Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

MRO Marsship Nearing Red Planet

At exactly 4:25 PM EST on Friday, March 10th, a US built Marsship will fire its retrorockets for 27 nail biting minutes as it slows down from its nearly seven month, sixty five million mile trek through interplanetary space.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is relatively huge as Mars spacecraft go – some 22 feet high with a solar panel span of twice that – some 44 feet. It is the largest Mars craft ever flown and flies with the largest camera ever pointed at the Red planet. Its ten year mission is to take a very close look down at the number one future target in the solar system for human footprints.

The MRO will slow down and be lulled into a very highly elliptical orbit around Mars, then for six months will use many close encounters with the Martian upper atmosphere to finally settle down into a circular orbit. It is a delicate process called aerobraking – one that takes a bit of time but saves much fuel that the spacecraft can use to maintain its ever vigilant, nonstop watch on Mars for 10 years. That’s a good reason to use aerobraking instead of rocket fuel. Once this aerobraking has been accomplished this fall, its real mission will begin.

The MRO is an impressive bird. The last orbital spacecraft could see an object no smaller than the size of a school bus. But the MRO can hone in on a dinner table sitting anywhere on the surface. Added to that feat is its incredible data stream capability aimed back at earth. MRO will transmit as much data as three times all the previous Mars missions combined! It will also act at the orbital communications link for the upcoming US landers slated for the next decade of U.S. exploration activities.

In my book, ABYSS OF ELYSIUM, I wrote about such satellites and how they enabled humans to explore Mars. The high-fliers had many roles. They warned them of approaching sandstorms while acting as weather satellites. But they also simultaneously functioned as communication links between Mars colonies and, in addition to those roles, they acted as orbital planetary resource surveyors, just like MRO!

If the MRO has a prime mission objective, it is to scout for probable underground water sights using its special radar sounder that can actually peer beneath the drifting sands of Mars. To check the MROs mission out in detail with text, pictures and video, click here for NASA’s MRO Mission Home Page - or - here for a link to all the NASA Mars Mission's home page.

Monday, February 27, 2006

21st Century Moonship

It isn’t your father’s NASA anymore. After hanging out in low earth orbit for 34 years, the new NASA has decided to turn in the keys to the old shuttles and swap them out for a new fleet of spacecraft. Yesterday we talked about the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). Today – we’ll review the new moonship.

Just like the new CRV looks a lot like the old Apollo capsule but isn’t – so the new moonship looks somewhat like the old lunar lander but isn’t!

The old lunar habitat (LEM) could take two astronauts down for less than a week. The new model will transport four down for up to six months. The same spacecraft – shown with the CEV attached – is expandable for a Mars flight and can take up to six astronauts to the red planet.

This time, it’s not going to be let’s go get out boots dusty and come home for three decades, either. We are planning to fly manned missions to the moon every six months. Further, the new generation of rockets will not limit our landing zones to the equator. We will now have full access to land anywhere on the lunar surface – even the poles.

The picture shown here shows the new moonship docked to the forward end of the CEV so the astronauts can transit back and forth between the two. When it arrives in lunar orbit, the four astronauts from the CEV will all move into the lander and it will land on the moon. After their mission, the upper stage of the vehicle will return them to the unmanned, orbiting CEV for the trip back home.

With so much high mass travel back and forth to the moon, the United States will soon have a permanent base established there as it is built piece by piece on every subsequent mission.

It’s a new NASA with a fresh face and a bold new plan. For some reason, 350 miles isn’t good enough anymore. Now we face new worlds. It’s about time.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

21st Century Spaceship

There has been a lot of whining about NASA’s plans for going back to the moon and later on out to Mars. As far as I’m concerned, all that whining proves only one thing: some people just like to whine, with or without the cheese.

Give me a real break here. If one sets out to be a credible critic, he should at least show up to the debate with the facts. But complaining is a total waste of their time, because the new hardware is just awesome.

One of the chief complaints is that the new spaceship is… “… too much like Apollo – we’re going backwards…” Nonsense. The new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) is about as much like Apollo as my dad’s old 1948 Chevy pickup is like a 2006 Lamborghini.

The new CEV spacecraft is larger – carrying four astronauts and is designed using the latest computer technology. I recommend that you take a trip to the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC and check this next fact out for yourself. The “computer” in the Lunar Module was a series of “choke” magnets that were wire wrapped in a digital sequence! It’s a serious wonder it ever flew at all! Just one of the new CEV’s has more computing power jammed in its interior than was available on the entire earth in 1969.

Further, for all of its glorious technology, the shuttle’s max altitude was limited to about 350 nautical miles before it ran out of gas. The CEV has a range from low earth orbit to Mars! (About this time the whining should logically start to go away.)

The new science of exploring space will use the proven technology of Apollo mated to the proven technology of Shuttle. We get the best of the best mated in a single vehicle. As far as I’m concerned, any intelligent race would be pretty stupid to start all over again. We’re not and we didn’t.

The whiners need to go find another cause more worth their while. Let me suggest complaining abut something that really matters - like why are we not spending more on space exploration or worse – ocean exploration which is pathetically under-funded? Now there are some great causes worth time and emotional energy!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

eBook Reading Software

The first thing any eBook owner finds out is that certain software will work on their hardware and some won’t. Most eBook readers have only a single operating system. Some PDAs and nearly all handheld computers will take on several. Further, if you count your desktop PC or your laptop as your eBook reader, they too will take on several reading software types. With the limited space I have here, I can’t possibly go into each and every eBook reading software – so I’ll take on the most well used types after I discuss platform software in general.

Almost every eBook reading device (as a stand alone reader) comes with a proprietary platform software that will allow books to be downloaded to them only as their software type. The first eBook companies then cut deals with publishers to market books using their software. Frankly, this went over like the proverbial lead balloon with consumers. Consumers don’t ever give a darn about various company’s profit sheet, and they shouldn’t! Consumers want versatility and across the board buying power – they don’t want to be limited by some boardroom’s greedy little deals. Hence, these agreements all went up in flames, as they should have and the first eBook ideas failed en masse.

Loading to these proprietary formats was a nightmare, because whatever eBook file you held then had to be converted to their format. Many formats could not be converted at all from one into another. Most didn’t take photos or illustrations unless they too were individually embedded by hand. Further, the supply of available books was sorely limited, which all in turn limited the usefulness of an eBook reader and the marketplace rightfully shunned them.

Then along came Microsoft and Adobe. They saw the future and it was the paperless society. They knew that if the human eye was to make contact with words in the 21st century, is was NOT going to be on antique paper but a glowing screen. This was the real beginning of practical, useful eBook reading. The first thing both companies did right was to make the software available for free. These formats can be read on nearly all desktops, laptops and hand held computers.

