August 27, 2015
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Save the date: 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Awards

Please save the date and plan to join us for the

2015 Arthur C. Clarke Awards

Wednesday, October 28th
6:00 to 9:30 p.m.

Lockheed Martin Global Vision Center
2121 Crystal Drive, Arlington, Virginia

This year’s awards honor the unique excellence
of these thought leaders from around the globe:

Greg Wyler
founder of OneWeb and O3b

Margaret Atwood
Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic,
essayist, and environmental activist

Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works
a widely-recognized leader in
technology innovation and development

We look forward to
an elegant evening of
celebration together.

Please mark your calendar!

For more information, or to inquire about sponsorships,
please contact Monica Morgan, mojomo@verizon.net

August 25, 2015
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The Mars Debate

Mars One Habitat Con cept

Mars One Habitat Concept

Interesting debate last week at the he 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention in Washington: Is Mars One Feasible?

A challenge to MarsOne’s feasibility  by two doctoral candidates at M.I.T. was accepted. The debate pitted Bas Lansdorp, President & Founder, Mars One, and Barry Finger, Chief Engineer & Director, Life Support Systems, Paragon Space Development Corporation, against  Sydney Do, Graduate Research Fellow & Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics, MIT and Andrew Owens, Graduate Research Fellow & Ph.D. Candidate, Strategic Engineering Research Group, MIT. Dr. Robert Zubrin was the moderator.

The MIT folks based their assessment on a document published last fall and concluded the technology to support life on Mars has yet to be proven and a reasonable plan for continued sustainablity — including spare parts — is years away.

Seem clear to us, too, but please judge for yourselves…

August 18, 2015
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The 2015 Sir Arthur Clarke Awards in Liverpool

It was an impressive evening. More than 550 delegates and guests gathered in the magnificent St George’s Hall in Liverpool on Tuesday 14 July for what must be the grandest UK Space Conference (UKSC) Gala Dinner and Sir Arthur Clarke Awards Ceremony ever. After a champagne reception on the huge pillared veranda, everyone filed into the enormous hall, sumptuously decorated and lit with purple and blue spots with UKSC logos flying over the beautiful ceiling, to find their named places on the glowing candle-lit tables.

2015ac_tables

Following a short welcome by Jeremy Curtis, Chair of the UKSC Organising Committee and Head of Education and Skills at the UK Space Agency, during which he introduced the new UKSA Spacesuit, the food and wine started to flow. Then the audio-visual system kicked in and Dr. Mark McCaughrean, Senior Science Adviser at ESA, used some of his amazing video material to illustrate his talk on the Rosetta Philae mission to intercept and land on Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. He went from science fiction to science fact and back to children’s cartoons and aliens. It was all there, but to me as an engineer, Rosetta and Philae still stole the show with their incredibly clear images of the comet and the landing site and the sheer tense excitement of Philae’s descent and rather hazardous landing – and there’s more to come.

It was also a tense time for 30 or so of our guests, the finalists of the 2015 Sir Arthur Clarke Awards. Jeremy Curtis reminded us that the Awards had been presented every year since 2005 and were designed to recognise and reward those teams and individuals that had made notable or outstanding achievements in, or contributions to, all space activities over the past year. We were particularly pleased and privileged to have Rob Douglas, Chairman of the UK Space Agency to announce the Awards and Helen Sharman, the UK’s First Astronaut, to ‘open the envelopes’ and present the Sir Arthur Clarke Monoliths to each of the Award winners.

2015ac_awards

First up was the Industry/Project Team Award with three very strong contenders, but the Beagle 2 team, represented by Prof Mark Simms, Leicester University, and Dr Jim Clemmet, ex Beagle 2Chief Engineer at Astrium, won for Beagle 2’s now-likely proven landing on Mars, against the UK industry XMM 4 Wheel Drive Team for its effective ‘patch’ and Oxford Space Systems for its new deployable structures. Next up was the Industry/Project Individual Award where William Marshall, founder of Planet Labs in San Francisco pipped Space-X’s Elon Musk and his Falcon 9 launcher to the post. Then it was the turn of two finalists both unusually from Strathclyde University to compete for the Academic Study/Research Award. The Stardust Team, represented by Chiara Tardoli and Clemens Rumpf, was rewarded for its research on debris and asteroid monitoring, over Prof. Massimiliano Vasile, the architect of the Stardust network.

