Archive for the ‘Technology’ category

WANTED: A SciTech Revival

November 12, 2011

The ECO-FANDANGO that is going on right now is a save Big Money dance that makes sure not to disturb the profits-above-all-else motives of corporate America. Most corporations are flush with cash and are coasting along on set, big-bank supported business strategies that are enhanced by lowered worker populations. Status Quo is the rule and gets solid political support. Meanwhile, America is in an socio-economic decay cycle that will eventually undermine the status quo and all of us.

America’s rise to prominence and world leadership came about from a combination of brave, risk-taking innovators and a bold new growth of both science and technology. Right now the fiscal crisis hoax is directly seeking to discourage risk taking and definitely a turn away from aggressive science and technology advances. This is coupled with actions by Big- Money duped politicians to continue to protect corporate profit growth at the expense of employment and our natural resources conservation. Another very active example of our dedicated self-destruction.

SCI-TECH TO THE RESCUE:  First, corporations must decide to loosen their grip on their cash reserves and begin to invest in new technology. Secondly, the Federal government must inspire those corporate risk-takers by offering earned credits applied to their fully restored tax obligations. The elimination of all the tax breaks and other fiscal benefits we taxpayers provide corporations will make the chance to earn reasonable tax-breaks highly attractive. This is accomplished by reinvesting in our sci-tech revival . If done properly this becomes an attractive incentive for big business to again behave like real American industrial innovators. Additional credits can be earned by providing sci-tech employee training for those job applicants which corporations currently list as unqualified for current job openings. ‘

So what are some examples of this sci-tech revival. We will look at three key areas. They are (1) new energy systems, (2)breakthrough transportation technology, and (3)natural resource conservation. We, our government and our corporations need to understand that there is an incredible sci-tech research and development resource just waiting to be unfettered and financially supported. We must not ignore it and its almost instant availability. Let’s start the revival.

1. NEW ENERGY SYSTEMS:  Right now we are in a diddle mode by toying with systems (wind, bio, current solar, etc) that either by themselves or jointly are not going to meet both current and future demands for energy. Yes, solar could grow as a high resource, but it has its limitations as a sole resource. If immense solar array systems are linked with thorium based nuclear power systems we could very will establish a safe and fossil-fuel free energy generation, transmission and storage system. To achieve this we need to gain considerable maturity in the design, constructions and safe operation of this composite energy system. We CAN do it, We HAVE the sci-tech skills and wherewithal to start now. Status quo stalling, however,  imperils this entire energy future. In this regard, we must acknowledge that the delays to move in this direction are not precautionary, they are political obeisance to big-oil and big-money forces. We must break that choke-hold.

2.BREAKTHROUGH TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGY: Again we are currently dancing around with energy efficient transportation systems. The diddle rules. Yes, there is a mild increase in both US and foreign development of electric vehicles, but we have yet to commit to infrastructure changes that will support a fully EV based transportation model. Additionally, although there are musings about fuel-cell and hydrogen powered systems this again is in diddle mode. A solid program that seeks to achieve a mixed migration from pure EV to EV+FuelCell technology is a possible strategy. Regardless, unless, as mentioned above, we can break the Big-Oil /Big-Money choke-hold on SciTech progress we are stranded in petrol-quicksand with no rescue in sight.

They, being the media, say we are too timid, too intimidated, and too indifferent to push forward. Well if we do not push forward we will surely FALL BACKWARDS!  In that case, shank’s mare will be our most innovative means of transportation.

3. NATURAL RESOURCE CONSERVATION: What? Where is the Sci-Tech challenge here? Well, it could be the greatest and most rewarding that we can conceive. No, watering the flowers is pretty well accomplished, but dumping industrial offal on those flowers (Flowers in this case should be seen as our entire environment aka Planet Earth) kills them and most likely stifles all life in the area. This must be stopped.

