Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘nasa

SXSW 2013: A Long Future From The Lone Star

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The way I see it, former elected U.S. president Al Gore and digital payments guru and solar/space explorer Elon Musk would have it one of two ways: Either we get our act together on Planet Earth and stop treating it as a discardable TV dinner, or we get on some rocket ships and get the %#*&#$ outta here!

Of course, space travel’s still a little too expensive for the average joe, considering our recent income disparities here in the U.S., so I suspect for now most of us really don’t have much of a choice but to stay here.

Mother Earth, we’re stuck with you, and it looks like you’re stuck with us!

Gore’s talk was the kind that made you want to go ahead and just put a gun to your head and pull the trigger. But with all this gun control talk, that’s about to become less of an option.

Orrrr, you can take a more positive and upbeat view of the world, and reason that since we created many of these problems, we oughta be able to lick ‘em.

Gore’s latest book entitled The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change outlines just that, and Wall Street Journal technology editor Walter Mossberg sat onstage with Gore on Saturday to walk through some of those changes.

Gore explained the idea of “Earth Inc,” whereby we are realizing a “new stage of economic globalization with much tighter linkages and nexuses globally,” and that we have a “new relationship to the natural factors of production: labor, capital, natural resources.”

Think outsourcing, remote sourcing, robosourcing, rightsizing, and all that good stuff, and you get the general gist.

He also discussed the emergence of what he called “the global mind,” or the connections of thoughts and feelings of billions of people to each other and other devices (and vast databases…and sensors…and so on).

On this meme, he told an hilarious story about Swiss dairy cows which, with embedded sensors, are able to convey to their ranch overseers when they come into heat (for optimal reproduction). The first instance, Gore joked, of “interspecies sexting.”

Who said the former President doesn’t have a great sense of humor?

Of course, all that data and all those sensors could also lead to a stalker economy, and Gore didn’t shy away from the dark side of his six predictions.

For example, the idea that our democracy has been “hacked” and that Washington, D.C., and public policy, are now completely controlled by the moneyed interests on K Street. “The Congress is utterly incapable of passing any legislation,” Gore asserted, “unless it was approved by the special interests.”

Gore also warned us that we’re rapidly outgrowing the idea of growth, something Doug Rushkoff reminded us of in his session on “Present Future.” We’ve enslaved ourselves in outmoded economic transaction models, one that don’t take into account our ever over-social-mediated, present-oriented present tense, a tense most of us don’t even bother living in anymore (Think about all those folks who ignore you at dinner whilst they disappear into cyberland on their iPhones).

So what’s the antithesis, we all become a new collective of philistine Unabombers?

Nothing that dramatic. Well, not unless you’re Elon Musk.

The founder of SpaceX joked early in his interview with Chris Anderson on Saturday that “I’d like to die on Mars…just not on impact.”

Could we have a virtual, trans-universal drum roll, please?

Musk extolled on the “how’s” of going into space, and how his plans include building multi-stage rockets that are re-usable, thereby making space exploration more cost-effective.

He also indicated that he’s “all in,” having put most of his fortune into Tesla (his electric car company), SpaceX (his space company), and Solar City (to try and capture energy from the sun just in case things don’t work out so well on Mars?)

But Musk never left me really understanding *why* he so desperately wanted to leave Planet Earth? Was he trying to escape alimony payments from his first ex-wife? Did he want to mine the asteroids? Did the CIA want to speak with him about his attempt to purchase Russian ICBMs back in 2001?

If Elon couldn’t explain the need to get our asses (and assets) into outer space, Dr. Mae Jemison and her Star Trek-studded crew (including LeVar Burton) on the 100YSS mission certainly could!

An abbreviation for “100 Year Starship,” agree with it or not, 100YSS’s mission is clear: To make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years.”

Not for its own sake, mind you, but to “identify and push the radical leaps in knowledge and technology needed to achieve interstellar flight…” Pause one second…Anddddd…”while pioneering and transforming breakthrough applications that enhance the quality of life for all on Earth.”

Finally! A space bound mission with a realistic and practical hedge that I could get behind!