Microsoft immediately stumbled in this race by linking downloads and their reader to what they call a “passport” scheme. This was ostensibly to protect authors and publishers from being relentlessly copied and shared, as was the case in the music industry. Unfortunately, it also immediately limited the usefulness of their product. For example, of the 10 or so computers and handhelds I have, Microsoft will not even allow a “passport” for half of them by their arbitrary limitations. (Can you even imagine that? “Here, we would like to offer you a product, but you can’t actually have it! You, consumer, have exceeded your limits.” What the heck is this all about? Rationing an electronic product?? It’s a good thing Microsoft isn’t in charge of the potato chip market.) Further, publishing to Microsoft Reader is a difficult, non-user friendly ordeal that is not easy or fun. The good news is that once you get though all the profit-motivated hoops, the reader ends up in a very attractive final product that can resemble the original look of the hard-copy book if the publisher works hard enough. But at the end of the day, Microsoft has made it very difficult on everyone by keeping their eye on the buck instead of the consumer. In the end - this is not a good idea for the consumer and the buck goes somewhere else.

Adobe came along about the same time and launched their Adobe reader, also a free download. But Adobe somehow managed to bypass ALL the problems associated with Microsoft Reader. They don’t have any ridiculous “passport” scheme in place. (They allow the publisher or document originator to control document access internally.) Further, the publisher or writer develops the document then “publishes” it to the Adobe software. The end product looks EXACTLY like the original and the author does not have to worry about the magic of how that happened, or formatting or illustration compatibility! As far as the reader is concerned, the product is very clean and looks exactly like the hard copy in every way possible. It is a brilliant, easy to use from both the publisher’s angle and the consumer. It would be very hard even to improve on this product at all – it is nearly perfect.

In March, I will review eBook reading devices. It looks like SONY has developed a reader that may actually finally bridge the gap and make eBooks a mainstream device. As soon as I get my hands on one (due on the market this spring), I’ll let you know. It looks like the SONY reader will seamlessly import Adobe manufactured documents - a real first in eBook platform capabilities. I wonder why it won't also import Microsoft Reader documents? Hmmm - I guess SONY couldn't scrounge up enough passports...

PS. The device shown above is the first eBook reader platform - the RCA Rocketbook. It was the device that hooked me. It has its severe first technology limitations - but it was just way cool - just like my Apple II 16K marvel.

Friday, February 24, 2006

eBook Babble

Making the transition to eBooks nowadays isn’t all that simple. It may be the wave of the future – but they are sure going about it in a strange way. It’s not at all like one can go down to the electronics store today and buy an eBook reader, then march over to the local bookstore or your home computer and just download the latest book of whatever. Unfortunately for everyone, it is a lot more complicated than that. And, as you probably guessed, it’s a money-making-deal that has gummed up the works.

The eBook industry is right now engaged in a tooth-and-nail battle to capture the big prize. And that prize is – THE format that finally catches on and captures the lion share of the market so that every other format disappears (ie - competitively loses – then dies). Such a battle happened between VHS and BETA during the early video wars. But instead of two contenders, in the eBook race, there are many.

For instance, the two biggest contenders are: Microsoft Reader and Adobe Readers. These free eBook reader downloads enable reading on any computer, laptop or handheld. Then there is the PDA market where Microsoft and Adobe are available to some but not all. Palm has its very own eBook reader format and does not take the others.

The earliest big player was RCA who marketed the Rocketbook. It had its own format, as well. I thought it was the hands down winner in the eBook reader hardware market for many reasons, but it went under and was bought out by various companies, among them Fictonwise.

The trouble with all of this is that what format will a writer or a publishing company publish to? I publish all my books in Microsoft Reader, Adobe and Palm. But many companies just pick one or the other and many choose other formats. This scatters the availability of books all over the place and makes it difficult to find everything a reader wishes to read on whatever platform they hold. If you are interested in a detailed view of the exploding eBook market, Business Week featured an excellent article, with some speculation about who the winner may eventually be and why. (HINT - Think SONY...)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Print Is Dead

Sorry. But ink is really, truly dead, per Dr. Egon Spengler, shown. The feel of the book, its pages and its look on the shelf is history – counting down its last days until real books with real pages are a thing of the past. Books will become like fine antiques and book owners collectors, not real readers.

Now, peace, my friends. I am a writer and I understand all the ins and outs of what I’m saying here. People love their books, believe me. I know that because I market them on a regular basis. But I also market the perceived enemy of all books – the eBook. Let’s talk.

Let me explain this. No one loves the feel of a book like an author. The chore of writing brings forth its moment of joy – opening the box and seeing your books all new and smelling like ink staring back at you form the wrapping. It’s better than Christmas and opening a new computer –it really is! However, those days of joy are numbered by one thing – cash. Here’s how that works.

eBooks look exactly like the paper versions except for these things: they are virtually FREE to produce in any number and ship and they can be in full color and even feature embedded video! Except for the cover, paper books are only black-and-white (unless you own a bank and have free run of the vault) and they are individually EXPENSIVE to produce, ship, store and return unsold units. Further, the profit margins for paper are zip while the profit margins for eBooks are many times more. And the best thing of all – eBooks cost the consumer a fraction of the price of paper books. eBooks can also be instantly downloaded into your reading device. You can have an eBook collection the size of a mid-sized municipal library downloaded loaded on a storage device the size of a postage stamp. And if you own two SD chips, the size of a large library.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Antigravity - Part II

Before we can engage this discussion, we must first define what it is we are talking about. What is an antigravity machine? It is any mechanical or electrical device that can rise against the pull of gravity. That’s it. If you can build a machine that can rise against the pull of gravity, you have just invented an antigravity machine. Further, if you can demonstrate it, then you have succeeded, by definition! So, grab an ink pen with a clickable, spring loaded barrel and pull down against the spring and sit it on a table top, then let it go. What happens? The spring inside will cause the ink pen to leap off the table. Now – let’s slow time down and look at what occurred. The ink pen leapt off the table top with some acceleration greater than 9.8 m/s/s. How do I know that? If it did not have that degree of acceleration, it would not have leapt off the table top – it would not have been able to. It then began to rise up toward space. Then it slowed and began to fall back. What happened? It’s acceleration was only momentary, then it lost ground because gravity is not momentary but constant. Once the energy of the pen was lost to the relentless acceleration of gravity, it began to slow, then stop, then fall back down. Another example is your body. You can easily jump in the air against gravity. That makes your body and antigravity machine, as well, by our definition. ANY object that rises against the pull of gravity is an antigravity machine.

A really good example is a chemical rocket. It rises against gravity’s pull all the way into space (on most occasions). It, again, fits our definition of an antigravity machine because of what it does.

