it actually produced a craft that never left low Earth orbit. If we thought there were possibilities for exploration, we would be spending much more public money in preparation. We subconsciously know we are slowing down. For another example of why the slowdown is real, think of 1880s sound-recording wax cylinders replaced by 78 rpm shellac-based records, which in turn were replaced by vinyl records, then superseded by tape, then by compact discs, which were soon replaced by sound files, and then by sound stored on the cloud (server farms housed in the middle of nowhere, preferably a cold nowhere).


pages: 486 words: 138,878

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

clean water, glass ceiling, Kickstarter, lateral thinking, low earth orbit, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, urban sprawl

Here were the familiar pricklings of trepidation and embarrassment – as she had expected – but then, gazing up at the stars, she realized she could feel something else too, something kinder and new. ASTRID 08. 02.13 THE FIRST AMERICAN TO perform a spacewalk was Lieutenant Colonel Ed White, on a mission for Gemini IV. Unlike modern spacewalks, which could last for hours, he had only twenty minutes until he ran out of oxygen. What had it been like? Astrid always wondered. The first American to behold his home from low earth orbit: the California coast, the unobscured sun. People said that those were the shortest twenty minutes of his whole life. Right at the end, when his time was running out, he found he didn’t want to leave. He stalled, staring back at the Earth. The beauty of it cut him to the bone, but he was running out of time. His crewmates told him to turn away and hurry, that he was running out of oxygen. But what strength it took, to turn away from this gift he had been given – he, a mere mortal – gazing through the eyes of God.


pages: 497 words: 144,283

Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna

"Robert Solow", 1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy, 2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 9 dash line, additive manufacturing, Admiral Zheng, affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Asian financial crisis, asset allocation, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Basel III, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Black Swan, blockchain, borderless world, Boycotts of Israel, Branko Milanovic, BRICs, British Empire, business intelligence, call centre, capital controls, charter city, clean water, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, complexity theory, continuation of politics by other means, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, credit crunch, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, data is the new oil, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deglobalization, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, Deng Xiaoping, Detroit bankruptcy, digital map, disruptive innovation, diversification, Doha Development Round, edge city, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, energy security, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, European colonialism, eurozone crisis, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, family office, Ferguson, Missouri, financial innovation, financial repression, fixed income, forward guidance, global supply chain, global value chain, global village, Google Earth, Hernando de Soto, high net worth, Hyperloop, ice-free Arctic, if you build it, they will come, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, industrial cluster, industrial robot, informal economy, Infrastructure as a Service, interest rate swap, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Julian Assange, Just-in-time delivery, Kevin Kelly, Khyber Pass, Kibera, Kickstarter, LNG terminal, low cost airline, low cost carrier, low earth orbit, manufacturing employment, mass affluent, mass immigration, megacity, Mercator projection, Metcalfe’s law, microcredit, mittelstand, Monroe Doctrine, mutually assured destruction, New Economic Geography, new economy, New Urbanism, off grid, offshore financial centre, oil rush, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, openstreetmap, out of africa, Panamax, Parag Khanna, Peace of Westphalia, peak oil, Pearl River Delta, Peter Thiel, Philip Mirowski, plutocrats, Plutocrats, post-oil, post-Panamax, private military company, purchasing power parity, QWERTY keyboard, race to the bottom, Rana Plaza, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Scramble for Africa, Second Machine Age, sharing economy, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, six sigma, Skype, smart cities, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spice trade, Stuxnet, supply-chain management, sustainable-tourism, TaskRabbit, telepresence, the built environment, The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, Tim Cook: Apple, trade route, transaction costs, UNCLOS, uranium enrichment, urban planning, urban sprawl, WikiLeaks, young professional, zero day

