The more I work at LiftPort, the more real the possibility that I take place in a revolutionary event for science and society becomes more and more actualized for myself. It amazes me; I actually find myself laughing about it sometimes. Me, a 22-year-old, recent graduate, could help put an Elevator on the Moon. I’ve somewhat talked about the symbolic or more spiritual reasons why that would be significant for me (progressing science, space exploration, manifest destiny, etc.). But, every once in a while, just for a second, consider the financial and professional benefits that I personally gain by being part of a project of that magnitude. I would be famous. I would be rich. It would be unbelievable. Our plan to establish LSEI is approximately 8 years. I would be successful, more than successful, by the time I was 30 if this project actually happens. It’s the dream.
Being young, rich and famous (and as a scientist no less) has its obvious perks. Cars, houses, material objects that I have always wanted etc. But there is something extremely valuable in being young and having money: investing. Now, I’m not talking about hitting Wallstreet or getting a financial advisor to manage my money just to make more money. I’m saying that if LSEI is built, I will be able to establish my own scientific think tank and fund all sorts of wild scientific endeavors. That’s the real dream. There are so many different things that I would love to research myself. Too many things. If I was accomplished and rich I could create research teams of my own. Not only that, I would have access to developing the markets that LSEI makes possible out in space. I love science, but research is tedious. The dream is to be able to pay people to conduct research for you.
Okay so that’s best-case scenario. What happens if it fails? Do I lose out big? Not really, no. I am thoroughly impressed with Michael in that he has committed his life to this project and, if it fails, he takes all of the fallout. That’s someone who believes in their dream and if anyone is going to make that dream happen, its him. Me? If the project fails, I will have still made some money in working a summer job, will have excellent material to add to my resume and will have had the experience of not only building a startup from the ground up, but also working tirelessly to accomplish a dream and actualize science fiction of the future, into the reality of today. Sounds like a win-win to me, count me in. Let’s build a freakin Elevator on the Moon.
-Jeremy Wain Hirschberg
So what are we doing this summer? What happens when the summer ends and my interns are done?
Well, I won’t know the answer to the second question – until I’ve answered the first. Griffin is still in school, locally, so he might be available if he wants to keep working – if it works around his academic program. Conversely, this is Jeremy’s first job out of college. He’s taking a gap-year before applying to graduate school. I know I have them both until Labor Day. After that, Griffin will go back to school, and Jeremy and I will chat about what his future looks like.
That means we’ve got a short window of opportunity to build something great! They started in the middle of May, so today is basically the 1 month anniversary. And now, after that preamble, I’m back to the question I started with – What are we doing?
For the first two weeks, all we did was plan. They were sick of it, and I was sick of it. I have this tool I created called the Noumenia Process which helps guide our decision-making. I rolled it out for them, and for two weeks solid we worked through basic stuff like Vision, Mission and Values. We prioritized what was important to our company, to our mission, and what was important to the near-term summer projects and to the long-term vision of the Lunar Elevator. We built a lot of short- mid- and long-term Objectives. Personally, I enjoyed brainstorming with them to develop the newest version of LiftPort Group. But it’s a somewhat rigid process and we were excited to turn from the planning stage to actually doing productive work.
And here’s the thing about plans… they change. We had done all this work prior to my attending the International Space Development Conference, when, while there, some interesting stuff happened – and plans changed.
We had a plan that involved building the TAC, and making a lot of phone calls this summer. That is still happening. But we have added a LOT of writing to the to do list. We’ll share our writing with you, on the website. Give us a couple days for that.
President, Lift Port Group
Whats up team?
As I continue to talk to people about LiftPort Group and what it means to construct LSEI (Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure), it becomes increasingly more apparent to me that people are really sensitive about the moon. I had never really thought about why until Michael gave me a new assignment that involved this same concept. People are sensitive about the Moon because everyone retains their own personal and unique relationship with the Moon. We can all recall at least one memory where the Moon was present, whether it was a walk on a beach or a late light in the cities. People are protective of the Moon and statements like “we are going to mine the Moon” can often be problematic for them. While the people's concerns are completely understandable, the logic behind it almost seems flawed.