So the antigravity machine is really not that exotic, since even you are an antigravity machine! The question that we need to ask ourselves is certainly not whether such a device is possible, because clearly it is and there are many examples. But it is rather, are there other forms we are not familiar with yet? Can there be a machine that can rise against gravity’s pull that is not a chemical rocket – which is the only form we are familiar with that can actually travel into space?

H. G. Wells speculated about a metal called cavorite that simply repelled gravity. Others have speculated about various arrangements of electromagnetic fields – but no effect we currently understand actually interacts with gravity. I would suggest that everyone is looking under the wrong rocks! Since we already understand the principle of antigravity so well because of Einstein’s ‘Principle of Equivalence’, then it would seem that a device that would continuously work against gravity’s pull is a matter of finding that device that does not need a table top or a floor to push against, but one that can pull against gravity itself by using the elementary ideas found principle of equivalence. That has been attempted numerous times, but it has been called the “bootstrap effect”, or the physical likeness of pulling oneself up by their own bootstraps. Nonetheless, I am a firm believer that F=MA and than A=F/M, therefore, the clever scientist can make it work in the end. It’s not really a bootstrap effect, but more a state of mind: stop believing science and the “we can’t” mantra and start believing in the ultimate creativity of mankind that has often taken that essential step beyond “we can’t” to “here it is.” Take the heaver than air flying machine. That, too was a silly pipe dream. The scientists of that day called that a “bootstrap effect”. Big science was laughing their butts off at the silly dreamers trying the impossible. It took a pair of bicycle salesman to prove them all wrong in the end – as it will in the case of the Gravitational Drive. It's not at a matter of faith in the idea - it is a matter of faith in the capacity of mankind to understand creatively and think one step ahead of the smugness of science and everyone else who should know better than to scoff at tomorrow's reality.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Antigravity Part I

I’m endlessly fascinated by the response of mature scientists to the whole concept of a “Gravitational Drive” or “Antigravity Machine”. Whether it is possible or not is no longer the issue – it has been declared impossible and therefore it is never up for discussion. Mainstream science has labeled the Gravitational Drive alongside flying saucers, UFO’s Bigfoot and Peter Pan. And, further, they don’t want to hear about it anymore.

Well – so much for a free and open debate. “They” already decided. “They” have already made up their collective minds.

Not so fast, amigo. In my Peter Pan fantasy world, science was supposed to hang out the “open for business” sign 24/7 and no discussion was closed. That’s what distinguishes science from religion – free and open discussion of anything without predisposed prejudices and end of the road limitations or ‘already made up my mind’ attitudes. But that fantasy world does not apply to science’s favorite whipping boy called the “Gravitational Drive”.

If you don’t believe me, ask poor Boris Volfson of Huntington, Indiana, who received U.S. Patent 6,960,975 for his design of an antigravity space vehicle last November. When the “scientific community” found out what Boris had slipped by the US Patent office, they were torqued, to say the least. There were recriminations and blame laid all artound on that one. The mainstream-mainstream premire publication Nature even joined in the fray. But not one of them asked Boris to at least hold a press conference and demonstrate his spaceship. Not fair. Give him a chance, for heaven’s sake.

Fortunately, the Internet has declared everything a free and open discussion, 24/7, and it doesn’t matter what the subject, including the much maligned Antigravity machine.

I realize that I risk losing my own percieved objectivty here, but this account has been around as long as the Internet has been, and it is a must-see on the issue. If you haven’t reviewed this essay, you haven’t been to Anti-Grav 101.

And then there is the “Antigravity Underground”. But if you are really interested, grab yourself come coffee and lunch, this site has it all.

But wait, there’s always the American Antigravity Society to check out. But bring your credit card if you want to buy a working model for yourself.

Then there are dozens of antigravity links found here to save yourself a long Google search.

So what is the real story about Antigravity – The Gravitational Drive? Well, here it is in a nutshell. There are a whole lot of poorly educated people out there believing a whole lot of nonsense told to them by clever and articulate people who also do not have a firm grounding in science. This virtual army of misinformants and their believers has made a serious discussion on this field nearly impossible. Why? No credentialed person wants to be associated with them – and I can’t personally say that I blame them.

However, that also leaves the credentialed scientists at fault as well. Why? Because science has made its mind up before all the data is in – and that’s the worst of all possible places for science to wind up. Science is the grand defender of all truth – no matter how mangled the data has been made by the general public. In fact, the more mangled the truth, the greater the opportunity of science to fix it. But - the real question is - can they actually do that service without exposing their own arrogant pomposity? Apparently not... Harumph, harumph.

Now – tomorrow – right here, I will discuss the real Antigravity – Gravitational Drive and I will prove that we already have it and are using it. Bring your calculator. And be on time, for heaven's sake. "When I close the classroom door - no one else will be admitted," I said, looking sternly over my gold wire-rimmed spectacles...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Artificial Gravity

One of the fictional plot devices often used in science fiction is called the “inertial damper” - such as was used in the Nostromo shown above. It’s a single switch that an author can throw and get around the nuisance of not having any gravity in a space story. Writing a realistic plot without gravity is nearly as problematic as living in it for real. So they just throw the inertial damping switch and the problem goes away. Well – as a writer, I think that’s cheating! So did Arthur C. Clarke. So in he and Kubrick’s timeless classic, 2001-A Space Odyssey he designed the magnificent Discovery – a long distance space voyager that produced artificial gravity for real. The movie still stands head and shoulders above any made since as the most dramatically realistic space venture ever conceived. And as far as space ships go, the Discovery is unmatched in not only its beauty but its realistic functionality as well. As a matter of fact, if the Discovery were built as Clark conceived it, it could fly to Jupiter today!

But, did you know that artificial gravity is most certainly NOT a scifi gimmick? Well – it is very real and it is very easy to back it up with real world physics! In fact, the most interesting aspect of the Discovery was its artificial gravity generator that would actually work.

If you would like to read the rest of this story, it is continued on the main website accessed by clicking here.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Aussies Explore Antarctica

Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney Australia

With one exception humans colonised every continent long ago and with with simple technology too. The great exception is the frozen land of Antarctica. Australians have been leading Antarctic exploration since the days of Sir Douglas Mawson who managed to claim a large chunk of Antarctic territory for Australia.

Australia has government funded bases there but Antarctica is still a destination for private Aussie explorers. People like Andrew McAuley and his team who at this moment are paddling a kayak unassisted around the Antarctic Peninsula. They have technological advantages that were fantasy in Mawson's day, such as GPS, dry suits and satellite phones, but the expedition is still a remarkable feat of human endeavor.

