See our exclusive video from the high-powered brainstorming event that brought together the world's leading aerospace visionaries
By Megan Miller
Posted 10.20.2006 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
The Wirefly X Prize Cup kicked off Thursday with the exclusive X Prize Executive Summit, a high-powered brainstorming and networking event that brought together a distinguished group of the world's most influential entrepreneurs, astronauts, heads of NASA and the FAA, tech-industry experts and visionaries to talk about the future of the emerging personal-spaceflight industry.
Wednesday, President Bush announced the first official update to the National Space Policy in over a decade. Unsurprisingly, the standoffish document (download it here) is garnering negative reactions for its "with us or against us" treatment of space militarization. Most notable among these reactions was the one communicated by former vice president Al Gore during his lunch address at Thursday's Wirefly X Prize Executive Summit in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Here's a bit of what he had to say:
“Very few people have analyzed the insides of this new space policy. I urge all of you who are interested in space to analyze it very carefully. It has the potential, down the road, to create the [same] kind of fuzzy thinking and chaos in our efforts to exploit the space resource as the fuzzy thinking and chaos the Iraq policy has created in Iraq. It is a very serious mistake, in my opinion.
“We in the United States of America may claim that we alone can determine who goes into space and who doesn’t, what it’s used for and what it’s not used for, and we may claim it effectively as our own dominion to the exclusion, when we wish to exclude others, of all others. That’s hubristic.”
In the document's most telling passage, the United States pledges its commitment to the "use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes." Sounds pretty reasonable, right? Next sentence: "Consistent with this principle, 'peaceful purposes' allow U.S. defense- and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national interests." The idea seems to be that everyone should use space peacefully, but if we happen to deem it necessary to destroy another nation's communications satellites with any one of the numerous anti-satellite weapon systems the U.S. is currently developing, well, tough cookies. Watch PopSci's exclusive video of Gore's speech below. —John Mahoney and Megan Miller
The best-selling Robosapien toy robots are made to be hacked, so we asked the guy who wrote the book on modding them to create a flame-throwing Robozilla
By Dave Prochnow
Posted 10.01.2006 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
Let's face ituntil they're cooking us breakfast and doing our laundry, the most fun you can have with store-bought robots is the fun you make yourself. Sure, robots like WowWee's Roboraptor (and its companions, Robopet and Robosapien) are surprisingly capable for $60-to-$200 toys, with wide ranges of motion, touch sensors and powerful software. But it's those same out-of-the-box skills that make the 'bots such prime fodder for hackers.
The world's first female space tourist returned today from her eight-day stint aboard the International Space Station, with her Soyuz capsule touching down safely on the Kazakh steppe. Adding to her list of firsts, Anousheh Ansari has to have been the world's first space blogger—Earthlings were treated not only to fascinating, regular blog posts but Flickr photos and YouTube videos as well, all updated live throughout the mission. Very cool stuff.
Now, if only we could have read Lance Bass's blog from space. Sigh. —John Mahoney
A first look at the interior of the SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourist vehicle
By Eric Adams
Posted 09.28.2006 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
Click 'View Photos' to look inside the cabin of SpaceShipTwo. And for an eye-popping video ride, scroll to the bottom of the page Virgin Galactic today unveiled a mock-up of the slick, Philippe Starckâ€designed interior of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourist vehicle.
You think you have it bad in this age of draconian airport security? Imagine being one of the unfortunate TSA officers who has to pat down your scruffy, overfed self, not to mention rifle through your shoes and dirty laundry in search of a prohibited paperclip. Well, now you can do more than just imagine, with a frickin' funny online videogame titled, yes, Airport Security. The game pits you against an ever-growing queue of Lego-looking travelers and a down-your-neck-breathing supervisor who curses at you if you fail to comply with the TSA's increasingly unreasonable restrictions. One minute, stuffed animals are prohibited, and 10 seconds later you face an angry mob if you confiscate one by accident. Working that metal detector is tougher than I thought—my top score is 160 (a lot better than my first attempt: 10). What's yours? —Joe Brown
You probably havent been waiting on this announcement with as much bated breath as for, say, the first Suri Cruise photos, but just weeks after officially kicking Pluto out of the band formerly known as the Nine Planets, the International Astronomical Union has decided on the name Eris for the space rock 2003 UB313. Eris, Plutos Kuiper Belt mate, helped fuel the whole Whats a planet? controversy following its 2003 discovery, when astronomers realized it was larger than Pluto.
