Images & Calendar
Here’s some art from a presentation I gave a while ago. Canaan M. designed it, with technical assistance from several people on the team; notably Charles R., Marshall E., and Ken M.
These images were developed into a calendar for a magazine that caters to ‘smart kids’. We thought they were going to use it MUCH sooner than they did. We were asked not to share it until their magazine went to print – which is why you’re getting it in May instead of February. Here’s the link! Feel free to download whichever parts you like. Be warned, if you print these, they use an awful lot of blue ink. I tend to just focus on the month I’m on.
On to the images:
1 of 4. Detailing the “CisLunar Econosphere”. This is a phrase coined by Ken M. to show how the Moon is actually a part of the Earth’s economic influence. He’s written several papers on this. (Part 1, Part 2) Right now, however, we (humans!) spend all of our time and most of our resources focused on GEO or Low Earth Orbit. If we want to stop being a ‘single point of failure species’ then we need to raise our sights! Next stop, the Moon, then on to Mars, and then the Stars. Pay attention to the dV numbers… we’ll come back to them in a moment.
2 of 4. Showing the scale of the overall system… Yes, that little dot on the right side, is the actual scale of the Moon, as compared to the distance from, and size of, the Earth. The Elevator Ribbon is shown in the correct length, but obviously scale for the space station we’ll build at the Earth-Moon Lagrange point, and the thickness of the Ribbon are not correct to scale.
3 of 4. There was a little confusion with this image. These big oval donuts are not Low Earth Orbit or GeoSynchronous Orbit. These are trajectories. This image shows the Delta V costs (dV = Change in velocity) to shift from LEO, all the way out to the EML1, and then all the way back in to GEO. It is substantially cheaper, in terms of energy and fuel, to go that full distance, than it is to go from LEO direct to GEO. (But it is more time-consuming, so it’s a tradeoff.) And if we have a service station at EML1, this case is even more compelling!
4 of 4: Notice that really small number from EML1 to Mars and Near Earth Objects? That means it is almost (energetically) free to go to these exotic locations! Wanna really mine asteroids? Wanna build a real starship? Wanna build a settlement on Mars? Eventually, you’ll use the Lunar Elevator as your base of operations. It is because of these numbers that I remain convinced that the EML1 is likely to (someday) be the most important ‘real estate’ in the solar system!
More images soon. If you pre-ordered a poster, these should give you a hint of what to expect.
Take care, mjl
Hello LV8R people!
Working backwards, it was a quiet weekend.
I felt like I was chained to my desk; even though it was a sunny, warm weekend, I was sitting in front of my computer – typing. We have four NASA proposals all due within the next three weeks. This is a very frustrating experience; but a necessary one. You see, NASA has not awarded research funds for any sort of Elevator work in several years. They allocated $2M to the Centennial Challenges program (of which only $900k was claimed) between 2003-2009. And there’s been limited funds available through various non-NASA sources for tether-related space research.
But now, all of a sudden, there are four proposals that we are reasonably qualified for. And all four are due around the same time… so I’m chained to my desk. Typing. Because we were out of business for so long, I have limited hope for these proposals. But we have to try.
Earlier in the week, it was a lot more interesting.
Friday, I spent ~2 hours (using a G+ Hangout) with students at Clark Community College. These are first and second year engineering, computer and robotics students (mostly). We talked about our current #RobotNeil, and the history, lessons learned and future of Space Elevator robotics. It was a lot of fun, and they asked good questions.
This is probably the 250th time I’ve done something like this. I try to go to campus as often as I can, but sometimes that just isn’t feasible. So if any of ya’ll have a school/university or community group you’d like me to chat with, let me know. The more people involved with this project, the more likely it is to succeed! I’ve always really liked talking to students; I think this is really important. And if typing is my least favorite part of this job, then talking to kids (8th graders) is my all-time favorite! During the LiftPort 1.0 days, this was our primary method of recruiting people to this project. For example, a student would want to write a paper about our Elevator, and they’d broach it to the professor… the professor would be skeptical… the student would turn in a great paper… then the professor would invite me to campus and present the project to the whole class. This is how the US. Air Force Academy became our first research partner, and this is how we currently have a Captain supporting (risking his career for!) our program.