Already we have installed a far greater volume of lines connecting people than dividing them: Our infrastructural matrix today includes approximately 64 million kilometers of highways, 2 million kilometers of pipelines, 1.2 million kilometers of railways, and 750,000 kilometers of undersea Internet cables that connect our many key population and economic centers. By contrast, we have only 250,000 kilometers of international borders. By some estimates, mankind will build more infrastructures in the next forty years alone than it has in the past four thousand. The interstate puzzle thus gives way to a lattice of infrastructure circuitry. The world is starting to look a lot like the Internet. SEEING IS BELIEVING Astronauts in low Earth orbit (about 215 kilometers high) have snapped stunning pictures of our majestic planet. They’ve captured natural features like oceans, mountains, ice caps, and glaciers, and even caught glimpses of man-made structures. It turns out that the Great Wall of China and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt are rather difficult to discern without high-performance zoom lenses, but more modern engineering such as megacities, ultra-long bridges, and straight desert highways are easy to spot.


pages: 537 words: 149,628

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War by P. W. Singer, August Cole

3D printing, Admiral Zheng, augmented reality, British Empire, digital map, energy security, Firefox, glass ceiling, global reserve currency, Google Earth, Google Glasses, IFF: identification friend or foe, Just-in-time delivery, low earth orbit, Maui Hawaii, MITM: man-in-the-middle, new economy, old-boy network, RAND corporation, reserve currency, RFID, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, stealth mode startup, trade route, Wall-E, We are Anonymous. We are Legion, WikiLeaks, zero day, zero-sum game

“I’m Duncan, proud member of the Dam Neck Canoe Club. It is an honor to meet you.” Conan considered the reference to the U.S. Navy base in Virginia and the fact that he hadn’t given a last name or rank. “SEAL Team Six for an extraction team? I guess it’s me that should be honored.” “I believe there may be some confusion, Major Doyle,” said Duncan. “Who said we were your extraction team? We’re the advance party.” Tallyho, Low Earth Orbit Sir Aeric K. Cavendish stared at the helmet in his lap and then bounced it on his knee like a soccer ball. The helmet floated away slowly and then rebounded against what would have been the ceiling if there were an up or a down here. It was his first time in space, and he was enjoying it far more than his time in goal in the match with Leeds, heretofore the peak of his pleasure-rich existence as a tycoon.


pages: 519 words: 142,646

Track Changes by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

active measures, Apple II, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Buckminster Fuller, commoditize, computer age, corporate governance, David Brooks, dematerialisation, Donald Knuth, Douglas Hofstadter, Dynabook, East Village, en.wikipedia.org, feminist movement, forensic accounting, future of work, Google Earth, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Haight Ashbury, HyperCard, Jason Scott: textfiles.com, Joan Didion, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, mail merge, Marshall McLuhan, Mother of all demos, New Journalism, Norman Mailer, pattern recognition, pink-collar, popular electronics, RAND corporation, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, social web, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Ted Nelson, text mining, thinkpad, Turing complete, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K, Year of Magical Thinking

He was interested in using the system for his taxes and other financials, as a correspondence database, and, most intriguingly, as a simulation engine to assist with world-building in his science fiction.40 He wrote what is known as “hard” science fiction, meaning that the stories were grounded in as much scientific fact or plausible scientific theory as was possible. What percentage of a planet’s atmosphere consisted of oxygen? What force did gravity exert on an object of such-and-such a density and mass? What was a rocket’s trajectory for achieving a low-Earth orbit? All of these details mattered, and many of his readers could tell the difference between the real thing and hokum. Pournelle thus immediately grasped the potential of the computer as a world-building tool, and learned enough BASIC and FORTRAN programming to transfer the formulas he worked out on a pocket calculator to a set of custom programs for his system.41 (Despite his engineering background, he claims he found the prospect of actually learning programming “terrifying.”)42 Other writers grasped this potential as well: Frank Herbert, for example, imagined a seamless integration between a simulation engine (complete with visual renderings) and a text editor, whereby details from his planetary models could be made to populate his prose on demand: “You will know when it’s spring on Planet X or when the tides rise four hundred feet on planet Y.”43 Such examples are tantalizing, and the close integration of simulation and modeling with word processing seems to me one of the richest roads-not-taken in thinking about the potential of computers as writing platforms, not just for science fiction but for all manner of genres demanding close correspondences between storyline and setting, words and worlds.44 The first beneficiary of Pournelle’s proselytizing was his neighbor and longtime writing partner Larry Niven, also a highly regard science fiction writer in his own right (his 1970 Ringworld had won the Hugo Award).


