Showing posts with label NASA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NASA. Show all posts

October 8, 2019

Interplanetary Travel - Coming Soon


Awesome presentation on Interplanetary Travel by Charlie Kuehmann, VP Materials Engineering at SpaceX and Tesla. 

Interplanetary travel and colonization is one of the most exciting possibilities for mankind.  

It's all just beginning (we've only been in orbit for about 50 years). 

One of the keys Charlie mentioned at SpaceX and Telsa is how quickly we learn. 

It's okay to fail, as long as we learn quickly and progress from it.  

The progress with reusable rockets at SpaceX is impressive. 

Can't wait for more to come soon.  ;-)

(Credit Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 21, 2019

The Apollo 11 Mission: 50 Year Anniversary

Remembering the Apollo mission that landed a man on the moon on July 20, 1969 (50 years and 1 month ago yesterday...sorry, I'm late on this post). 

Thought this model (scale 1:48) of the command ship and lunar lander in the NASA store was perfect. 

It truly is miraculous that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldin made this journey.

In just 8 days, they made the round trip between the earth and the moon, traveling about 240,000 miles each way. 

And they walked on the moon for about 3 hours--I want to try that!

Even until today, the U.S. remains the only country to have actually put men on the moon (total of 12). 

"One small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind."

Now it's high time that we get ourselves to Mars already and colonize it!  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 30, 2017

Future Home For Mankind



Thought these artist renderings of the Trappist-1 Star were awesome. 

NASA discovered this star and 7 Earth-size planets around it that could conceivably have water and sustain human life. 

As we continue to gobble up Earth's resources and build incredibly powerful weapons that may one day soon destroy it, we need to have a viable Plan B.

Hence, the race to find another planet(s) with resources and environmental conditions where human civilization can survive and thrive.

I'm not sure what is more exciting than finding that magic planetary home of the future, where everything is new and pristine again like the Garden of Eden.

A place to go where hopefully we take not only the bits and bytes of our current world, but also the lessons learned to do it better again. ;-)

(Source Photo: NASA JPL here and here)
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December 9, 2016

Reconstituting The Water Of Antarctica

So Antarctica is the 5th largest continent of 7 in the world. 

It is 5.4 million square miles, and it is larger than both Europe and Australia. 

But it has only a temporary population of 5,000 people, mainly researchers. 

About 70% of the world's fresh water is held in the Antarctic ice sheet, which is 90% of all the world's ice. 

And the ice there extends 7,000 feet thick.

If all the ice would melt, the global sea levels would rise 2,000 feet!

Despite 95% of models over the last 30 years predicting the ice sheet melting due to global warming, it actually continues to expand.

It's a paradox for the science community, but one of the explanations is that as ice shelves break off, they actually forms a protective barrier for the new ice being formed along the main ice landmass. 

Even with global warming, the average temperature in Antarctica is still -35 degrees Fahrenheit, and most parts never get above freezing. 

So here's an idea--rather than fear global warming, is there an opportunity to use it and advance it, if only we can channel the effects of it for the good of humanity. 

The Antarctic Treaty System prevents nuclear weapons explosion there, but wouldn't that be a cool way to melt some ice and get some fresh drinking water for this thirsty planet or even to somehow move to MARS for colonization there?

Also, we could place solar mirrors in space to redirect sunlight to melt the ice--that's either some probably some pretty big mirrors or the dispersion ray of a space laser(s). 

The key now is to get the water to where you want it to go and not to destroy by massive flood our worldwide seaboard cities--and that's where a mass molecular transporter comes along. 

There is still much to discover and invent, but when it's done, I think we will definitely be heading to Mars and beyond.

Really, we have to, there is no other long-term survival choice for humankind. 

And perhaps, G-d placed the survival pod for us right under our feet at literally, the southern most point of the world, Antarctica! ;-)

(Source Photo: here via Wikipedia)
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December 6, 2016

The Planetary Colonization Imperative

I read something so simple yet profound from theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking (The Guardian).

