Another humankind benefits from the 50 miles skydiving

As explained in the article “4 reasons why we don’t explore space and why they aren’t reasons at all“, one of the key reasons for humanity not exploring space further is a general lack of interest from the public as there is no vision as to how space could benefit people.

Toavina Andriamanerasoa, a participant in the Copernicus I bootcamp, wrote a short fictional article to inspire people with his vision of the potential of a space elevator and how much fun it could be for the public. Here it is:

It’s 10 am, –[20] degrees C and eerie outside. The view below however is mind-blowing, and I can see the forest in incredible detail. I’m inside the Copernicus I, an elevator that rises to 50 km above French Guyana, wearing a wingsuit and oxygen tank, ready to emulate Felix Baumgartner’s feat from more than a decade ago.

With me are another twenty wingsuit jumpers paying 1,000BTC each for the privilege of flying from the highest vantage point on Earth. Over the course of the day they will be followed by another 200 patiently waiting in other capsules lined up behind us.

John Hossegor, the man responsible for the inception (and eventual construction) of Copernicus I, did not initially foresee such uses for the space elevator: “When I first came up with the dream for Copernicus, all I had in mind was supplanting rockets for space travel and providing a way for asteroid mining companies to deploy millions of robots into space. However, Felix called me one day and asked if he could jump from the tower – since then, we have a one-year long waiting list and wingsuit jumping has become a substantial revenue source for us.”

Hossegor is a true visionary. Ten years ago when he first mentioned the idea of a space elevator the naysayers came were quick to decry the idea. It was all the more satisfying when, as Hossegor puts it, “the trolls from Reddit and the scientific communities shut up after I raised $50m to build Copernicus I”.

Today Hossegor’s company Exogalaxy is worth north of 1bn BTC, bringing in revenues of 100m BTC a year through various ventures. These include sending satellites and drones into space, operation of an international space observatory, a hotel and rotating restaurant, harvesting wind and solar power and catering to gliders and wingsuit jumpers.

It was not smooth sailing all the way however, with investors nearly backing out of the project when they saw a rival project raising funds to construct an electromagnetic catapult aptly named ”David I”. In the end though Hossegor was able to prove that his technology was more efficient and cheaper in the long run. The backers of David I decided to wind down their company and switch to funding Hossegor.

Now Hossegor is focusing his efforts to raise funds for stage II of the project: “Given the advances in nano-tech, we can now build a space elevator that would take us to outer space, and we are extremely excited about the potential applications. Hopefully we’ll support the first mission to colonise Mars!”. No small words, but given the giant steps Hossegor has made so far, I would not bet against him this time around.

Opening Address to the Participants of Exosphere’s Copernicus Program

Delivered by Exosphere Founder Skinner Layne the on July 13, 2015

Tonight I would like to tell you a tale, ask you three questions, give you a caution, and leave you with a parting thought.

First, the Tale.

A Prometheus was born near the Vistula River in 1473. We like to think of Prometheus as bold, fearless, and daring. But I think he was not quite like that. I think he was curious–perhaps even morbidly curious–but probably a bit afraid of his own curiosity and what it might mean to the world, not least of all for him.

What if fire from the gods could be stolen and brought to man–what if he didn’t have to beg in vain for their favor to shine down upon them and give them this powerful force in their stingy parsimony from time to time?

What if this fire did not only result from strange incantations and cryptic rites, but could be reproduced endlessly if once captured from its gatekeepers?

Prometheus dared to ask these questions, but the questions led him somewhere–he did not merely rest with them. So Prometheus went up to Mount Olympus and stole the fire.

And yet, in this courageous act, he realized that if he spread that fire too quickly, Zeus would know too soon and stop him before everybody had it.

Revolutionibus orbium coelestium was published as Prometheus lay dying and those pages were the torch passed to the new Prometheus whose job it was to spread the stolen flame.

In 1616, Zeus caught up with Prometheus and on the 22nd day of June, Prometheus was forced to recant his heresy–to declare that fire was not fire, that it could not be produced by man, but could only come as a gift from the gods.

He was sentenced to a life of imprisonment, a denial of his freedom, chained to a vile stillness.

But this punishment paled in comparison to the true burden of his scourge. Everything he had ever spoken was made to disappear, with that dreadful word commanded from him, as was commanded of so many others before: REVOCO.

