September 19, 2012

Warp Drive May Be More Feasible Than Thought, Scientists Say

Filed under: Cool, Gadgets, Hollywood, Military, Space Exploration, Space Ships, Wierd — bferrari @ 6:56 am

HOUSTON — A warp drive to achieve faster-than-light travel — a concept popularized in television’s Star Trek — may not be as unrealistic as once thought, scientists say.

warp drive would manipulate space-time itself to move a starship, taking advantage of a loophole in the laws of physics that prevent anything from moving faster than light. A concept for a real-life warp drive was suggested in 1994 by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre, however subsequent calculations found that such a device would require prohibitive amounts of energy.

Now physicists say that adjustments can be made to the proposed warp drive that would enable it to run on significantly less energy, potentially brining the idea back from the realm of science fiction into science.

“There is hope,” Harold “Sonny” White of NASA’s Johnson Space Center said here Friday (Sept. 14) at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, a meeting to discuss the challenges of interstellar spaceflight.

Warping space-time

An Alcubierre warp drive would involve a football-shape spacecraft attached to a large ring encircling it. This ring, potentially made of exotic matter, would cause space-time to warp around the starship, creating a region of contracted space in front of it and expanded space behind. [Star Trek’s Warp Drive: Are We There Yet? | Video]

Meanwhile, the starship itself would stay inside a bubble of flat space-time that wasn’t being warped at all.

“Everything within space is restricted by the speed of light,” explained Richard Obousy, president of Icarus Interstellar, a non-profit group of scientists and engineers devoted to pursuing interstellar spaceflight. “But the really cool thing is space-time, the fabric of space, is not limited by the speed of light.”

With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit.

The only problem is, previous studies estimated the warp drive would require a minimum amount of energy about equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.

But recently White calculated what would happen if the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft was adjusted into more of a rounded donut, as opposed to a flat ring. He found in that case, the warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977.

Furthermore, if the intensity of the space warps can be oscillated over time, the energy required is reduced even more, White found.

“The findings I presented today change it from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation,” White told “The additional energy reduction realized by oscillating the bubble intensity is an interesting conjecture that we will enjoy looking at in the lab.”

Laboratory tests

White and his colleagues have begun experimenting with a mini version of the warp drive in their laboratory.

They set up what they call the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer at the Johnson Space Center, essentially creating a laser interferometer that instigates micro versions of space-time warps.

“We’re trying to see if we can generate a very tiny instance of this in a tabletop experiment, to try to perturb space-time by one part in 10 million,” White said.

He called the project a “humble experiment” compared to what would be needed for a real warp drive, but said it represents a promising first step.

And other scientists stressed that even outlandish-sounding ideas, such as the warp drive, need to be considered if humanity is serious about traveling to other stars.

“If we’re ever going to become a true spacefaring civilization, we’re going to have to think outside the box a little bit, were going to have to be a little bit audacious,” Obousy said.

A ring-shaped warp drive device could transport a football-shape starship (center) to effective speeds faster than light. The concept was first proposed by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre.

A ring-shaped warp drive device could transport a football-shape starship (center) to effective speeds faster than light. The concept was first proposed by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre.



November 4, 2011

Foster + Partners Spaceport America Upham, New Mexico

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Gadgets, Hollywood, Inner Solar System, Military, Moons, Space Ships — bferrari @ 1:03 pm

Organised into a highly efficient and rational plan, Spaceport has been designed to relate to the dimensions of the spacecraft. There is also a careful balance between accessibility and privacy. The astronauts’ areas and visitor spaces are fully integrated with the rest of the building, while the more sensitive zones – such as the control room – are visible, but have limited access.


July 6, 2011

Enterprise: The First Space Shuttle

Filed under: Cool, Extraterrestrial Life, Hollywood, Space Exploration, Space Ships — bferrari @ 10:13 pm

The very last launch of NASA’s space shuttle program is scheduled for Friday, when Atlantis will begin mission STS-135. The 135th mission will end the shuttle program after 35 years.

The U.S. space program would have never progressed as fast as it did without the race against the Soviets to the moon. As soon as Apollo 11 delivered astronauts to the lunar surface, NASA was asked to develop a new space program that would be more immediately useful and (most importantly) more cost-efficient. The Apollo program continued through mission 17 in 1972, but meanwhile engineers were developing a reusable spacecraft. It was a totally new concept, a vehicle tough enough to go into space, complete mission after mission, and land on earth with such little damage that it could be sent up again. Many companies worked on the various technologies necessary for such a craft. We didn’t see the first space shuttle until 1976.

There were a total of six space shuttles. Atlantis, the last to fly, will be retired to a museum as will the recently-flown shuttles Endeavour and Discovery. Two shuttles, Challenger and Columbia, were destroyed along with their crews in space tragedies. And the sixth space shuttle? That was the Enterprise.