Three exceptionally deserving finalists were announced for the Education and Outreach Award. Mike Grocott, Principal of the Space Studio School, Banbury and the Raspberry Pi Foundation represented by Lance Howarth, Dave Honess and Eben Upton, who created and donated the Astro Pi package for Tim Peake’s ISS flight, were pitched against the Rosetta/Philae Outreach Team led of course by Mark McCaughrean. He predictably walked away with the award. The Student Award was also keenly fought, but the MSC Student Outreach Team from Kings College London, represented by David Green, Kristen Shafer and Dalbir Singh were overjoyed at their win. Eleni Antoniadou, University College London and the Time Continuum Team from Queen Ethelburgas School in Harrogate represented by Tom Moss, the youngest finalist, were runners up.

Richard Hollingham received the Media Award for his work on BBC Future. Virtual Astronomer, the popular astronomy blogger, and Robin Brand, author of the Story of Skylark, were the other finalists. The Lifetime Award saw recently retired ESA Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, competing with Professor Constantinos Stavrinidis, long-time Head of ESA’s Mechanical Engineering Department at ESTEC, and Professor J.L. Culhane, world-renowned X-ray astronomer and solar physicist at the Mullard Space Science Laboratories, who won the award. Finally the Board of the Sir Arthur Clarke Foundation itself selected, in competition with the UKSA’s own Council of Ministers 2014 (CMIN14) Team, Dr. Burton I. Edelson for the International Award. Dr. Edelson who had developed the first communications satellites in the 1960s and, as NASA’s Associate Administrator, played a key role in the Hubble Space Telescope, sadly died in January 2002.

The glittering and prestigious evening was finally brought to a fitting close by BIS Fellow Alan Cross singing beautifully a wide range of appropriate songs including ‘Fly me to the Moon’. It will certainly be a hard act to follow.

 

August 4, 2015
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Friends of Fusion

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works released the video above as part of its informational summary on Compact Fusion last fall. Advancements in nuclear fusion as an energy source has always been mentioned as “being thirty years away” from realization.

Tom McGuire, head of fusion efforts in Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division

Tom McGuire, head of fusion efforts in Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division

A nicely-produced video report appeared on <re/code> last month and it presented the variety of start-ups working in this space. And it’s worth your time viewing…

As some of you know, Sir Arthur was a proponent of fusion energy and addressed the topic during a speech at the Pacific Area Senior Officer Logistics Seminar (PASOLS) on 29 March 1993, held at the Hilton Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka…

Admiral Larson, Lieutenant General Stackpole, Major General Abayaratna, distinguished guests–I’m very happy to be here today, even though I should really be in Washington this week. On Thursday, all my friends there will be gathered in the Uptown Theatre to celebrate the 25th anniversary— I can’t believe it!— of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Now, that movie provides a very good example of how difficult it is to predict the future. You may recall that in the film we showed the Bell System and PANAM; well, they’ve both gone, long before 2001. But I’m happy to see that the Hilton, which we also showed in 2001, is still here, though not yet in orbit!

This proves how impossible it is to predict social and political developments: who could have imagined what’s happened in Europe during the last few years? However, we can, to some extent, anticipate technological developments by observing what’s going on in science and engineering. But the problem there is predicting when things will happen, even though one can be quite certain that they will.

A good example is provided by my 1945 paper on communications satellites, which I imagined would be large, manned space-stations. When I wrote that, World War II was still in progress, and I was working on Ground Controlled Approach Radar, which had the then enormous number of something like a thousand vacuum tubes in it, at least one of which would blow everyday. So it was impossible to believe, back in 1945, that TV relay stations could operate without a staff of engineers changing tubes and checking circuits. But of course, the transistor and the solid state revolution came along within a few years, and what I’d assumed would have to be done by large manned stations could be achieved by satellites the size of oil drums. So everything I imagined would be done around the end of the century happened decades in advance. Continue Reading →

July 27, 2015
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Neil Armstrong’s Letter to Sir Arthur

Written by Neil McAleer, Sir Arthur’s biographer…

The first letter I ever received from Neil A. Armstrong was dated May 21, 1987. Earlier that month, I had sent his office a copy of my recently published The OMNI Space Almanac with the hope he would agree to read and verify its text covering the final descent and landing on the moon of the Apollo 11 mission.

I had no clue if he would respond to my request or not, but it was worth a try. When I saw Lebanon, Ohio, on his return address a few weeks later, I was thrilled to have his reply — whatever it said. He thanked me for the book and wrote:

“I have been overwhelmed with business obligations this past several months, and have not yet had the chance to read it carefully.

“I will give my comments when the pressure subsides.”

Of course, I was all but certain that his pressure would never subside, but I was very grateful for his words.

That letter was my bonding with Armstrong for life, and it began a small friendship that lasted over 21 years and was sustained through occasional letters, emails, and phone conversations, several of which were interviews for my various works in progress. Continue Reading →