Thursday was also a good day. We’re planning a public event once #RobotNeil climbs into the sky! We’d like folks to come out and share the victory/defeat with us. To do that, I took Thursday to scout locations in the Seattle area. I found one that I really like – with killer hamburgers! – but it was pretty small (50 people) so I am hoping we have a larger community. The place we picked seats 100-150 pretty easily; and they have a much wider (vegan/gluten-free) selection. We’ll be working with a local Seattle STEM outreach group to help coordinate this and that group will charge a $10 cover. I’ll bring a museums’ worth of robots, string, and other Space Elevator artifacts, video, images and many of our ‘Expert Advisors’ to chat with.
Show of hands: How many would come to an event like this? I’ll formalize this as the date gets closer. Look for a link to Eventbrite for tickets.
Weds/Tues/Mon were just about basic administration. (Except for one part… I’m working on something which I had to sign a NonDisclosure Agreement. If it ever comes to fruition, you’ll like it, and I’ll notify everyone.) We’re still working on the Friendship bracelets. The knot comes loose on the Fibonacci and the “earth” bead cracks on the Planetary. So we’ve got some minor upgrades to do. Thursday, we’ll be braiding a LOT of the Fibonacci’s. The survey came back as 74/26% Fibonacci to Planetary. Several of you asked for ‘blue’ to replace the ‘red’ threads on the Fibonacci, so, ya, we’ll do that.
Take care, Mjl
p.s. Here’s a picture from our Earth Elevator archives, from back in the LiftPort 1.0 days… Just about everything is wrong about this image – including the fact that the Elevator starts somewhere around New Jersey. The artist that did this, coincidentally, also lives in Jersey...
Tomorrow I’ll share some of our new technical drawings.
Heya! Here’s a rundown since Friday:
1) We got notified that 5 of our technical papers have been accepted to the International Astronautical Conference. This is kind of a big deal. It is (arguably) the largest, most prestigious gathering of its kind – anywhere in the world. This is also the very first time that our technical papers have been accepted! So it was especially surprising to have five! I’m very pleased. I know some of you think I’m not focused enough on the Kickstarter rewards or the experiment, and that’s true; I spend most of my waking moments trying to get the actual Lunar Elevator developed. These papers are a step in the right direction. We have several more documents in development. Being accepted in this environment allows other professionals to evaluate our plans, and the public scrutiny is an important part of the overall process.
2) I wrote up (but have not sent, yet) the documentation for the FAA, for our site location. I’ve not sent the paperwork because I’m still unclear on the exact dates. But I can tell you this, if things go the way I want, we will fly this experiment in June. I’ll send more details to the folks that purchased the “Walk on Parts” in a separate message – as soon as I have those details.
3) I coordinated with one of the camera / documentary crews. They will be out here for about 2-3 weeks. We’ll condense this as much as possible, but they want to be onsite for these 5 stages: 1) communications integration 2) final robot build 3) treadmill/freezer testing 4) balloon prelaunch/training 5) launch! The other camera team, from the Discovery Channel will only be onsite for the launch itself, and that requires far less coordination.
4) Of the 356 people that are to receive the “Friendship Bracelet” only 127 have responded to the survey – please check your email. The survey would have come through the Kickstarter servers, and directed you to a SurveyMonkey account. Of the ones that did, I was VERY happy to see your positive comments. Considering the hostile responses posted here in Kickstarter, I was expecting scathing/angry/frustrated/pissed-off messages. Instead, I got a lot of friendly/encouraging support. That was a nice surprise! Thanks!
Take care, Mjl
Here's a sketch of what we think the Lunar Elevator might someday look like:
First conversation with the Federal Aviation Administration & Friendship Bracelets
Hi! Quick update on a Friday night!
1) I just sent the survey to the 354 people that have the $9 “Friendship Bracelet” reward level. In it, I asked everyone to update their shipping information, and let me know what they thought about the experiment, and Kickstarter experience.