pages: 485 words: 149,337

The Last Dance by Martin L. Shoemaker

gravity well, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, RFID, stem cell

But it wasn’t good enough for him, it wasn’t the truth. So Carver and I ruined our careers trying to protect his, and then the idiot threw it away anyway.” She sighed, and continued, “We could find work with transport companies, and there were lots of consulting opportunities for designing private Mars missions; but we were done with Initiative missions. We were both decommissioned. I was sure I would never leave low Earth orbit again. Aames was a wreck. He spent a year arguing with officials and avoiding reporters. And drinking, lots of those Brazilian caipirinhas he likes. That got him drunk enough to get into a bad marriage. Not that Hannah was a bad woman, but Aames was a lousy husband. Sullen, bitter Aames is even worse than ordinary Aames. The marriage lasted only a couple years. They barely talk now, though I know Aames still sends holiday gifts to Hannah’s son from her first marriage.


Smart Grid Standards by Takuro Sato

business cycle, business process, carbon footprint, clean water, cloud computing, data acquisition, decarbonisation, demand response, distributed generation, energy security, factory automation, information retrieval, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Iridium satellite, iterative process, knowledge economy, life extension, linear programming, low earth orbit, market design, MITM: man-in-the-middle, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, packet switching, performance metric, RFC: Request For Comment, RFID, smart cities, smart grid, smart meter, smart transportation, Thomas Davenport

Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) ranges from 2000 to 35 000 km and the orbital period is up to 10 h, thus requiring fewer satellites in constellation for the coverage of the whole Earth. The MEO satellite system is more expensive on the terminal side for two-way communication. The widely used Global Positioning System (GPS) system is served by a constellation of GPS satellites at nearly 27 000 km altitude. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is between 160 and 2000 km of altitude and the LEO satellites do not require terminals with antenna pointing, which makes these systems very suitable for handheld and portable terminals. As the orbital period is very short (less than 2 h), LEO satellites create satellite constellations, which consists of tens of satellites to deliver required coverage. Examples of such systems are Globalstar, Iridium, and Iridium Next, which is planned to be launched in 2015 and replace its ancestor [93].


pages: 549 words: 162,164

Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz

Charles Lindbergh, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, white flight

Launch day was like a fresh start, a new day, and I loved it. My team started the countdown and checked out the MCC, then handed over to Griffin’s team for the CSM and Saturn systems testing. Lunney picked up for the launch, the handoffs between the three teams going flawlessly. Shortly after 10:00 A.M. in Houston, the race to the Moon got the wave from the starting flag. The launch went smoothly, the Saturn rocket blasting the CSM into a low Earth orbit. To television viewers, as the engines ignited, there appeared to be one heart-stopping moment of hesitation. But because Apollo and its two-stage launch rocket weighed 1.3 million pounds, the launch acceleration was gradual, taking ten seconds to clear the tower. The late morning liftoff dictated the orbital shift schedule. Lunney’s team, with all the crewmen generally awake, worked the day shift.


pages: 602 words: 164,940

Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O'Keefe

gravity well, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, mutually assured destruction, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet, side project

Ionised air crackled around his imagined monstrous body in sudden searing beams along which, milliseconds later, lightning bolts fizzed and struck. Tactical updates flickered across his sight. Higher above, the heavy hardware—helicopters, fighter jets and hovering aerial drone platforms—loitered on station and now and then called down their ordnance with casual precision. Higher still, in low Earth orbit, fleets of tumbling battle-sats jockeyed and jousted, spearing with laser bursts that left their batteries drained and their signals dead. Swarms of camera drones blipped fragmented views to millimetre-scale camouflaged receiver beads littered in thousands across the contested ground. From these, through proxies, firewalls, relays and feints the images and messages flashed, converging to an onsite router whose radio waves tickled the spike, a metal stud in the back of Carlos’s skull.


