Friday, June 26, 2009

Looking to the future: Picnics in space

On a sunny Saturday, The Northwest Science Fiction Society picnic delivered some entertaining discussions — not surprisingly, but happily — about both science and fiction. NWSFS outgoing chair Michael Ormes described one of the major challenges of making the space elevator (a 62,000 mile carbon nanotube composite ribbon anchored from a sea platform near the equator to a small man-made counterweight in space) — beanstalking. More familiarly known as power beaming "climbers," added Bill Boyde, NWSFS treasurer.

Laser power beaming, the wireless transmission of energy from one location to another using laser light, aims to power vehicles traveling up the space elevator. Ultimately, it's what will send people, satellites and solar power systems into space — so say the hopeful.

Ormes and Boyde both had more insider space elevator knowledge and Boyde firsthand intel. He's a new member of LaserMotive, Seattle's team participating in the Power Beaming competition at the 4th Space Elevator Games, organized by The Spaceward Foundation and funded by NASA. The games will take place, end of July/early August, a
t NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in the Mojave Desert, Calif. Follow the games @segames.

Teams entering the Power Beaming Challenge must power a vehicle more than 1-kilometer (nearly 3,300 feet) straight up a ribbon using only energy beamed to the vehicle from the ground. A test, in preparation for the games, took place in June.

LaserMotive is one of only six teams in the United States and Canada in the competition. The stakes in these games are higher than most with a $2,000,000 prize on the line plus the glory of helping to engineer the future of inexpensive space travel.

Of course, at the NWSFS picnic, surrounded by earthly delights (park, BBQ and low stakes games), it was tough to get too deeply into the space talk. For more news, follow @spaceelevator and @LaserMotive and read
Ted Semon's Space Elevator blog and the LaserMotive blog.

Fortunately, there will be more chances to talk sci-fi and space exploration at upcoming NWSFS events in July (see all the earlier posts) as well as at the mad scientist theme party Ormes hosts in October. Who knows, inventive NWSFS members just might solve the beanstalking issue there!

No comments: