Apollo 11 and Self-Awareness

I just figured out something about myself, courtesy of this post by Aesop at the Raconteur Report:

Happy Peak of Western Civilization Day

I’m not going to expound endlessly on this, as Aesop says it so well, but I realized that the reason I’ve hung on so tenaciously to my work in the space industry is tied in very closely with my personal views on society. Whether or not I am a member of this world, I am an American, and a Western construct. The height of Western accomplishment absolutely is the Moon landing.

I don’t mean “Murica is Number One” sort of jingoism (though I guess I don’t NOT mean it, either) but a deeper heritage of exploration that a lot of civilization have failed to embrace. Either they never had that urge, or they didn’t take it as far in the past, or they are only really moving on it now. There is one more possibility, of course, they followed the call, but abandoned it, indeed somehow shrunk from it for various reasons. That’s what concerns me, and drives me. The Western world has been in a holding pattern and seems to be losing ground the past few decades, navel gazing, or maybe trying to convince itself via globalization that following the herd is somehow safer and smarter. We’ve been moving on that abandonment track for too long.

This manifests itself in how the Western human space exploration and exploitation has stalled. We’re risk-phobic, afraid of what failure “looks like” as a media matter and loss of funding. We use our space programs as a geopolitical tool instead of a leadership program. Between those two problems, we end up moving too slow and too timidly, trying to achieve perfection and also not piss anybody off. When the rest of the world looks to the West for leadership, they end up pissed off at us anyway because we are so concerned with avoiding failure by also avoiding accomplishment.

I work to bring back the idea that risk is not a dirty word, and risk to cement humanity off-planet is required, as it’s always been required to breach a frontier. As a Western man, I want to reclaim that heritage in space, because we need new peaks in the history of our civilization, and we are still capable of making the climb.

Alien Day 2018

In case you aren’t aware, today is the third annual Alien Day. Started in 2016 to mark the 30th Anniversary of the movie Aliens, it continues to grow, and for huge fans like myself, it always leaves a little stirring in my chest. At least, I hope that’s all that feeling is…

The Alien franchise/community has a lot on tap for today:

Audible’s audiobook audio drama adaptation of the novel, Alien: Sea of Sorrowsstarring John Chancer, Stockard Channing, Walles Hamonde and Laurel Lefkow.

Amazon’s Alexa-based Offworld Colony Simulator, a turn-based survival game.

Dark Horse Comics’ Aliens: Dust to Dust a new series.

Fright-Rags has released a Xenomorph mini-mask limited to just 426 units, as well as a retro Alien T-shirt and pins.

Geek Fuel released several Alien pins.

And not to be forgotten, the Alien: Descent attraction opened to the public in Orange County, California. As I’m a Texas boy, it may be some time before I get to try that ride, but you know I’d love to make that combat drop.

 

In a more serious vein, the storyline behind the Alien franchise is important to me, not just as entertainment, but because there is a cautionary tale built into it that I find to be very credible. Much has been made of the idea that if a species has developed an interstellar presence, they can only have done so if they had left avarice and violence behind. For the most part, the possibility of malevolent alien, spacefaring life has been relegated to popular entertainment, ranging from the sinister, a la Alien, to the campy, such as Mars Attacks! or kids’ films with comical, bumbling invaders. I find that to be startlingly naïve.

My thought is that we live in a universe where resources are always allocated locally, and life will fight over those resources to survive when cooperation won’t get what all parties feel that they need. That is the basis of all war, ultimately. You may have competing ideologies that provide intellectual packages in this resource battle, but when you break it down, that’s what remains. We’re going to find that to be universal as we head farther and farther out into the cosmos. As such, other beings out there are going to run on the same basic algorithm. Where trade of some sort will not suffice, domination will be attempted. For some species, domination will come first, and things like the Xenomorphs will exist to do essentially nothing but clear the field of competing interests. We are developing those sorts of things now with our own robotic systems in battle, clearing minefields, defusing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), drone strikes, and the beginning deployment of battle robots. If we can think up and use such things, how difficult would it be for a mature race to develop a cadre of biomechanical soldiers to project force?

I don’t point these things out to be a doomer, but more to bring some realism into how we view our own fledgling steps off-planet. We need to keep our minds on survival in exploring and exploiting space, but always remain mindful that we will someday fight over it, and that we’re likely to find others that have been fighting over it much longer than we have. I suppose we may run into some variation of the “Age of Aquarius” Space Brothers, but I doubt it. What we do find will probably want to give us a hug, though.

 

Space Nation Update

Well, I downloaded their app for their perception of astronaut training, as a beta tester. I appreciate their intent with trying to combine entertainment, education, and social interaction, but as with most beta releases, there’s some technical issues that they’ll need to overcome.

Right now, I was able to access the initial activities, but since the first week I’ve been getting daily messages that there are new daily missions and when I click on the weekly adventure, and it tells me that I’ve completed the daily mission. Of course, I haven’t done so… And this morning it now locks up when I try this.

I’ll be a dutiful beta tester and let them know my woes.

Marching Towards Warp Drive

There is interesting news afoot in particle physics. It seems that some researchers from the University of Rochester have created quasi-particles known as polaritons at room temperature, and these little beauties exhibit behavior of objects of negative mass.