NASA planned to name the first space shuttle Constitution, to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. But that changed between the announcement of the program in 1972 and the unveiling of the craft in 1976.

Star Trek fan Bjo Trimble already had experience in mobilizing trekkers; she had spearheaded a fan campaign to save the original Star Trek series from cancellation in 1967. That effort stretched the show’s run into a third year. Trimble organized Star Trek fans in a new campaign to name the first space shuttle Enterprise instead of Constitution. The White House received somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000 letters urging the name change (although some estimates go as high as 200,000). I wrote one of those letters myself. President Gerald Ford spoke with NASA chief James Fletcher and said, “You know, I’m a little partial to the name Enterprise.” Ford did not mention the letter-writing campaign, but instead referred to the fact that he served on a Navy ship that serviced the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. Fletcher resisted the name change, but was overruled by the president. The shuttle would be named Enterprise.

In the “Star Trek” series, all ships were named after famous space shuttles of the past. So, in a paradoxical way, by naming a real-life shuttle after the Star Trek ship, NASA validated its plot line by providing an explanation for where the Enterprise name came from. If that makes perfect sense to you, congratulations, you’re a true Star Trek fan.

“That is a fine looking wessel”

The names of the shuttles are used mainly outside of NASA. The first such vehicle was referred to as OV-101 (orbiter vehicle 101) by the space agency. However, the naming of the first shuttle was a coup for Star Trek fans and a public relations boon for the Star Trek franchise. At the official unveiling of the shuttle on September 17, 1976 at Rockwell’s facility in Palmdale, California, most of the cast from the original Star Trek television series, as well as creator Gene Roddenberry, were honored guests.

The shuttle Enterprise made 13 flights in 1976 and 1977, none of them in orbit. There were eight captive flights with the shuttle on the back of a 747 (three with a crew aboard), and five test flights. Pictured is Commander (and Apollo 13 astronaut) Fred W. Haise Jr. and pilot C. Gordon Fullerton after an approach and landing test.

The original idea was to eventually retrofit the prototype for space flight and send it into orbit after the shuttle Columbia. However, design changes over the years made this idea more expensive than building a new shuttle from scratch. I recall vividly how disappointed I was when I found out the Enterprise would not go into space, and I imagined that everyone who fought to name the vehicle felt the same way. In 1978 and 1979, Enterprise was subjected to ground vibration tests. In the fall of 1979, parts of the Enterprise were removed to be reused on other shuttles. The rest became an exhibit. The vehicle toured Europe in 1983 and the U.S. in 1984. It was showcased at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans.

In either a stretch of the imagination or an exercise in wishful thinking, the shuttle Enterprise was featured in the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In the movie, Commander Will Decker shows Lieutenant Ilia a display on the history of ships named Enterprise, which includes the space shuttle. In the TV series Deep Space 9, the shuttle appears as a model docked to the International Space Station in Caption Sisko’s office.

In either a stretch of the imagination or an exercise in wishful thinking, the shuttle Enterprise was featured in the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In the movie, Commander Will Decker shows Lieutenant Ilia a display on the history of ships named Enterprise, which includes the space shuttle. In the TV series Deep Space 9, the shuttle appears as a model docked to the International Space Station in Caption Sisko’s office.


March 7, 2011

STS-133 “Star Trek” Wakeup Call

Filed under: Cool, Hollywood, Space Exploration — bferrari @ 6:35 pm

William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk on the original Star Trek television series, provided a special message to the crew of space shuttle Discovery during the Flight Day 12 wakeup call.

Last Flight for Discovery

Last Flight for Discovery

William Shatner as the ubiquitous Captain Kirk

William Shatner as the ubiquitous Captain Kirk

December 7, 2009

Space Tourism a Reality by 2012

Filed under: Gadgets, Hollywood, Space Exploration — bferrari @ 12:26 pm

Space Tourism a Reality by 2012

The latest trend in eco-tourism is completely out of this world … and right around the corner.

Routine commercial travel to outer space may be the norm as soon as 2012, as the next generation of spacecraft — designed by private sector firms like Virgin Galactic, Orbital Sciences Corp., Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and others — transport adventure-seeking civilians into low-Earth orbit.

There, they can see the sun rise many times a day, and experience the breathtaking curve of planet Earth that only NASA astronauts such as Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin have previously seen. If they want to extend their stay, they can check in to the solar system’s first orbiting hotel, The Galactic Space Suite Hotel, set to open in three years.

