Archive: Space

September 5th, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Space | Comments Off

Mapping the Universe – Where are We?

This a truly astonishing video, published by Nature video, based on research led by Brent Tully, University of Hawaii. Watch, and marvel at how dense and connected the universe is, note that star clusters move toward each other as well as away, and of course ask, can we really be alone in all this vastness?

Ht to Lloyd Walker of the APF for calling attention to this video, posted at BusinessInsider.

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December 6th, 2013 | By Contributing Writer | Posted in Space | 1 Comment

The Future of Space Tourism and Commercial Transportation – Part Two

By Mary Ann Keeling

Space Tourism By The Numbers
To put things into perspective, a typical airplane will fly at a height of three miles above Earth’s surface. High-altitude jets fly around 13 miles above the surface. Now, multiply that figure by several times and you’re in suborbital space, about 65 miles above the surface. You’ll be able to go more than three times further than that, even, on the Space X Dragon which travels in orbital space over 200 miles above the Earth’s surface. For a suborbital space flight, passengers will be in the zero gravity zone for roughly 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the type of spacecraft they’re in. On-orbit trips can last up to a couple of weeks.

XCor, Virgin Galactic, Armadillo Aerospace and Booster Space are the primary companies competing to take consumers into suborbital space. Companies like Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Bigelow Aerospace are going further than that into what is known as on-orbit space. Space X is taking it to the next level with their Dragon spaceship, which will make them the first commercial company to dock at the International Space Station. The Dragon will take you to on-orbital space, and will allow passengers to spend up to 12 days in space.

Fun Facts about Space Tourism
The very first person to travel to space as a tourist was a billionaire from California named Dennis Tito. When CNN asked him about the experience, he said “I spent 60 years on Earth and eight days in space, and from my viewpoint it was two separate lives.”

There’s a non-profit called the Mars One Foundation that has a goal of sending humans to live on Mars. Nearly 100,000 people have signed up to hopefully be chosen for this voyage, even without any guarantees that the technology will exist to get them back home. That astonishing amount of interest for a one-way ticket to Mars shows how fascinated people are with what’s out there. The reason it’s hard to get back to Earth is simply because of the amount of fuel required to get to Mars and the amount that it weights, they aren’t able to carry enough to get back home. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered before Mars One becomes a reality, but they’re making fast strides.

A Frequent Flyer Program That Gets You Further
When you think of frequent flyer programs, you probably think of earning a few points here and there and maybe one day having enough to get a discounted plane ticket to visit the in-laws, or something else as equally unexciting. Velocity is taking that to the next level. Thanks to the Velocity frequent flyer program, Velocity is offering the prize of a lifetime, by giving one lucky traveler the chance to win a suborbital space flight on Virgin Galactic worth $250,000. The lucky winner will have a chance to do what so few people have done, to float out there in space, looking down at the pale blue dot known as Earth.

In Other Futuristic News…
Suborbital space travel for consumers is already a reality; it’s just a matter of rolling it out the final stages. Obviously, not everything that is predicted comes true and not everything that is invented ends up being practical. For example, supersonic transport looked very promising at first. Being able to travel faster than the speed of sound means you can get from one coast to the other in much, much less time. However, it wasn’t practical, it was too noisy, and it never ended up changing commercial travel the way people had anticipated.

The DaVinci Institute has some pretty interesting predictions for the future of traveling on earth. They predict that by 2015, gas powered vehicles will start to decline in favor of hybrid and electric cars. By 2020, they’re anticipating “glow in the dark” highways, which will drastically change night driving. By 2030? We’ll start to see the first flying cars. That might seem kind of out-there to imagine right now, but who thought we would be sending tourists into space?


*Mary Ann Keeling is a writer and a blogger from Brisbane who likes to share her passion for the future through her writing.