Oh no, here we go with more restrictive rules and regulations and many marches of protest against polluters. Alas, more diddle! This is not to say that environmental protection by legislation and regulation is not important, but the real challenge is to find ways to give the polluters methods to produce and NOT POLLUTE! This is a sci-tech challenge, and for it to be effective it must be fully encouraged and financially supported by both government and private industry. The rewards to all parties, including Mom Nature, are immense. Here are just a few areas of research and development challenges and opportunities:

  • Just how hard have we looked at possible by-products from many industrial wastes?
  • Have we really determined the very best synthetic fertilizer for the farming industry that grows produce and does not produce stinking, life-stifling run-off?  No way?  Are you really sure about that?
  • CO and CO2 are generally bothersome, but as researchers already know they also are chemically useful. So why don’t we find more ways to pull them from our big polluters and put them to use for all of us? Stick the dollar incentive under our noses and guess what; VOILA; progress!  This is another critical joint government and private industry support activity.
  • GREEN is critical, and again sci-tech has and can produce answers to ways for we humans to co-exist on this planet while keeping it alive and well. Doing so definitely keeps us alive and well too. This latter point is conveniently ignored by both politicians and the BIGGIES.
SUMMARY: We already have the power to take these and many other progressive steps that will enrich our lives while protecting and preserving our home. Why, then, do we allow ourselves to be hoodwinked into accepting that the status quo is best for all and that progress is a hoax except where it benefits the BIGGIES? Have we given up on ourselves and on our amazing capacity to innovate and move all of us forward? If we are, in fact, giving up them we are denying our purpose as humans in the Cosmos. Well, don’t give up unless you are ready to simply let the status quo snuff out all your hopes and your life and the lives of your offspring – our future.
GOOD BYE STATUS QUO – LET’S MOVE ON!
IMAGE CREDIT: “WILD DANCES”. forum.alexanderpalace.org
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Exploring The Digital Classroom

September 29, 2011


Digitizing the classroom, especially, in elementary education is on its way to becoming a standard. It is possible that youngsters intent on their laptops and digital subject-matter will rarely interact with their teacher or with each other. How good is this, and how bad could it be? A former New York city schools chancellor and education professor, Rudy Crew, states that. “the best of technology is never proxy for the best of instruction.”   Similarly, in an elementary school in Arizona that has a digital classroom curriculum, records show that although digital learning is exciting, test scores are not reflecting the same level of exciting progress.

Good, Bad or Indifferent: Considering the above, both many parents and teachers have reservations about the efficacy of a totally digital curriculum. As professor Crew exclaims the absence of direct personal instruction by a teacher cannot be as effective as parents should expect in their children’s education. So is technology-based education leading our future in the wrong direction?

A direct yes or no answer would be misleading in either case. The ideal, of course, is a mix of direct teacher instruction and computer instruction/exercises.  There is incredible potential in digital programs that can expand on a teacher’s efforts and increase individual student participation in the learning process. The key is an integrated curriculum that applies the very best of both methodologies. Let’s examine how that might be accomplished.

Curriculum Breakthroughs: The ideal mix will require a great deal of planning, teacher training and orientation, programming magic, and full-scale administrative and school board support. Most importantly, it is essential to understand that the digital classroom is not just the simple act of placing a laptop at the desk of every student. The teacher then is relied upon to bridge the gap between standard instructional methods and the new technology. This will spell F A I L.  Here are five key milestones that must be fully accomplished before a successful digital classroom enhances the education process.