SLIDESHOW: Next-Generation Spaceships

“There are more projects like this going on than most experts even know about,” Doug Raybeck, a futurist and an emeritus professor at Hamilton College in New York, tells “There are a lot of people developing this technology under the radar and they want it that way.”

As NASA retires its space shuttle fleet in the coming years, these next-generation ships will also launch science experiments and satellites into space, or to the International Space Station (ISS).

Here’s just a sampling of cutting-edge spacecraft:

• WhiteKnightTwo is a jet-powered carrier that will launch the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft; the two vehicles form a two-stage manned launch system, and Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has already ordered a pair of WhiteKnightTwos. The ships will form the basis for Virgin Galactic’s suborbital fleet, which will charge space tourists $200,000 a head for a 2-hour space flight. The first services will operate from Spaceport America in New Mexico, though other spaceports may open in the U.K. or Sweden.

• The Dragon, a free-flying, reusable spacecraft is being developed by SpaceX for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. Developed in 2005, the Dragon spacecraft consists of a pressurized capsule for personnel and an unpressurized trunk for transport of cargo.

• The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle is NASA’s next-generation spacecraft. It will transport crews to and from the International Space Station, the moon and Mars and is being developed by Lockheed-Martin and Orbital Sciences Corp.

Some technologies, still in the concept stage, are even more mind-blowing, including spacecraft powered by “solar sails,” which harness solar winds to travel between galaxies a thousand light-years apart. Thousand-year-long flights may seem absurd, but rocket scientists have a solution for that, too. More on that topic in a minute.

“These technology entrepreneurs are on the verge of creating a new economy, just like Bill Gates did with the PC in the 1980s,” says Patricia Hynes, director of the NASA New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, and organizer of an annual conference on commercial space flight, recently held in Las Cruces, N.M.

The Burgeoning Industry

Space buffs have talked about commercial space for decades; President Reagan had an office of commercial space in his Department of Commerce 20 years ago. But a number of factors have converged, of late, to make the visions something that can be achieved quickly.

First, experts tell, new materials and space propulsion technologies are enabling developers to build these spacecraft more cheaply than before. Next, the federal government — facing unprecedented debt from the Obama administration’s stimulus spending — is hardly keen about funding NASA’s dream projects.

To keep its long-term systems planning going, the space agency is working more in partnership with private-sector firms, which can use money from investment bankers to get launch vehicles and spacecraft going more quickly and cheaply than the government. “The smartest thing they ever did is reach out to the business community,” says Raybeck, the futurist. “There’s money in them there hills.”

This has given the U.S. a “five-year lead on the Chinese, and other nations, in terms of the commercial space industry,” says Hynes. “They can’t compete with us technically, financially or in terms of regulatory structure.”

The federal regulatory aspect emerged, publicly, for the first time at the 60th International Astronautical Conference in South Korea. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. government agency that regulates air flight, is now charged with licensing space launch companies in the U.S.

George Nield, associate administrator of the FAA, space transportation initiative, spoke at the show about these new rules.

“This is a very exciting time for commercial space transportation. There are some very dramatic and far-reaching changes that are coming. Up to this point, government agencies have dominated human space flight efforts. Over the next few years, I expect that private industry will play a key role in low-Earth orbit and suborbital space flight,” Nield told conference attendees. “This will require a launch license from our office at the FAA. We are on the threshold of a new era in space transportation…suborbital space tourism.”

The FAA is working with “half a dozen space companies” on this now, Nield indicates. There will be “hundreds” of commercial space launches every year in the coming years, he adds, and that will “change the way we think about space.”

How Much Will It Cost Me?

According to the president of Virgin Galactic, Will Whitehorn, his company is planning to carry people into orbit two times a day when it is operational in the coming years. “This will be the experience of their lives,” Whitehorn indicates. Hundreds of people have already booked for the first flights on Virgin.

Initially, tourism will be very expensive, around $200,000 per passenger. “But costs will go down,” John Lindner, a professor of physics at the College of Wooster in Ohio, tells “And services will evolve.”

For example, passengers may be able to travel out to visit asteroids, speculates space engineer Greg Matloff, a professor at The City College of New York, in an interview with “But for interstellar, and inter-solar system travel, you’ll have to use the resources of the solar system to make it viable,” Matloff says.

Matloff reckons that those solar sails could be constructed out of nano-technologies that would soak up solar wind and gamma rays for power. Going to another galaxy would be quite difficult, however. Robots would have to power the ships, as the trip would take well over 1,000 years. For humans to take such a voyage, they would have to start off as cryogenically frozen zygotes, says Matloff, and brought to life as the spacecraft neared its final destination.

American firms are not the only ones exploring this technology niche, though they seem to have a big lead now. The Russians and the French are eyeing future commercial space transportation too. Mario Delepine, a spokesman for Parisian commercial launch company Arianespace, tells that his firm is already “starting to think about the next generation of launch technology. This must be ready by 2025, roughly.”