And so, thus recanting, his tongue was cut out from his mouth forever, a wordless god among mortals.

But the fire found its way.

For this wordless god managed a few final words before his tongue was cut out, words that would preserve the flame for another Prometheus yet to be born–those words–AND YET IT MOVES–echo throughout eternity.

The fire will never stop burning. it cannot be contained for ever. And most chillingly and hauntingly wonderful, the fire cannot be denied in fact–even as lies may attempt to deny it with words.

We are gathered here today by virtue of our status as heirs of Prometheus. We have been able to find one another in our shared and mutual interest in stealing new fire from the gods precisely because past Prometheans had been willing to steal.

Our ancestral Prometheans were willing to give their most precious treasure, their time, in building the theories and tools, the models and applications, without which it is almost inconceivable that we would have ever met, much less be here discussing the array of questions we will explore in these three weeks.

This brings me to the three questions I hope you will begin to ponder during our time together, and a broad framework we hope to build for exploring these questions.

These are questions that transcend the technical feasibility of this or that engineering design or financial model.

The first question is social and political. Who are the Zeuses of today, and what are the mechanisms by which they guard Mount Olympus?

An exploration of this question will help us learn how we best continue our thievery and maybe even keep our tongues in the process.

The second question is hypothetical: are there ways to make peace with Zeus or defeat him peacefully, so that we may take freely of the fires of Olympus?

If so, let us work to define the first steps and how can we can begin taking them.

The third question is ethical, and deeply personal. When your career is on the line. When all the badges and trophies are at risk of being thrown into the abyss. When the salaries and endowed chairs are being threatened with termination, and the grant applications of permanent denial–if that moment ever comes, will you have the temerity to mutter under your breath, under the judgment of your Zeus, “AND YET IT MOVES”?

The father of modern observational astronomy, the father of modern physics, the father of modern science could not be saved by his intellect from enduring the consequences of his theft. But he did not go quietly–will you?

Think about these questions, ponder their implications. Consider what they require of you. But be hesitant to answer them too readily, too boldly, too unequivocally. Answers all to often lead us to a dangerous hubris that can blind us to truths we have yet to uncover.

As you get to know us here at Exosphere, I hope that you will find the spirit of curiosity alive and thriving, that we are quick to ask and slow to answer, and that we appreciate thoughtful questions more than clever-sounding explanations. Our hope is to always be willing to embrace nuance, even when a simplistic solution would save time and energy.

We are working to create an atmosphere of collegiality, openness, and mutual respect, but it is a responsibility each of us bears individually–to withhold sharp criticism that carries no value to the process, to fight our inner trolls and refrain from seizing the ever-tempting opportunity to show off our cleverness with a retort that begins “well, actually.”

Now, the caution.

As you take up your Promethean torch and spread its flames far and wide, not hiding them in the sterile cloisters of academic halls, not confining them to the stultifying boxes of grant proposals, or suffocating them in the proprietary journals bereaved of oxygen for decades.

As you take this flame to the popular media, embed it in the arts, tell stories about it to school children–and even give them a glimpse! And help their skeptical and fearful parents embrace the path into the future that it represents, there is something you might lose sight of.

“When I heard the learn’d astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns

before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add,

divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured

with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.”

Be afraid to lose sight of what Walt Whitman’s Learn’d Astronomer could no longer see. Through your figures and models, and complex theories, don’t lose sight of the beauty, the splendor–do I dare even say the mystery of the Nature you are coming to understand, and to transform.

And finally, the parting thought…

To continue the Copernican Revolution, we must place ourselves at the center of our story, but must avoid the temptation to place ourselves at the center of the universe, or our story at the center of human history. Many have come before us, and many will come after us. We are merely responsible for carrying the torch while it is in our charge.

We can also ill afford a naive faith in the Idol of Inevitable Progress, that alluring Siren who lulls us into complacency and finds satisfaction through inaction. The mood of Zeus is inconstant, and though we may steal some fires freely today, we may be viciously pursued for stealing other fires tomorrow.

Each epoch in the evolution of human consciousness adds a new ring to the broadening trunk of the Tree of Knowledge.