  1. Teacher Readiness: This is a process of blending technology and curriculum with new presentation methods that link the teacher’s personal instruction with digitized course material. Separating the two will defeat all of the potential benefits of a digital classroom. System programming is a vital element of this process. The desired interactive instruction just won’t happen without an effective and efficient technology linkage that binds program, teacher and student into a fully interactive learning relationship.
  2. Student Readiness: Today’s youngsters are born almost computer literate. They take to the digital quickly and with great skill. With this realization, preparation of students for the digital classroom should start at the very beginning of their school experience – kindergarten. At this start-up level it is just introductory, but strictly within the context they will experience when they enter the digital classroom. This exposure increases in each successive grade with the student participating fully in a digital learning environment by the third grade.  Are we ready for this? Not right now, but adopting this concept insures that digital learning gets fully integrated into the curriculum and quickly loses its uniqueness. This latter phasing out of the “oooh ahhh” effect is vital to achieving full implementation of the technology into the curriculum.
  3. Programming Innovations: Some of the most creative people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing are computer programmers. Their ability to envision topic areas and then convert them to attractive, compelling digital presentations is a powerful combination of art and science. This is exactly what must be the pattern for digital learning systems in a school classroom setting. As stated above in the item on Teacher Readiness there must be a direct and essentially unnoticeable linkage between whats on the computer screen and what is being presented by the teacher. They must be mutually supportive. This will be a huge creative challenge for the programmers, but that is also a guarantee of some absolutely innovative programs. These efforts are expected to produce breakthrough technology in this new instructional methodology.
  4. Curriculum Development: Reading, writing and arithmetic are still essential regardless of the method of presentation. Additionally, presentations on the arts, history, and broader areas of science are also vital, especially in today’s high sci-tech society. Cramming all of this into an elementary school program is very demanding. Digital instruction directly linked to teacher presentations can better facilitate these efforts and also more vividly present the information to students. The key requirement is for the entire educational system to work with teachers and programmers to produce well integrated material. Patchwork, quick digital presentations will be forgotten two seconds after the laptop is shut down.  What you want is the youngster to go home and excitedly exclaim, “you know what we learned today?” This incident is very rare right now. In most cases parents have to pry from the youngster what was learned today, and some parents are too busy or stressed to do that.
  5. Bring In The Parents: There is nothing new here. Parent involvement remains an essential that is an extreme variable from a reality standpoint. There are a host of reasons or excuses for limited to poor parent involvement in the entire educational process of their children. Where there is direct involvement the overall benefit to the school, the teachers, the students and, most importantly, the parents is awesome. It moves the entire system smoothly forward. With digital learning, it must be stressed that the computer does not replace parent involvement with the school or at home. In fact, it should increase that involvement with a host of specific rewards for the parents. Parent-child interactive homework on a laptop can be structured so that the parent’s participation is recorded, acknowledged and rewarded. A unique bond begins to be created that reaches all the way back into the classroom. Now there can be an open dialog, almost daily, between parent and child on school lessons. It could even evolve into an exclamation by both parent and child stating, “look what WE learned today.”
Summary: Yes, I understand the above five key items are generalities that include many important details that will require creative efforts by all parties. This in itself poses a major evolution in our education system and its structure. To implant digital learning without going the full course of this evolution will at most present a fractured and frustrating learning system. The importance of increasing STEM instruction is an added demand that if the new system is only a haphazard effort then STEM staggers. In addition to STEM there must be both a renewed and expanded presentation of the arts, literature and history. This can be both highly challenging and exciting. Suddenly imparting knowledge to young minds reaches across to teachers, programmers, administrators, parents and even you and I as we welcome our future with both open arms and minds.
  • The video below is a very simple example of a combination of techniques to produce a memorable instruction, in this case on the importance of Zero. Certainly digital learning systems will be more sophisticated, but should not overlook or intentionally exclude fantasy or cartoon style presentations to make an important point. The grade level, the age of the students are key factors in the development of such presentations. Memorable, enjoyable are important factors, silly and forgetful are obviously to be avoided.
IMAGE CREDIT:
School children in a digital classroom: Courtesy   morrisworldnews.com

IT’S ALL ABOUT MASTERY:Practical Expertise

June 17, 2011

Literally, with the first humans, there quickly arose members who became recognized as experts. College degrees and/or graduate degrees were not around yet so expertise grew from both experience and its careful application. Has this been supplanted by academic credentials? In my opinion, absolutely not. In fact, but sadly, it continues to play a key, but less publicized role, in our sci-tech progress.

Yes, successful academic achievement is important in many areas, but is essentially competence-in-waiting. This is true all the way up to the doctoral degrees. Until we can actually work with and experience the specific domains of art, science, and pure craftsmanship we are just newbies.

Been there, done that (btdt) is not a gasp of boredom it is, in my opinion, an acknowledgement of experience either by accident or by intent. In either case, that experience produces a heightened awareness that normally enables the person to avoid new mistakes and to perform more effectively. Revered artisans in both art and technology have years of btdt under their belts that gives them the power of expertise.

In the medical sciences, doctors must complete their apprenticeships as interns and residents before they are really ready for the independent delivery of health care to you or I. Labor unions for years have used apprenticeships to build a labor force empowered by highly experienced and competent artisans. Yes I use artisan to describe all the various competencies, from bricklayer to master machinist, that a union apprentice ultimately achieves. Post-doctoral apprenticeships for new PhD graduates is another example of the careful process of inserting experience into the mastery equation.

Yes, things have changed in some ways, but the required expertise must still be in the forefront of what we design, develop, build, repair and actually operate. Today a master machinist may sit at a computer terminal creating the code to tell an automatic milling machine how to carefully carve part of the wing of giant jet aircraft. What is important is that the code carries with it all the years of expertise when that milling was done carefully and beautifully by hand.