2) If you pre-purchased the other jewelry sets (Earrings and/or Necklace) you’ll get a survey on those after we’ve got a handle on the Friendship level.
3) We’ve secured a second location for our experiment site. The property owner thought it was interesting and had a lot of questions.
4) I had a 45 minute chat with our local rep at the Federal Aviation Administration this morning. It was a good conversation, and we know what our next steps are. He was very helpful – but – as it was the first 15 times we did this, Headquarters in Washington DC is going to have to get involved. That’s no surprise. So I’ll be tackling that, next week. Surprisingly, he was less concerned about the robot falling and killing someone on the ground, and much more concerned about a plane flying into the ‘bot. For me, I have the opposite concerns. This is not a ‘done deal’. This was a good first step in a convoluted process. Fortunately, we’ve some experience with this – and he was glad/relieved that I knew what I was doing, and what I was asking for.
5) Here’s the map that the FAA sent me, of flight corridors in the Seattle region. Note the thick red line that designates a national security exclusion zone… our proposed balloon site is marked in yellow; just outside that range.
Take care, Mjl
Michael Laine, President, LiftPort Group
We’ve got ~150 of the Planetary Bracelets completed and soon we’ll have an equal amount of the Fibonacci Friendship Bracelets finished. For the 356 people receiving this reward, check your email for a survey about which type you’d like. We’ll also update addresses and contact information. Since I know a few of you are angry, I’ll have ‘mood’ questions included in the survey. Feel free to vent if you’re angry. (Or surprise me, and let me know that you’re happy that someone (me!) is actually trying to make a difference in the world.)
I’m really happy with these bracelets – my team spent a lot of time designing them, and working out the details. We had long conversations about what we wanted in terms of materials, style and craftsmanship. I’ve backed several campaigns. I’m not always happy with the quality of my rewards. I wanted these to be good! I think you’ll appreciate the effort we made.
For example, the Fibonacci Friendship Bracelet is comfortable for long periods of time. I’ve worn the prototypes off and on for the past several months. There were some things that I didn’t like about my own experience with them, so they’ve gotten some minor edits along the way. Here’s an early design my friend saw in January. We had incorporated the Vectran string that the #RobotNiel is going to climb this summer. However, after thinking it over, that material was too strong to be attached to a person. If the bracelet somehow got caught on something, your arm would give way before the string broke… This is much too hazardous. But it was important to us that you have a piece of this historic artifact - so we’ve reduced the quantity and the non-structural placement of the Ribbon within the bracelet. As for the Fibonacci Sequence, well, we just thought that was a nice touch. There’s no scientific relevance; we just think it’s neat.
As for the Planetary Bracelet, I confess that I had little to do with this design. I asked several people (women) to help with this one. I asked for a ‘space theme’ and I was met with a blank stare sometimes. But as we worked on – and threw-out – many individual designs, one idea kept recurring: the planets. So after several brainstorming sessions with my mom’s friend (the one who ultimately created these) we came up with an idea that we all liked. Each planet is represented in the circle of the solar system. (Yes, we purposely left Pluto off the bracelet… it was a tough decision. Really. Because some of our technical advisors and friends helped demote Pluto’s status, we figured it was important to be technically correct.) Things we obviously couldn’t be accurate on are scale and distance; otherwise your bracelet would be the size of a big parking lot! I wore this design for several weeks. It’s comfortable – but I didn’t like how Jupiter was so big and clunky. After a while, I got used to it. Eventually, I decided that I liked it enough to go into production.
For what it’s worth. In public, hardly anyone asked me about the Fibonacci, but several people asked about the Planetary style. I found that I really liked telling the story about each. I hope you will to.
The stone of Jupiter is heavy, and makes a solid thack when it hits the desk. At first, this got on my nerves. Later, I learned to appreciate the weight and substance of it. It’s hard to describe, but it helped make the whole thing seem more ‘real’. (But in the end, my go-to is the Fibonacci version.) As for the Vectran, again, we didn’t want to incorporate that into the foundation of the bracelet. So instead, we created a “Ribbon” connecting the Earth and the Moon. Symbolically, I’m torn. I asked people that wear a lot of bracelets, and they like it, so that’s what we’ve got for you.