Let us labor together for for a long spring, a prosperous harvest of the year’s fruits, and hope together for a late frost, that we may add unprecedented circumference to that resilient oak, and…prepare the way for those to whom will fall the burden of surviving the next winter.


How connections create strength

or “what the Copernicus Space Science Lab is all about”


Graphene is an amazing material. It conducts electricity, can bend like rubber and has higher tensile strength than diamond, making it the strongest material currently known to man. Due to these features – and leaving aside for now the current limitations on size and high cost of production – it holds enormous economic potential in areas like construction, high tech, healthcare and many others. Since its discovery in 2004, which won Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov the Physics Nobel Prize in 2010, graphene has become the subject of many studies and experiments in laboratories the world over, where scientists have been working hard to improve on it ever since. After the initial success, funding started to pour in, our knowledge of graphene started to expand, and new inventions such as penta-graphene were made. Now the focus is on developing new approaches for going from strong to “super-strong” and making large-scale production commercially viable.

There are two marvels to behold in this story. The obvious one is graphene itself, the wonder material with impressive properties. The not so obvious one (though just as impressive) is the innovative capacity in the scientific community working with nanotechnology. But how is it possible that graphene (a 2-dimensional material made out of carbon atoms) and the scientific community (made up of humans) can be so “strong”? The answer lies in the connections between each of the constituent parts and the way those connections are structured.


Social Technology

In the case of graphene, it is the powerful electrical attraction between carbon atoms and the honeycomb structure in which they are arranged. Atoms are so tightly packed that defects don’t occur easily, and any pressure that is applied is distributed over the whole structure. When measuring the strength of a material we are measuring its tensile strength, which is counted in pascals and discovered by applying pressure until it breaks. Graphene has an intrinsic strength of 130 gigapascals, a little over twice as much as diamond, the second hardest material. Strength in human structures like the scientific community is a little different and not as precisely measured. What we are looking for here is resourcefulness, capacity to innovate, and the ability to work with as little friction as possible. In today’s world, thanks to the internet information flows a little more freely than before and it has become possible for humans to achieve an extraordinary measure of coordination. Allowing each individual to specialize benefits everyone with the efficiency resulting from increased division of labor.

But this strength is also a weakness with regards to solving the big problems facing humanity. To solve those big problems we need scientists from many different fields and businessmen to come together, exchange ideas, do the research, and commercialize their findings. Ideally you would involve young and brilliant curious minds as well to produce a unique environment poised to generate fresh ideas. What we miss is a mechanism to bring (and keep) all of this together. What we miss is social technology.


Enter Exosphere

Exosphere is a learning and problem-solving community based in Viña del Mar, Chile, and with active operations across Latin America and Europe since September 2013. In just 24 months, Exosphere has conducted four 8-12 week life & entrepreneurship boot camps and has traveled to 19 cities with its Exobase workshop series and its team has grown to 15 people. Exosphere’s mission is to build a lasting institution that fosters a culture of lifelong learning and creativity by improving education, incubating entrepreneurial endeavors, encouraging scientific research, and bringing people together in community.

What Exosphere has learned in conducting these boot camp programs is not only how to bring very different kinds of people together in one place, but primarily how to build an environment where strangers form strong enough relationships so that productive work is possible in very limited periods of time. So far the focus in these programs has been on entrepreneurship and learning how to learn, but now this methodology is brought to bear on scientific problem-solving in space exploration.


The Copernicus Series

The Copernicus Series brings Exosphere’s entrepreneurial and experience-oriented philosophy of learning to science and technology in the aerospace field and intends to bridge the gap between research and business, breaking down the silos of knowledge that have been built up in modern society. Its mission is to expose youths to the exciting potential of science and prepare them for success in a quickly changing world, while helping experienced researchers commercialize and profit from their innovations through entrepreneurship. Through this process, the program should serve as an ongoing, productive platform for building the requisite brain trust of experts and practitioners in academia and industry to provide the resources and know-how necessary for further development of space related technology into commercializable endeavors while advancing space research and raising awareness for space exploration.