pages: 611 words: 186,716

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

British Empire, clean water, dark matter, defense in depth, digital map, edge city, Just-in-time delivery, low earth orbit, Mason jar, pattern recognition, sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, Socratic dialogue, South China Sea, the scientific method, Turing machine, wage slave

It was almost difficult not to build things that were lighter than air. Really simple things like packaging materials- the constituents of litter, basically- tended to float around as if they weighed nothing, and aircraft pilots, cruising along ten kilometers above sea level, had become accustomed to the sight of empty, discarded grocery bags zooming past their windshields (and getting sucked into their engines). As seen from low earth orbit, the upper atmosphere now looked dandruffy. Protocol insisted that everything be made heavier than need be, so that it would fall, and capable of being degraded by ultraviolet light. But some people violated Protocol. Given that it was so easy to make things that would float in air, it was not much of a stretch to add an air turbine. This was nothing more than a small propeller, or series of them, mounted in a tubular foramen wrought through the body of the aerostat, drawing in air at one end and forcing it out the other to generate thrust.


pages: 640 words: 177,786

Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy, Peter Telep

airport security, augmented reality, back-to-the-land, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, illegal immigration, Iridium satellite, low earth orbit, Pepto Bismol, US Airways Flight 1549

At the moment, he was watching real-time streaming satellite images of the hotel so that he could observe the comings and goings of everyone outside, even while tucked nicely into his bed, feet propped up, the TV morning news humming softly in the background. The spy satellites used to feed him that intelligence were operated by the National Reconnaissance Office (staffed by DoD and CIA personnel) and hung in low-earth orbits to optimize their resolution for several minutes before each handed off the job to the next satellite in line in a sophisticated relay of data transfer. He was also receiving text alerts from the analysts back home who were watching the same images and could draw his attention to anything they noted. Other windows would show him the GPS locations of all other JTF members, and yet another window displayed more photographs of other targets in the city, such as cartel leader Zúñiga’s ranch house.


pages: 614 words: 174,633

Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece by Michael Benson

Alistair Cooke, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, British Empire, en.wikipedia.org, haute couture, index card, Internet Archive, low earth orbit, Marshall McLuhan, mutually assured destruction, RAND corporation, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

And, unfortunately, 2001’s vision of the Moon and planets being colonized by human beings simply hasn’t come true—or, at least, not nearly in the way its authors had envisioned. The film was made when NASA’s budget was at its peak, so their extrapolation is understandable. (Clarke even predicted to Kubrick, “This is the last big space film that won’t be made on location.”) In fact, no human being has ventured beyond low Earth orbit since the return of the last Apollo crew from the Taurus-Littrow valley on the Moon in 1972, just four years after the film’s release. Since then, true space exploration has been conducted exclusively by automated spacecraft. But even if we consider HAL’s attempts to kill off Discovery’s crew and continue on to Jupiter without pesky human interference as predictive of these circumstances (and it’s a valid interpretation), the film’s deviations from literal accuracy are beside the point.