Another group of Aussie polar explorers are the IceBirds. Ben Deacon's IceBirds team, which also includes Andrew McAuley, have developed a unique technology, a kite powered ice sled that can sail into the wind. Once they have achieved full funding they will attempt a wind powered crossing of Antarctica. In the mean time they have been testing their invention in the Australian Alps. Have a look at this video. Sure looks like its going to be a hell of a ride!

The Nonsense of Weightlessness

The misconceptions about space exploration are many. One of the most pervasive ones is the idea of weightlessness. Most think it’s just too cool. They would be very wrong. I fully realize I am now treading on dangerous ground. The whole mystique of space is all wrapped around the axel of weightlessness. Unfortunately, most of what we have been told about this state called microgravity is just plain wrong. It's not at all fun.

The very first effect of the weightless state is nausea. Like seasickness, lasts about three days. Nearly all people are adversely affected by it. Then the body’s natural blood circulation is affected and the capillaries are flushed with fluids. The face and fingers get fat. Soon, the long term biomedical effects set in – immediate loss of bone density because they are no longer loaded by gravity which triggers natural bone building and strengthening. Then the muscles of the body begin to atrophy from lack of gravitational loading. This even includes the heart muscle. Some of this bone and muscle is lost forever and can never be recovered. Medically – there is no good reports about microgravity.

But that’s not all. There is even more bad news. Just plain living in microgravity is hell. Floating from one place to another is novel at first, but soon the inability to walk or the inability to even move easily from one place to another becomes irritating, according to many of the astronauts who have had to live there. After being merely irritating - it then slides into a day-to-day misery.

Simple things become very difficult – like taking a bath or a shower – which are nearly impossible. On earth there is a constant unseen battle that gravity always wins. It is called surface tension. In microgravity, surface tension wins every time. What happenes then? Liquids climb all over and coat every surface. Each time a liquid is touched, it will run up your skin. And that means every time you want to go to the bathroom, some of it will crawl around over your body.

I love the command in the movie ALIEN. It was simply, “Inertial damping to on.” In other words, “…flight engineer, hurry up and flip the artificial gravity switch and lets get on with what we came here to do.” Okay, I know... we'll talk about that switch here tomorrow.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


OUTPOST: A human settlement established in a remote, sometimes hostile region distant from the home culture or surroundings. I’m going to go ahead and add to that definition and also label them as “a foothold on permanent human occupation” of that distant region.

Sometimes it is instructive to look around and see where we have established our human outposts. I’m only going to count outposts established off the land areas. Therefore, I am unfortunately going to skip McMurdo Station in Antarctica. While those folks are genuinely remote and even cut off seasonally, they still breathe the same air I do.

SPACE OUTPOSTS: The most dramatic of all the space outposts are, unfortunately unmanned and have been for 34 years. They were, of course, the six lunar manned outposts manned only for a few days at most. There is only one manned space outpost – the International Space Station. Although no one has stated it, this outpost is ostensibly manned permanently and; if all goes well, will always harbor a manned presence until it is de-orbited. There are no plans for burning up the station at the present time.

OCEAN OUTPOSTS: There are currently three – all situated within 15 miles of one another – in the waters near and offshore Key Largo, Florida. The most complex of the three is the Aquarius, owned and operated by the US Government. It sits in a beautiful area in about 40 feet of water. It is not permanently manned, however, and is not really considered an outpost in the true sense, because it is used as an offshore laboratory with no permanent presence in the past or planned. But we’ll throw it in since the examples are so few. The second is an underwater hotel in a enclosed bay in Key Largo called the Jules Undersea Lodge. It is very plush as habitats go and even features room service. It sits in about 30 feet of water and is not manned permanently and cannot be in its current configuration. Next door (about 50 feet away) is the MarineLab habitat. It is manned daily and managed by Aquanaut Chris Olstad, probably the world’s first and only (as close as we can get) true off planet settler-for-life. The MarineLab is tended by Chris every day and often times he sleeps there in support of missions or upkeep. But, again, it is not permanently manned and there are no plans for that.

Sadly, that’s the entire inventory. For the most part, mankind is still stuck hard and clinging to dry land. Of the four off-land outposts, only one is really an "outpost" in the strict definition of being permanently manned. But even it is a tenuous presence, at best, offered the rather dubious guarantees from one political wind to the next. Can we do better? Yes, and we will - if we wish to survive as a species.

Sketch from NEXUSTRIDENT website.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Chatoc Monster of Eden

In my book, ABYSS OF ELYSIUM, part of the story is about the most advanced life support system ever conceived by man. It is the life support system that will keep a human colony alive on Mars – or the moon or in a space colony – or anywhere man needs to breathe, eat, live and survive. Today’s Astronauts like to keep their life support system automated, invisible and in the background. Tomorrow’s astronauts will hopefully be much smarter than that.

While it is true that we may be able to set out and go to Mars for a 1000 day mission – the minimum possible run with today’s technology, it is not altogether certain we have the technology to do so. We can treat it like a grand SCUBA dive and bring our oxygen in a can and scoop up our carbon dioxide with chemicals or resins, eat out of a bag, store our bodily wastes in plastic or blow them out the hatch. But that is one hell of an expensive ride, considering one gallon of water using Apollo technology costs nearly half a million dollars (today’s version of that is even more expensive – but no one is able to figure it out yet).

But complex, advanced life support systems are – well – complex. They are nefariously moody and temperamental. In fact, they mimic the planetary atmosphere and energy balance and all the king’s Cray supercomputers and all the king's geeks still can’t reliably figure it out for more than a few days. In other words, advanced life support systems are inherently chaotic systems. And if you catch one in a particularly bad mood on any given day – it can and will kill you and your crew in a hurry.

What I am driving at here, of course, is a key question – THE key question: what is this dilemma going to cost me? Plenty. And you’re going to pay it. How do I know that? Two reasons: you can’t go where you want to go without it. And two: the first nation that figures it out will rule everything above your head all the way on out to infinity.

Ah – so now am I’m talking about a strategic technology? Yes I am. The sad part about this strategic technology is this: no one in any position of authority has figured this out yet. And if they did, the money would never ever flow toward rockets but toward the research that would make it necessary to build the rockets in the first place.

As concisely as I can state it – one of these days soon we’re going to wake up with a rocket and no place to go. Why? One of these research enterprises will take more than a decade to mount, launch and finish and will cost billions of committed dollars. The nation that does it first will rule the known solar system while everybody plays catch-up. Meanwhile, all eyes are eagerly cast to the skies not giving a moment’s thought to the attached lungs and stomach which will remain disappointingly empty.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Long Overdue Failure of Common Sense

Albert Einstein said that What we believe to be “common sense” is actually nothing more than the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen. What Dr. Einstein was trying to say was that we humans are creatures of grossly simplistic analysis. What we organize as “belief” is often limited by what we can see and how it fits in our comfort zone.

