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Postcards from the Future

Postcards from the Future trailer clip
Clip from trailer for Postcards from the Future
Source: Mahalo Bay Films

US President George W. Bush is not the only one with visions of The Moon, Mars and Beyond. It's also the tagline of Alan Chan's upcoming 'future documentary', Postcards from the Future set in (and inspired by) the near-future Vision for Space Exploration era chronicling of the life of Sean Everman while he works on the new moonbase as a civilian electrical engineer building out the base's power grid, his days captured in a series of video postcards and personal messages he occasionally sends to his wife on Earth.

Alan Chan
Director Alan Chan
Courtesy: Mahalo Bay Films
Chan adds directing Postcards to his earlier movie credits that include a stellar list of mainstream films (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Titanic and Polar Express) as well as the short about the space elevator discussed in an earlier Space Elevator Journal post (see: Proud Papa Portrays Progeny).

There's a short trailer available here (requires Quicktime) and synopsis (in PDF format) on the movie's site. The curiosity of film geeks may be whetted by the shot anatomy explaining the all-digital process.

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Space Elevator Segment on NOVA scienceNOW (PBS)

The January 9, 2007 broadcast of NOVA scienceNOW has a segment about building a space elevator. Reading the synopsis, it sounds like it focuses heavily on the recent XPrize Cup.

A 2-minute preview of the show is available in several flavours.

QuickTime high | low RealVideo high | low Windows Media high | low

There's also some excellent collateral material. One in the form of a Flash presentation entitled Why Build It with answers by none other than Dr. Brad Edwards. The same presentation is available in HTML format.

Source: WGBH Boston
In a video extra available on the show's web site the NOVA scienceNOW's host, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson*, pays a visit to Liftport Group's CEO Michael Laine and Tom Nugent to see a demo of Liftport's robot climber in this short video available in QuickTime high and low speed versions and RealVideo high and low speed versions as well. The intro is voiced by producer Joe McMaster.

* Dr. deGrasse Tyson has an impressive list of credentials. The man's an astrophysicist, author of 7 books, and director of the Hayden Planetarium in the Rose Center For Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History. He graduated from New York City's Bronx High School of Science before studying physics at Harvard and going on to receive his doctorate in astrophysics from Columbia University.

That makes his comment at the end of the video that he's "still a little bit skeptical" disturbing. I'll try to follow up with him and see what he meant by that or maybe he'll post a comment below. He still thought enough of the SE concept to ask for the first ride. :) --PB--


Proud Papa Portays Progeny

The father of the modern space elevator
Dr. Bradley Carl Edwards Ph.D

"Our generation will go to space" is the tag line of the best visual explanation of what a space elevator is and does I have seen so far.

Dr. Edwards' site, as the online home of the man who fathered the SE when he developed the first (and so far only?) viable space elevator design in conjunction with NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC), is a fitting place for it.

The Space Elevator Visualistaion Group movie by directed by Alan Chan starts off with the 'One Small Step' sequence and chronicles the demise of government-run space programs before making visually-stunning case for a privately built SE.

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Space Debris

Space Debris Damage

Orbital debris hole in Solar Max Experiment

Source: NASA Orbital Debris Photo Gallery
While the space elevator faces a number of significant engineering challenges that need to be overcome before it gets built, the Space Elevator Journal has focussed on challenges that will occur once it's up and running. The issue of space debris, natural and man-made, will be a constant of life in space. Unfortunately, most of the man-made junk is in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).

Millions of people have lived on Earth for thousands of years but, considering the few humans that have been in space, there may be more garbage per person in space than on Earth.

The link in the title of this post points to a flash animation from the European Space Agency (ESA) that is as compelling as it is disturbing. It shows the accumulation of space debris from the Sputnik launch in 1957 until the year 2000. Earth disappears from view in the mid-1970's.

The ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) runs a space debris program that explains since October 4th, 1957, more than 4,200 launches have lifted some 5,500 satellites into orbit but only approximately 700 are still operational. This unconscionable waste may be the best single reason for getting a space elevator built and ending Earth-based rocket launches forever.

On 21 January 2001, this 70 kg titanium motor casing from a PAM-D (Payload Assist Module - Delta), reentered the atmosphere over the Middle East landing about 240 km from the Saudi Arabia capital of Riyadh.

Source: NASA Orbital Debris Photo Gallery
According to SOCRATES, the free daily service that predicts the probability of orbital close encounters between satellites and the thousands pieces of debris orbiting Earth, today (/2007/01/02) at 15:32:01.539 UTC Cosmos 489, an old Russian satellite launched in 1972 and SL-8 R/B, a Tsyklon Stage 2 rocket body (launched in 1979) will pass within 0.054 kilometers (177.2 feet) of each other at a relative velocity of 14.225 km/sec (31,820 mph !!!). Allowing for reasonable margins of error means there's a distinct chance these two pieces of space junk will collide (and possibly explode if there's residual fuels, batteries or other volatile materials involved) scattering chunks all over LEO endangering operational satellites and the humans that depend on them.

Orbital debris in LEO*

- 95% junk -

Source: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office
Ironically, both objects are from the Tsiklon program, the first prototype Soviet navigation satellite system but that is only one potential collision among Several large pieces of space debris re-enter the atmosphere every month according to the Aerospace Corporation, a US space R&D centre.

Did it ever occur to you to wonder how many of the satellites have nuclear power sources on board and if any of them have ever decayed back into the atmosphere and/or crashed to Earth? Stay tuned to the Space Elevator Journal.


* LEO - Low Earth Orbit: the region of space within 2,000 km of the Earth's surface. It is the most concentrated area for orbital debris.

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