First, he enunciated many of the threats we face these days, including:

- Accelerating technological change [I would elaborate that these include more advanced weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them]

- Automation, [robotics,] and rise of artificial intelligence

- Economic inequality, mass migration, job destruction, [and divisiveness] augmented by immersive social media that accentuates "Instagram [and Facebook] Nirvana" versus the real poverty and struggling of the masses, 

- "Environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, and acidification of the oceans."

In one sentence then, Hawking says it all about the high level of risk we face:
"We now have the technology to destroy the planet, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it."

His call to action:
"Perhaps in a few hundred years,  we will have established human colonies amid the stars. but right now we have only one planet. and we need to work together to protect it [and develop the means to eventually be able to escape it for the survival of humanity.]"

In short, we must get to and colonize other planets as quickly as possible, because it the realm of history, it's only a matter of time and our collective lives are depending on it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal Via National Geographic)
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November 16, 2016

To MARS and Beyond

So excited about the new show called MARS (and yeah, it's on National Geographic). 

I watched the season premier and it was awesome!

They did this cool combination flipping between the non-fiction of the here and now on Earth in 2016 with all the plans and advances being made to go to settle Mars someday, and the fictionalized future 2033 actual voyage and colonization there. 

The spaceship, rovers, colony are all pretty amazing and it seems so real like we're practically there!

Elon Musk (SpaceX) does a nice job explaining the vision and the reusable rockets they are focused on to get us cost-effectively to the Red Planet and beyond. 

The imperative is clear for us becoming a true multi-planetary species, so that we drastically reduce (hopefully to zero) the risk of an extinction level event to humanity.

There was a good quote that I remember, something like:

"We go into the dark, so others can follow the light."

The leap forward of us actually making it to and colonizing Mars is so mid-boggling great that just about everything else literally pales in comparison. 

Mars is just the first real step...after that the possibilities are truly endless. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to NASA Jet Propulsion Lab)

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December 14, 2015

Looking For Astronauts - Apply Here

So cool!!!

OPM Job announcement today for Astronauts.

Work for NASA at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

Train for missions to the International Space Station, on two new commercial spacecraft, and for the Orion  deep-space exploration vehicle.

To go where no man or woman has gone before...

Dreams do come true!;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Paul Hudson)
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April 14, 2015

3-D Printing Comes To Life

So my daughter is graduating high school, but is already taking a class in 3-D printing. 

(This little guy pictured here was made experimenting in the class and was a precious gift from her.)

Already prophetically envisioned in Star Trek as "the replicator," this technology has been around in primitive trial form since the 1980's.

In 3-D printing, alloyed material is successively layered under computer control to make complex shapes and products.

It makes traditional 2-D printing (on paper) look like rubbing two sticks together to build a fire (circa the paleolithic period of mankind thousands of years ago). 

The promise of 3-D printing for advanced manufacturing is absolutely incredible.

The Wall Street Journal describes how NASA researchers and engineers are working toward using 3-D printers in space to "make bricks suitable for airtight buildings and radiation proof shelters" simply using the sand already on Mars. 

Moreover, the astronauts on their journey may be eating pizza from these printers as well (except for the sand, but still probably better than MREs--Haha).

Already objects have been printed "19 feet long...stone-like building blocks weighing one-and-a-half ton each"!

In the future, 3-D printers could be sent in advance to planets we look to colonize and "lay down landing pads, roads, and shelters" in preparation of our arrival.

These printers could even build working replicas of themsleves or "swarms of self-assembling construction robots" boosting our capacity for even more building.

Moreover, technology is in the works to recycle from 3-D printing by melting down the printed products back into material that could be reused for new printing projects.

On Earth, where we have long been drawing down our natural resources as well as polluting our environment, the prospect of going to other worlds where their are new resources and we actually have the ability to use them constructively is humanity's chance for a whole new chapter of life beyond. ;-)

(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)
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November 13, 2014

We Didn't Make History

A sincere congratulations to the European Union for the epic landing of a probe from the Rosetta spacecraft--the first such landing on a comet.