For instance, this statement is attributed to the Director of the U.S. Patent office in 1899, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” It seems Charles Duell was within his comfort zone and wanted to close the patent office doors and go home, entirely satisfied with the general state of everything from then on and forevermore.

The same is true with exploration today. The media has fixed our eyes on the heavens and many people actually think space is the “final frontier”. That pithy phrase was borrowed from an old 1960’s television drama that, sadly, many today still mistake for a documentary.

The truth is, as Ralph so clearly pointed out in yesterday’s QuantumLimit web log, that the earth is still teaming with not only places humans have not settled – but places we have not even yet begun to explore!

When I was a Naval Officer in the 1970’s, we took a voyage along the fringes of the Aleutian Islands. We passed island after island – hundreds of them. They were all completely deserted, save a handful. Why? It is too cold and too inhospitable and they are very far from any supply route. “No one would want to live there.” And yet, they are many times more hospitable than any place in space or on any planetary body!

The difference is, of course, as it will be on the Moon or on Mars – technology. We need technology to keep the temperature controlled inside and to keep the cold out. We need energy for lights and food. After that – there is no place we cannot settle, from the Aleutian Islands to the deepest part of the sea.

At last count, we have settled less than 10% of the habitable earth, and people are incessantly whining about “overpopulation”. Let’s wait until we at least settle 50% before we get into that discussion.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Lost World

Dear QuantumLimit Reader,

I would like to introduce a fellow explorer to you who has submitted today’s web log titled, “The Lost World”. His name is Ralph Buttigieg and he’s from New South Wales, Australia. Ralph will be contributing now and then – especially when I am away from computers, the web and the power grid – which happens once and awhile in the life of all real explorers. For instance, during the first nine or ten days in March, Claudia and I will be exploring France for my upcoming book, ALYETE and, while traveling, Ralph will be blogging along in my place - unless I can land near an Internet Cafe somewhere in Paris. But this whole web log sharing plan is not at all bad, I’d say – that we can now team up on opposite ends of the earth without even a pause or a hiccup! Here’s his introduction, followed by today’s log:

Ralph lives in the quiet suburbs of Sydney Australia. He has had a lifelong interest in astronomy and space exploration. Ralph still remembers watching the Apollo 11 moon landing as a young child and regards it as one of the most important experiences in his life. He has been an active amateur astronomer and was the President of one of the oldest astronomy clubs in Australia. Ralph is a diplomate of the International Space Academy.

Several years ago he heard about Dennis and the League of the New Worlds and thought it would be cool to become an aquanaut. One problem, he couldn't swim. So at the age of 36 he took up the challenge of learning to swim, then became a Scuba diver and finally a certified PADI Aquanaut in the Jules Undersea Lodge.

In recent years he married the beautiful Tessy and had a science fiction and fantasy book shop for several years. He now has a more conventional job but still tries to explore new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations.


This is the 21st Century, a world of instant communications, mass jet travel and space travel. You might think the days of the explorer finding new lands are long gone. I though so too, at least until I read the following:

"Australian and other scientists have found a "Lost World" in a remote Indonesian mountain jungle, home to exotic new species of birds, butterflies, frogs and plants as well as mammals unafraid of humans despite being hunted to near extinction elsewhere.

"It's as close to the Garden of Eden as you're going to find on Earth," said Bruce Beehler, co-leader of the US, Indonesian and Australian expedition to part of the cloud-shrouded Foja mountains in the province of Papua that covers the western half of New Guinea......." Click here for more.

I find this very humbling. We are sending robots to explore Pluto but there are still unique places "were no one has gone before" on our own planet. How many places in Africa, Asia and South America remain to be explored? There’s still plenty for Earth bound explorers to do.

Shown above is a "Tree Kangroo" found in the Lost World.

Ralph Buttigieg

Sunday, February 12, 2006

21st Century Exploration Power Team

Steve Fossett did it! He landed at the UK’s Bournemouth Airport after having flown solo for 26,389.3 miles in 76 hours 45 minutes and thereby shattering every record.

Was I impressed? Yes, certainly – of course. But not nearly as impressed as I was at the trilateral power machine that made it happen – and I’m not talking about the airplane. Surprisingly, it is the same machine responsible for other exploration firsts, including the first private space venture.

Let me introduce the 21st century power team to you:

THE EXPLORER’S ENERGY: Steve Fossett. A wealthy 60+ commodities trader turned adventurer and record setter. If there’s a record out there not shattered, Steve wants his name all over it.

THE POWER OF MONEY: Sir Richard Branson. Into this already volatile mix steps Richard Branson. With the same name as the American Ozark mountains playground, Branson is anything but – he is all polished British. He is also amazingly wealthy – a billionaire plus. He also has a real personality. He also loves exploration and wants to have his name (think Virgin Airlines) painted on its side.

THE TECHNINCAL DREAMER: Burt Rutan. Burt is truly a technical genius. He is also a visionary. Put these traits together and you have a very dangerous man. He has his sights on opening space for every man, but you have to travel through the air to get there – so he also knows aviation pioneering. Rutan knows all there is to know about futuristic power plants , engines and lightweight materials.

Assemble these three in the same room and something happens. Something powerful. Something wonderful. Records are shattered. Lives are changed. History is nudged into a different direction. It happens all the time.

Remember back to the year 1490 in Portugal. Remember when the same team formed up? There was Christopher Columbus and all his pent-up explorer’s energy. He was so ADHD when it came to exploring, he actually followed the King’s court around for 10 years waiting for the right time to ask for money to find a new route to Cathay. Then there were the ship builders of Portugal. They were known for their small, fast and rugged ships – they possessed the technical know-how to make Columbus’ dream happen. Then there was the royal court of Isabella, Queen of Castile. She turned Columbus’ nutty idea down twice before finally acquiescing after a court aide reminded her it would cost less than a single royal party - even if Columbus sailed off the end of the earth. She had the power to spend the cash. Together, the three forces came together and human history was changed radically and forever.

I really, really respect the Fossett-Rutan-Branson team. But there are others. There must be others. There are worlds to be discovered, new lands to be settled, whole new civilizations to be founded. These are not the only three power teams on earth. And their formula for success is not original. It is as old as human exploration.

Shown in photos: Fossett, Branson, Rutan

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Day in the Life of An Aquanaut - Part II

This article - A Day in the Life of an Aquanaut Part II - is the second in a two part article from

It was our experience that food becomes very important in an undersea habitat. It is interesting that the astronauts have also reported the same phenomenon. One begins to look forward to meal times with an anticipation that is quite unlike the ho-hum scheduling of meals on land.