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December 5th, 2013 | By Contributing Writer | Posted in Space | Comments Off

The Future of Space Tourism and Commercial Transportation – Part One

By Mary Ann Keeling

At one point or another, just about everybody has dreamed of traveling to space. Can you imagine yourself floating out there, weightless, and looking down at planet Earth, which is now just a small blue dot in the distance? Many astronauts have come back to Earth after being in space and described how the experience of seeing Earth from space is absolutely life changing, how it puts everything into perspective, and is very humbling. Everything that used to seem like a big deal on planet Earth, small conflicts and drama, late fees on your phone bill, someone cutting you off in traffic – none of it seems as significant when you’ve seen the world from afar. This dream is getting closer and closer to reality as each day passes, and space tourism is just around the corner. Soon, you won’t have to be a celebrity or an astronaut to get the chance to travel to space; it’s going to be available to the general public.

Space Tours with Virgin Galactic
It’s been nearly a decade since Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004. They aren’t offering commercial flights just yet, but their vessel SpaceShipTwo is planned to take its inaugural voyage at the end of 2013, so it’s likely that actual space tourism isn’t that far out of reach. The latest news on space tourism is that Richard Branson himself will be taking part on the first flight into space, and really putting his mouth where his money is. This huge show of confidence in the technology and their ability to get to space is demonstrating great leadership and will undoubtedly help to ease some of the concerns that people have about space travel. Imagine being on the very first commercial flight into space? In case you’re wondering what the price tag is going to be, at least initially, to fly to space with Virgin Galactic you’re looking at a cool $250,000. Also aboard early flights will be TV and film star Ashton Kutcher, and actress Kate Winslet (who, and this is true, once saved Richard Brandon’s mother from a house fire!). To top off all this star-power (pun intended), the first flight of Virgin Galactic is going to be broadcast on NBC, which is a television network that has been struggling in recent years to bring original and interesting programming – but you can’t do much better than televising the first commercial space launch!

Other Ways To Get To Space
Virgin Galactic isn’t the only company interested in getting people into space, even though they’re the most talked-about and the closest to making this a reality. If you read the $250,000 price tag and felt your dreams slowly being crushed – there are other options! There’s a program named World View by a company called Paragon (They make equipment for the International Space Station) which aims to take a slightly different approach to getting people into space, namely using a high-tech version of the hot air balloon. You may have also heard of Paragon’s plan to send people to the planet Mars by 2018 which has been heavily discussed in the media. 2018 sounds like a very ambitious goal, but that’s how you get things done when it comes to space travel – ambition!

You may recall when Felix Baumgartner parachuted from space for Redbull, this stunt used a similar balloon system to the one that that Paragon is hoping to use as part of their World View program. They’ve still got a lot of hurdles to jump through and regularity steps to take, so hot air balloon trips to space are further out than the Virgin Galactic option, but they’re expected to be a little bit less costly coming in at around $75,000 for a trip.

If both of those options are a little too pricey, there’s a way that you can win your entry into space, too. All you need is a little luck!

NY Times Branson Space TravelInfographic source:
Richard Branson’s Space Race

*Mary Ann Keeling is a writer and a blogger from Brisbane who likes to share her passion for the future through her writing.

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April 16th, 2013 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Business & Economy, Environment & Energy, Science & Tech, Space | 5 Comments

Top 10 Future Careers: 2050 and 2100

iStock_000005407395LargeIn 2001 Glen wrote a blog called Top 10 Future Careers.  Now here’s what we’re thinking about future employment.

Popular Careers in 2050:

• Dental Hygienist
• Human Resources Specialist
• Pharmacist
• Biotechnology Salesman
• Biomedical Engineer
• Entrepreneur
• Programmer/Software Developer
• Network and Computer Systems Administrator
• Lawyer
• Nuclear and Solar Power Engineer

Popular Careers in 2100:

• Gene Programmer
• Food Engineer
• Bioengineer
• Brain Augmenter
• Weather Controller
• Spaceport Traffic Control
• Human-related Spacecraft Maintenance
• Nature Conservationist
• Ethics Lawyer- for memory augmentation, genetic programming, etc.
• Domestic Robot Programmer

What do you think jobs will look like in 2050 or 2100? Let us know in the comments.