The pilot program in this series of problem-solving laboratories is Copernicus I, a 3-week program taking place this summer in the countryside of Hungary. From July 13 to 31 participants in this program will design, build, and test virtual models and software libraries that model the technical development and surrounding economic environment of an Endogenously-Powered Space Elevator, which would utilize the energy generated by gravity using materials brought back to earth by space mining companies. This process would create an electrical loop, allowing satellites, scientific equipment, and other materials to be taken to space at near zero marginal cost. Split into two teams, the Technical Team and the Economics Team, the participants will further build mathematical models for an architecture capable of delivering these payloads into orbit.


The confidence that a room full of strangers can come together, build strong relationships, exchange ideas, and produce valuable results, all within a very short amount of time – it comes from our experience with previous programs, where we have seen it happen time and time again. Aliaksei Rubanau, Team lead for the economics part of the program, has this to say about it:

“I see the community of Exosphere as something socially very similar to how extraterrestrial bases will be made. A relatively small number of 20 to 50 people, who don’t know each other before the process, are put in a challenging situation. Big achievements in little time. Given these circumstances, people need to raise their communication skills very fast, exponentially even. These conditions are very similar to the ones you will find in every extraterrestrial base. It’s a very special social life.”
Strength in human affairs comes from being connected to other people, be that via social technology or “normal” technology. It is our hope that by bringing both together we will create a community of people “strong” enough to generate new knowledge about what would be the biggest infrastructure project humanity has ever attempted to realize, but more importantly to spark a change in the way we think about and conduct research.

Who is a real author of the Space Odyssey station concept?

While spending time in Budapest and visiting the Copernicus residence, Exosphere Italian founder Antonio Manno discovered that one of the pioneers of astronautics was Austro-Hungarian scientist and rocket engineer Herman Potočnik. This extraordinary man, who used the pseudonym Hermann Noordung, was passionate about the idea of space exploration and the long-term human habitation of space.

In his book “The Problem of Space Travel: Rocket engine”, presented in 1928, he explained his vision and detailed engineering plans for the construction of a geostationary 3-unit space station formed by the “Wohnrad” (Inhabitable or Habitat Wheel), the engine room, and the observatory. If you want to get a better understanding on how this “mad scientist” envisioned the Space Station in 1920s here you can find the interactive model of Potochnik GeoStation Space Base.

Engineers in Vienna, where the European science hub of the 1920’s was located, didn’t accept such futuristic concepts of geostationary satellites (they were really outstanding), and this great aerospace pioneer died as many others have, not being remembered or ever mentioned as the visionary and futurist he was.

“The Problem of Space Travel,” with a detailed explanation of the Space Station project, was published for the first time (in parts) in 1929, the same year Potočnik died.

By the way, he really was too far ahead for his time – here is an example of his technical drawings:

He got his posthumous recognition in 1952, when the Colliers Magazine published his drawings and Sir Arthur C. Clarke used these concepts and designs in the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey that would later inspire Stanley Kubrick’s classic film of the same name.

“The Problem of Space Travel” was fully translated into English only in 1999 by NASA .

Rockets: So Old School?

This text was published in The Huffington Post in the middle of 2012.  Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer from SETI Institute was talking about space elevators in the context of the available rocket science in that time.

We especially like this part:

“The cost would be 100 times less than using a rocket, and you wouldn’t have the usual constraints that rockets make on payload size or shape. You could also avoid the “shake, rattle and roll” of a launch – heading skyward would be a slow and steady affair, not a shuddering blast of smoke and fire.”

Read the full text here:


Could rocket scientists be an endangered species?

You’re probably betting “no,” given the contemporary efforts to hurl hardware to the moon, to Mars, and to a passel of other unearthly locales. The rocket biz is busy, and it’s diversifying. An enthusiastic troupe of private companies is also getting into the act, hoping to cash in by lifting off.

It seems that “rocket scientist” is a job category that’s here for the long haul, like “mortician.” But all this activity masks an important point: rockets are not a terribly efficient way to lift things into space. For every pound of payload, there are typically 25 pounds of rocket and fuel, and in some cases the vehicle is just thrown away after use. Rockets also suffer from a heavy foot on the accelerator, subjecting payloads and passengers to G-forces that warp faces into Botox ads. In addition, and despite nearly a hundred years of building these flame-belching devices, they’re still vulnerable to colorful self-destruction. This is probably not a list of features you would accept in your next family car.

However, there’s an intriguing alternative to traditional reaction technology that could beat rockets at their own game. It’s called the space elevator.

