Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sylvia Earle: Here's how to protect the blue heart of the planet

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW
Sylvia Earle is one of the great explorers of our time. Oceanographer, aquanaut, author and lecturer she has been exploring Aquatica for decades. Please watch the video below and hear a remarkable woman tell us why we must protect our oceans:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Greatest Explorations - Sputnik I

The launch of the satellite Sputnik I by the former USSR on October 4, 1957 represented a monumentally important step for humankind. It was the first robotic representative of mankind to exit the protective blanket of the earth’s atmosphere and enter space. It also represented the capacity of a single nation - the USSR - to gain the “high ground” of orbital space and by its mere presence there, control it. The tiny beeps transmitted by Sputnik I reminded the whole world that the USSR had the power and capacity to orbit directly over their heads safely out or reach of any other military power to stop it. It was, in fact, this very idea that sparked one of the most ambitious periods of human exploration in recorded history in the form of what would become known as the ‘space race’.

Hence, not only did tiny Sputnik I threaten, it simultaneously sparked in the human psyche a primal need to reach out for various reasons. One – to protect national sovereignty. Two – to occupy a new territory before one’s competitors and enemies. And Three – to initiate a season of exploration and discovery that would take humans billions of miles outward into the deeper regions of the solar system.

All of this was initiated by a simple 23 inch sphere armed with a simple one watt transmitter that signaled earth in 0.3 second intervals.

Sputnik I reentered the earth’s atmosphere and burned up on January 4, 1958. But its legacy will live on as one of the most significant of all human exploration activities – the first benchmark in the eventual human settlement of the space frontier.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The New Worlds Explorer Undersea Habitat

The Atlantica Expeditions has released the latest view of the New World's Explorer Habitat currently in construction in Florida. The model depicts the habitat as it will appear upon launch later this year or early 2010.

The New World's Explorer Undersea Habitat is the first undersea habitat ever constructed from Kevlar. It is also the first habitat ever designed to study various aspects of permanent human occupation of the undersea regions of the world.

The habitat is designed for a prime crew of two or three aquanauts. It is also designed as a modular structure to allow up to four of the NWE type habitats to be connected to a central hub.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Greatest Explorations - Aquatica

It is a world of perpetual, never ending darkness. Or so it would seem. Beyond 300 feet in depth, the sunlight is shut off and has been since creation. Further, it is cold – most of this dark world hovers around freezing and rarely changes. And as if to ice the cake, the world is one of crushing pressure so that humans in their element are not permitted here at all. It is dark, cold, deep and completely alien. It is called the abyss and it earns its name.

In 1930, no one had ever descended below several hundred feet here, even though the average depth of the world’s oceans is over three miles deep. But William Beebe was a naturalist working for the New York Zoological Society. He enlisted inventor Otis Barton to design what he called a “bathysphere” that would enable two men (Beebe and Barton) to enter inside, be bolted in and lowered to extreme depths.

The bathysphere was a steel cylinder 4.5 feet in diameter and cast from one inch thick steel. On its face was mounted a three inch thick fused quartz window that weighed in at 400 pounds.

On August 15, 1934, Barton and Beebe (age 57) made a world record descent in this ungainly looking contraption to a depth of 3,028 feet off Nonsuch Island in Bermuda. What he saw there was totally unexpected.

Beebe and Barton descended to a place where no human in history had ever seen before. However, it is a place that is not at all odd. It is, in fact, the place that represents the vast majority of planet earth. It was just the first time any human had ever been there, deep in the vast three dimensional void we call Aquatica. Today it is relegated to a curious footnote in human affairs. But it was an event at least as significant as Columbus' footsteps in the new world.

There Beebe and Barton were the first to witness strange creatures with huge gaping mouths and ling fang-like teeth. And nearly all creatures in this abyss came packing their own lights. Here, bioluminsecence of all colors is the rule rather than the exception. “Here there be monsters” was a quote of the ancient mariners writ large over their crude charts. How right they were. And it was William Beebe who first opened that door for all of us to see.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Greatest Explorations - The South Pole

This series in represents what we believe to be the greatest explorations of the past 100 years. “The greatest” is defined as those which have had and will have the greatest impact on more humans now and in the future. Here is the one we choose to begin with– the first expedition to the South Pole.

