Scientific Preparatory Academy for Cosmic Explorers

Creating the next generation of space explorers…

Help Us Paint Asteroids!

Join and fight Apophis!

Join and fight Apophis!

So it’s been a little while since we last posted an update. What’s going on with us? Well, aside from the virtual international project we’re starting up, we’re leading an effort to raise $10,000 via RocketHub to save the Earth from killer asteroids, specifically to develop a paint sprayer on the asteroid Apophis. Apophis, as some of you Stargate fans out there may know, is pure evil. Just by donating, you have a chance to talk to and even eat dinner with Peter Williams, the actor for Apophis. Of course, if you’re not a Stargate fan, you’ll probably be happy getting some meteorite dust or fragments and/or eating dinner with Yi So-yeon, the first Korean astronaut.

Aside from the prize motivations, you’ll know that you’re supporting the development of a technology to actually go and paint one of these asteroids to move them from their orbit so they don’t hit us. From what you heard (or if you’re lucky saw) in Russia, you know those rocks are out there waiting to pounce upon us.

After the Chelyabinsk event, Mr Charles Bolden, the NASA administrator, told American lawmakers that prayer was all that the United States or anyone could currently do about unknown asteroids and meteors that may be on a collision course with Earth. The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology shied away from pledging tax money to track down and deflect ‘city-killer’ asteroids, but called for international and private help. If you’re worried about asteroid catastrophe, Charles Bolden says “go Pray”. Congress says “you’re on your own, go away”.

You can’t wait for NASA or Uncle Sam to pay. It’s up to us to save Earth!

Meanwhile, the Scientific Preparatory Academy for Cosmic Explorers has done more to deflect asteroids than any other group – because we are out to save people, not money from government dole.

Help SPACE help you to save our world!
Put your money where it will do the most good.
Contribute to the project today!

SPACE Retreat Day 12 [2013.01.19]

Yesterday, we had a little break and relaxed. Some drove around in the car to exotic places on the island while others chilled at the apartment. Today, we had lunch with a futurist friend and will discuss the roadmap soon. Over lunch, we had an interesting conversation with our futurist friend Philippe Van Nedervelde while eating paella and discussing existential risks and such. Much of the conversation was hijacked by the issue of privacy versus security for the technology known as smart dust or the more technical term, panoptical systems. The smart dust are visually undetectable sensory devices that will be small enough to conduct surveillance on anyone anywhere. Virgil passionately defended his view on individual freedom and said that such technology should not be developed for its obvious intrusion. Phiippe remarked that you will get f*ed so it’s the choice of choosing what position. The only way to counteract this is to create a citizen-controlled network of smart dust.

He remarked, “Technology and society is like a steamroller going down an alley. There’s about a meter on each side. You can jump on it and steer it or you can become part of the pavement.” In the future, Philippe says that absolute privacy is going away but relative privacy can be safeguarded. Philippe tells Virgil that he cannot prevent machines from looking at him but he can be sure that most humans will not find Virgil’s day-to-day activities so interesting. Philippe says he’s a realistic optimistic and realize that the odds of stopping panoptic systems is next to nothing. Phillipe recommends reading the non-fiction book called The Transparent Society by the scifi author David Brin.

I, Shen Ge, asked Philippe about underground bunkers and off-planet arks as lifeboats for humanity’s survival. Philippe described his journey into the Swiss mountains where there are entire cities and constructs hidden in the mountains. There’s a 6000-person city inside a mountain that’s self-sustainable for six months. It even has a tunnel to another mountain with other bases. There’s a command center in the middle of the Swiss mountains that’s hidden. Stepping into the command center was like stepping into a Death Star. Swiss also has an in-mountain air force base for takeoff out of a hole in a mountain. These existing facilities can be used as life foundation bunkers.

Alan suggests that Philippe talk to Jim Burke. Burke cares much about the survival of the human species such as going to the moon. He’s over 90 now and still skis and pilots and airplane. Alan says that Burke is getting advanced in his age so Philippe should connect with him soon.