Deep blue ocean sailing today is supported by a host of electronics that make sure we get to our destination. Let all those electronics fail, and hopefully our navigator quickly pulls out his sextant, and like the earliest of sailors looks to the stars to guide us on our way.

Bottom line is that the experiential ingredient in all that we profess is essential. We should keep that in mind when we hear some snobbish comments that put down what they term the uneducated workers. This is a horrible outcome of our stumbles away from actually making things and into trading paper. Those nations who still both revere, honor and promote craftsman skills will eventually prevail in the world economy. No house has ever stood when made from paper or cards.

Many PhDs quickly call an artisan plumber to unclog their overflowing sinks or other facilities. Most ace pilots warmly greet every master mechanic that cares for their aircraft. For certain they do not demand to know their academic credentials.

Parents, educators, industry leaders, political leaders need to understand this vital element and both promote and support it in all of our youth. Yes, some kids will become expert plumbers others will become expert physicians or scientists and we need to honor all equally and appreciatively. Hopefully we can MASTER this behavior to hold our place in the evolution of humankind.

IMAGE CREDITS:

The Handy Craftsman – The PC Gamer http://tinyurl.com/3l4pu92

SPACE EXPLORATION MOMENTUM: About Focus and Vitality

May 26, 2011

Alone and blurred by the elements and time, Pad 39A longs for its shuttles.

“You can actually feel it” That comment refers, with sadness, to the decline of momentum in NASA’s space exploration programs. The approaching last launch of the space shuttle snaps shut NASA’s only current human space exploration activity. Most importantly it is entirely unrealistic and unfair to assume this decline  is NASA’s doing.

Throughout its fifty year history, NASA has been fiscally underprivileged and yet has managed to accomplish astounding missions. Its relations with its main funding source, the U. S. Congress, is similar to an orphaned child in a foster home limbo. Despite segments of support within that foster care setting, there is little assurance of sustained fiscal and policy support for America‘s space program.  At best, there are bushels of lip service and thimbles-full of dollars all tied together in a discouraging package.

We are past the glorious experiment and global supremacy stage. Space exploration, both robotic and human, is now a vital and integral part of our national profile. Additionally it is also a growing profile element around the globe. The esteemed Space Studies Board of the National Academies of Science defines this as an aggressive scientific and engineering effort to address a wide range of factors related to space exploration. In this regard, the SSB envisions a lunar base as the successor to the ISS after 2020 (see “Recapturing A Future For Space Exploration” NAS Space Studies Board, Document  13048.pdf  page 432). The SSB supports this recommendation with a long and detailed list of research projects all related to improving and extending the success of human space exploration. Please see the reference list at the end of this article for links to the referenced documents.

What, no Mars exploration? This is not what the study means, in fact it fully acknowledges human exploration of Mars, but first there are a host of questions that need complete answers before we put humans on the surface of Mars. The referenced report details those research objectives.

Establishing a Lunar Research Facility will enable us to fully address many of those objectives in the ideal mico-gravity and essentially hostile environment. Most  importantly that lunar environment is in close proximity to Earth and as such it can be serviced and supported with lower costs, and with the necessary reaction speeds to reduce or eliminate loss of human life. A Lunar Express shuttle would be the ideal transport vehicle connecting Earth and its new Lunar Research Facility. Yes, there would also have to be a recoverable lunar lander to complete the transportation process.  Most importantly, the research environment is no longer a low Earth orbit setting.

About Focus and Vitality: Following the range of research objectives and goals outlined in the SSB study would restore NASA’s and its host of private-sector partners’ space exploration focus and vitality by targeting a Lunar Research Facility. All the envisioned development and research activities either underway or planned now have focus and specificity. Linking all of this to an expanded research facility that duplicates but enhances the ideals of the ISS imparts renewed momentum to this nation’s space science and technology activities. Most importantly all that NASA is undertaking now in the aftermath of its shuttle program gain new direction and impetus because they become linked to the next stage of our space exploration goals. We have revived space research with the elixir of “purpose.” Return to the moon and a Lunar Research Base before others opt us out of it.