The expedition was planned and led by Norwegian Explorer, Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen. Amundsen was in a fierce race to be the first to the pole. Already on the ice covered continent was another team headed for the same destination led by Robert Scott. The Amundsen team arrived at the South Pole on December 14, 1911 during the peak of the southern summer, just 35 days ahead of Scott’s team.

This was a most remarkable exploration in that the teams were pieced together by individual explorers and all the funds were raised by the team leaders themselves. It was a time of individual exploration by men from free cultures who were not limited by anything except their sheer imagination, ambition and a life-or-death courage.

The technology was primitive. They sailed the treacherous, iceberg laden Antarctic seas in wooden sailing ships. The charts of the Antarctic shores were ill defined and there had been many expeditions to these regions that were lost and never heard from again. Some ships were crushed by drifing ice packs driven by uncertian winds and their helpless crews were left stranded on the ice to die. Amundsen and his crew are shown here onboard his ship during the expedition.

When Amundsen’s team departed their ship and headed south across the perpetually ice covered continent, they saw things no man had ever seen before, their feet walking on a massive ice shelf that overlay a continent not just lost but captured by a perpetual ice age that has no end. As their team headed away from their ship, they knew there was no guarantee it would be waiting for them when they returned.

What Amundsen and Scott accomplished was not only significant in laying human hands on a whole new continent and mapping what no other man had ever seen – but it was an historic accomplishment in the entire spectrum of human determination, planning, skill and daring.

Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach both the North and South Poles and was the first to traverse the Northwest Passage. He disappeared on a mission to rescue a fellow explorer in 1928.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Greatest Explorations of the Past Century will present the top exploration initiatives of the past century here over the next few weeks. Following that, the top inventions during the same period will be catalogued.

As we reviewed the selections, we discovered some interesting elements to our list: more than half were human missions and a minority were robotic missions. We defined “greatest explorations” as those which have had and will have the greatest impact on more humans now and in the future. We will present them here in chronological order. The first exploration began in 1911 and the final significant one on our list occurred 1995. As far as a time when these significant events of the past century peaked, the decade of the 1960’s was without any argument, the most significant period of human exploration not just in the past century - but in all of recorded history. Nearly 60 percent of the most momentous activities in exploration occurred during the past 100 years occured in one 10 year period from 1960 to 1969.

Speaking of argument – we understand and appreciate that all of this is very subjective and can be argued one way or another. But we attempted this evaluation in the most fair way possible, representing the full spectrum of all exploration activities.

Tomorrow, we present the first on our list: The momentous 1911 expeditions of Roald Amundsen and the first human team to reach the South pole.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Flying to Aquatica

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney NSW

The Deep Flight Super Falcon looks like a fighter jet, with its thin body, two seats, two sets of wings and two tail fins.

"We just had to tear up everything we knew about submersibles and start again on winged subs -- underwater flying machines," Hawkes said. He said Deep Flight submersibles are designed to be more agile than any creature living in the ocean -- with the exception of dolphins. The company says that because of the wings, the Super Falcon can go barrel-rolling with dolphins while traveling at speeds much faster than other private submarines. The craft can stay underwater for up to five hours and travel at speeds up to 6 knots, the company says on its Web site.

Prices start from $350,000 so I better start saving now.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Other Worlds

This Thursday, just down the road from here a few miles away, the Kepler spacecraft will launch toward orbit on a mission specifically designed to search for Earths in the habitable zone of other stars.

When I was in high school, the science textbook we used said there were nine known planets – period. Since that time, in our own own solar system, we have discovered more than a handful of others, such as the very distant Sedna orbiting more than twice the distance from the sun as Pluto with a single solar year lasting up to 12,000 years and a surface temperature hovering just above absolute zero. There are others.

But as the Kepler spacecraft will look outward to other star systems, it will begin to add to the catalogue of more than 340 extrasolar planets we have also, relatively recently discovered. Here is an example of the catalogue description of the extrasolar planet, Gliese 581C:

Gliese 581 C marked a milestone in the search for worlds beyond our solar system. It is the smallest exoplanet ever detected, and the first to lie within the habitable zone of its parent star, thus raising the possibility that its surface could sustain liquid water, or even life. It is 50 percent bigger and 5 times more massive than Earth.

After a successful Kepler mission, there should be many more such as these added to our catalogue of known planets as the mission is designed ot examine more than 100,000 candidate star systems simultaneously.

Finally – the most remarkable thing about all this is that in today’s classrooms, there is a catalogue of planets much larger than the textbook I used that made relative brief mention of only nine!