I, Shen Ge, asked Philippe how the Lifeboat Foundation is going. Philippe says that though there’s over 1500 PhDs but getting them to do relevant work is like herding cats. The Lifeboat Foundation is not doing enough. The purpose of the Lifeboat Foundation can be reduced to covering areas which other organizations don’t handle. However, even then, it’s not doing enough.

I, Shen Ge, asked Philippe on his five provisional talents. In 2004 in Los Angeles, he woke up with an epiphany. He realized that he can use virtual reality to do security surveillance. Currently, security personnel looks at a wall of monitors and aren’t smart enough to process it to catch any security risk. Philippe’s idea is to gather data from sensors, combine the data, and create a virtual world that is an abstraction of the real world.

Antoine asked Philippe on the Singularity Institute and whether he should join it. Philippe recommended that he don’t since he believes the  Singularity Institute is on its way to extinction. Transhumanist and futurist organizations have a limited shelf life, Philippe says. Transhumanists themselves have a long shelf life. Philippe ended his talk on the biology of universes. Universes can fuck and pro-create. A baby universe expands and becomes intelligent. It pro-creates the next baby universe which has an improved set of physical parameters with greater intelligence. If an universe doesn’t become conscious, it actually dies. Philippe pointed out a recent article which showed great resemblance in structure and evolution between the universe and that of a human brain. He recommends reading the book The Intelligent Universe.

We said good-bye to Philippe and spent the rest of the day relaxing.

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SPACE Retreat Day 10 [2013.01.17]

Today, I, Shen Ge, have to announce as the last day of programs for the 1st SPACE Retreat on Tenerife. It has been an amazing journey so far and true connections and potential collaborations have been made possible. I will continue to make updates but realize that there will be no more presentations discussed here in depth since the formal program has ended. Tomorrow, one more of us, Hyerim Kim, will depart. There are schedules to keep for many of us. I will be staying here until January 21, 2013 from which I will depart for Madrid for one day before returning back to the United States. I hope to have some more fun and get some individual work done in the next few days before I leave.

Now that I, Shen Ge, is done with the brief philosophizing, I will return to an account of the day. Let me spoil the surprise a bit by saying that Virgil and I actually got interviewed today thanks to our dear local Adeje Cultural Minister Mariano Vidal Tornel. Now let me start from the morning.

Dragos Bratasanu first presented today with a talk entitled Space – The New Frontier of Success Intelligence. This talk was quite interesting for it focused on an area many of us don’t think much about which are social factors that lead to success or failure in a project. Dragos pointed out that the Challenger disaster, Hubble space telescope optical misalign, and several other famous failures were due to social context and not a technical one.  For instance, though the O-ring was the technical reason for Challenger disaster, the root problem was that the government wanted to launch as soon as possible and the engineers’ suggestions were overruled in favor of government policy.

The failure event chain as defined by NASA follows from contributing factors (social) to root causes (social) to proximate causes (technical) to system effects. Virgil joked that in Romania there’s a crab law. When one crab wants to get out of the container, all the other crabs drag you back down. Dragos joked that in Romania there’s a joke that the devil doesn’t need to worry about Romanians escaping since when one tries to escape, the other Romanians will drag him down. Alan remarked that often the best way to destroy an engineer is to become a manager.

This team social context are forces that are invisible, unacknowledged, and immeasurable. To measure and manage team social context is very important for a project to succeed. Dragos remarked that when mission control sees astronauts not working well, they purposely make themselves the enemy so that the astronauts team up. Finding a common enemy and goal often brings team cohesion.

Dragos next presented the four combinations of types of builders based on Carl Jung’s theory. He showed a chart with the x-axis ranging between emotional and logical while the y-axis ranged between sense and intuition. Each quadrant of this chart is a different type of builder. In a team and when under stress, you naturally retreat to your default dimension. You’re born with one dimension but you can consciously train yourself to operate with other dimensions as well. Every year there are hundreds of leadership and personal development books. From all these books, how do you know which one you should follow? The problems with these books is that most of them are written from the experience of the author, in other words, from only one dimension. If you don’t fit that dimension, trying to change yourself to become that dimension is very difficult. It is better to identify what dimension you are and work on improving your dimension.

Next, Dragos presented on mind models of geniuses. He used Walt Disney as an example. Walt Disney and most other successful visionaries follow three steps to their dream.

