Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Wicked Lasers Dot Com

When I was a very young man, lasers had just been invented for practical uses. One of the things I was always fascinated about was laser weapons – you know – burning holes and cutting with light. Well, the first lasers came out for the general public as pointers. And now you can have one for a dollar! But the new lasers available for the general public are – well – wimpy. That is until came around. And no, I’m not joking!

Take a look at their Spyder series laser above. Note the case it comes in. Note the name of the company. Now these guys are in it for the fun, trust me.

If you go their site, they have some unbelievable lasers for sale – to law enforcement, the military and even Homeland Security! These lasers can actually cut and burn at a distance - balloons and black tape only, please, or Homeland Security will be looking for y-o-u!

You must check the site out – they have a lot of videos for your enjoyment there as well! And check out the ranges for their Spyder series: over 120 miles! Now that’s a serious laser!

Friday, April 28, 2006

BioSUB Construction Underway

Underwater Pioneer Lloyd Godson from Australia is in the construction phase of his underwater habitat. Lloyd is one of the few private individuals who has designed and built his own habitation in a remote and extreme environment. The BioSUB website is found by clicking here. It tells all about Lloyd’s venture, and it is an exciting one at that! He will put live plants together with a human (himself) in the underwater habitat and check out the capacity of a kind of bioregenrative life support system. Lloyd is making his habitat out of shipping containers, a unique idea shown in photos here. Lloyd’s project is being sponsored by the Australian Geographic Society.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Top 10 Ways We Could All Die

Nikita Kruschev said in the 1960’s that “The things scientists carry around in their briefcases is terrifying.” True enough. But to make matters even worse, a few of them have been sitting around dreaming up a list of the top ten ways we all could die together. Really. I’m not making this up. It’s not like we can all look forward to that 25% chance of cancer – no – we have to now sit around dreaming up ways that the entire planet gets the axe all at once. The list has been compiled by those cheery optimists at Live Science and that link is included here. Have a really nice day as you pursue the ultimate-disaster list. PS. There HAS to be some great disaster movies in there somewhere.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Seasoned and Practiced Failure

You gotta love our paid politicians. They all drive up to their offices in DC and send out their daily pronouncements which essentially all say: “Don’t worry, be happy, we’re in control.” Then invariably the crisis de jour shows up and we find them asleep at the helm of the great ship of state. When the something-whatever-it-is finally goes wrong, we see just how unprepared they really are.

Take last year’s flu season as an example. These geniuses paid a foreign manufacturer to make our flu vaccine. Why would they ever do that? Because they can’t say no to lobby money and pass meaningful tort legislation to keep American’s from suing the socks off vaccine manufacturers. So when the dangerous flu finally showed up, the foreign manufacturers diverted some of our supply to their people which left us short. Then they made up a bunch of rules on how it would be distributed which no one actually paid any attention to. As far as distribution was concerned, there was wholesale cheating and lying and diversion run amok. And, of course, who is to forget – congress and their families all got theirs first! After all, they reasoned, who was going to run the country if things got really bad? Well I have a suggestion. How about a classroom of fifth graders? At least inexperience is far better than seasoned and practiced failure of ethics and competence.

Meanwhile, after all that, we all await the arrival of the next pandemic while our politicians have, once again, assured us that they have everything in control.

I feel better already.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Venusian Vacation by Cyberpat
Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney NSW


ESA's Venus Express spacecraft is now safely orbiting Venus and beginning to send data to Earth. Dennis wonders why the Europeans are so interested in Venus. Well, I can't speak for ESA but I'll tell you why I am.
The greatest discovery of planetary exploration would be the discovery of life. The finding of even microscopic life outside Earth would be the find of the century. Most interest in the search of life has been centered on Mars. After all scientists did find the famous Mars meteorite a few years ago and astronauts will be visiting the Red Planet this century.

Venus may appear the last place to look for life. The first space missions revealed a hellish planet. The surface temperature is about 735K, hot enough to melt lead. Atmospheric pressure about 96 bar, similar to an ocean depth of one kilometer and the clouds contain sulfuric acid droplets not fresh water. No life can exist on the surface and the only visitors are likely to be robots.