The vitality of partnerships with the attendant array of various scientific and engineering expertise fills the project with both eagerness and the cross fertilization of ideas that will grow new breakthroughs in the entire process of exploring space. Believe it,  returning to the Moon in this kind of joint effort from both government and industry will establish the operating style that will move us forward from lovely Luna to Mars and onward. Yes, politicos ramble around muttering about “common ground, shared objetives”, etc, but do little more than jiggle and talk. A cooperative, joint and global exploration program to Luna with the establishment of a true research base IS that sought after common ground.

The new international lead is this united space exploration effort. Instead of remaining a pleading, plaintive for support, a global space society lays the foundation for an entirely new focus on life here on this planet and beyond. We stop shriveling (especially psychologically) and once again, and together, stand tall. Yes, tall all across the Cosmos.

Are you coming?

IMAGE CREDIT: The image of a shuttle launch pad is courtesy of Phil Konstantin (http://tinyurl.com/3hjtd5w), the modifications of that image for the purpose of this blog article is by the author.

REFERENCES: National Academies of Science Space Studies Board: Recapturing A Future For Space Exploration:  http://www.nap.edu/catalog/13048.html

The inseparable and critical relationship between science and government: http://tinyurl.com/427x5go

Returning to the Moon and a Lunar Research Facility: http://tinyurl.com/3mpc2xz

The Lunar Research Institute: http://tinyurl.com/4y2u9pf

Bill introduced in House of Representatives for a 2022 Lunar Mission and Base.Link: http://tinyurl.com/3mktwez

THE INSEPARABLES: SciTech and Government

May 4, 2011

Yes, this is a highly prejudicial blog article. It is pro-science and definitely proposes new ways to both strengthen America‘s SciTech prowess and at the same time elevate the general well-being of humankind globally. Some, kindly, would term this as a solicitous appeal while others would…well?

In a rampage of proposed budget slashes a deficit threatened government reacts instead of carefully enacting. Yes, enacting would address the deficit, but in a manner that sustains the core strengths of America. One of those most important core strengths is our scientific and technological prowess. Put simply, can this government sustain itself and this nation without progressive science and technology? Similarly, is there much hope for this progressive and vital core without an equally progressive government? Truly, these are inseparable partners with a desperate interdependence.

So, what do we do?

President Obama in his 2012 budget proposal increases Federal spending on SciTech by 13%. On the surface this appears good and progressive. What is not clear is where that increase, if approved, will be applied. Additionally, one must wonder where the justifications came for that increase. In other words what SciTech advice was used to make that determination?

The White House and the Congress have many resources, but there are also strong inputs backed more by whimsy and illogic that solid justifications. Most of this kind of response seeks to degrade SciTech and in doing so pushes the nation backwards. On the positive side input from strong sources, including the Congressional Budget Office, the White House budget staff, the National Academies of Science, the National Science Foundation and a host of private and university research organizations all submit supporting data for their fiscal needs.

As critically important as full funding support for SciTech is, an exclusive focus just on that issue is dangerously and terminally myopic. Yes we need to finance a full spectrum of research, including space exploration, but for this to become a fully acceptable and supported standard we must pull down the walls of scientific exclusivity. At the same time we must break through the barriers of suspicion, superstition and theological extremism that blockade SciTech progress. These are false adversaries promoted mostly by political opportunism. That’s right it comes far less from the pulpit and more from wild-card politics. The common ground is the deep spirituality that comes from new discoveries and explanations that enrich and elevate humankind and all that surrounds us. Science does not defy us, it continue to define us and in doing that we grow and evolve and glorify our place in the Cosmos.

Regardless how you chose to justify it, humankind has a mission and now we spend more time denying it and its rewards than we do in seeing the light of discovery that is shining in our faces. There is so much astounding beauty and exciting revelations out there that our SciTech selves help us to see and appreciate. It is only the unexplained that imposes fear and suspicion. With each new revelation provided by SciTech, humankind moves forward, but also closer together.

Here is the essential connection. Government must be of and by the people, and science promotes an ever-expanding environment that enhances our surroundings and thereby improves human life. Stop science, and life then diminishes and thus governance – thus extinction  Shall we vote for extinction through both poor financial management, and even poorer use of our ability to explore, discover, and thereby explain? Good governance that promotes assertive SciTech, unifies humankind with the Cosmos. SciTech and governance together from now on work to forever protect and espouse this unity. Is it mystical? No, there is no mystery. Is it spiritual? Absolutely, each new revelation strengthens us and provides an incredibly deeply spiritual sensitivity for each other and for all that surrounds us.