  1. The Dreamer
  2. The Realist
  3. The Critic

Dragos pointed out that it’s very important to follow these three steps in order. Typically, what happens is that the Dreamer is immediately followed by the Critic. The Dreamer says “I have an idea!”. The Critic instantly says “That’s stupid! It will never work.” You become stuck in a loop until eventually the Realist says “Let’s just give up.” Dragos says that when one creates an idea, one does not need to know how to do it immediately. For the Critic to jump in there is destructive. It’s up to the Realist to figure out how to implement the Dreamer’s vision. So it is very important to change mindsets in stages. For instance, when writing a proposal, you’re a “blue” Visionary explaining what you imagine will be true in the future. When you actually get the proposal funded, you’re doing the implementation and you need to change your mindset into that of an “orange” implementer.

Erik Unger decided to show everyone an alternate from the model presented in Dragos’s presentation. It is also based on Carl Jung’s theory but also includes Asian elements. There are 8 different types and the x-axis this time is introverted versus extroverted while the y-axis is sensory versus intuitive. Everyone is just one of these but Erik have met a 9th kind right in the middle that can do everything. However, these people though often quite successful never become extremely successful since typically concentration in one area leads to greater success. A good team will have three points of a triangle in Roger Hamilton’s Wealth Dynamics. You can find out more on Erik Unger’s blog on Roger Hamilton’s Wealth Dynamics.

Prasanna Deshapriya next presented on Space Tourism. He talked a bit about space tourism and its potential. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we were interrupted by Mariano Vida Tornel who took us for our radio interview. The radio station was called Radio Sur Adeje FM 107.9 and we were interviewed twice. First, by a British lady who interviewed both Virgil and I in English for their program English Hour and next by Yolanda Hernandez in Spanish. The English interview was broadcast live while the Spanish interview will be broadcast sometime next week. We gave them our emails so they will send us the audio files and links soon.

Presentations:

Prasanna Deshapriya: Space Tourism_1st_SPACE_Retreat

Dragos Bratasanu – Space – The New Frontier of Success Intelligence

 

 

Photos:

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SPACE Retreat Day 9 [2013.01.16]

We started out the day with a presentation given by myself on near-earth asteroid mining. I, Shen Ge, have been doing some research on near earth asteroid mining for the last month or so and wanted to present an overview of what I have discovered via literature review. I mostly focused on four areas,

  1. Asteroid composition and resources usage
  2. Mining technologies
  3. Astrodynamics
  4. Economic analysis

There are currently three general types of NEAs offering different kinds of resources,

  1. C-type or carbonaceous offering water and other volatiles.
  2. S-type or stony offering silicates, sulfides, and metals
  3. M-type or metallic offering metals

Each of these products can be used for space and/or terrestrial applications. For instance, water and other volatiles will be used for propellant in space while platinum group metals (PGMs) will be used for fuel cells and car catalyzers on the Earth. Alan pointed out that I, Shen Ge, neglected to mention the extraction and use of rare earth metals and the element carbon. I will have to do more research here to compensate.

The required mining system isn’t currently developed but should be. I mentioned a few things that can be done but more work needs to be done. On getting there, many asteroids are actually easier to reach than the moon or Mars. Using low thrust trajectories such as the interplanetary superhighway, even lower energy is required for accessing many of them. This part will require more of Hyerim’s work. Another alternative is to bring the asteroid back to revolve around the Earth or the moon for easier access.

Lastly, I talked about mining economics which for space presents an unique challenge. Sonter over 10 years ago has presented an equation which gives the net present value (NPV) of this type of capital mission. However, filling in the specific numbers with reasonable justification remains a work in progress. I ended the talk with referring once again to the four areas that need to be investigated. Virgil added that I should also include space law and policy which I do agree,

  1. Asteroid composition
  2. Mining
  3. Astrodynamics
  4. Economics
  5. Law

Courtesy of Alan, I have removed the word “space” from the list. Alan stressed yesterday that we should stop the perception in people’s minds that “space” is way above what can be done on Earth. Alan pointed out that mining in the deep freezing arctic can be just as hostile as mining an asteroid.