What’s a space elevator? Simply described, it’s a thin ribbon, about 3 feet wide and 60 thousand miles long, stretching upwards from the surface of the Earth. The lower end is bolted to a heavy anchor (think of an oil drilling platform), and the top is capped with a counterweight. It’s all arranged so that the center of mass falls at the geosynchronous orbital point, about 22,000 miles up. Like a rock on a string swung ’round your head, the ribbon is under tension, stays straight, and rotates with the Earth. Consequently, it can serve as a “track” for solar-powered motorized climbers that leisurely lift satellites, people, or other payloads into space. No combustion required.

The physics for this was noodled out a long time ago, and despite your intuition, it would work. Sure, it might take a week to crawl your way up to orbit, but if you’re a telecommunications satellite, you won’t get bored en route. The cost would be 100 times less than using a rocket, and you wouldn’t have the usual constraints that rockets make on payload size or shape. You could also avoid the “shake, rattle and roll” of a launch – heading skyward would be a slow and steady affair, not a shuddering blast of smoke and fire. Countdowns might become déclassé.

Clearly the space elevator could grab a lot of the space transport business. So why is it still on the drawing boards, and not hauling satellites or tourists into orbit?

The answer is that the technology to build the ribbon is not yet in hand. To withstand the forces that keep the ribbon taught, the material used to make it must be a thousand times stronger than steel.

There’s only one known material boasting that kind of tensile strength: carbon nanotubes, which are cylindrical molecules built of atoms holding hands with strong, covalent bonds. But a factory that can turn carbon nanotubes into a sheet a yard wide and long enough to stretch one-fourth of the way to the moon is not something you’ll find at your local industrial park.

That’s the show-stopper for the space elevator. The ribbon.

The good news is that engineers think they’ve tamed the other technical problems. These include easily envisioned mishaps that could break the ribbon, such as meteors, space junk, terrorists and lightning. These threats (and more) have been considered, and the elevator crowd figures that with careful operational procedures, together with a design that can take abuse and mechanisms to occasionally move the ribbon out of harm’s way, they’re all solvable.

So when does it happen? How long will it be until you can reach orbit while sitting quietly in a capsule eating sandwiches and listening to Muzak?

According to space systems engineer Peter Swan, Director of the International Space Elevator Consortium, this device is about three to four decades away. That’s a long time, although breakthroughs could always shorten the wait. As for the price, Swan reckons it to be about $13 to $15 billion. Mind you, these are best guesses, but the elevator promises to be comfortably profitable, given that the launch business should generate revenues of at least a billion dollars a year.

Sure, this is a project that will be a long time in coming, similar to practical nuclear fusion. But like fusion, the space elevator would be a true game changer. Imagine the effect of knocking down the expense of getting anything into space by a factor of a hundred. When railroads were introduced, they brought down the cost of sending goods hundreds or thousands of miles by comparable amounts, and economic activity exploded. The space elevator’s not just another competitive technology, promoted by people who simply like the idea of diminishing the luster of the thrusters. It would open wide the doors to space.

That includes far cheaper rides to the solar system, practical solar power satellites, orbiting habitats, and — of course — that weekend vacation in a hotel with a killer view.

And while the space elevator is now merely a good idea awaiting some important new technology, it’s easy to foresee a time only a generation away when people will cross the final frontier with a lift, instead of a lift off.

Read more

One market under God

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America is obsessed with money.

You are obsessed with money.

If you are a white, well educated adult man with an income higher than $ 200000 per year, I can tell you something about your life.

You work hard and you hate your bills, because they force you to think about money all the time.

You like your life in general, but you want to get enough money to finally forget that you’re enslaved to this modus vivendi.

Maybe you have created your startup (brand new application for pizza delivery) because you are tired of having to wait for your Margarita on Friday, 7 pm.

Sometimes you think about moving to California. Your friends tell you that Silicon Valley investors want to give their billions to everyone who can give them a good three minute elevator pitch.

You love your family.

Your woman kisses you on the one cheek and pulls money out of your pocket.

Your kid kisses you on the other cheek and pulls money out of another pocket. And you like it, and you just want the cash in your pocket to keep on giving.

You are forty years old or close to it and you have already forgotten how to move on to new achievements.