SciTech is vital and governance is its essential promoter and protector. They are truly inseparable. Banish either and we banish humankind.

IMAGE CREDIT: I was born into Einstein’s and Roosevelt’s age and learned to value their commitment to progress and the well-being of all humankind. The image above is courtesy of “Time Line” http://tinyurl.com/3tal7g4

READER REFERENCE: For more about scitech and the funding crises you may wish to read Parts I and II of this blog: Tag-Along Science: (1) http://tinyurl.com/3d6ez8c and (2) http://tinyurl.com/3e5txtq

BACK TO THE MOON – Together

April 15, 2011

The multi-lingual calls to return to the Moon shown in the above image are just a few samples of the many other national languages all calling for a revisit to lovely Luna. Well Russia is gearing up for it, China too and one must ask, why this nationalistic attitude when we could all work together? We could be combining scientific and technological brilliance with shared costs to create the second greatest International Space Station: The Moon.

Yes, everyone wants to go to Mars too, but a second International Space Station located on the Moon would be a significant step forward in the bolstering of an already international climate for joint space exploration programs. The diplomatic breakthroughs in putting this joint effort into being would also be an incredible leap forward toward global peace. It would also be a definite enhancement of humankind‘s continuation on this planet and beyond. In other words we learn to live and work together, thereby living longer and reaching further into space. Seems like an awfully good idea.

This big event would most likely be a joint activity of both governmental and commercial programs all joined together for a common goal. The sharing of technological expertises as well as the sharing of the ongoing costs for such programs mandates a global consortium. There is no question that we can do it. The only question is will we even try?

It is natural for humankind to be competitive, but it is also natural for us to come together and succeed jointly. History certifies this fact. So, lets make history again. There are already solid, cooperative links between many of the space-faring nations. We should use those as the  foundation upon which to build the WILR – the World Institute for Lunar Research. The biggest step is for each space-faring nation to give up the desire to be “first” and instead accept a joint “first place” for all humankind.  In other words a world full of heroes, with an international flag implanted on the Moon’s surface. When we accomplish this we will ensure that not one single astronaut/cosmonaut that has visited space ever did so for naught.

Now is the time, while all space-faring nations are scrambling to keep some level of space exploration alive. Sub-dividing that effort nation by nation is a starvation diet. If we come together our joint efforts will both survive and prosper.

Let’s do it! Давайте сделаем это! Faisons-le! चलो यह करते हैं! Hebu kufanya hivyo!

HEADER IMAGE: NASA image of astronaut Bruce McCandless II who performed the first independent space walk.

AN ALL DIGITAL, DEEP-SPACE VOYAGE.

March 26, 2011

A modified model of the Orion spacecraft serves as the Gliese Explorer

Get ready! We are going again to the Gliese family of exoplanets, and especially Gliese 581g. This is not a deep future program, it is a program that can and should occur within the 21st Century.

Visiting an Exoplanet That Isn’t? Yes because we are not sure it isn’t there. If it is there, as originally presented, then it is important because it is the first suspected rocky, Earth-like planet orbiting within .its parent star’s habitable zone. This, as we have all come to know, means the strong possibility of life existing on Gliese581g.

Should we determine that Gliese 581g really does not exist, then we do not cancel the mission we simply select another likely candidate that is in a star system within the 25 light year or less distance profile.

So we propose to launch a human space flight to a maybe exoplanet 20+ light years distance? Yes and no.  Yes we should launch a mission to the Gliese family, but NO it should not be a human spaceflight mission.  Read on to follow our plan.

The power of IF: In the case of Gliese 581g some scientist maintain it is actually there while other competent astrophysicists express doubts. The overlying question is: If it is there, and if it is in a habitable zone, is there life on the planet? This is exciting science and the only way we can be certain is to test the validity of our earlier theories and observations. That is exactly what we will be doing with the Gliese Explorer program. Please read further for more detailed justifications for this expedition.

Mission Overview: The Gliese Mission is essentially a digital exploration. This means that the entire program is focused on the use of extensive electronic and robotic systems that will help detect, evaluate and describe the entire celestial environment of the Gliese family. Additionally the mission will conduct ongoing evaluations of the deep space environment while enroute to Gliese 581g. If it is determined that Glieses 581g physically exists and that it has an environment that could be life supporting, then one of the two Robonauts on board the spacecraft will physically visit Gliese 581g. It is anticipated that the reports back from that robonaut will be all of a breakthrough quality and importance. To review a more detailed presentation of the mission objectives go here.