Antoine van de Ven next presented on interstellar travel using revolutionary physics that he developed as a reformulation of the theory of relativity. He first started out humorously with a video called “Through the Wormhole” given by Morgan Freeman. He then talked about the Alcubierre Drive which is currently the most well-known faster than light method. This drive works by expanding space-time behind and shrinking space-time in front of the spacecraft. However, this method requires negative energy which no one knows how to make.

Antoine suggests that there is no such thing as negative energy. Instead, anti-matter has negative mass. He has done the mathematics over 10 years ago and have confirmed with a number of physicists that his mathematics are all correct. He went through the equations of energy, momentum, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics. All will remain positive at all times. Furthermore, the equation for quantum mechanics will now require only one equation compared to the two in relativity, making it more elegant.

The only difference is in gravitation where gravity can now be negative. The dark energy in the universe is actually anti-matter repelling one another. Current physics cannot explain why there’s more matter than anti-matter but with theory, there is nothing to explain since the anti-matter is still here and explains why the universe is expanding.

This theory can be tested by putting two neutral anti-matter next to each other and detect if they repel each other. If they do, then Antoine’s theory is correct. However, experiments such as this are very expensive and can only be conducted at places like CERN. Furthermore, detecting such tiny interactions requires extremely high precision.

Antoine ended the talk with an interesting view on the Fermi Paradox and his explanation of why we’re not seeing aliens yet. This will be addressed in his paper that he will finish by the end of the SPACE Retreat. His paper called “The Principle of Absolute Simultaneity” is currently available online addressing his reformulated theory of relativity. For now, you may consider his little paper currently published by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences: http://www.renyi.hu/conferences/nemeti70/Ven.pdf

Antoine wishes to modify his presentation a bit before putting it online but I,Shen Ge, gladly puts up my presentation for now,

Shen Ge : Asteroid Mining Concepts

Pictures have been uploaded by Shen Ge:

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SPACE Retreat Day 8 [2013.01.15]

The Scientific Preparatory Academy for Cosmic Explorers started the 8th day of the 1st Space Retreat with a presentation by Alan Pritchard. Alan is the President, CEO, and Board Chairman of his one-man consulting company Zen Systems. His presentation was titled Reconnection: Bringing Space Down to Earth. It was a broad and holistic (as Alan likes to say) big-picture concept presentation.

Alan started by presenting the problems with the historical approach towards space. The historical space approach is

  • Tech heavy
  • Militaristic. Rockets were developed as weapons first and only later adapted for space.
  • Antagonistic. Space developed from the Cold War as competition between nation-states. In the near future, China and India may also regard space as development based on competitive national pride.
  • Exclusionist. Aside from the very rich and highly trained, most people don’t have the opportunity to go into space.
  • Expansionist. Space has been regarded as expanding only a small part of Earth.
  • Separate. Space is regarded as wholly separate from Earth.

For the last point of “Separate”, Alan presented a crudely drawn diagram of a magic boundary between space and not space. The present disadvantages of the current space approach include

  • Unsustainable. Current spacecrafts are one-time use only.
  • Expensive. This is due to two reasons. First, spacecrafts are unsustainable. Second, technology is often not shared between different nation-states.
  • Messy. Space debris is created with no thought of the future.
  • Stagnant. Space has become a place to just go up for a brief stay and then come right down to Earth. There’s little direction on where to go next.

Alan next presented the current approach towards space which though is better than the historical approach, still requires a lot of work. The current approach is

  • Opportunistic
  • Participatory (now includes private entrepreneurs)
  • More public awareness
  • Consolidationalist (building on what we know)
  • Still separate
  • Stagnant (still orbiting around Earth)

Thankfully, these attitudes are changing. For instance, the growth of suborbital space companies is blurring the line between space and not-space. However, space is still fragmented, expensive, fuzzy (lack of vision), and mostly “orbital” (going around in circles around Earth).

Current space benefits include information, money, technology, and material. There are variations between the positive benefits and the cost of each aspect of the space program. For instance, for money, considering that communication satellites (the greatest financial gains from space programs) need to be upgraded continually to handle ever greater loads and speed, the net returns is actually zero as estimated by Alan. For technology, Alan believes that Earth is sending more technology up into space to be developed than space is sending back down to Earth. For material, more material is going up than coming down.