The fact of the matter is that the cost of living in the 21st century is steep, and destructive. The very screen you are reading this post on was mined out of our earth. Just for the screen you are looking at now a mountain may have been leveled, or a forest might have been destroyed just to get the rare earth elements to construct the components of your device. Places like Colorado, Ontario, China, and parts of Africa are all being ravaged for rare earth elements, all so that we can continue to live in the 21st century. If the world truly wants to stop strip-mining, then we need to give up our 21st century lifestyle and revert back to the 20th century standard of living. Since that shift is extremely unlikely to take place, we have a choice to make. We can either continue strip mining the Earth or, we need to find an alternative location, but the resources need to keep coming in to fill the stomach of the 21st century.
An alternative location to the Earth is the Moon. The Moon is an inert dead, biome absent, rock that is rich in ores and other rare earth elements that we can utilize instead of destroying our own earth. We need to recognize that we have ventured too far down the rabbit hole to venture back to the 20th century lifestyle. More importantly, we shouldn’t have to, we as a society have come far from our early beginnings, we have developed into an advanced world and the human race shouldn’t have to stop innovating because we run out of resources. The resources are available outside of the Earth in large quantities, we just need to be daring enough to seize the opportunity.
See you all next week,
I have a simple team; there’s just three of us in the core office. I count a much larger number as part of our TAC, and there are folks I communicate with regularly who are working to develop some of our spin-offs. But all these other folks have a ‘arms-length’ relationship to LiftPort. My core team is Jeremy, Griffin, and I.
So how do I run this team? I have looked back at the best elements of the LPG 1.0, when there were 14 of us and we had good days and bad days and were collaborating on building the “biggest thing, ever!” And those were fun, exciting times of significant accomplishment. So I look at that and asked myself which part of that first company was I going to bring forward into the next iteration. There are many aspects, our work-ethic, commitment and values, Formal Mondays’ and cook-outs, will all be highlighted in the new company. But there’s also the dreaded blog…
You see, even though we had more than 700 postings in the old company, writing the blog was never very popular amongst the team. They posted reluctantly; they posted infrequently. I reasoned with the team, I cajoled, I argued, and occasionally I held their paychecks at ransom until they posted… And some of those posts were brilliant. Some were historically significant. Some were goofy and charming and naive and visionary. (I THINK we have the complete achieve, if we can, we will repost them as part of the museum. I’ll try.) But these posts were our history, the history of the project, and represent the first-person accounts of the people where were actively trying to make the world a better place.
That first team didn’t succeed. There are lessons to be learned in that failure. Reading those posts brought tears to my eyes, a couple years ago, while I was grieving about what transpired. I have tried to learn those lessons and apply them to LPG 3.0.
So where does that leave us? The new team must blog. It’s a job requirement – a minimum of once/week. (Certainly, more is encouraged!) But still the question remains, why bother? “because I said so” wasn’t much of an answer when I was a kid, so I am not about to inflict that answer on these interns. In my mind, the ‘why’ is really simple. We blog, because we are pioneers. We tell our stories in the same way that diary’s help us understand the holocaust, that letters between statesmen help us understand the founding of the United States, and that letters from the battlefield help us understand the cost of war. My team blogs because we are pioneers building a powerful tool; a tool which will change the world, and all the solar system, and the standard of living of all our brothers and sisters. I think this is an important story.
President, LiftPort Group
Two weeks ago, I was giving a lecture at the International Space Development Conference. There was a full day of programming related to the Space Elevator, and I was the wrap-up speaker. I gave my introductory talk on the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure. I’ve been thinking about that talk, since then, because something was different that time. I had a minor epiphany.