They did this with a landing area of just 550 yards in diameter and away from deep crevices, large boulders, and sharp peaks--it is amazing!


Their European space scientists are exclaiming and rightfully so, "We made history today."

The problem for us is that we--the U.S.of A.--didn't!

Yes, we landed the first man on the moon in 1969 and we haven't done it again since 1972.

I remember in grade school, with great pride and wonder, watching the first space shuttle taking flight--that was in 1981.

Since then, we had the horrific Space Shuttle Columbia disaster (2003), followed by the retirement of the shuttles altogether (2011).

Now, we rely on Russian rockets to bring supplies to the International Space Station and for our military and national security satellites.

Then, just a few weeks ago, we had the explosion of Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo (2014) that is said to have been plagued with problems from inadequate rocket thrust, flight control system issues, and deficiencies in basic structural integrity. 

In the meantime, the Indians have made it to Mars on a dime. 

Where are we as a nation looking to advance into space--where resources and our very survival may someday soon depend?

Just think what those multi trillions of dollars spent (some would say squandered) in Iraq and Afghanistan (now being overrun by ISIS or threatened by the Taliban) as well as for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (uh, what did we really accomplish for all that money spent?).

Where we once led, and as children we stood in awe, now we stand in bewilderment and leave our children marveling at the victories and accomplishments of others. 

We can not/must not become complacent or stop investing strategically in our future--we need to act with urgency and commitment again for our nation to succeed. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 27, 2014

Mars On A Dime

So no one can seem to believe that India made it into orbit around Mars for just $74M.  

According to the Wall Street Journal that compares with $671M that it cost NASA (which arrived just 3 days earlier than India's) and the European Space Agency's mission that cost $386M in 2003,

But aside from the Indian's being able to achieve a Mars mission at a tenth the cost of what we did, BBC reported that they also did it $26M cheaper than even the cost of the science fiction movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock about the International Space Station. 

While we clearly go the extra mile and are able to do great things--why does it always cost us so much to get there?

Perhaps, you can say that we are somehow more diligent or careful in our work (i.e. putting a premium on safety) or that it's just the higher cost of labor in this country or that we are early innovators and incur the costs of research and development that others than leverage. 

However, even though we are considered a very wealthy nation, it is fair to ask whether we are managing our wealth with discretion and an eye to the future or do we just take it for granted and are wasteful with it?

With a $3.9 trillion federal government budget (note, this is a full 21% of the entire U.S. economy/GDP), we are talking about some serious money, and we should be getting the most for it.

Unfortunately, the gravy train extends from certain "Beltway Bandit" contractors--e.g. remember the $640 toilet seats, $7,600 coffee makers, and $436 hammers uncovered by the Project on Government Oversight--and apparently all the way to mission Mars. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 16, 2014

Rise Oceans Rise

The polar ice caps are melting--does anyone believe it or care?  

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Antarctica alone holds 60% of the world's fresh water "locked into millions of cubic miles of polar ice."

NASA glaciologists states: "Ice is going to retreat in this sector for decades and centuries to come and we can't stop it."

In other words, we may have "reached the point of no return."

Sea levels are seen rising 10 to 12 feet--that's almost 1.8 x Magic Johnson across all our oceans.

The New York Times says that just a four foot rise would inundate cities like New York, Boston, Miami, and New Orleans. 

WTOP reports that the impact will not just be in low-lying cities but even Washington, DC along the Chesapeake Bay is at great risk. 

And while over time barriers may be able to be built up around DC to protect it, other areas like New York City is "almost unenclosable."

Global warming has is changing our earth's ecosystems, and like the National Deficit, we can try to prove it false, ignore it, or hope for a technological breakthrough or miracle to save us. 

Yes, there are lot's of doom and gloom scenarios, and it's hard to know when to take catastrophe seriously and when it is Chicken Little.

While I wouldn't go looking for high ground just yet, maybe that Miami oceanfront--as much as I love it--may not be the best long-long term investment around. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 18, 2014

What Would MLK Say?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes about how Congress orders NASA to complete a testing tower for rocket engines at Stennis Space Center that is no longer needed, since the rockets themselves were cancelled. 