The current picture needs some help in a number of ways including

  1. Tech-heavy with low tech return. This makes it difficult to justify space to “non-believers”.
  2. Antagonistic
  3. Separate. Space is considered out there. In reality, there are places on the Earth that is equally if not more difficult to reach but are not considered separate. For instance, exploring Earth’s deep oceans.
  4. Ad-hoc. There’s no roadmap or vision. National space programs often becomes a money sink with cancelled programs and delayed projects.
  5. Members club. There is a “not invented here syndrome” where instead of embracing new ideas, the older generation puts down young people with new ideas by telling them that they’re not experienced enough to come up with ideas that work. Old ideas continue to be used even if they are bad.

There are three questions that need to be answered for everyone:

  1. Why do we go?
  2. Who will go?
  3. How will we go?

Alan presented five different big-picture methods in addressing these issues. These are

  1. SpaceShip Earth
  2. Spacesteading
  3. In-situ solar power
  4. Humanexus
  5. Spaceports and shuttles

1) Spaceship Earth

Let’s take all the things done in space and apply them to Earth. Earth after all is a spaceship too. For instance, use space habitation technologies to develop a sustainable population here on Earth. Alan wishes to develop a figure of merit for a sustainable population on Earth based on an average standard of living. He suggested watching two TED talks with opposing views on world population. One is called “The World is Full” and the other is called “Abundance” given by Peter Diamondis.

2) Spacesteading

As Dr. Hyland has stressed, Alan agrees that modular self-sustaining habitats on Earth and elsewhere is a good idea. We can use low-tech ideas as well. For instance, a scientist who was designing houses for the moon and Mars discovered adobe houses which are very primitive and that can work in space. He merely quantified their advantages. There is now a company in California (calearth.org) called the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture which is designing these houses for Earth. Perhaps one day they can expand into space. Another example is using space life support systems for a closed recycling system on Earth.

3) In-situ Solar Power

Alan suggests making high-tech machinery that eats local silicon-rich resources and excretes solar panels. These high-tech designs with low-tech construction have been demonstrated to work before on Earth. For instance, there’s a company called Zambikes which grows bamboo and uses them to make bikes for people in Africa. These use local resources where metal is rare but bamboo is plentiful.

Huge terrestrial applications for solar power can be constructed in the desert, often similar to a hostile extraterrestrial environment. Antoine mentioned that biological power can also be looked into. For instance, there are now viruses that when shined light generates electricity.

4) Humanexus

Humanexus is a word that Alan coined which has yet to enter the dictionary. Perhaps it will catch on as a meme and make Alan famous.  What humanexus means is a holistic approach combining technology with spirituality and other fields. Combine the hard technical side with the humanistic side. Breakthroughs these days often come from interactions of ideas and not just one extreme of an idea.

5) Spaceports and shuttles

Building an infrastructure is critically important. Building a transportation infrastructure along with a regulatory environment is very important for the future development.

Alan ended the presentation with a quote:

Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.

- Anais Nin

After a short 5-minute break, Erik Unger presented a visually stunning presentation on Aerospace Software. He first talked a little about his own background which was quite moving. He became interested in space and flying since his father was a pilot while his mother was a physics teacher. He spent much of his early childhood both actually flying and flying flight simulators which he loved. Slowly, his interest drifted from flying and space towards 3D software. While he was writing articles for a German magazine on 3D software, he ended up getting a job. He only stayed there for three months before he quit to do freelance work. Afterwards, he spent some time in Australia working for a video game company.

However, several years ago, he became quite unhappy and undertook some personal development. Through this, he realized that going back to his roots is important. The interests in space and flying have never left him. Now, Erik is going to space conferences and events to understand the space field and figure out where his expertise can help. He is a very good programmer who has experience in 11 programming languages and have made everything except enterprise software.