The audience was pretty typical. There were about 50-60 people, from a variety of technical and non-technical backgrounds. Notably there were several PhDs, but as is usual in a National Space Society public forum, the majority were non-technical space-hobbyists. I particularly like this kind of audience for a couple reasons:
During the long Q & A period – in an hour talk, my ratio is usually 20 minutes of prepared lecture, and 40 minutes of responding to audience questions – I delivered my well-worn reply: “we don’t even have all the questions, yet, let alone have all the answers…”
And that line got me to thinking about the kinds of answers we are beginning to develop. Because it is true, we are still developing the comprehensive list of questions, issues, and concerns which need to be addressed before we can build our Elevator on the Moon.
We are also beginning to generate ‘answers’ to some of the issues we’ve identified. But what kind of answers are they?
This project is a non-stop balancing act of trade-offs. If we spend X amount of money we can buy Y number of rockets/string/robots, and achieve Z results. Each Z result impacts and influences all the other variables and an ‘answer’ in one problem will inevitably impact all the other related problems.
In keeping with our Three Mandates (1. Single Launch Solution, 2. Current Technology, 3) Sputnik-like Simplicity) we are aiming for the simplest possible answer to the question – ‘how do we build an Elevator on the Moon?’ We don’t need feature-creep, or mission-creep. We don’t need to add complexity to what is arguably the most complicated system every designed. We don’t need the costs associated with add-on features. We do need a system which will work; a system which will survive its infancy and grow over time. And so, with ‘Sputnik-like Simplicity” in mind, I’m going with a new rule – Minimum Viable Answer. This is the answer which will ‘work’. It’s not the ‘best’, and it might not even be a ‘good’ answer. It’s merely ‘good enough’. That might mean that there are several preliminary answers which are ‘good enough’ – and which will plug into our models/simulations. And maybe ‘good enough’ will evolve into ‘good’ as we refine things. It is unlikely that we will ever get to a ‘best’ answer, because of the complexity of the trade-space.
So thanks, Silicon Valley. While I might loath your “minimum viable product” model, you did give me the language and the philosophy to develop this Occam’s Razor-esque tool for developing answers.
President, LiftPort Group
TAC stands for our Technical Advisory Council. The TAC is the key to this project; They the reason we are still a company – after all our setbacks. The TAC is both a resource of ideas, skills, and expertise; they also sustained me (and therefore, this project) during our dark days. I could look to them and evaluate their credentials/experience and say to myself “if people like this think that this Elevator is the right idea, then maybe it really is worth the effort!”
So what is the TAC, really? How did it evolve?
Like most things in LiftPort, the TAC evolved over time. It started while we were focused on Earth’s Space Elevator, and morphed when we shifted our focus on the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure (LSEI). For most of the 15 years of LiftPort’s existence, the TAC was an Ad Hoc volunteer list of people I knew, who either gave me their business cards, sent an email, or called me and said they wanted to help. I actually, not figuratively, have a shoebox filled with ~2000 cards that I’ve collected over the years. (God only knows how many I’ve lost; most of my files and documents disappeared when I lost LiftPort’s HQ, and my office building.) And I’ve got just shy of 200,000 email messages going back more than a decade. Most of those messages are junk/irrelevant/trivial. But a few are vital. Same goes with the 13,000 vmail messages I’ve collected since 2010. Thousands and thousands have contacted me over the years. Most of the time, their names simply went into this ‘list in my head of people I’d like to contact, someday’. A few proved immediately useful.
Over time, I have come to depend on a core of about 400 of these folks to help me rebuild the current version of LiftPort, and the latest incarnation of the LSEI. I’ve narrowed this list based on two criteria: Education and/or Experience. (Naturally, they also self-select as committed volunteers, willing to tackle difficult problems.) So I look for folks who have 10-15 years (sometimes they have a LOT more) experience in their profession, and where possible, either a Masters or Doctorate in their specialty.
Let me share with you, how this has worked, up until now… If I had a question on radiation in space, and how that might affect our string, I’d call Teresa. If I had a question on anthropology, how the ‘space cowboys’ of the country might influence our target of settlement on the Moon, I’d call David. Sometimes they would study the problem exclusively and write a report for me. Other times, my question would be a larger part of their current research, and I’d get a few pages of a more comprehensive document. Sometimes, I’d get nothing… after all, they were volunteering their time.
This summer, organizing and coordinating the TAC is our primary task. We need to morph this from ‘a list in my phone’ to a contracted, focused, team. That won’t be easy. However, accomplishing this is vital to the growth of the project.
I’m excited. I’ve been waiting a long time for this. Many of these people have been anxiously waiting for just such a call. Many others will be caught off-guard – I haven’t spoken to some of these people in years! Yet, I think they will be receptive once they get the call. They want what I want – settlement on the Moon, water-ice for rocket fuel, and a commercial space station at the Lagrange point!
- Michael Laine,
Preseident, LiftPort Group
How do I count the number of times I’ve started down this path of building a Space Elevator?
1 – 2001-2003 – I worked as an independent contractor under the NASA research program of Earth’s Space Elevator
2 – 2003-2007 – I created LiftPort Group (LiftPort 1.0). We were focused on the Earth’s Space Elevator. To reach that target, we did research on carbon nanotubes, and the robotics necessary for climbing our Ribbon.
3 – 2007-2011 – The project was stagnant. LiftPort failed. Other people were doing work. (International Space Elevator Consortium was established, the NASA competitions were being run by Spaceward Foundation, and Japan was coming online.) But I didn’t do much. I tried; I simply didn’t have the resources to be very effective. I traveled, lived in Greece, Spain and Canada for a while. I went to back to school. All the while, the Elevator and its potential kept gnawing at me.
4 – 2011-2013 – Lunar Elevator epiphany! LiftPort 2.0 established. We figure out that an Elevator on the Moon can be constructed from current technology. We shift the focus of all our efforts toward the Moon. For better or worse, Kickstarter happens. (My mom is injured; I choose to help her.)
5 – 2013-2017 – False start. LiftPort crashes, again. We simply don’t have enough resources, cash, time, people, to accomplish anything. We continue the planning efforts and simple studies of LSEI. (My step-dad is sick, and eventually dies; I choose to help the family.)
6 – 2017 – It begins. Again. This is LiftPort 3.0! Still focused on the Lunar Elevator. This time – I hope – we have resources to build something amazing!
President, LiftPort Group
Whats up world!
As I continue to work with Michael and Jeremy our jobs continue to change. One of the things that I find valuable about working at a startup such as LiftPort is that there is never a shortage of important work to be done. Since there is an overwhelming amount of work to do, I think it is possible for interns to get far more experience basis the fact that the company isn't already established in their own ways and furthermore, I might be able to impact LiftPort in a positive way, it makes being an intern feel a lot more valuable.
Alright, so what does my day look like here, well as I mentioned last week we work starting at 8 am every morning and have complete access to this project. The first couple weeks that Michael, Jeremy, and I started with a lot of planning. We went through and planned our lives at LiftPort for the next 90 days of summer (give or take a few). It was a long but rewarding process, we utilized the noumenia process which is a way of setting and planning out a company designed by Michael. This process will be included in a text book that is currently being written but its an incredible system. After our first few weeks of planning, we are now starting honest work. A lot of what I am doing is writing reports to send out to investors as well as assisting in assembling the TAC (Technical Advisory Council)
One thing that I don’t think I have mentioned is that I am also currently taking a few summer classes in conjunction with LiftPort. This has proven to be a challenge to balance classes, life, and LiftPort all at once but it is extremely rewarding. My day begins at 8 am every morning and it begins with class, then LiftPort, then class again. Its honestly exhausting in its own way. I work a full work day but am required to be plugged into 3 completely unrelated fields which leaves my brain fuzzy by the end of it all. All in all, getting in on the ground floor of this company has been nothing short of incredible, the opportunities that I have been given here are unparalleled to the experience that I might gain elsewhere.