However recent space probes have given us a more detailed picture of Venus and researchers are beginning to realise that conditions may be far more Earth like then previously thought. Not the surface, that will always be inhospitable but the cloud-tops are a different matter. There can be found the Venusian biozone. At the 50 km altitude the atmospheric pressure is one bar the same as Earth. The temperature goes down to about 40 deg C . Sydney summer beach weather. There's even water available in the form of sulfuric acid.

Scientists are beginning to take the possibility of Vensuian life seriously.

Our assertion that microbial life may exist in the Venusian atmosphere is based on the assumption that microbial life originated in an early Venusian ocean, or was brought in by meteorites from Earth or Mars. Life then adapted to the atmospheric niche when Venus lost its oceans," reported Dirk Schulze-Makuch, of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso.

A few years ago Austrian scientists discovered bacteria that lived and reproduced in the clouds of Earth and some of the sulfur loving Earth bugs should feel at home in the Venusian sulfuric acid clouds.

Theres real evidence too not just speculation. Space probes have discovered the existence of both hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere. These compounds usually destroy each other and on Earth are renewed by anaerobic bacteria. However they can also be produced by volcanoes but curiously on Venus they are concentrated not at the surface were the volcanoes are but at the habitable zone level. Also the Venusian atmosphere contains carbon sulfide which although can be produced by volcanos, is also produced by life on Earth. Interestingly the lack of carbon monoxide is another indicator. Lightning and solar radiation should have produced lots of it but its not there. On Earth there are microorganisms that use carbon monoxide in their metabolism. Such bugs could explain the absence.

The Venus Express spacecraft primary mission is to explore the planet's atmosphere and the European researchers are well aware of the possibility of life and will be looking for more evidence.

As one of their scientist , Larry Esosito said:

.Fraser: I'd read that recently that something is blocking ultraviolet light in the high atmosphere and that could actually create an ecosystem that life could survive in?
Esposito: We know definitely that there are ultraviolet absorbers in the clouds, but we haven't been able to identify them, yet. The fact that they absorb sunlight could be the start of some biological ecosystem in the Venus clouds. That's pretty speculative at the moment, but very interesting to think of those possibilities. And Venus express will be observing in ways that could shed more light on that question, on Venus life at the presenttime.
Lets see what Venus Express turns up.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Ocean Space Analog

For decades now I have been a strong proponent for using the undersea environment as an analog – or model - for space exploration. The idea of analogs is not new nor it is limited to space-ocean subsets. For example, the Antarctic and the Desert are being used right now for both Mars and Lunar exploration models. In fact, one of my books, ABYSS OF ELYSIUM was left by a long time friend and fellow explorer, Peter Kokh in the desert base of the Mars Society for the reading enjoyment of subsequent crews there.

NASA Astronauts are now using the ocean-analog for all kinds of purposes, much like the undersea station I designed, the Carpenter Space Analog Station was used in 1997-98 on a series of unsersea missions only 15 scant miles from the current expeditions. The picture here shows a NASA astronaut using the undersea environment to mimic lunar gravitational conditions.

This idea is quite alive and well and viable as evidenced by Lloyd Godson’s Australian project currently in work called BioSub, testing out some unique bioregenerative life support ideas in his underwater space analog station.

The idea is not only sound in using the undersea environment as a space analog, but using the undersea environment as a permanent human dwelling place as well. It will happen, of course, eventually. Someone will wake u and build a permanent undersea community – and I’ll just bet it will be the League of the New Worlds. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Robot Sex

Anyone who has ever seen the movie AI should not be surprised at this “latest announcement” from MSNBC that people are thinking about the next great leap for all mankind – having sex with robotkind. In fact, they paid a lot of Ph.D's to sit around at a national conference and seriously discuss this. (In San Francisco - where else?) Meanwhile, many in the population are already having multiphasic fits that the Internet is catering to unbelievable amounts of (mostly) private cyber sex already – and that’s just on a cold, flat screen. Why are they all doing this?
Well – mostly because they can.

But in this new report, Spielberg gets ripped off again when the scientists imagine all kinds of ways to interface the cold hearted silicone beast with cold hearted robotkind.

And who says it has to be cold? Nobody. And it doesn’t have to be hard – it can be as soft as you please. And it can be remotely operated, they say… Why is that? I’m relatively certain Jude Law wasn’t operated remotely. I could go on, but here imagination is the limit. And if the cold flat screen can net hundreds of billions – imagine what a walking, talking naked robot could do.