The price tag of this tower is $350M!

But not to worry because NASA caught in this muddle says they will maintain the tower in case it's needed in the future at a cost of just $840,000 more a year. 

Why does this happen?

Pork barrel politics, where the the Congressmen and -women (in this case of Mississippi) don't want to lose out on the federal spending, so they make deals whereby they get what they want and others what they want for their home states--even if the taxpayers end up getting little to nothing. 

Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal that while public servants are "expected to be less selfish than the average Joe...they are [actually] the locus of selfishness."

She writes, "there isn't a staffer on the Hill who won't tell you 90% of members are driven by their own needs, wants, and interests, not America's."

Essentially what Noonan describes is a broken political system, where we elect individuals as politicians to represent us, but they take our vote of confidence and their elected office platform and instead use it to vote either for what they think should be done--not what their constituents think or want--or they work the system in order to make themselves look good and line up votes for their next run at office. 

Either way, we don't get representation of the people, for the people, with big picture strategic decisions for the future of the nation, but rather we get narrow thinking and voting driven by self-centered thinking of what's in it for me (WIIFM). 

Freedom is not free, especially when we make bad decisions to fund testing towers that are no longer needed or bridges to nowhere. 

How we fix this is by having politicians with a genuine vision of where we need to go, anchored in the thinking of the people they represent and a foundation of integrity.

The leader can create a shared vision by explaining why, what, and how and building a genuine consensus around it. 

Selfishness is not an inherent trait of politics--it can be replaced by selflessness when the greater good of the nation is placed above any one "I"--whether that be a person, party, state, or special interest. 

(Source Photo: here)
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September 8, 2013

For Somebody Who Has Everything

What do you get somebody who has everything? 

Well check this out...


You can actually buy acreage on the moon through The Lunar Registry, "Earth's leading lunar real estate agency."


Based on The Outer Space Treaty, no country can own a celestial resource such as the moon, planet, or asteroid, but this doesn't preclude private entities and individuals from purchasing a "lunar land claim."


The Space Settlement Institute, which "promotes the human colonization and settlement of outer space" is lobbying for the U.S. to recognize these space land claims (PopSci).


According to their website, when you purchase real estate through the lunar registry, "your property ownership is permanently registered by the International Lunar Lands Registry in its annual publication, which is copyrighted and deposited in the United States Library of Congress and with international patent and trademark offices."


You can view available properties here, from the Sea of Vapors ("moon on a budget" for $18.95 per acre--near Crater Manilius) to Lake of Dreams ("most popular" for $34.25 per acre and a special "Sweathearts package with 2 acres side-by-side).


Properties can be viewed at The Full Moon Atlas through The Luna Society.


I found Lake of Dreams by its reference in sector B-4, although I couldn't really tell from the atlas whether this was a place that I'd like to settle down or not. 


In real estate, they alway say "location, location, location"--when you're buying on the moon, who the heck knows? ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 4, 2013

3-Bedroom Homes on Mars


I am very excited about Bigelow Aerospace's BA-330 space inhabiting module.

The BA-330 is an inflatable, expandable habitat that can be launched into orbit or used to colonize another planet. 

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (2 May 2013), the space vessels are inflatable--like a football or car tire.

The inner core is an airtight bladder for living. The outer shell is composed of protective layers of foam and bullet-resistant Vectran fabric. In the center is a metal framework of electronics and equipment.

The "space habitat is folded tightly into the trunk of a rocket for launch, and released in orbit, where is inflated with a breathable atmosphere." 

Internal pressure makes the hull rigid and the up to 40" of layered protective material make the habitat stronger and safer than conventional aluminum modules--and yet can be produced at half the cost!

The modules can be arranged vertically into the equivalent of a three-story home with kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, and gym. 

NASA has plans for one of these modules to join with the International Space Station and to test it for future uses. 

Bigelow wants to be the 1st space landlord renting out dwellings, work environments, and laboratories to tourists, scientists, and companies. "Bring your clothes and your money. We provide everything else."