For those folks that bought the Necklace and Earring sets, they will be similar to this Planetary version, but we’re going to get a ‘better’ Earth, so that each of the three pieces tie together stylistically.
Take care, mjl
Experiment Site Selection
Hola Kickstarter Friends!
Finally, the weather has started to clear, and dry up a little in Washington State. That means we can begin the process of fulfilling our obligations to the Kickstarter Community. In preparation for our robot+balloon experiment this summer, on Wednesday I went driving – to look for a launch site.
So what goes into this? What makes a good launch site? What do we look for? What does the Federal Aviation, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force expect? If you’re short of sleep, browse through this set of FAA regulations. (There’s a lot more, this is just a snippet.)
The first rules when attempting something like this is safety, hazard mitigation and success. (In that order! “Success” is an arbitrary term, and it’s my lowest priority!)
Before I got in the car, I spent days on various mapping sites… Last fall, we submitted three sites for approval – they were denied. So this is our second go-round at this particular problem. FYI, we’ve done 15 of these tests, so far. The agencies have been involved with about 70%. As we get higher and higher, sites we’d used previously become unusable. We’ve traveled as far as Utah three times, and Arizona once – but these trips were logistic nightmares!
I don’t want to do a big road trip if we don’t have to. I’m trying to find something close to home. I can (probably) head ‘over the mountains’, to the other side of the state, to a test site we’ve used several times. But the problem with that is its starting altitude ~800m / 2500ft. After looking at what we’re trying to accomplish ~7km / 24000ft I do not want to begin at 10% of our goal already above Sea Level. What we’re doing is hard. It’s never been accomplished before. I don’t want the added complexity of 10% more altitude; I don’t want the extra hazard of those sub-freezing temperatures.
I’ve made the decision to start this adventure at Sea Level. Luckily that is easy here on the outskirts of Seattle. We’ve a LOT of coastline here, thanks to the glaciers 13,000 years ago. The problem with this, is that along the whole West Coast, we’ve got a lot of population centers ranging from small villages (where I live) to thriving metropolises. What’s the first rule (above)? Safety! The launch site needs to a reasonable distance from people. We have an FAA mandated distance of 5 miles from ANY airport. Yes, that means if a farmer has a private airfield, and he’s the ONLY person that uses it, AND even if they promise not to fly that day… that whole region is off limits. And yes, if you’re wondering, this is exactly what happened last fall.
So, I start with Sea Level, looking for remote sites, and then scan for airports. Turns out, that’s harder than it seems.
Once I’ve identified a general region, it’s time to really get into the details – And get into the car! Once I’m out scouting a region I have a lot of questions I need answers to: How does the wind affect that location? Force? Gusts? Direction? What sort of phone signal does the team get? Which carrier is better? Can we find a site for my team to sleep/ eat/ use the bathroom? What about the basic logistics of hauling a lot of equipment/ computers/ radios/ compressed helium canisters across terrain? Can we get electricity/ ’net connections on site, or do we have to bring our own? What are the sight lines? How much clear space does it have for initial set-up? Which way does the wind blow, in the morning, and afternoon? Are there trees to get a line tangled in? Where – exactly – are the population centers? How cooperative are the land owners? How willing are they to help? Participate? If the balloon fails, and the robot is coming down – where will it land? (Some of our site selection has the ‘bot falling into the ocean…)
After driving all over the wilderness, I’ve found three (more) locations that fit our requirements. I’ve spoken the to the property owner of one of these, and they’ve agreed to let us use their site. The other two will get an interesting phone call tomorrow. Once I know what our options are, I’ll begin the FAA approval process.
Take care, Mjl
As always, I post more stuff on Twitter, Facebook, G+, Foursquare, Vine.
p.s., Here’s some pictures. I got my 40 year-old Porsche stuck in the mud will ‘off-roading’. It was great! Took about 45 minutes to get out of that hole. Go ahead, laugh. It was pretty funny (afterward).
And here’s one of the sites that’s already got the land-owners’ approval.
And one that I like, but we’ve NOT gotten permission to use, yet.