I understand you – you don’t give a damn about manifests calling you to change your life and realizing your childhood dream. You are too old for this.

You have developed an immunity, a resistance against all thoughts and actions that could tempt you to stray on your way to the serene chair days.

You are okay, you are fine.

And you are right, right in your choice.

But real life holds a gift in store for you.

It`s a new gold rush for resources in space – a space rush.

The US government has started to regulate the space market for valuable resources, which will soon be brought to Earth by space mining companies funded by technology giants like Google Inc. Rumors and research tell us that there are tonnes and tonnes of gold and platinum floating above your head, and very soon humanity will find a way to prospect those.

Of course, people don’t need that many rare metals (okay, maybe some tech companies to built their cutting-edge chips), but it is very simple to calculate all risks and benefits related to the metal trade market.

It is much more difficult to understand what will happen to the economy when most stable currency – gold – ceases to hold that title.

Now the bad news:

There is no way for you to get involved in the space rush – it requires truly crazy minds, it requires technological background knowledge.

You can go right now to Google Trends and watch the space minіng dynamics and then return to your pizza delivery app. Maybe afterwards you will want to search for some “space mining” news at TechCrunch (don’t miss the new Elon Musk tweet about his fears surrounding artificial intelligence and don’t forget to take a look at what new crazy ventures the founder of SpaceX is investing in).

Maybe after all of this you will see that the world is changing and that by simply continuing your nice life in your big house you will be missing out on something very, very important? Or have you already missed it?

If you are smart, you might want to call your broker and ask about futures for water delivery on Mars. When these futures are in the media, it will be too late.

And now go and write a few lines of code for your pizza app. Because this Friday the delivery man will be late again. I am sure.

You can.

4 reasons why we don’t explore space and why they aren’t reasons at all

During the first high profile spacecraft launches of the 70s, public support for space exploration was at an all-time high, but since has seen steady deсline. The past decades have been spent formalizing our understanding of scientific data and completing the institutionalization of processes usually associated with any totally new and unknown industry, with bureaucracy slowing down research efforts so vitally needed for true advancement in the field. As it happens in most organizations, daring pursuit of innovation has been replaced by administration requiring a whole generation of managers focused more on adjusting the accuracy of existing findings than producing scientific breakthroughs.

With explosive growth giving way to steady extension, space exploration became the subject of interest for specialized professional – not the general public.

Then, about ten years ago, the private sector realized the staggering dimension of potential market impact that space exploration promised and went on to build new companies to exploit it. While Elon Musk’s SpaceX managed to get funding through contracts from NASA, Blue Origin of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos managed to remain completely privately financed. With the promise of overhauling the whole industry they were granted access to launch facilities and are now making steady progress in pursuit of that goal.

Musk’s statements about the importance of Mars exploration and his real efforts to achieve it in his lifetime pushed interest to the potential economic opportunities of space exploration. A fresh and interesting idea is mining asteroids in orbit around earth, which are likely to hold enormous value in the form of rare earths and precious metals. Growing demand for electronics and a shortage of raw materials for manufacturing them makes it a multi-trillion dollar industry, while also potentially holding the key to sustainable space exploration.

Now, in 2015, sustained and ongoing space exploration is closer to becoming a reality than ever before, but there are still some obstacles we need to overcome. Let’s take a look at four reasons why we are not exploring space and why they aren’t reasons at all.



reason 1

News portals in 2015 never seem to run out of stories related to space exploration – there are companies working on reducing costs for space travel, Saturn is giving birth to a new moon, we rendezvoused with a comet and are now in possession of the most detailed map of our place in the universe to date.

But these headlines may seem bleak and boring to a public that gets its picture of space from movies like “Gravity” and “Interstellar”.

The cost of the Indian Mars Orbiter Mission ($ 75m) was actually lower than that of producing the “Gravity” movie ($ 100m), a fraction of the average cost of regular NASA satellite launches. We should hope that these movies contribute to public interest in space – if not, it’s quite sad to think about what could have been achieved by putting that amount of money to use in research.

But politicians use their nations budgets for appealing to the interests of taxpayers while directors make movies about stories they expect to sell well, and only history will tell which benefitted civilisation more.

There were many news about space exploration so far this year, but none of them have been as viscerally breathtaking as the space exploration movies.