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November 20th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Environment & Energy, Science & Tech, Space | Comments Off

Our Search for Extraterrestrial Life

With Mars hosting the Curiosity Rover for the past three months, there’s been a lot of public excitement around space exploration. One of many goals of space exploration is  to find life on another planet. There are groups like SETI that are focusing their attention and research on extraterrestrial life, “The mission of the SETI Institute is to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe.” SETI’s been around since 1984, so the search for extraterrestrial life is not a new concept. Some may say that the purpose of finding life on another planet is to keep our options open for a new home when Earth is no longer habitable. Others, like SETI, hope to learn about the nature of life itself throughout the universe. Either way, the search is on. So, how’s that going for us?

SpaceX and NASA are taking steps towards putting humans on Mars. One of the problems that idea poses is that our astronauts will contaminate any potential life that could be on that foreign planet. Humans have evolved among 100 trillion microbes that could very well latch on to Martian organisms upon arrival to the planet- posing unknown risks to the planet and the organisms on it. There is a lot to consider in terms of safety not only for the sake of our astronauts, but also on behalf of the foreign planet and its environment and/or organisms.

Due to the large number of considerations space exploration forces us to ponder, space startups are struggling to provide VCs with enough comfort to overlook the numerous risks that space exploration poses to spacepreneurs. Private space ventures are the most active ones. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Paul Allen and PayPal’s Elon Musk have all spent millions in developing and enhancing space travel technology. Elon Musk is having the most luck lately, with SpaceX’s contract with NASA for 12 expensive trips to the ISS. NASA’s Curiosity Rover is also doing well, collecting enlightening samples that are (as far as I can tell) very transparently reported to the public. One of the main goals of the rover is to find some sign that life on Mars is or was possible.

How are we going about this search for extraterrestrial life anyway? How do we know what we’re looking for? Well, we’ve been searching, primarily, for a certain kind of living organism on other planets: carbon-based organisms, and those comprised of water. “The presence of water, organics, and energy represent three concurrent indicators in the search for signs of life as we presently understand,” says NASA’s 2012 Exploration Goals and Destinations Report. The report goes on to say, “The detection of water in a wide variety of solar system locations, including the Martian surface, the moons of the giant planets, Earth’s Moon, asteroids, and comets — has broadened our search for indications of life. The diversity of these locations and the known complexity of biotic and pre-biotic chemistry means that advanced instrumentation is required, and that direct examination of samples, either returned to Earth or in situ by robots and humans, is needed to produce definitive results.”

We’re spending a lot of time and energy on searching for signs of life “as we presently understand,” but can other elements be the building blocks of life for extraterrestrial creatures? Yes. It’s possible. In fact, we already know that several small life forms use arsenic to generate energy and facilitate growth. Chlorine could facilitate life, and sulfur has already proved to be a hospitable environment for some bacteria. Stephen Hawking notes that carbon seems more favorable because of its chemistry, but it’s not the only solution, “One possibility is that the formation of something like DNA, which could reproduce itself, is extremely unlikely. However, in a universe with a very large, or infinite, number of stars, one would expect it to occur in a few stellar systems, but they would be very widely separated.”

This means it would probably be beneficial to spend more time searching farther away from Earth for these commonly understood life-creating elements, if they are indeed very widely separated throughout the universe. However, the most common agreement among bioscientists focusing on carbon-based organisms seems to be that Earth is in a uniquely “sweet” spot in the universe and thus, it is more beneficial to search around our general planetary location. In any case, whatever the reason, whatever the method, the search is on for extraterrestrial life. It’s exciting, but there are several consequences to consider before we start swapping organisms with other planets, which is probably ultimately going to be a choice we will have to face in the future.

In fact, just to cover all of our bases, we should prepare ourselves for a day when we find out there is life on other planets and they are intelligent. What do we do then? Study it? Will we need to convince it to let us study it? What if it wants to come live on our planet?

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