The original Alcubierre Warp Drive theory involved the use of negative energy to achieve a transit method outside of normal spacetime. Of course, Professor Alcubierre’s original estimate of magnitude was unreasonably huge, but the theory has stood up well. What’s been encouraging over the years is work by a number of other physicists to bring that magnitude down to imaginable levels. What’s been even more difficult to grapple has been the negative energy aspect, but with this new work, we now have what looks like negative mass. Given Einstein’s famous equation:

E = mc²

Where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light, a mass of a negative magnitude should convert to negative energy. That’s a major puzzle piece.

For more, see:

Physicists Say They’ve Created a Device That Generates ‘Negative Mass’

 

Remastered

Here is something that I stumbled across, working late one night at the day job

Alien: Remastered – YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwDbvYpEl86BvV_f6lr7wWIAKSxmYVgiV

For those of you who do not know me in meatworld, I am a massive Alien universe fan. Huge geek about it, really. There is something about the matter-of-fact, workaday way they present the overall environment in which the characters struggle with the villains of the story. A lot of the tech is worn but usable, not necessarily some smooth, gleaming spectacle of modernism. The texture of the universe in the movies is one of a realism, where living and working in space is what they do, and the Alien scourge is a realty thrust upon them as a true and horrific surprise. The storylines aren’t about the technology, it’s just there to show the future tense of humanity. The frontier still has lions, tigers, and bears out there.

Of course, this is all backed up by soundtracks of various and creepy types, as the original posted above. Well, I say original. Actually, the videos linked above are, as described, remasters by a very talented sound engineer and artist, Álvaro G. Plata. I’ve listened to this composition a number of times on YouTube directly, and eventually contacted him directly to purchase an electronic copy of the music files he produced. He was happy to oblige!

For more information on the history of this project of his, see the link below.

http://www.alesserfate.com/2014/04/remastered-alien-1979-original.html#!/2014/04/remastered-alien-1979-original.html

In my opinion, the Alien universe is one of the most gritty and realistic expectations of what the future may hold, and how pedestrian it will eventually be to live and work in space.

Small Space Growing Big – NSRC 2017

In two weeks, the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers ConferenceNext-Generation Suborbital Researcher Conference (NSRC) for this year will kick off in Bloomfield, Colorado. It is a central meeting and discussion forum for educators and researchers working to explore the suborbital realm, and with a focus on reusable vehicles to pursue that exploration. There are a number of companies beginning to break into the reusable market, both suborbital and beyond, and they’ll have exhibit space to explain themselves at the conference.

A lot of these newcomers are promoting variants of air-breathing/rocket-propelled first stage systems carrying second and sometimes third stages to orbital destinations, such as Exodus Aerospace. They have a rather novel combined lifting body outer mold line (OML)* that comprises a two-stage delivery vehicle. It should be instructive to see how the CEO of Exodus, David Luther, fares with the questions and comments he’ll receive during the week.

*Aerospace Education Moment: For those who do not know what an “OML” is, this term refers to the overall outer shape of an aircraft or spacecraft. It is useful in the design and analysis of such machines to tightly control that OML, to serve such things as aerodynamic studies and to constrain subsystems within and around the vehicle by a boundary that remains fixed.

Kindred Spirits – Space Nation

Kindred Spirits – Space Nation

I ran across a new organization out there, Space Nation, who has the noble goal of creating the largest space discovery community on the planet. Their belief statement reads thus:

We believe that Astronaut skills are life skills. Using a range of space experiences to connect everyday life to space, and space to everyday life, we’re motivating and enabling discovery of space skills for 21st Century Space Travelers.

We believe that expansion to space is a key moment in human evolution that brings new perspectives, unity and tangible benefits to humanity, the Earth and worlds we have yet to discover.”

To those of us on the Outbound journey, this sounds incredibly familiar.

Frankly, it’s exciting to peruse their website, and see the sorts of things they’re delving into. In particular, they are working on what they call the Space Nation Astronaut Program (SNAP). This program kicks off in February of 2018, including a new smartphone app that guides the program participants as they work their way forward, culminating in a possible free flight into space for the top performer! This is a bit if genius where they offer free training towards an astronaut skillset and way of thinking, under the concept that astronaut qualities are excellent qualities for life in general. As per the Outbound motto, “We Live and Work In Space”, Space Nation’s philosophy aligns so very well with our own.

I’ve signed up for their “Space Station Orbit” newsletter and also for the SNAP, and I have to say, I am excited to see what begins to develop two months from now.

The Quality of Go

I’ve been mulling over the question for many years, and over the past few I’ve nibbled at the edges of finding answers for myself. For the moment, I’m not going to go into those answers.

What I’d like to know from my readers and my fellow posters on the fora on which I post, is why would you good people like to go to space? Really, the question comes in several parts:

  • Why Should Humanity Go Into Space?
  • How Should We Go?
  • What Do We Do There?
  • How Far Should We Go?
  • What Is Needed to Go?

In other words, what makes the Go To Space, well… Go?
For those of you that have a specific aversion to going at all, I’m not willing to engage that sentiment. Stay to monitor the conversation, and learn what you can, but don’t expect accommodation for views that counter the questions posed above. Consider it an assumption that the human race must go into the void and fill it with exploration and exploitation. Outbound is happening.

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