We had snacks that we dubbed “aquanaut” bars – in reality they were Kudo bars. And one meal in particular we dubbed the "aquanaut meal” which was a can of chunky chicken dumped on a saucer, layered with a thick slice of provolone cheese. Popped in a microwave for a minute and it was quick, efficient and delicious. Claudia and I still make them!

At night, the lights of the habitat shine out the moon pool which attracts small minnow sized fish we called “silversides”. They were attracted to the light and the larger fish were attracted to them. If the silver sides are chased, they will “leap” through the air and sometimes strand themselves on the deck of the moon pool. One aquanaut picked a couple of freshly landed silversides, placed them on a cracker and popped them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. He swore they tasted exactly like sardines!

The rest of this article is found at and can be read in its unabridged form by clicking here.

If you arrived here by search engine or other back-door, you can read Part I by clicking here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Fossett Now Over Halfway

Steve Fossett - currently in the middel of his record breaking flight around the world and more, has admitted that during a period of "severe" turbulence he feared a wing might break and had put on his parachute in case he had to abandon the plane mid-air. The turbulence occurred approximately 14:30UTC Thursday as he flew over Bhophal in India. Although Steve informed Mission Control about the turbulence and said he was "uncomfortable" he did not let the team know the full extent of the trouble. It was only later in the evening that he revealed he had put his parachute on and that the turbulence had been a frightening experience.

Steve said: "I was afraid it was going to break up. It was a scary time and I had my parachute on and I was prepared to bail out in case a wing broke."

The aircraft feels turbulence four times more than a commercial aircraft would. Due to the fragile nature of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer there is a possibility that severe conditions could damage the plane and break a wing.

Although the turbulence is behind him, the remainder of the flight will be a challenging experience. Steve said: "I still have a lot to worry about."

If all goes well, Fossett will land in England on February 11th at 1830UTC.

You can keep up with the mission hour by hour by clicking here.

(Portions of the blog were contributed by Amy Abrahams.)

Spirit Rover On Homeplate

At this moment as I write, the rovers Spirit and Opportunity are 107,508,000 miles from my desk. Tomorrow at this moment they will be 103,788,000 miles away. That means that about the time I publish this web log, Mars will have narrowed the distance to my desk by some 155,000 relative miles. I like that perspective. It lets me know that Mars is a real place in a solar system that is in a hurry all the time by mere human measures.

Meanwhile, on Mars, the rover Spirit has made what many planetary scientists are calling the most spectacular finding yet. What’s all the excitement about?

They can’t figure out exactly what it is. The picture above shows it – dubbed “homeplate”. Some think it may be a volcanic fissure vent – others think it is layering due to a variety of possible causes: impact deposits, volcanic deposits, maybe wind- or water-lain sediments. But whatever it is, the picture of all the jumbled layered rocks has sparked a somewhat “spirited” debate (no pun intended).

So why should we earthlings care if a robot on mars takes a picture of a jumbled rock formation? Plenty, I’d say. One day, Mars will be just as important as the Earth in the Solar System. It will inherit that status by mankind’s staking claim to the planet. And mankind will stake their claim supported almost entirely the discovery of water which on Mars is to become more valuable than gold. Water on Mars is the most strategically important element, and without it, Mars exploration and settlement will be prohibitively expensive. In other words, finding water is equivalent to staking a permanent, meaningful claim on anther planet. Who ever finds and controls the water first are rulers of the planet. The best claims will become the most powerful entities.

Now – to those of you who actually think Mars, our moon and the planets will be settled by non-competitive and un-aggressive means, perhaps it is time for your medications. Historically, treaties and agreements have always been the reasons for going to war, not preventative declarations as they purport to be. Ask my ancestors, the Native Americans of the North American Plains.

The bottom line is this – we, as Americans need to get up off our butts and get busy right now. At this point, we’re showing all the good spots to our competition!

You can stay in touch with the rovers daily by clicking here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Down Under - Down Under

Last night I drove to Orlando for a meeting with a very interesting individual – Australian marine scientist and diver Lloyd Godson of New South Wales, Australia to talk about his rather interesting adventure called the BioSub Project.

Godson recently won the Australian Geographic contest they call “Live Your Dream” and wrote him a check for $50,000 to make his dream happen. Well – it just so happens that Lloyd’s dream is to live underwater in a habitat of his own design.

But it’s no simple habitat, it seems. Godson’s underwater home will use bioregenrative technologies right off NASA’ shelves and while beneath a Australian lake this August, he will be breathing oxygen partially produced by plants he is growing there in his habitat.

That’s no simple feat and it will earn Godson a first – it will be the first underwater habitat ever built to integrate advanced bioregenerative life support into its design. But according to Godson, the will be down under-down under in the middle of Australia’s winter this August and the water will be cold – in the 50’s. He said he didn’t plan to venture outside much – can’t say that I blame him!

Stay tuned to and we will continue to bring you Lloyd’s wet adventures down under-down under.

His website is found by clicking here.

The QuantumLimit podcast for this story is heard by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Fossett Airborne

Steve Fossett’s experimental aircraft with a 114’ wing span just took off from the Kennedy Space Center for a grueling 27,000 mile – more-than-round-the-world trip that will require 3 ½ days before landing in London.

If successful, Fossett would break the previous airplane record of 24,987 miles set in 1986 by the Voyager aircraft piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager. He would also break the balloon record of 25,361 miles set by the Breitling Orbiter 3 in 1999.

Weird Planet

When we began to robotically explore our Solar System – we had no idea what was in store for us. For example – we discovered quickly that every airless planet does not necessarily have to look like our moon. They are all NOT cratered and pitted and generally blasted by eons of meteor bombardment like our nearest terrestrial body.

I could tell about a lot of weird planets, but few as strange as the planet (currently mis-named a mere ‘moon’) in orbit within the Saturnian system. Its name is Titan.

Titan is the largest so-called moon in the solar system. It is significantly larger than the Pluto-Charon system and larger even than the planet Mercury. It also has a significant atmosphere – the closest in atmospheric density than any other to our own.

But that’s where the similarities to earth cease altogether. Titan is a strange place – mostly clouded with a orange tinted organic-soup, a thick atmosphere with a pressure 1.6 times that at our sea level – or equivalent to a pressure at 21 feet beneath the earth’s oceans. The Titan atmosphere is primordial – methane, nitrogen and a smattering of other gasses. And Titan is cold – its temperature never rises above -290 degrees F. That means with an atmosphere full of methane gas at that specific temperature range – it rains liquid methane form the sky.