But there is, of course, the mandatory warning: “Some researchers warn that too much fantasy could prove adverse to everyday human interaction.” Sigh… always the reproving anti-visionary around to spoil all the giant leaps. Check it out for yourself – trust me - its’ rated PG-13.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Space RACE Is On!

Yesterday, the European Space Agency Announced it had orbited a probe around Venus called Venus Express. The stated purpose of the visit was to study the Venusian atmosphere in detail and to prevent the hellish conditions on Venus from being replicated on earth. The unspoken caveat there was “… to keep mankind from triggering it.”

Reflexively I had a lot of questions for my European friends. The first was, “Why are you doing this?” The US Magellan spacecraft orbited Venus for years and returned so much information about Venus that we now know the plant’s surface details literally better than our own. (Because we have high resolution radar images of Venus which we cannot obtain of Earth because of her oceans.)

But, I suppose there is a real case to be made that perhaps we can learn even more. And it is also true the Magellan focused on the Venusian surface details and not her atmosphere. But I still smell a hidden agenda is afoot with the new ESA probe.

One of the reasons for that is the absurd notion that if we could discover what triggered the Venus greenhouse effect (which is widely believed to be its planetary volcanism), then mankind could do something about it if it started happening on earth. While humans spew forth millions of tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere every year – a single small volcano would eject hundreds of times that amount into the atmosphere in a single day! If the God of all creation decides to fill us up with CO2 then it’s going to happen whether we like it or not. To justify a space mission based on the God-like notion that we are going to save our planet by some human control is preposterous and even smacks of a kind of imperial interplanetary fascism. Let me see now – we can convene a meeting of the European Union and the Ministers can set up a plan to plug Mount Vesuvius during her next eruption. This I have to see!

Wait - there is yet another possibility. Perhaps Venus Express will peer down thorugh the clouds and see a long dead civlilzation with countless billions of SUV's littering the surface of Venus - the long awaited smoking gun!

So what’s the real reason for the Venus Express probe? They slipped and told everyone in their latest news release. They said, “With the arrival of Venus Express, ESA is the only space agency to have science operations under way around four planets: Venus, the Moon, Mars and Saturn” underlines Professor David Southwood, the Director of ESA’s science programmes. “We are really proud to deliver such a capability to the international science community.” Ahhh – international competition is alive and well after all! The underlying message here is this, "The European Union is not only a player in interplanetary power - they are, in fact, the leaders of the earth's contingent!"

Fine. At lease we now know that the Europeans are up to. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the best of all reasons to explore space anyway! Good job ESA! Keep flying! We need some more of those press releases to engender some real international jealousy and to keep the space ball rolling. And as far as the earthly volcano problems- I suggest a really big cork and some brave team to climb the mountain and shove it in. Come on guys – you must be able to come up with better justifications for your competitions in the future. Let's go ahead and play the game - but you guys get a failing grade in coming up with really good reasons to justify your expeditions.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The City of Eels and the Moat of Death

City of Eels
Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW Australia
In the 1970s geophyicist Rockne Hart Johnson visited the Samoan islands to investigate a series of undersea explosions that had been picked up on hydrophones. He concluded that there was a major undersea volcano in the area but was unable to confirm its activity. It was not until 1999 that scientists Stan Hart and Hubert Staudigel were able to organise an expedition to confirm Johnson's findings. Their expeditions not only confirmed Johnson's findings but revealed a huge volcanic seamount. Named Vailulu'u, the massive volcano rises 4200 meters from the sea floor to a depth of 590m. Its summit has a 2 kilometers wide, 400m deep caldera.
But the most astonishing discoveries were made in 2005 when the scientists were able to explore the volcano in the submersible Pisces V. They discovered not one but two active volcanos for a second volcano was rapidly emerging from the caldera. The secondary volcano called Nafanua , is growing at an amazing 20 cm a day.

More remarkable discoveries were made. Although the volcanos create a fog of gunk that limits visibility, the Pisces V explorers found hundreds of eels living between the hardened larva. So many Eels that they named it Eel City. This amazed the scientists. As one said:

"We were astounded,'' said Craig Young, director of the University of Oregon's Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. "Many of us had worked on hydrothermal vents in other parts of the ocean and had never seen or heard of anything like this before.''