For only $51M you can travel to the Bigelow Alpha Station--it's first commercial outpost--and enjoy 110 cubic meters for 60 days. 

Someday, these early ventures into space will seen as the pioneers crossing the oceans to discover and settle new far away lands, but the difference will be millions of miles and infinite choices. ;-)
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December 19, 2012

Federal Leadership Is A Journey


There were three news articles in Federal Times this week (17 December 2012) that highlighted some disappointments for the time being, but that offer hope for the future:

-   Conflicts of Interest at DARPA: The previous director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is investigated by the Defense Department Inspector General for conflicts of interest related to the award of “hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts to a company she co-founded and partially owned.” The hope for the future—the new DARPA director has “sent a full list of her financial assets to all of the agency’s employees.”

-   Missed opportunity for use of mobile devices, BYOD in the Federal workforce: The CIO Council’s report on “Government Use of Mobile Technology: Barriers, Opportunities, and Gap Analysis” was required by the Federal Digital Strategy (May 2012); however, while there is clarity of the need for greater mobility in the workforce, instead of a clear architecture forward, the report calls for more guidance from the administration on “how to handle the tricky legal, privacy, and financial implications.” The hope—the report looks toward  a government-wide or agency policy and guidance to support more flexible use of mobile devices and a cross-functional team to evaluate Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for the future.

-   NASA doubts commitment of getting to an asteroid: NASA, which has been criticized by some for not having a clear direction, has been charged with “sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025,” yet there is not consensus that this is “the next step on the way to Mars.” The hope—NASA can restructure, engage in cost-sharing partnerships, or otherwise increase budget or decrease scope to right-align and achieve clear focus on the next great goals for outer space.

Lesson learned: leadership does not have all the answers nor do they always do everything right, but leadership is a journey. So while today, we may not always be making the best acquisitions for advanced research, achieving clarity of a mobile strategy, or landing people on Mars—we are on the way—through one small step for leadership, one giant leap for the rest of us.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to NASA) 

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July 1, 2012

When Aliens Come Calling

This is an out-of-this-world topic that I don't think I have written about before...ALIENS--no seriously! 

MSNBC ran an interview with Seth Shostak, the chairman of the International Academy of Astronautics' SETI Permanent Study Group (27 June 2012).

SETI is the well-known orgnaization that conducts the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence--they employ 150 scientists, educators and support staff, and their projects have been sponsored by NASA, Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey, and many technology companies like HP, Sun, and more. 

At SETI, they monitor radio transmissions and telescope observations for signals that "cannot be ascribed to noise."

According to Shostak, he believes that we will detect alien signals by between 2025 and 2030, although he acknowledges that searching for alien life in the cosmos in like looking for a needle in a haystack, and it "never occurs when you expect them."

However with advances in technology (specifically computer processing), we will get closer to be able to monitor "all-sky, all the time, all frequencies," rather than searching a specific star system, for a specific time, at specific frequencies.

The really interesting question posed though is what happens if we actually detect an alien signal?

Apparently, most of the planning, according to Shostak is for the initial protocols for alerting everyone and even then "it takes something on the order of five days" to assess whether it is real or not. 

The big concern is that "nobody is in charge" for handling such a global...no, intergalactic event. 

And, he says "I don't think there's any large-scale effort to prepare humanity."

Maybe, it's that we don't believe or want to believe that this eventuality will ever really occur.

Perhaps, it's too frightening to think of ourselves as the native Americans being invaded by colonials with superior technology and firepower.

Yet according to a National Geographic survey, more than a third (36%) of people surveyed think aliens exist. And how many more people are afraid to admit it?

Aliens could be a good thing--coming here benevolently to share with us or they could act alien and try to take from us. From our own Earthly experiences, it seems the latter is far more likely. 

We have a lot of fingers and weapons pointed at each other all time, I wonder whether we need to spend more time and effort thinking, planning, and preparing for something much more scary and threatening than each other.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris at Oblong Pictures)

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June 9, 2012

Living The Limits


Almost two decades ago, when working towards my MBA degree, I read the book, Beyond the Limits (1992) about how between growing world overpopulation and our disposition to living without regards to our limited resources, we were in danger of depletion and ultimately face an existential disaster. 