Humankind hasn’t built a space elevator yet, we are still not on our way to Mars, rocket fuels remain woefully inefficient, we don`t know how to deal with high radiation levels found in space and we have yet to make a breakthrough in decreasing the cost of delivering payloads into orbit.

And no, aliens still don`t talk to us.

Last year, when Voyager was 11.66 billion miles (18.67 billion kilometers) away from earth, it was the first time in history that a human made device left our solar system – yet it is just one spacecraft (launched in 70s) going in just one direction.

Someday in the future we could imagine another regular tourist shuttle “Earth – Alpha Centauri” will slow down near Voyager to show this peculiar museum object to the passengers, similar to the way we look at prehistoric monkey’s fire stones in museums here on earth.

But in order to make this happen, we need a shift in priorities. Governments and the private sector are allocating some amount of money to space research, to acceleration of particles at the LHC, testing space elevator climbers, and sometimes even give their computers to process and search for pulsars. We need more people involved in space science and the money invested in movies popularizing the field is likely to do just that.



Total U.S. outlays for 2016 are estimated at $3.99 trillion. NASA’s request would earmark $18.529 billion, or 0.46 percent of the total.

In the 1960s, when the US struggled to overtake the Soviet Union in the space race, NASA’s budget was 4.5 percent of the US budget.

There is a common misconception that the single biggest cost factor in space missions is rocket fuel (there is an opinion that this is due to the high cost of rare earth metals needed for production), but this isn’t true. Yes, at this stage of development of the industry fuel costs are high, but the main item of expenditure are the rockets.

According to Elon Musk, fuel costs could account for only 0.4% of the total cost of the launch as long as the frequency of launches increases – a goal which we are making progress towards.

The main objective of space science right now is reducing the cost of launches, and one of the ways to do this is making rockets reusable. Continuing the tradition of the Space Shuttle program, Musk expects a 100 fold reduction in overall cost.

The recent attempt to return the machine to Earth was successful enough. The unmanned Falcon rocket delivered its Dragon cargo module to the International Space Station and then attempted a controlled landing on a marine platform, which failed.

ESA brought us good news too: its Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) splashed into the ocean after a successful launch this March.

The strategic goal of the global space science community is – and should be – to involve business in space research. Making it work economically by opening up space to tourism and other commercial uses will allow the industry to develop in a sustainable way. After 50 years of space research it is a time to shift from government funding to profit optimization.

Now the development will need to aim for conveyor belt production of rockets as the painstaking work of building by hand is a major obstacle to growing this industry.

Every dollar invested in NASA was recovered and brought huge profits, but this long-term money will bring profits just in 10-15 years. Such long-term deposits can be afforded only by wealthy companies – that`s why they built so many telescopes around the world, and that`s why they are the first to believe in the success of the Planetary Resources.

Every time the government tries to cut NASA’s budget, scientists are quick to remind us that all GPS navigation has grown out of scientific contributions, especially made as a result of the space flight program.

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Scientific research is generally conducted with a long-term vision of actual usefulness – technology development, and that’s why graphene is made in the United States: they understand that cutting-edge technology development takes time but in the end tends to lead to profits for the commercial sector.

Now companies are starting to think about putting production facilities in orbit, because having access to  24/7 non-stop sun energy combined with zero-gravity conditions holds promise for new production possibilities. It will be possible, if science and business work together and drive down the price point of sending cargo to orbit with reusable rockets, the space elevator or other methods.



reason 3

History of science is a history of thousands fails and several success stories – not such a good balance for newsmakers.

Usually when I ask people why NASA shut down its shuttle program, they answer: because they crash too often. But of 135 total flights only two shuttles crashed. The Challenger was lost at liftoff and Columbia at reentry. Since the 1960s more than 20 astronauts died in accidents.

Recent breaking news with titles like “Russian cargo spacecraft is out of control and falling to Earth” do not contribute to favorable public opinion which has decreased with each of the accidents. Good news don’t sell, so in the editorials we see mostly space accidents.

The public doesn’t consider that despite the misfortunes, space exploration holds enormous potential for scientific advancement and economic growth. Each science experiment yields new data and is conducive to the advancement of science, regardless of the success or failure of any particular one.

Space mining may seem seem like a grand endeavor likely to fail, but it is through those failures that we get closer to actually succeeding.