How the Eels managed to feed was a mystery but they now believe the eels are feeding on shrimp which are being brought down from higher levels by thermal currents. However the currents which allow the eels to feed also deposit sea life into surrounding deadly toxic waters, what has been called the Moat of Death. The dead fish rot away allowing bristle worms to feed from the resulting bacteria.

Some time this century the seamount will rise above the surface and a new island will be born. In the mean time researchers have a chance to explore an amazing geological event and a unique thriving ecology.

For more information see here, here and here.

Also there a short video clip of the eels at this site.

Pisces V

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Time Machine - The Real Deal

So what if I put a rabbit or Alice in a time machine and pushed the button and sent them into the future? That would be a big deal. But what if put a subatomic particle in a machine and whisked it into the future through some hole or tunnel in the fabric of time and space while I was watching? Ho hum. Not much interest – and certianly no money. That is exactly what Dr. Professor Ronald Mallett from the University of Connecticut found out, and he has the plans for a time machine – the real deal.

In Dr. Mallett’s machine, you don’t put Alice or the rabbit in inside and push the button – you inject a subatomic particle and watch what happens. According to the Professor, if one hangs around for longer than its theoretical life, then you have just set up the conditions for a working time machine.

Now this observation is not new. Nobel Lauriat Richard Feynman observed this subatomic phenomena in the 1940’s. His comment then was, “I was too good a physicist to ask, “How can this be?” But Dr. Mallett has taken Feyinamn’s observations to the next step – building a machine specifically to make this happen and study new time warping techniques.

What I can’t figure out is why everyone isn’t as excited about this as Dr. Mallett and myself. Isn’t this technology ripe for the plucking – I mean, isn’t it about time?

Check out the full story by clicking here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Nuclear Space Travel

The first thing I learned as a US Navy Navigator was that you never sailed across the globe on a straight line (according to flat maps). Since the globe is a circle, the shortest distance between two points is a curve on that sphere. The same lesson is true in space travel. Since we are all traveling around the sun at a pretty good clip, when we launch our spacecraft away from earth, we have to launch in a curve to account for the orbit the spacecraft will be taking around the sun. As a rule, the slower the craft, the more pronounced is the circle. If you want to stretch the line out and make the trip shorter, you have to speed up.

Sorry about the space navigation lesson, but it is necessary to understand this part of the story. When we launched New Horizons to Pluto on January 19th, we launched the fastest spacecraft ever sent from earth. It passed the moon’s orbit in 9 hours, compared to the manned Apollo mission’s four days. This weekend, traveling at its amazing speed, it already passed the orbit of Mars (even though Mars was nowhere around when it crossed). That’s an unheard of rate. Normally, it takes a spacecraft around 270 days to make it out that far. New Horizons made it in just 79 days!

This is an important point. If we plan on manned launches to Mars, it would be awfully nice it make it out in 79 days. We shorten the mission and greatly reduce the risk to the crew. So why don't we then? Alas – unless we build nuclear rockets, we will not be able to. Why? Because the New Horizons weighed in at just 1000 pounds and we used the biggest rocket we had. The laws of physics absolutely prevent us from launching a much heavier manned craft on such a trajectory. Hence, we have to get busy and build the nuke ships that will make Mars travel reasonably practical.

Shown is the NASA Prometheus nuclear spacecraft concept.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Odysseys Of The Wind

Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney NSW Australia

Two expeditions are setting off to pioneer transportation in the frontiers of ocean and ice. Both are united by a radical new use of wind, one of the oldest renewable propulsion methods. They are the Odysseys of the Wind.

Wind Odyssey One: Greenland

Image from

I have previously posted on the Australian Icebirds team. The Icebirds intend to sail a new type of kite powered sled to the South Pole and back. On April 5 Ben Deacon and Patrick Speirs will test the sled by sailing across the snow and ice fields of Greenland.

A brief recap on the sled. Previous kite powered sleds could not sail into the wind and if the wind was too strong the kite would fly off with the unfortunate rider. The Kitesled invented by New Zealand engineer Pat Lynn, connects the kite's power directly to the sled allowing greater power and speed. Not to mention safety. Also foot controls allow sailing into any direction including upwind. Polar exploration has a desperate requirement for better transport:

Polar travel is a brutal business. On foot, it's brutally exhausting, by motorised transport brutally expensive. But until now there's been no other way to travel across a land in the grip of a perpetual energy crisis. We realised the solution to this energy crisis was to harness the only abundant source of power in Antarctica- the power of the wind.