Though the global economy has hit a rough patch during the last year or so, the space sector has grown 9 percent a year over the past decade, more than three times faster than the economy as a whole during that time. “We’re creating a new economy,” says Hynes.


September 9, 2009

Star Trek and a New State of Matter: Transparent Aluminum

Filed under: Black Holes, Gadgets, Hollywood, Wierd — bferrari @ 1:45 pm

Hello Computer...

Hello Computer...

Scientists claim to have created a form of aluminum that’s nearly transparent to extreme ultraviolet radiation and which is a new state of matter.

It’s an idea straight out of science fiction, featured in the movie “Star Trek IV.”

The work is detailed in the journal Nature Physics.

The normal states of matter are solid, liquid and gas, and a fourth state, called plasma, is a superheated gas considered more exotic. Other experiments have created strange states of matter for brief periods. This one, too, existed only briefly.

To create the new, even more exotic stuff, a short pulse from a laser “knocked out” a core electron from every aluminum atom in a sample without disrupting the metal’s crystalline structure, the researchers explain.

”What we have created is a completely new state of matter nobody has seen before,” said professor Justin Wark of Oxford University’s Department of Physics.

“Transparent aluminum is just the start,” Wark said. “The physical properties of the matter we are creating are relevant to the conditions inside large planets, and we also hope that by studying it we can gain a greater understanding of what is going on during the creation of ‘miniature stars’ created by high-power laser implosions, which may one day allow the power of nuclear fusion to be harnessed here on Earth.”

Fusion is a dream of scientists who would create cheap and plentiful power by fusing atoms together, as opposed to nuclear fission that generates electricity today.

The discovery was made possible with a high-powered synchrotron radiation generator called the FLASH laser, based in Hamburg, Germany. It produces extremely brief pulses of soft X-ray light, each of which is more powerful than the output of a power plant that provides electricity to a whole city.

The Oxford team, along with their international colleagues, focused all this power down into a spot with a diameter less than a twentieth of the width of a human hair. At such high intensities the aluminum turned transparent.

While the invisible effect lasted for only an extremely brief period – an estimated 40 femtoseconds – it demonstrates that such an exotic state of matter can be created using very high power X-ray sources.

“What is particularly remarkable about our experiment is that we have turned ordinary aluminum into this exotic new material in a single step by using this very powerful laser,” Wark said. “For a brief period the sample looks and behaves in every way like a new form of matter. In certain respects, the way it reacts is as though we had changed every aluminum atom into silicon: it’s almost as surprising as finding that you can turn lead into gold with light.”


From: Glynn, Melanie
Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2009 12:43 PM
To: Ferrari, Robert; Lowe, Russ; Seigel, Harold
Cc: Steven Knauff
Subject: RE: Still

May 19, 2009

‘Beam me up Barack’: Obama as Vulcan?

Filed under: Hollywood, Stupidity, Wierd — bferrari @ 1:10 pm
Live Long and Prosper Off the Backs of Others

Live Long and Prosper Off the Backs of Others

The latest Obamagasm…

President Barack Obama said in a report Sunday that he saw the new “Star Trek” film recently — and not just because it was last week’s top-grossing movie.”Everybody was saying I was Spock,” said the US leader, known to have a wonkish command of the minutiae of policy — not unlike the dispassionate movie Vulcan to whom he has been compared.

Newsweek gushed however that Obama’s version of the character would be “Spock with global sex appeal.

The latest in the “Star Trek” sci-fi franchise beamed up to the top of the North American box office last weekend, but slipped this week to second place.

Revealing a bit more about his leisure time viewing, the president told the magazine that he refuses to watch cable news, opting to stick to televised sports.


May 10, 2009

Aptera 300MPG Electric Car Featured in Star Trek XI Scene

Filed under: Hollywood, Life, Space Exploration, Wierd — bferrari @ 7:19 pm

Star Fleet Academy where Aptera will be parked.

Star Fleet Academy where Aptera will be parked.

Boldly Going to Southern California

When producers needed a large, academic building to use for establishing exterior shots of the Academy Starfleet Academy, they turned to the Oviatt Library at Cal State Northridge, with its large open green, wide flight of stairs and tall regal columns. Ain’t It Cool News reports that in addition to “futurizing” the library, the producers also placed an Aptera TYP-1 electric car capable of 300 miles per gallon, in the Academy shots for an extended cameo. Now that’s the kind of ride you can imagine Kirk zipping around in in the 23rd century.

Source and More of the Story

Past Aptera Stories

Aptera on Star Trek XI Set

Aptera on Star Trek XI Set

Blog at