See you all next week,
The accomplishments of the human race are unrivaled and we are still progressing at an exponential rate. It seems only logical that as our technological capabilities improve, and we begin to exhaust resources and harm our home here on Earth, that we move outwards towards the stars, the first stop being the moon. Humans evolution and advancement is thought to have started some 200,000 years ago, however the life forms from which the first proto-humans evolved had been evolving for millions of years before that. This time scale is completely incomprehensible to us. But, if we imagine just as far into the future, as we expand out towards space, some very interesting futures could possibly be conceived. This Lunar Elevator is the key to interplanetary colonization. Imagine that we have constructed an elevator on the moon, to the specs we have described in our models. This would allow a fully fueled rocket to take off from space to go to mars, which would only take 3 weeks, as opposed to 8 months for a rocket that took off from Earth. Once a rocket is sent to mars, a Martian Elevator system could be constructed, or one on one of the moons of mars, and a planetary hopping network could begin to be established. There are at least 5 other moons or planets in our solar system alone that are thought to be habitable. If we imagine the human race expanding its boarders to such an extent that we are existing on different plants, moons and on different sides of the solar system, you introduce the possibility of human speciation to take place. Each location has a unique environment that will guide the gene selections of populations that have moved there to reside. Now, let’s allow ourselves to imagine this type of inter-planetary existence for the human race to run its course along a time scale similar to that of our evolutionary past. This type of scenario suggests the possibility of inter-planetary republics of distinct species of humanoid, all descending from us, Homo Sapiens. This could look remarkably similar to the way that science fiction has portrayed the interaction of different alien species in communal space areas. My mind goes to the Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars, or various episodes of Dr. Who, when many humanoid species meet up in a communal area and coexist.
This is the future we could be potentiating if human progression is allowed to run its course for the time scale required for such technological development and evolutionary speciation. It does seem logical to suggest that if humans continue to progress as they have, for as long as they have, this is the future that may come about. But what would prevent this from happening? To put it very blunt and very blatant, there are two possible means by which human progression is halted, both involve the extinction of the human race. One possibility is that some form of cosmic catastrophe takes place, such as the sun going super-nova, or a planet size asteroid hitting the Earth, however this has been and forever will be a possibility that humanity both faces and can do nothing about. The other possibility of human extinction which is very much up to our control, is that we condemn the human race to extinction, a possibility that has never been more of a threat to humanity than right now. Through nuclear war, or extreme man-caused climate change, we have more than enough capability to destroy our own home and our own species. Human’s are resilient as hell and may reverse climate change, or take refuge on the moon (using some kind of lunar elevator perhaps?), and as long as we can stay safe from ourselves, the human race will colonize the solar system.
-Jeremy Wain Hirschberg
Unlike Jeremy, I have been working with Michael since February so I have had some time to really get to know and work alongside Michael. I will be writing this blog post again at the end of the summer to see how my answer changes as it most definitely will whilst working on this massive thing. In order to really break my time spent here I am going to split it into 2 sections: The Documentary days, and Intern Life.
The Documentary Days
Well, I’ve already went over our initial meeting, (we met at a coffee shop for our mock interview) there was countless days that we spent with each other filming and getting to know each other that I really valued. Michael was really great about being open with me and answering all of my questions in such a way that I got the whole truth and actually understood it. Not only was I surprised by his openness but it prompted me to ask more and more questions. I learned more during filming sessions with Michael about space than I had ever dreamed of knowing. On top of that we became friends, both of us shared a special place in our hearts for the military and we initially bonded over that. Basically I spent a few weeks with this guy filming him talk about a space elevator for like 6 weeks, but we became friends which made the good grade and the awards feel way better.
Well what can I say, I’m like a coffee boy with a nice fancy title “Business Development Intern”. Jokes aside I am definitely not a coffee boy here which is a wonderful feeling. We work 8 to 5 and have full access to this project, as interns we have been aiding with the business plan as well as taking on our own projects that we created and planned in conjunction with Michael. So far its been really fun, to work in a setting where we as interns are really respected and given true responsibility, something that can’t always be said for different settings.
Cant wait to see what the future holds!
- Griffin Pontius