SpaceX, Elon Musk's launch company has developed a rocket called the 'Falcon Heavy'. It can deliver a payload of 53,000kg (117,000 lbs) to low earth orbit. This is twice the payload of the retiring space shuttle. The total cost for a 2013 launch is $80-125 million, or $1509 - $2358 per kg ($683 - 1068 per lb). This represents a significant reduction in launch costs from 2007 when a study by The Tauri Group found that the average launch cost was $21,000/kg.
While poking through Educated Earth I saw the video presentation from Shimizu Construction. They have a 'dream project' wherein they would build a ring of solar panels around the moon. This ring of solar panels would then beam the electricity back to earth using lasers and microwave beams.
Upon visiting their website, I notice that they also have a number of other 'dream projects'. These include floating pyramid cities, space hotels, and a desert 'aqua net' (lakes in the desert).
Fantastic! I want to have a few glasses of saki with these guys.
Here's a nice piece from the folks at Top Gear, the TV show from Britain. They drive the buggy around, and even get to try on the space suits which double as an exit hatch. There's even a nice bit of nostalgia about watching the first people tool around on the moon in the 60's.
From what I can gather, a gent named Brian McConnell put together this neat idea for a water powered space craft. The craft would be propelled with Electrothermal engines. These engines would be powered by large solar panels on the craft. The engines will then super heat water and vent the vapor into space in order to produce thrust. The Electrothermal engines are said to be very efficient.
Obviously, this would require a lot of water. The craft itself, however, is designed like a giant water tank. There are several habitable modules on the craft, and they are all surrounded by water. This would provide the inhabitants with some protection against radiation. It would also provide them with plenty of water for drinking and showers.
One trouble with this idea is getting the massive amounts of water needed into space. The article claims that water could be mined from the moon or mars in order to make this happen.
The device in the video can pick up very viscous fluids. I'm not actually sure of the real classification of the blobs in the video - viscous, non-newtonian, gel or something else. Either way, the machine picks these things up without changing the borders of the blob with respect to the surface. It is mesmerizing.
A Swedish company called Minesto is developing a new tidal turbine solution. The turbine is attached to a large kite which allows the turbine to move through the water. As the turbine moves through the water it is able to get more water through the turbine from the tidal flow. This increased flow allows the Minesto turbine to take advantage of slower tidal flows, between 1-2.5 m/s vs. the 2.5 m/s required by other tidal turbines. The turbines would be installed at depths of 50-300 m and generate between 150 to 800 kW each.
This is a photo of a 'solar prominence' which are "elongated clouds of plasma that hover above the sun's surface", as per a mission scientist. These clouds are held in place by magnetic fields.
Using the GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) satellite the ESA has put together a very nice map of the varying gravity field on earth.
I have also seen a rotatable map from the BBC, which is linked below.
The fine folks at the University of Zurich were able to speed the processing of robotic reactions by using silicon 'retinas'. The retinas provide very little information about the environment to the machine allowing it to process visual cues as on/off data.
JAXA's Kounotori2 launched atop an H-II rocket this week. The un-manned Kounotori2 shuttle was carrying 6 tons of payload to the international space station. This low cost, bus sized shuttle will help fill the void left by retiring US Spacecraft.
JAXA was able to accomplish this on a budget of $2 billion, which they estimate to be 1/14 th the size of NASA's budget.
Drik Schulze-Makuch and Paul Davies, both university professors, published an article in the Nov. Journal of Cosmology wherein they put forth the idea that one-way colonizing missions to Mars should be considered by some private investors.
Their reasoning is that the cost of the trip to Mars could be cut by as much as 80% by not taking extra fuel and provisions for the return trip. They also suggest that these missions be undertaken, at least initially, by people in their 60's. These sexagenarians would make the 6 month trip to Mars in space craft which could double as living quarters once they reach the planet.
The two feel there is some urgency for humanity to colonize space, in this article the idea of a hedge against disaster is cited.
Leadership happens when we put a better solution on the table.
- Carl Malamud : Gov 2.0 Summit 2010
The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) was the first to launch a spacecraft, collect comet dust, and return safely to earth. The spacecraft was called Hayabusa, the comet Itokawa. The craft was in space for seven years before landing in Australia in June of 2010. Price Tag: $200 million dollars.
Three gents from the United Kingdom built a paper airplane, launched it into space, and took some pictures. The plane was made out of paper straws and stiff paper joined with hot glue, which created ribs. Those ribs were covered in a painted layer of paper. The plane, called the Vulture 1, measured in with a 3 ft wingspan. The plane was launched by a helium balloon and reached a maximum altitude of about 89,600 feet (27,300 meters), or nearly 17 miles (27.3 km). The whole thing cost about $13,000.
While the plane was in space, it took pictures and video images. Go to images.google.com and search for 'vulture 1 paper space airplane' and you'll find a lot of neat stuff. In the meantime, I borrowed the attached image from the Register.