Before becoming Eris, the dwarf planet had a public identity crisis that would make even Diddy jealous. Its discoverer, Caltech astronomer Michael Brown, first suggested Xena, of warrior-princess fame, which was adopted by many media outlets in favor of the stodgy yet official 2003 UB313. Brown later suggested Lila after his newborn daughter and, most recently, Persephone, the mythical wife of Pluto, ruler of the underworld, but that name already belonged to an asteroid.
After a quick refresher on Greek mythology, however, Eris is clearly the most appropriate choice anyway. Eris is the Greek goddess of discord and strife, exceptionally proficient at stirring up jealousy and envy to cause fighting and anger among men. At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the parents of the Greek hero Achilles, all the gods were invited with the exception of Eris. Enraged at her exclusion, she spitefully caused a quarrel among the goddesses that led to the Trojan War. What a spitfire. —Bjorn Carey
The developer of the first orbital hotel starts small, with a miniature suite for some of the little things in your life
By Michael Belfiore
Posted 09.10.2006 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
OK, so it's only for snapshots and objects no larger than a golf ball, but Las Vegas real-estate developer Robert Bigelow is taking reservations for the first space-travel program for the masses. Late next month, Bigelow plans to launch a 15-foot inflatable spacecraft from Russia on a converted intercontinental ballistic missile. A sort of flying attic, the craft will carry more than 4,000 photographs, 500 objets d'art and other mementos contributed by members of the public.
The new Hawk-Eye Tennis Officiating System is bringing high drama and high tech to the tradition-bound tournament
By Jackson Lynch
Posted 09.06.2006 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
For a closer look at how the Hawk-Eye works, launch the photo gallery by clicking 'View Photos' at left.
Its accuracy may be based on a complex computer-generated algorithm, but the Hawk-Eye Tennis Officiating System is ratcheting up the human drama at this year's U.S. Open. Rather than simply relying on officials to make line calls, the entire crowd now acts as referee, hollering "Challenge!" after controversial judgements.
The region of Aries before (left) and after (right) the explosion, with the pinpoint of light created clearly visible. Courtesy NASA.
Scientists are in the midst of observing a supernova that's in the act of exploding. GRB060218 is cooking right now in the constellation Aries. Its quite exciting, but it helps underscore what is to me one of the eeriest aspects of astronomy: the fact that it's essentially looking back in time. GRB060218 is 440 million light-years away. That means this explosion actually happened 440 million years ago and is only now getting to us. This thing started waaay before the Internet. It even preceded the dinosaurs. Back then, all the continents were still shoved together in a giant Pangaea. Makes you wonder what other amazing—or horrible—things are racing toward us at light speed right now. If, for example, our sun went prematurely bust, we wouldnt know it for a full seven minutes! —Eric Adams
Who leaked the new name of the spaceship NASA plans to fly to the moon by 2020? It wasn't Jeffrey Williams, a flight engineer living aboard the International Space Station. Sure, Williams taped a video message in which he held up a model of the spacecraft. Weve been calling it the crew exploration vehicle for several years, but today it has a name…Orion, he said.
I hereby admit to being excited about the movie Stealth about this time last year, and for making my friends come and see it with me. I was expecting to enjoy laughing at what I presumed would be entertaining ridiculousness; instead, the laughter that fateful night in the theater was only to help make the pain go away.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.