Hey boys and girls, we can certainly go across the universe in search of Marvin The Martian, but just in case we either A. Can’t get there or B. can’t find the elusive little bastard, let’s make sure we learn something that could help the people left back here on the home planet.

Imagine, Dr. Jemison suggested, what it would take to figure out in terms of energy production to get us to the nearest star (which, she reminded us, is a mind bogglingly long ways away). All that technology would have profound implications for use back here on earth.

“Pursuing an extraordinary tomorrow,” Jamison extolled, “creates a better world today.”

From your lips, Dr. Jamison, to the U.S. Congress’ ears.

Written by turbotodd

March 11, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Planets Aligned

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Is it a coincidence that Apple releases Mac OS X Lion and the new MacBook Air models on the anniversary of the Eagle landing on the moon 42 years ago?

Perhaps…but if the timing were really well thought through, STS-135 Atlantis might have landed back on earth today as opposed to its scheduled landing tomorrow.

Pretty soon, we space nuts will have to look beyond the Space Shuttle for our orbital kicks.

In fact, I’m already looking beyond the Shuttle and into the Heavens, and to the increased focus on commercial space ventures.

Orbital Sciences Corporation announced today that the Dawn spacecraft, which the company built for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, successfully achieved orbit around the solar system’s move massive asteroid, Vesta, which resides in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and which is 1.7 billion-miles away.

It took Dawn four years to make it out to Vesta, and successfully entered its orbit last Friday. As its mission progresses over the next year, Dawn will descend to additional science orbits at 425 miles and then 125 miles above the asteroid’s surface, which is said to be the size of Arizona.

Godspeed to the Asteroid Mapper…it’s going to have to be the next best thing to a man (or woman) being there.

Back here on Earth, IBM shared some good news earlier today, awarding nearly $1 million in Smarter Planet grants to 11 organizations around the world.

Known as the IBM Centennial Grants, these are both monetary and in-kind awards up to U.S. $100,000 each which fund innovative projects in areas such as healthcare, energy, and food safety.

These grants fall under the auspices of IBM’s continued “Celebration of Service” as the company enters its second century of social engagement and of IBMers helping their communities work better.

By way of example, one award recipient, the Drishtee Foundation, i funding a Smart Rural Aggregation Platform which will help evolve Drishtee’s model villages into sustainable Smarter Villages in rural India.

The solution will help to aggregate critical services and products related with livelihood, agriculture and information services and making services accessible to farmers and village communities.

You can read more about IBM’s Celebration of Service here.

Written by turbotodd

July 20, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Planets Aligned

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I guess I’ve been living under a rock.

I keep CNBC on in the background at times, and I just saw reporter Erin Burnett being given a sendoff from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.  Apparently she’s taken a new position at CNN, says the Times’ Media Decoder blog.

Adios and vayo condios, Erin, “International Superstar,” as the “Morning Joe” crew likes to refer to Erin.  International markets coverage on CNBC won’t be the same without her.

In the category of mean-spirited piling on, CNET’s Circuit Breaker blog is reporting a group of hackers are planning another wave of cyberattacks against Sony, this time apparently “in retaliation for its handling of the PlayStation network breach.”

They can’t say they weren’t warned.

Then again, there’s an upside to everything.  If you social media acolytes were wondering what it would take to get more C-level execs out there blogging, have your global gaming network be hacked two times in two weeks on the tail end of even more bad news in the form of a horrible tsunami and earthquake, and you might just get your answer.

Sony’s PlayStation Blog welcomed a post (a letter, actually) from Sir Howard Stringer, in which he apologized as well as announced measures to reassure Sony network users, including one for U.S. PlayStation Network and Qriocity customers that includes a $1 million identity theft insurance policy.

Sony will also be offering a “Welcome Back” package to its customers “once [their] PlayStation Network and Qriocity services are up and running,” one which will include a month of free PlayStation Plus membership for all PSN customers, among other treats.

When will that be?  VentureBeat’s GamesBeat says Sony has “entered the final stages of internal testing to bring its beleaguered online network” back online.

This, too, shall pass, and it’s time for a small moment of celebration.

I’ve always been a bit of a space junkie — it’s probably one of the reasons I ended up working in technology.

And if you’ve followed IBM’s Centennial communications this year, you’ve seen a number of videos online and TV spots that highlighted the role IBM played in helping land a man on the moon.

