One Good Reason Why Space Travel Will Happen In Your Lifetime

The idea of space travel for all of us has been the stuff of dreams for centuries. Long before we had electricity or telephones, we looked to the stars, hoping to travel there some day. Science fiction writers fueled the fire and instilled in many of us a solid belief that some day we would travel beyond our earthly bounds. In the last half-century we have walked on the moon, built a permanent orbiting space station, shuttled space workers back and forth from Earth and more. Now, the ground floor opportunities for a space travel industry are being built, the foundation is being laid and ideas are being hatched to make a profit out of it.

Bechtel is an engineering, project management and construction company respected around the world. Founded in 1898, Bechtel has worked on over 22,000 projects in 140 countries on all seven continents of the planet. They provide infrastructure, power generation, communications and more with a work force of 53,000 people. In a “there’s no place left to go” sort of way, Bectel looks to the sky.

Planetary Resources is a new group of world leaders committed to expanding the world’s resource base so that humanity can continue to grow and prosper. The group is not comprised of world leaders like presidents, kings and dictators, but people that make things happen like Google’s CEO Larry Page, film maker James Cameron, United States Air Force General T. Michael Moseley (Ret.) and Sara Seager, Ph.D., Professor of Planetary Science and Physics at MIT. To these people, exploring the unknown and making a living off of it is familiar ground.

We first met Planetary Resources in May of last year in the article “Space Travel: Hurry Up, We Have Mining To Do” when Gadling reported Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, stating, “Our mission is not only to expand the world’s resource base, but we want to increase people’s access to, and understanding of, our planet and solar system by developing capable and cost-efficient systems.”

Now, it appears that the moon, stars and planets have aligned and something is about to happen.

In a move that has an undeniable flavor of entrepreneurship, the start-up mechanism that enables forward-thinking ideas to blossom, Bechtel and Planetary Resources are collaborating to mine near-Earth asteroids for raw materials.To do that, they will have to develop innovative and cost-effective robotic exploration technologies.

“As we pursue our vision to expand the resource base beyond Earth; we’re extremely excited to announce this partnership with Bechtel. They are a world leader in the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) industry,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources on the organization’s website.

It’s that “expand the resource base beyond Earth” part that should be of interest to us and shore up dreams of space travel for all some day. Venturing into space has always been an investment in the future at best, more commonly known as a space program that is a government budget item that can and has been cut.

Here, we have respected leaders of today’s world looking to the stars in a way not thought of since the gold rush period of the 1800s. Back then, because of that burning desire for gold, San Francisco grew by leaps and bounds. Roads, churches, schools and railroads were built and along the way agriculture and ranching expanded.

Mining asteroids? Could very well be the profit-centered technology enabler that ends up putting us in space.

If the whole idea sounds a little bit familiar, it might be due to 1998’s Hollywood blockbuster “Armageddon,” which had normally deep-sea oil drillers frantically trying to destroy an asteroid before it collided with Earth and wiped out civilization.

Let’s pause a moment to re-live that historic event via this video:

Armageddon had a budget of $140 million and was in international box-office success, grossing over a half $billion. Also on this hot space travel topic, our friends at Huffington Post tell us “Studies have found that around 7,500 near-Earth asteroids exist, most of which are worth between $1 billion and $25 billion each if their resources were sold on Earth.”

So there you have it: Science Fiction fuels real-world ideas and everybody makes money.

Want to be part of it all? Planetary Resources is enabling us too, promising exclusive behind-the-scenes information by joining their mailing list and a learn more library.

[Photo credit – Flickr user by Gerard Stolk]

Galileo’s fingers go on display

Tourists in Florence can now learn more about the city’s most famous resident at The Museum of the History of Science, which has just reopened as the Galileo Museum.

Galileo (1564-1642) was one of the greatest scientists of the Renaissance. He made significant advances in physics and mathematics and made history when he turned a newfangled gadget called the telescope towards the night sky and discovered that Jupiter has moons and Venus has phases. These observations strengthened his conviction that the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe and in fact revolved around the Sun. The Catholic Church felt threatened by this idea and put him on trial for heresy. Galileo spent his final years under house arrest.

The museum preserves the lens from his famous telescope as well as other artifacts from Galileo’s life and times, including some rather macabre ones. When Galileo’s body was being moved to a new tomb in 1737 an admirer cut off three fingers off the right hand (the thumb, index, and middle finger, if you must know), a vertebra, and a tooth. The thumb, middle finger, and tooth went missing for many years but recently turned up at an auction. They’re now back home in Florence and are the most unusual artifacts in the Galileo Museum.

Besides the body parts of a persecuted genius, the museum has an impressive collection of scientific instruments. The displays explain how these instruments helped expand humanity’s knowledge. Science museums are fascinating places, and if you can’t make it to Florence this year, check out these science museums in London and Northern California.

“Galileo Galilei showing the Doge of Venice how to use the telescope”, fresco by Giuseppe Bertini, 1858.

Got $20,000? Fund this Guy’s Time Travel Experiment!

John Cramer, a physicist at the University of Washington, wants to test a controversial prediction from quantum theory that says light particles can go backward in time. However, in need of a more precise crystal prism and a more sensitive camera, he’s unable to get the experiment started. According to Cramer, “All we need to keep going is maybe $20,000, but nobody seems that interested in funding this project.”

The UW physicist has applied for funds from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Though DARPA recently sent out RFPs from researchers interested in developing shape-shifting, liquid robots, and cyborg insects, and NIAC has funded similar projects in the past, neither agency has coughed up the dough to fund Cramer’s work.

If you agree that time travel is the most extreme kind of travel imaginable, then you should be rooting on Cramer and trying to help him secure the funds. Maybe your donation could prove the theory that makes time travel possible. Your name would be eponymous with time travel!