It takes time to screen the myriads of asteroids in near earth orbit, find those with high enough value to warrant a mining operation, and then bring the output back to Earth. But we are not too far from it: the Rosetta probe landing had the mission to gather data on mineral resources in comets and its landing on the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet was successful. But yet again this great scientific achievement, despite the well-crafted launch campaign with a science-fiction short film, is mostly remembered for the “unseemly appearance” of Matt Taylor at the presentation of the project, turning the whole affair into a feminist scandal. Now the public’s view of a successful space scientist is “just another guy who was put down by feminists”.

One of the most powerful women characters in science-fiction films, Lieutenant Ripley from “Alien”, has brought more feminism to the masses via the big screen than the instigators of the surge against Matt Taylor’s shirt.

Until we routinely send television celebrities to space (and, what is more important, successfully return them back), negative views will likely prevail in public opinion and those writing about it.


One of the most long lasting and far reaching campaigns for “space as a friendly place” has been undertaken by Lego, who have been producing space-related toys since 1978.

The next surge of space popularity will likely come from things like 3D movies in Oculus Rift or a horror game featuring the ISS.



reason 4

Yes, it is true. We dealed with a lack of connections between scientists, between different science fields and between business and science.

While many people are aware of the problem that too few students are choosing careers in science, much less space science, and are working hard to change that through various STEM initiatives, there is another problem just as troubling – there is too little exchange across disciplines and between science and business. With scientific knowledge reaching unprecedented depths and stretching across so many disciplines, with people using technologies and machines much smarter than they, with projects becoming so big that no one person can oversee them, we need collaboration between the specialists of many different fields. Not in the usual hierarchical structure common in research, but with an informational matrix in the optimal shape of a well-connected and transparent network.

More and more science is being done this way. Studies have dozens of authors from all kinds of backgrounds, there is a growing number of research projects involving members of the public (“citizen science”), and hackerspaces are springing up all around the world, bringing together businessmen with amateur tinkerers and student scientists.

Nowadays it has become comparatively simple to finance new projects in this area (e.g. the production of miniature satellites) via venture capital financing or crowdfunding.

The truth is that people are still disconnected, scientists are still disconnected, different science fields are disconnected. But at the same time human communication gets better and better. The connection quality is experiencing exponential growth, but inflated requirements don’t allow us to fully enjoy the current speed of technological progress.

The idea is we can fix the disconnection of different areas by working together on a shared goal.

The evolution in one field of science can cause unforeseen developments in another field: neuroscience was made possible by computer chip production, biologists help the military to develop technologies unrelated to space that will send man to Mars, thus allowing scientific progress to go incredibly far. And we’re not just talking about increasing the number of scientific researches as a must, we are talking about a paradigm shift. We should start to ask totally new questions: how can we create an atmosphere on Mars, how are we going to build a factory in orbit, how is work in conditions of strange gravity possible? We need to start talking to each other to figure out how we can affect the world, how to develop new ideas and how to breath life into them.

That is what we at Copernicus are there to do.


Another NASA`s asteroid-capture mission

Today, guys, we have news about some another NASA idea, the asteroid-capture mission, which is planned for 2020.

This is how it will look like: a big robotic probe “hand” will drag a boulder to lunar orbit, which astronauts will then visit in 2025. The last decision that had to be taken was to pluck a boulder off a big space rock rather than grab an entire near-Earth object.

NB: The cost of the robotic component of ARM — that is, the capture/redirect mission, without any astronaut visits —will be capped at $1.25 billion, not including the launch vehicle. 

This asteroid-reaserch mission will help us understand how best to deflect asteroids posing a threat to Earth. By the way, these plans are quite important for the space industry overall and for our future bootcamp in particular – who will tell us that the space elevator idea is insane after all these stories about NASA´s #cosmic #robohand?


Life in Deep Space (TED Talk)

“We will start inhabiting outer space,” says Angelo Vermeulen, crew commander of a NASA-funded Mars simulation. “It might take 50 years or it might take 500 years, but it’s going to happen.” In this charming talk, the TED Senior Fellow describes some of his official work to make sure humans are prepared for life in deep space … and shares a fascinating art project in which he challenged people worldwide to design homes we might live in there.