The Greenland Expedition may be a test but is a significant adventure in its own right. As they say:

Along the way, we hope to beat the 24 hour polar distance record (currently 442km), the Greenland crossing record (currently 6 days 23 hours), and if we encounter exceptional conditions, the world 24 hour sailing distance record (a staggering 1278KM). It's time to see if our IceBirds fly. On the 5th of April, Pat and Ben will set out on a 2000 kilometre journey, from Greenland's west coast to the summit of Mt Gunsbjornfeld, the highest peak in the Arctic.

Further information can be found here

Wind Odyssey Two: Indian Ocean

Image from

In a few days time Frenchwoman Raphaëla le Gouvello will leave the West Australian town of Exmouth to go wind surfing. Nothing remarkable about that you might say except for her final destination, the island of Reunion 6300 km away. Yes, thats right, Raphaëla will attempt the first solo unsupported wind surf of the Indian Ocean. This is a great adventure in its own right but extreme sea voyages are about the closest analog we have to long space missions so her odyssey is worth examining.

Like a professional astronaut she is well trained and experienced. Raphaëla has been wind surfing since the 1970's and has already completed other long sea voyages including wind surfing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The mission has been planned in great detail months in advance and she has a capable French-Australian team behind her.

Her sail board was designed by naval architect Guy Saillard and is as high tech as any space craft. In fact the European Space Agency regard it as a significant space technology transfer. Designed to be as autonomous as possible it is solar powered and will manufacture fresh water by desalination. The vessel is constructed from carbon fibre and epoxy resin with airex foam and internal honeycomb bulkheads. The sails are woven from mono-film. She will navigate with the aid of a GPS system and will provide daily report via her Iridium satellite telephone. The interior room is as crapped as a 1960's space capsule with about one cubic meter of living space.

Although she will use insitu resources for water, power and propulsion, food is another matter. That she has to take with her but her menu was selected with the help of team member and doctor Hélène Chevreuil . Thanks to her nutrition advice Raphaëla lost less then a kilo of weight on her previous adventures. The importance of proper nutrition on long voyages can be seen by the recent experience of ocean rower Alex Bellini who ran out of food while trying to cross the Atlantic and suffered badly from malnutrition. Raphaëla's menu will consist of whole dishes, dehydrated and freeze dried meals, dried meat, dried fruit, energy bars, biscuits, concentrated milk with sweetener, jams and honey.

The voyage is expected to take about 70-75 days. She will have to cope with possible bad weather, sharks and other sea hazards but also with the isolation and challenges of a solo mission.

The age of super macho explorers may be gone but Raphaëla has the passion, determination and focus of the true explorer. Her venture is an example of the innovative, well planned expeditions that will open up new frontiers.

Update: Her voyage was supposed to start on April 5 but has been delayed due to cyclone activity. It should begin soon. Regular updates can be found on her web site

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Let the Aerobraking Begin!

Right alongside gravitational assist, arobraking is sheer genius. Instead of bringing along thousands of pounds of fuel destined for a single exercise, why not use the atmosphere of the planet to slow your spacecraft down? In that way, all that fuel can either be eliminated or saved for adding years to the mission.

The first time I encountered the concept of aerobraking in any meaningful fashion was in the movie 2010. If you’ll remember, the Russian Spaceship Leoniv used the atmosphere of Jupiter to aerborake in a single, flaming pass. The ship employed ablative bags to absorb the energy. If you’ll also remember, it was a rough ride fior the crew. And how can anyone forget George Scheider hanging onto a frightened Natasha Shneider for the duration of the trip?

In any event, after all that lead-in, the story here is that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) began its first aerobraking maneuver last night. But quite unlike the flaming Leonov, the MRO is doing it gently, one pass at a time for six months. That way, the controllers can judge each pass for a perfect final orbit later this year. In this fashion, they don’t need a heat shield and there isn’t a crew burning up oxygen and consumables – so taking their time makes sense. The procedure slowly changes the MRO from a 35 hour, highly elliptical orbit to a two hour circular orbit. Aerobraking ends in November and then the science mission begins. Check it out here.