Indeed, it rains so much methane that it has created whole bays and perhaps even small oceans of methane. As our Hyugens probe made its descent though Titan’s atmosphere – it clearly showed river channels cut by liquid methane in its alien landscape. Shown here is the photograph the probe sent back to earth over 900 million miles of space last year – the Titan landscape in true color. For more on Titan and Huygens, click here.

Images courtesy ESA and NASA.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Kubrick Was Right In The End

You have to feel some level of pity for the nation’s space agency when reality rears its ugly head. The most common question poised to NASA officials when they are out speaking to the general public is this: how do the astronauts go to the bathroom in space?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is NOT easy. First – there is the obvious lack of gravity. Things float. Everything floats. (You know what I’m trying to say here.) Worse still, the lack of gravity means that things we don’t normally worry about tend to take over – like surface tension effects. That means that liquids don’t drip and fall away but they cling and they even “run up” a surface – like skin. Why? Because in the absence of gravity, the power of liquid adhesion (surface tension) takes over. Now we’re talking about a real mess in a very tight space.

The scientists and engineers of NASA have been struggling with these issues for decades – ever since the astronauts had to go to the bathroom in plastic bags in a weightless state. (That couldn’t have been easy…)

Then along came the shuttle and the International Space Station, so they decided to build a space toilet that actually works. During the first few shuttle flights – well – it didn’t. The first guys in the shuttle on the ground will heartily attest to that! But – they fixed it and now it works fairly well. The photo shown here is the updated International Space Station model based almost wholly on the Space Shuttle model and years of experience.

I’d love to get into the details – but there are many reasons why I won’t. None of them have anything to do with national secrets and all of them have to do with the family rating of this blog. But suffice it to say that God outfitted males and females with different equipment and the machines have to interface somewhere. Nuf said about that…

In the prophetic movie, 2001-A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick, foretold that hassle, and the instructions for the movie version of a space toilet can be found by clicking here. It was pretty much right on.

NASA has prepared several videos to meet the public demand about space toilets. If you really want to know, click here.

Going to the bathroom in an underwater habitat isn’t nearly as complicated – that is until you want to empty the tank while underwater. That is or will be discussed in the article, “A Day in the Life of an Aquanaut”.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Perfect Void

My League of the New Worlds team geared up just after breakfast for a dive offshore Cape Canaveral, Florida. Our mission: just to get wet in the void. For many years, I had wanted to dive in the open ocean void – out of sight of the land and in water so deep there was no bottom – at least for a SCUBA diver.

The boat sped away from Cape Canaveral’s modest harbor toward the open sea on a brilliantly lit Saturday morning. The boat was a simple, 22’ open cockpit craft loaded with four divers and gear. We ran quickly across the shallow waters colored a bright, almost pastel green and immediately into blue water. The swells were light and the surface relatively flat – a perfect morning for such a run out to sea in such a small craft. We cranked the engine wide open – we wanted to get out and away quickly before something kicked up and forced us back home. But in just a few minutes, we reached our destination and shut the engine down. As I looked behind us, the land had disappeared behind us and we were out and away – just what I had wanted. Quickly we geared up and dropped a sea anchor off just for good measure. Just as advertised, even though there was not enough current to detect with our eyes, the boat lazily drifted about and the anchor blossomed beneath us.

The only problem was – the sea was covered as far as we could see in a massive flotilla of balloon like objects that indicated thousands of Portuguese Man of War were hovering just beneath the surface. I measured the distance between their light blue colored balloon floats – it appeared we could safely dive around and between them. And so we cautiously dropped in the water.

The nearest jellyfish contingent was safely away from us so we deflated our buoyancy compensators and dropped down. Immediately, we entered a cloudy layer of water near the surface. It made me nervous enough – I don’t care for limited visibility in an environment I know about – but certainly not the open sea. I even committed to returning to the surface if it did not clear away. And I was not disappointed. In just ten feet, it cleared and I will never forget what I saw.

There was a layer of nearly forty feet of crystal clear ocean water below me. And below that, another cloudy layer of ocean water swirled. Like flying between cloud decks, we hovered there in the blue void – suspended without a visible surface above and above a feathery, swirling deck of submarine clouds below.

It was not what I expected to see. I had come to hover beneath the surface I could see and the blackness of the deep beneath me. Instead, I was suspended in a crystal clear layer of ocean with no clearly defined surface and no clearly defined bottom. It was the perfect void. As I looked across and away into the distance, I knew that the nearest land to the south was South America and to the east, the shores of Africa. As I hung there motionless, suspended and perfectly balanced, I was awed by what I was witnessing. Not just emptiness, but perfect emptiness, suspended in a layer of clear ocean water that was moving slowly north, caught in the far edge of the massive Gulf Stream just a few miles east.

Far too quickly, I had to look to the surface and begin floating slowly back again through the cloudy layer above my head. But before I lost sight of the vast blue void I stopped for one last look. It was unbelievably awesome and at the same time it was frightening. It was way too vast and far too powerful for the likes of one tiny human. And I was only permitted to stay just a brief little while. It was certainly worth the trip. And we just managed to again avoid the fleet of Man ‘o War waiting for our return.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Ivan Ivanovich Is Dead

The poor, hapless astronaut floated away from the International Space Station yesterday full of life and hope, speaking fluent greetings to the myriad earthlings below in six languages on your FM dial at145.990 MHz. Not even an hour later, poor Ivan died, probably frozen to death. Which is probably a good thing, in the long run. Ivan will re-enter the atmosphere in several days and burn to a crisp on the long fall down from 354 kilometers altitude.

Ivan Ivanovich was an unmanned Russian spacesuit that apparently had been deemed to be trivial garbage and not even worth a dignified ride back on a Progress garbage run. So astronauts Valery Tokarev and U.S. commander Bill McArthur worked hard (presumably in their spare time) to convert the Orlan spacesuit into a ham radio transmitter and rigged an “onboard” recorder to say hi to all of us folks stranded down at the bottom of the gravity well. You have to hand it to them. Imagine it – they worked industriously and managed to pull off this extraordinarily interesting experiment, presumably without an army of ground based safety and quality inspectors breathing down their necks. That alone should be worth some kind of award when they get home – unless they are reprimanded for it, of course. And that’s not even getting into the woes of the hapless, powerless property custodian who was responsible for the government property and so on and so forth. No wonder mankind longs to get away from the ground based madness!

PS. I'm relatively certian that it occured to no one that the cost of that spacesuit probably approached or exceeded the entire budget for manned seafloor exploration over the entire planet in FY2005.

QuantumLimit News – Aquanaut Part II Is On The Way!

