Greetings future spaceman,
On this episode of Nerd Blurbs we look at the US Commercial Space Launch Competiveness Act, unanimously approved last week, explore space drone technology, and take a look at a new development in environment suits.
Senate Unanimously Passes Space Bill
On Tuesday, the 4th of August 2015, the US Senate unanimously approved the US Commercial Space Launch Competiveness Act, spearheaded by two Republican presidential candidates, Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, extending the operations of the International Space Station to 2024 and the regulatory moratorium on commercial space industry to 2020. What that means is that NASA will be funded for nearly another decade with the purpose of keeping the International Space Station operational, and that industry seeking to put people into space will not be regulated by the government after they “prioritize safety, utilize existing authorities, minimize burdens, promote the US commercial space sector, and meet the United States obligations under international treaties.” This is huge news for the private and public sectors of space travel, as it guarantees that humans will still be striving for the stars and that they have the unanimous backing of both Democrats and Republicans, as this Act is in fact bipartisan.
With the US government getting out of the way of the people who will probably get our asses off this planet, our expectations for space travel grows somewhat. We are still a long way from being in a place where we would survive another extinction event, like the seven or so that happened before we ever got here. Colonization of neighboring planets and moons is necessary within the next 60 years if we are expected to survive the conditions that we have created on this planet. Thankfully other people are thinking about colonization, specifically:
Student Artist Conceives Modular Environment Suit
Student Artist Conceives Modular Environment Suit
For her final project at Central Saint Martins, Alexandra Lucas, a student weaver and textile designer, created the Mars Exploration Suit, a modular, lightweight, six layer outfit that can be customized depending on the length of time living on a colony. Lucas understands that colonists will adapt to their new environments, especially as they terraform them to be more hospitable to humanity. As this happens the need for different layers will diminish, so the other worldly settlers will be able to peel them off as they adapt to the environment.
This brilliant design accounts for radiation, pressurization, oxygen and temperature regulation, and tracks the wearer’s biometrics. However, not being a scientist yourself, the design would require rigorous testing and redesign before ever being able to perform on other planets. Forward thinking, Lucas’s 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired design considers human evolution as well as the distance from textile manufacturers that such colonists will face, inspiring us to consider more deeply the problems surrounding space travel, among them being exploration.
Thankfully for us there are people already considering this problem and are sending… Drones. In. Space!
NASA Developing Mars Drones
As Space.com reported last week, NASA is developing drones to do all sorts of things, from exploring other planets to tracking other celestial objects transiting the Earth. The advantage of drones is that they’re lightweight (making it easier to launch them to their destinations), they use much less power and fuel (again, cutting the costs of launch), and can navigate terrain that even the most resilient of rovers simply cannot manage. Remember that Woman of Mars image the Rover captured recently? With a drone, we could easily saunter over to the area and confirm that it’s just a pile a rocks…or whatever it actually is.
These new sorts of drones are being called “Extreme Access Flyers” and they move in less-than-conventional drone ways. Rather than using rotors, like on any sort of drone you’ve ever seen, the Extreme Access Flyers utilize oxygen gas or water vapor to propel themselves, actually obtaining the “fuel” from whatever source on their reconnaissance that they find. Rather than sending one rover, NASA would be able to send a team of drones, each capable of acquiring fuel for itself, to cover an exponentially greater amount of area than could previously have been imagined.
So – extrapolating all this data, it’s safe to hope that within the next five-to-ten years, commercial space flight will be a viable option for the wealthiest 1% of our population, a handful of colonists will begin to set up residents in shiny new adaptable environment suits on our nearest neighbor, and they’ll be able to scout their outlying areas with drones that replenish themselves. We are living in science fiction, people, and if that’s not enough to give you some warm and fuzzies, perhaps the radiation of the red planet will.
This has been Nerd Blurbs, and you have been reading it, so thanks for thatQ