Why an all robotic mission? The exoplanet count grows almost daily, and although we are improving our deep space detection capabilities, the final analyses will require a close encounter with a selected, Earth-like exoplanet that promises to be life supporting. Preparations for and the costs of human spaceflight (HSF) missions are time consuming and incredibly expensive. To launch an HSF mission to investigate only a marginally defined life supporting exoplanet could be wasteful in both time and resources. This is particularly the case where the travel distances are in multiple light years. We should only send in human astronauts after we have completed a detailed up-close visit by robotic systems. For a more detailed discussion of those robotic systems, please visit here.

The Abort, Redirect or Return Option: The Gliese Explorer craft is equipped with a infrared telescope that is continuously pointed and focused upon the Gliese environment and specifically searches for Gliese581g. Now this telescope is not of a Kepler size or quality by fully capable of detecting and assessing exoplanets in the Gliese family. Should this detection and tracking system confirm that there is no Gliese 581g or another Earth-like exoplanet in the Gliese family, then the system initiates an abort query sequence and awaits instructions from Mission Control on Earth. Depending upon the distance already traveled, the communication cycle time could be lengthy. In the interim, the spacecraft continues on toward the Gliese system. Once there is a complete data exchange between the Gliese Explorer and Mission Control, a decision is made to either redirect the spacecraft to an alternate destination or to return home. To learn more about this function as well as the overall functions of the spacecraft, please visit here.

Discovery and Confirmation: The odds are that with the onboard telescope system, it is doubtful that the Gliese Explorer will go the full distance if there is not new evidence (at closer distances) of GL581g. In that case the system would initiate the Abort regimen as described above.

Should the ideal happen in that as the explorer gets closer to the Gliese family and confirms the existence of GL581g; including its orbit within a habitable zone, then the mission is on course and begins the preparations for an eventual rendezvous with the exoplanet. For the details of the rendezvous program and the investigations it includes, please visit here.

Summary and Conclusions: The long term advantages of this mission are derived from all of the development work that leads up to its launch. Some of the key advances include:

  • Although the Kepler mission profile is continued, there is an additional effort to find and confirm Earth-like exoplanets that are in star systems that are 25 light years distance or less from Earth. This is in support of the Gliese Explorer concept of all digital deep space explorations.
  • Development of a propulsion system that supports sustained speeds of 20% the speed of light, and is either nuclear or a combination nuclear and a fuel regeneration system.
  • Development of complete neural network artificial intelligence that equips the Robonauts with extensive data analysis and decision capabilities.
  • Development of Robonauts that are fully articulated and can perform EVAs both in space and on the surface of a planetary body.
  • Design and development of a radiation shielding technology that protects all electronics as well as the Robonauts from damaging radiation.
  • Production of a modified Orion spacecraft to facilitate a totally robotisized mission. Excludes unnecessary life support required only for Astronauts.
  • Design and development of a communication system that anticipates and supports the long, long delays in transmission and reception due to light year distances. Actually enhancements to the Deep Space Network (DSN) are the most likely advancement.

The above is not a complete or exclusive list. What the items do emphasize is that the design and development for this mission is directly supportive of future human spaceflights into deep space. The data feedback that will come from Gliese Explorer will serve to advance overall spaceflight technology toward a safe and productive HSF goal. All of which will enhance NASA’s stated goal of 100 year intrastar travel.

Some may view the all digital space exploration concept as an unnecessary preliminary to HSF deep space explorations. A combination of sound technology and cost controls will allow a consortium of space faring nations to jointly pursue the first steps in deep space exploration. All of these efforts can serve to refine and improve the success of future HSF missions.These would be to fully identified and defined planetary targets. Most importantly, nothing has changed in the long history of the human drive to explore. We are now simply maximizing our efforts by increasing the effectiveness of new technologies and the vital science they can perform.

Hand in hand with our Robonauts, we will go into the unknown of deepest space where no Earthling has ever ventured before.

Astronaut and Robonaut in historic handshake - Photo by NASA

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PHOTO CREDIT:

Image of the Orion capsule courtesy of NASA and Lockheed Martin.

Image of Astronaut and Rob0naut shaking hands courtesy of NASA.