We didn’t get there in one fell swoop.  It took the better part of the decade, and Project Mercury was a key step in the direction of manned spaceflight for the U.S.

NASA celebrated its 50th anniversary of manned space flight yesterday at an event at the Kennedy Space Center.  Concurrently, IBM celebrated the team of mathematicians and technologists which supported the Project Mercury missions in the 1960s.

Professor Arthur Cohen led the IBM team that supported Project Mercury and recounts the project in the video below.  You can also read the fascinating details behind IBM’s support of Project Mercury here.

As you prepare to be launched back to the liftoff of the Space Race, does anyone but me find it strange that this celebration occurs as all the planets come into alignment for much of the month of May??

Written by turbotodd

May 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Man On The Moon

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TGIF.

My Google Wave beta invite finally appeared in my in-box last evening.

Just in time for President Obama to receive the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, and also just in time for NASA to complete its successful bombing mission of the moon around 6:30 E.S.T. this A.M.

In honor of the occasion (the moon bombing, not the Nobel), I wore the NASA T-shirt I bought at the NASA store in the Orlando airport and watched the “delivery” of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) as it slammed into the bottom of a crater at 5,600 MPH.

According to The New York Times, the LCROSS excavated about 350 metric tons of the moon and left a hole 65 feet wide and 13 feet deep.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty good Texas-size swimming pool to me.

Wait a minute, that’s it, that’s what this is all about!

NASA’s building a swimming pool for the astronauts, who will eventually be heading out from Moon Base 1 and who need a place to relax before they head further north to look for the little green men on Mars!

Now, if we could just find some water up there so we can fill up the swimmin’ hole.

I watched this whole thing unfold, of course, on television, just as I watched Armstrong step down the lunar ladder a couple days before my birthday in 1969.

And I have to say, after all the buildup, it was about as exciting as watching the Google Wave beta freeze up when I first tried to log on last night.

Fortunately, Google Wave unfroze itself…as for the moon, well, I’m not so sure that  Texas-size swimming pool now in Cabeus crater is going away anytime soon.

I don’t know about you, but I was expecting long plumes of smoke and an explosion of hydrogen and ice and…well, major stuff…shooting into outer space.

But no.  That little satellite sucker just disppeared into the Cabeus crater like the moon done gone and had wolfed down itself a midnight snack, never to be heard from again.

According to the Times’ account, though, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter had already confirmed the presence of hydrogen deep within permanently shadowed craters near the Moon’s poles.

“There is hydrogen down in that crater, and we’re going to go dig some of it up,” Anthony Colaprete, the mission’s principal investigator, said.

Well, heck, why didn’t we just piggyback ourselves a Caterpillar backhoe on the LCROSS so we could not only get started looking for the H20 but also get a head start on digging out a foundation for MarsMoon Base 1.

If we’re gonna get to finding those little green men, we need to get a move on…I ain’t gettin’ any younger, and I was a very wee lad when Armstrong stepped on the Moon, and I hope to be around when we unearth (uh, “unMars”)  Marvin the Martian!

Of course, we have to prepare ourselves for the art of the possible.

What happens if, Heaven forbid, we don’t find any water on the moon?

Perhaps we can leverage some of that massive momentum behind Google Wave?

As the moon passes by, at just the precise orbital moment calculated with a new and very precise Google algorithm, we can swing the earth out of her orbit and send some of Google’s water crashing from the earth to the moon and into Cebeus crater, thereby filling up the lunar swimming pool and giving us enough water to get a boost on to Mars.

I can see it all.

The little green people impatiently wondering when the hell we’re going to figure out a way to come visit; the Coke machine outside the lunar base (sorry, Pepsi, Coke won the bidding war and is “it” on the moon); the Richard Branson, Virgin-sponsored Moon Buggy race track (packages available in limited packages for 2 for only $2M U.S.), the Google Moon Base Jamba Juice and Sushi Bar; Obama’s Nobel medal ensconced in glass outside White House Moon Base 1.

I saw it all in my “Flash Forward.”

Mission accomplished.

Written by turbotodd

October 9, 2009 at 2:21 pm

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