Now this theme continues with the movie, Surviving Progress (2012) warning that our unabated consumerism and overproduction is leaving in its wake diminished environmental resources and leading eventually to a collapse of our global ecosystem. 

In between the book and the movie, I have followed the warnings of well known and respected leaders, such as former Vice President, Al Gore on global warning, former Comptroller General, David Walker on our spiraling national debt, oil magnate, T. Boone Pickens on peak oil, and that is just to name a few. 

Yet, the warnings of our unsustainable living keep running up against our impressive technological progress--for example, oil and natural gas is being discovered and still plentiful, agricultural productivity keeps rising, and computers and automation allows us to continuously do more with less. 

So what are we to believe--are we on a unsustainable collision course with mother nature that threatens our very existence or is our innovative prowess and technological progress going to keep us ahead of the curve and out of any danger?

As a technologist, and someone who promotes innovation, entrepreneurship, hard work and sound supporting ethics underlying everything we do, I am a firm believer that we can make a difference. Yes, with G-d's blessings, it is possible to shape our destiny, so that we can continue to not only sustain ourselves, but also actually improve our standard of living.

On the other hand, I cannot help but notice a generally gluttonous lifestyle in our society--where people almost always seem to buying bigger and better homes, cars, and even now yachts and private planes, and where buying and throwing things out is a vicious and endless cycle, where we live for the moment, rather than plan ahead. 

Despite initiatives to reduce, reuse, and recycle, we are still very much a single use society (use and discard), where compulsive shopping and a "mine is bigger and nicer than yours" mind-set and motive prevails. 

Now as humankind plans for Earth's ultimate resource depletion, companies such as Planetary Resources  are researching and developing robotic spacecraft to mine asteroids to get water, extract raw materials, and find new sources of precious minerals, and government agencies like NASA are exploring orbiting space settlements as well as the permanent colonization of the moon and Mars. 

At the end of the day, the Earth--no matter how large and bountiful--is a finite resource and we should use innovation and technology to extend its use and at the same time reach out to find our next hospitable home. 

Watching two seasons of a Discovery television series called The Colony about how people in a simulation of a global catastrophe, survive--I saw that no matter how well they did for a number of weeks living off of existing resources where they were, eventually, they had to plan and creatively build their escape to a new sustainable living place. 

Unfortunately, this is not just TV fiction, but this is our reality--to thrive in our world today, but also to plan and build for the long-term--a new home for mankind.

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January 28, 2012

Hello From Moon Colony

What can be more thrilling than the promise of space exploration and the virtually limitless possibilities that it holds. 

Since the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, the first manned mission to land on the moon, we have dreamed of the next step in terms of an actual colony of humans living there. 

In 1975, the science fiction TV show Space: 1999, that many of you may still remember, envisioned what this space colony could look like (until a nuclear mishap sends the colony hurling through space). 

From 1984, you can see attached, a NASA's artist rendering of a colonized moon along with astronauts and lunar rover.

Now in 2012, with the presidential campaigning in full swing, we are hearing the promise of such a manned lunar colony once again and it is still just as exciting as ever.

One candidate, called for the lunar colony to be bustling with commercial activity by 2020--wouldn't that be amazing!

While it was funny when this candidate said that once the colony reached 13,000 American inhabitants, they can petition to become a state, it also somehow brought it into a new perspective and made it so real--like could this really happen one day? 

The idea of expanding beyond our limits here on Earth, making new discoveries, tapping into potential new resources, and harnessing ever greater innovation from such exploration can bring hope of a better, brighter tomorrow to all. 

Note to self: must haves for a lunar colony--aside from a place of worship, a great fitness center and some nice restaurants, we'll need the Internet, iPhone, Netflix, and Xbox (and Facebook would be a plus) ;-)

(Source Photo: here)


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July 9, 2011

Future Of Space Travel

For those of you who are upset to the see the final Space Shuttle mission this week, we definitely have something to look forward to with the new Orion, Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for manned space flight.

The main saucer-shaped "Crew Module" can separate from the "Service Module" that contains the propulsion, water and oxygen for sustaining life, and cargo transport (this is similar to the flying "saucer" that could separate from the main body of the Star Trek Enterprise in later episodes).

Orion will supposedly be the most advanced space vehicle out there to support missions from 4 to 900 days (virtually a full blown Star Trek voyage).

It is being built by Lockheed Martin (an early supporter of the United Federation of Planets?) and will have advanced life support, propulsion, avionics, and thermal protection for reentry (and hopefully in development are the phasers, photon torpedos, phase modulating shields, warp core, and transporter).

The Orion will be able to transport 4 crew and may be augmented by Robonauts (sort of like Data the android, but with no personality yet).

Robonauts are engineered by a collaboration of NASA and General Motors, and according to GM, they will help automate "dull, repetitive, and ergonomically challenging tasks" and make us more efficient in both the aerospace and automative industries.

Note: A robonaut is currently up on the International Space Station for testing (a precursor to Deep Space Nine).

Progress is being made, cool things are coming, and we will hopefully all be fortunate to see it unfold.

Gene Roddenberry was right about our future all along. :-)

(Source Photos: Star Trek Enterprise from here)

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August 28, 2010

The Search For Servant Leadership in A Chilean Mine

The Search For Servant Leadership in A Chilean Mine

I’ve been following the story this week about the 33 miners trapped half a mile below the surface in the collapsed mine in Chile.

The story of the miners survival is incredible, but so too are the implications of corporate greed and the neglect of the workers safety and how we treat people as objects rather than human beings.

33 people are stuck in a space approximately 500 square feet for 18 days until a 2.3 inch drill hole was used to discover their whereabouts this week.

The miners had lost on average 22 pounds each and were on rationed peaches, milk, tuna, and crackers every other day.

The pictures of the miners and the notes of love and hope that emerged from below the earth’s crust were truly inspiring, despite the way that they got trapped to begin with.

Yet, the miners now have to wait approximately 4 months for a rescue tunnel 26 inches wide to be completed to pull them to safety.

The fear, panic and duress of being trapped 2300 feet down in 95-degree heat in close quarters for so long is something government officials, psychologists, and family members are very concerned about. They have even reached out to NASA to help them deal with the effects of the prolonged isolation.

Amazingly, when we think about how technology could help in this situation, it is not necessarily a “super-duper” drill able to dig them out in hours or minutes that is the focus here or a transporter able to beam the miners up the surface in seconds, but rather a simple tool like a ladder placed near the ventilation shaft (as was supposed to have been for safety purposes) would have enabled the miners to escape to the surface.

Now instead of the mining company having done the right thing for its workers to begin with, they are now facing a lawsuit from the families of the trapped miners and potentially bankruptcy.

This situation is reminiscent of other companies that put their profits before their workers, like we saw recently with BP that didn’t have a simple safety shut-off valve on the leaking oil well, and now they are funding a $20 billion escrow account to settle claims from the Gulf Coast oil disaster.

Plain and simple, it does not pay to skimp on worker safety.

More than that, people are not only our most important asset—as has become cliché to say, but the whole point of our interactions at work is to treat each other right.

Of course, we need and want to be productive, to improve things, to reengineer business processes, enable them with new technologies, and leave the world better from our work, but to me the true test for us as human beings is to make these contributions to our organizations and missions and at the same time not lose our basic humanity.

If the cost of an improvement or promotion is some very real bodies that we must climb over to get there, then I say we are failing the true test before us.

We can make the same gains and more by treating people with kindness and compassion—the way we would want to be treated.

Let’s not deny anyone a ladder or safety valve or even in the smallest ways mistreat our employees.

The test of leadership is how we treat people in accomplishing our goals, and the long-term effects to us from our behavior in this regard are greater than any short-term technology or process improvements we can make by dehumanizing ourselves and hurting others.


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