QuantumLimit has a weekly blog in depth which can be accessed by clicking on the link on the right or by clicking here. Two weeks ago we began a look at A DAY IN THELIFE OF AN AQUANAUT. Part I has been posted. Last week I was on the road and this week I got bogged down. But, I can tell you that in a day or so Part II will be posted and hopefully by next week the site can get caught up on some detailed issues. There are some very interesting topics in the queue.

PS. Server Woes Resolved

Our good friends at had all kinds of server woes yesterday. So if you missed the daily dose of QLCOM - I apologize. But it appears they are now up and back on line and things are working well! (Do you hear 'it wasn't my fault' embedded in here anywhere?)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Gearing Up for Aviation Record

It’s raining outside right now. The temperature is 61.8 F. But just a few miles from here, safely tucked away and dry in a government hangar is Steve Fossett’s Global Flyer aircraft. He and his team is gearing up for a scheduled takeoff from the Kennedy Space Center’s extra long 15,000 feet shuttle runway for a record-setting, more-than-just-another round the world flight.

Fossett, 61, plans to fly east from Florida over the Atlantic, around the globe and back over the Atlantic a second time before landing at Kent International Airport outside London. Conditions also must be acceptable in the high-altitude jet stream where Global Flyer will be positioned for its 26,000-plus mile journey. The trip is expected to take about 80 hours. It’s winter time in Florida (as winter as it gets here) and the cooler temperature makes for denser air and an easier lift for Global Flyer, whose 11-ton weight at takeoff is 87 percent fuel.

The weather at Kennedy Space Center and global jet stream conditions look as if they could be acceptable for a launch Tuesday of Steve Fossett's attempt to make the longest non-stop flight in aviation history. Fossett is seriously considering a take off run between 6:48 PM and 7:11 AM. The 80-hour trip would cover a record 26,160 miles.

Fossett is no strangerto aircraft or record breaking flights. In March 2005, Fossett piloted the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, successfully circumnavigating the globe flying 22,928 miles (36,898 km) for the First Solo Nonstop around the world flight. The current record for the longest aeroplane flight is held by the Voyager aircraft, which flew for 24,987 miles (40,212 km) in 1986. The longest flight by any kind of aircraft is held by the Breitling Orbiter balloon which flew for 25,361 miles (40,814 km) in 1999. After take off from the Kennedy Space Center Steve Fossett will circumnavigate the globe, then continuing on, flying across the North Atlantic and landing at Kent International airport. Steve Fossett aims to beat both of these existing records. In fact, Fossett is quoted to have said that he is doing this so that his record can be safely retired without ever being challenged in the future. Come on Steve - get real!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Historic Day In Arctic Exploration

Today was an historic day in exploration. Rune Gjeldnes, a Norwegian explorer completed his southern polar crossing – the first human to have crossed both poles unsupported! Rune trekked across the Arctic Ocean, from Severnaya Zemlya in Russia via the North Pole to Cape Discovery in Canada in the year 2000 and now across the Antarctic continent from Queen Mauds Land via the South Pole to Victoria Land. In addition Rune skied across Greenland lengthways from Cap Farewell to Cap Morris Jessup in 1996. With that, Rune has completed the grueling explorers Grand Slam - skiing un-supported across the three largest ice caps in the world!

This story details Rune’s expeditions on which he was only 48 hours from death. It is a great read and may plug you into some of the best Internet exploration sites on the Web!

MSNBC Links to QuantumLimit
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Thursday, February 02, 2006

The 13th Planet

In an article yesterday in Nature Magazine, it was announced that the newest planet discovered orbiting the sun is actually significantly larger than Pluto. It is designated planet 2003 UB313. By comparison, the newly discovered planet has been measured at 3,000 kilometers in diameter compared to Pluto’s 2,300. (Click here for graphic from Nature.) The new planet was discovered by Mike Brown of Caltech and officially announced in July of 2005.

2003 UB313 occupies an orbit that is highly elongated and takes it out twice as far as Pluto’s distant orbit.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is still arguing over the definition of a planet. Imagine that. Now that 2003 UB313 has been discovered, now there are four new “planets” waiting to be affirmed as planets. Alonngside 2003 UB313 are Sedna, Quaoar and 2004 DW.

Meanwhile, every kid in America and all their science teachers are as confused as the IAU. At this point, teaching there are nine planets orbiting around the sun is officially garbage. But how many are there? Are there now 13 as the numbers would suggest? Why is the IAU arguing and failing to reach consensus on how to identify a planet? And what is the cause of all this babble? Now – astonishingly – for the first time in the civilized history of man – no one on earth knows how many planets we can see because no one can agree on the definition of a planet. Who would have believed that it would actually come to this?

Let me suggest a fix here. Pick a number guys, and then let’s move on.

Perhaps the IAU needs to enlist a class of willing 5th graders to help them make up thier collective minds.

OBTW - Are you aware that anyone can now take an online course in Space Exploration? It's called the I2SE - International Institute of Space Exploration - and the details are found by clicking here. It's been around since 1994 and they offer a lot for a good price!

Image Copyright (c) by Dan Durda

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Future Undersea City

In my book, QUANTUM STORMS, a part of the story explores the adventures of a huge undersea city called PACIFICA. It is moored to the top of one of the world’s most prolific undersea food sources, the extinct volcano called Hancock Sea Mount. The top of the sea mount lies some 700 feet beneath the ocean surface – a submerged mountain. But the bottom of that submerged mountain touches the abyssal ocean floor, more than 18,000 feet lower.

I staged the city of PACIFICA there for several reasons. One – it could be suspended at a “workable” depth for human activity at 200 feet below the surface – out of range, for the most part, of serious storm action (and in the story – out of range of deadly solar radiation storms). Two - it was also positioned there so that they could enjoy reasonable access to the surface when they wanted and could enjoy some level of daylight sunshine. Three - I also positioned it there so that they could be tethered to the seamount below and held in place by cables, suspended within the ocean void.

PACIFICA represents an exceptionally exciting idea in the near future of human civilization – suspended cities in the ocean void. Like a space station, such suspended cities allows human kind to settle more than 3/4ths of the world now totally uninhabited. Further, suspended cities allows the human masters of the undersea world to select their depths and pick their locations anywhere on the planet. No longer are we to be locked out by unattainable depths or held permanently away from sunlight by the deep.

In QUANTUM STORMS, the book explores the exciting near term reality of such engineering marvels. While QUANTUM STORMS is a fictional novel, there is in reality NO reason at all why such cities could not be built today,. There is not a single engineering hurdle that would prevent humanity from engaging in such a project right now!

In an upcoming book, UNDERSEA COLONIES, I will explore these ideas in detail. The book will cover not only the future of suspended colonies like PACIFICA, but will also cover all aspects of undersea living including suspended and permanent seafloor colonies.