pages: 677 words: 206,548

Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman

23andMe, 3D printing, active measures, additive manufacturing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, airport security, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Bill Joy: nanobots, bitcoin, Black Swan, blockchain, borderless world, Brian Krebs, business process, butterfly effect, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, Chelsea Manning, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, computer vision, connected car, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, data acquisition, data is the new oil, Dean Kamen, disintermediation, don't be evil, double helix, Downton Abbey, drone strike, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Flash crash, future of work, game design, global pandemic, Google Chrome, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Gordon Gekko, high net worth, High speed trading, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, illegal immigration, impulse control, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Harrison: Longitude, John Markoff, Joi Ito, Jony Ive, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Kuwabatake Sanjuro: assassination market, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lean Startup, license plate recognition, lifelogging, litecoin, low earth orbit, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, MITM: man-in-the-middle, mobile money, more computing power than Apollo, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Nate Silver, national security letter, natural language processing, obamacare, Occupy movement, Oculus Rift, off grid, offshore financial centre, optical character recognition, Parag Khanna, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, personalized medicine, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, RAND corporation, ransomware, Ray Kurzweil, refrigerator car, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rodney Brooks, Ross Ulbricht, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, security theater, self-driving car, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, smart meter, Snapchat, social graph, software as a service, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strong AI, Stuxnet, supply-chain management, technological singularity, telepresence, telepresence robot, Tesla Model S, The Future of Employment, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tim Cook: Apple, trade route, uranium enrichment, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Wave and Pay, We are Anonymous. We are Legion, web application, Westphalian system, WikiLeaks, Y Combinator, zero day

As a result, the Devonshire enters Chinese territorial waters and appears to be sunk by the Chinese navy. To the British, however, the frigate was clearly in international waters, and thus the Chinese have committed an act of war. The actions of the villain have their desired effect: Britain and China are now on a path toward war. Once again Hollywood was prescient in its vision of future evil. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based, low-earth-orbiting “constellation of 24 navigational satellites” that provides location and time information anywhere on the planet. It is an “invisible utility” that we rely on to get around town, deliver packages, find the closest Starbucks, coordinate air traffic control, manage public safety, and even command missile guidance. Paper maps have become obsolete. Instead, we have come to rely on the navigation screens we see before us every day and readily assume the computer knows best.


pages: 659 words: 203,574

The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge by Vernor Vinge

anthropic principle, Asilomar, back-to-the-land, dematerialisation, gravity well, invisible hand, low earth orbit, Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman, MITM: man-in-the-middle, source of truth, technological singularity, unbiased observer, Vernor Vinge

Several had their own boosters, though none were lit up as Ilse’s was. Three thousand meters to the west were more lights, and the occasional sparkle of an automatic rifle. To the east, surf marched in phosphorescent ranks against the Merritt Island shore. There the fragment ended: she was not conscious during the launch. But that scene remained forever her most vivid and incomprehensible memory. When next she woke, Ilse was in low Earth orbit. Her single eye had been fitted to a one hundred and fifty centimeter reflecting telescope so that now she could distinguish stars set less than a tenth of a second apart, or, if she looked straight down, count the birds in a flock of geese two hundred kilometers below. For more than a year Ilse remained in this same orbit. She was not idle. Her makers had allotted this period for testing. A small manned station orbited with her, and from it came an endless sequence of radioed instructions and exercises.


pages: 769 words: 224,916

The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century by Steve Coll

American ideology, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, borderless world, Boycotts of Israel, British Empire, business climate, colonial rule, Donald Trump, European colonialism, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial independence, forensic accounting, global village, haute couture, intangible asset, Iridium satellite, Khyber Pass, low earth orbit, margin call, new economy, offshore financial centre, oil shock, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, urban planning, Yogi Berra

By 1990, particularly in America, there were competing visions—and competing business plans—describing how telephone portability might be constructed in the most practical and profitable way. There were those who believed globally linked cellular towers, erected on the earth’s surface, might offer the most efficient path. And then there was Iridium, named for a rare element with the atomic number 77, which was the number of low-earth orbiting satellites the company’s founders believed they would need to launch into space to provide worldwide telephonic connections, so that an Iridium owner might use his phone anywhere on the planet, at any time, to dial any telephone number. In 1945 the budding science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, then an electronics officer in Britain’s Royal Air Force, published a short article called “Extra-Terrestrial Relays” in a magazine bearing the premature title Wireless World.


Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy

fear of failure, low earth orbit, nuclear winter, South China Sea, trade route

He'd want to be rested for that eventuality. SUNNYVALE, CALIFORNIA What was holding Washington up? the colonel asked himself. All he needed was a simple yes or no. He checked his boards. Three KH-type photoreconnaissance satellites were currently in orbit, plus nine electronic surveillance birds. That was his low-level "constellation." He didn't fear for his higher-flying navigation and communications satellites, but the twelve in low earth orbit, especially the KHs, were valuable and vulnerable. Two of them had Russian killersats in close proximity, and one of his birds was now approaching Soviet territory, with another only forty minutes behind. The third Key-Hole bird didn't have a satellite assigned yet, but the last pass over Leninsk showed another F-type booster being fueled on the pad. "Take another look at the trailer," he ordered.


pages: 1,171 words: 309,640

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

back-to-the-land, clean water, Colonization of Mars, cryptocurrency, dark matter, friendly fire, gravity well, hive mind, low earth orbit, mandelbrot fractal, megastructure, random walk, risk tolerance, Vernor Vinge

“For real. It’s from Earth, back before the turn of the millennium. Got it off a guy as part of payment for a transport job. He didn’t realize how valuable it was.” “Three hundred years…” The number was hard to comprehend. The tree was older than the entire history of humans living in space. It predated the Mars and Venus colonies, predated every hab-ring and manned research station outside low-Earth orbit. “Yeah.” A brooding expression settled on Falconi’s face. “Those jackbooted thugs had to tear it up. Couldn’t just scan the place.” “Mmm.” Kira was still thinking about how the Soft Blade had felt on Orsted—that and whatever purpose it had been built or born for. She couldn’t forget the sensation of the countless threadlike tendrils insinuating themselves through the fascia of the station, touching, tearing, building, understanding.


Southwest USA Travel Guide by Lonely Planet

1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy, Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, Burning Man, carbon footprint, Columbine, Donner party, El Camino Real, friendly fire, G4S, haute couture, haute cuisine, housing crisis, illegal immigration, immigration reform, indoor plumbing, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), low earth orbit, off grid, place-making, supervolcano, trade route, transcontinental railway, walkable city, Works Progress Administration, X Prize

For just $200,000, you can book your flight on VSS Enterprise online for a 90-minute ride in a plush cruiser with reclining seats, big windows and a pressurized cabin so you won’t need space suits. The vessel is designed by legendary aerospace engineer Bob Rutan, whose SpaceShipOne was the first privately funded (by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen) manned vehicle to reach outer space twice in a row, winning him the $10 million 2004 Ansari X-Prize. It’s not all about tourism, however. Spaceport America has been used by UP Aerospace to launch cheap cargo carriers into low Earth orbit since 2006 and has banked over a million dollars in deposits for future scientific research trips. It’s also the new home of the X-Prize competition (the race for private development of reusable spacecraft), as well as other aerospace-themed expositions to be held throughout the year. Studies estimate that Spaceport America will pump hundreds of millions of dollars annually into the state, particularly in the neighboring towns of Alamogordo and Truth or Consequences.


Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy

airport security, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, buttonwood tree, complexity theory, cuban missile crisis, defense in depth, job satisfaction, low earth orbit, margin call, New Journalism, oil shock, Silicon Valley, tulip mania, undersea cable

We don't wish to add more junk up there." "Good for you. All the stuff up there, it's becoming a concern for our manned missions." The NASA man paused, then decided to ask a sensitive question. "What's your max payload?" "Five metric tons, ultimately." He whistled. "You think you can get that much performance off this bird?" Ten thousand pounds was the magic number. If you could put that much into low-earth-orbit, you could then orbit geosynchronous communications satellites. Ten thousand pounds would allow for the satellite itself and the additional rocket motor required to attain the higher altitude. "Your trans-stage must be pretty hot." The reply was, at first, a smile. "That is a trade secret." "Well, I guess we'll see in about ninety seconds." The American turned in his chair to watch the digital telemetry.