Erik next presented a few impressive videos which showcased work that he has done. The first one was a video game called The Show made in Germany. The second one was the game of the movie Space Chimps made when he was in Australia. Erik also showed a screenshot of his own game engine called Next Reality Engine. It’s not very good but it was a good exercise for him. He currently has a few projects and plans a few more projects relevant to space and flying including

  1. Planned: Web software of flying over a Martian landscape. Nowadays, web technology has reached the point where 3D technology is possible. This will be better than Google Mars.
  2. Planned: Web software for mission planning and a mission dashboard to organize the mission.
  3. Planned: A software for scientific data logging.
  4. Current: Telepresence software, especially one with first person view (FPV). Eric has built two UAVs which he unfortunately could not show in reality but did present a nice photo. One UAV is optimized for lifting capacity and can lift 5 kg. The other UAV is optimized for price and only costs $150 to build. Eric is working with a friend to build the UAVs for helping to find people in avalanches. These UAVs can do the job much faster and with no danger to people. Eric estimates that he can build one with 8 rotors at a cost of $10-15K which can carry a man for 2-3 minutes. Unfortunately, with current battery limitations, it’ll only last 2-3 minutes.
  5. Current: Videos for Liftport Group. Michael Lain, who founded Liftport Group, raised a remarkable ~$110K in Kickstarter for his idea of building a space elevator on the moon. He was completely overwhelmed by all the emails and forum messages from people around the world interested in the project. With such funding and interest, the Liftport Group decided that the first project will be a robot climbing up or down a 2 km tower. They estimate that the real project will cost $800M but they want to first do a one year feasibility study at a cost of $3M. Eric Unger and an Austrian artist teamed up to make an amazing 3D video of the launch and operation of the lunar space elevator for promotion purposes.
  6. Current: Ground station visualization software. This will be open source and available in web. It can be used for a wide variety of projects which Eric discussed in greater detail.

6) Ground Station Visualization Software

One project that will use the ground station software is the Polares Paspartout. This is a project of the Austrian Space Forum which plans to launch a high altitude balloon flying up to 35 km with the mission objective of confirming an Indian university’s claim that unidentifiable extraterrestrial lifeforms are up in the stratosphere. The first test launch is planned for April with a real launch later this year.

Another two projects are the Archimedes and Miriam-2 which are projects of the German Mars Society and the Military University of Munich. For Archimedes, it is a Mars atmospheric reentry ballute. For Miriam-2, it is a 4 meter ballute project for Earth reentry.

Then, there is Mur.sat which is a space art project. It’s a nanosat that will do art in space. It will detect micrometeorids and artists can use it in various ways. It will also have a red button that says if you’re an alien, press it.  (sat.mur.at)

Finally, there is the startup California company Interorbital which wants to launch several tiny nanosats called TubeSats in a tube. This rocket is specifically designed to launch these nanosats. The TubeSats will be in space for three months before coming back down. These Tubesats are relatively cheap and costs only $8125 for each one. They’ll launch from Tonga given Tonga has a treaty with the US for use of its space.

7) Space Education

A final project Erik will like to do is create a Space & Science Park in Austria. He is very inspired by the DLR School Lab which currently exists in Germany that showcases DLR space tech to school kids. This Space & Science Park will offer kids and adults the chance to experience space and physics first hand through

  • virtual reality
  • augmented reality
  • telepresence
  • robots
  • fun physics experiments
  • permanent indoor simulated moon and Mars surface
  • obstacle course for robots

These two phenomenal presentations are downloadable here. Please excuse the fact that Eric’s videos cannot be seen in the pdf file.

 Alan Pritchard – Space Homesteading

 Erik Unger – Aerospace Software

There are several videos which Erik included in his presentation available here soon.

After the informal presentations, we ended the day by going to Playa de Las Americas. I spent some good time there with Alan and Desh while Virgil, Antoine, and Erik drifted away to walk on their own. The Romanians Dragos and Iulia somehow drifted apart earlier and went their own ways. After relaxing on the beach with Alan and Desh and occasionally checking out the fine scenes in front of us, we watched the sunset while carrying a long conversation. We then stopped at a cafe and talked some more on interesting stories of our lives. I got back around 10pm and decided to update this blog. In the meantime, we have several fine gentlemen (Virgil, Dragos, Erik, and Alan) around my bed having another pleasant chat, promulgating the spirit of the SPACE Retreat.

Pictures!

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