Then you might want to attend the 2011 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, which will be held from February 28 – March 2, 2011 in Orlando. This is a serious, professional meeting with people who want to do scientific research on board suborbital rockets. I attended last year’s conference in Boulder and it was a fascinating look into a new field of research. Two of the organizers are my buddies Dan Durda and Alan Stern. Both are training to be astronauts, both have extensive flight experience, and both are top-notch astronomers and scientists. A lot of private and government space agencies have representatives that attended last year’s meeting, so this one will no doubt be a very interesting event as well.
Deadline for abstract submissions for talks is November 23 — Tuesday, so hurry! — although general registration runs through February.
In case you haven’t heard — and c’mon, do you live in some underground cavern with Morlocks and C.H.U.D.S.? — my new TV show "Phil Plait’s Bad Universe" premieres this Sunday night August 29, at 10:00 p.m. on the Discovery Channel (check your local listings; for me it’s on at 8:00).
This first episode is about saving the world from asteroid impacts. In most science TV shows on this topic they’re heavy on the death and destruction, but pretty light on what we can actually do about them. But if you’ve read my book Death from the Skies! you know I’m all about getting off our collective butts and doing something. So in "Bad Universe" we go step-by-step, looking into what can be done to keep an impact from ruining our whole day.
Wanna see a clip? Thanks to Discovery Channel, here’s a sneak peek!
[For a longer teaser of the show, go here.]
Did my stunt double survive? How much destruction did we wreak on the New Mexico desert? And what the frak can we do if we see some nickel-iron bucket o’ death headed our way?
Well, you’ll just have to watch the show and see, won’t you?
And if you think filming this show was fun… it was. And there’s lots more. Tune in and find out!
Oh, and before you go: tomorrow I’ll have another Twitter contest announcement, where I’m giving away lots of cool stuff connected with the show. Stay tuned!
For those who are curious: the picture at the top is me looking through what’s called a Bikini Gauge, named after the nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s (and not the swimsuit, though the latter does provide a lot of fodder for jokes if, like me, you have the sense of humor of a 15-year-old). The gauge measures how much pressure the shock wave from an explosion generates… and we had lots of them for the test. I won’t give away the results, but the measurements we got were not reassuring.
In the first part of this post, Researching at the edge of space, I talked about the scientific frontier about to be opened up by suborbital flights up to 100 km (62 miles) above the Earth’s surface. The possibilities for science are exciting… but at the meeting I attended about these rockets, there was something else going on. And as interesting as the science involved with this will be, there was something bigger on everyone’s mind. At the meeting, the electricity about it was palpable, and it was obvious what it was.
We are at the very threshold of easy, inexpensive access for humans to space.
At $200,000, a flight to the edge of space is cheap. That’s well within the budget for a lot of people on this planet. Not me personally (dagnappit) but I know people who can afford that. And hundreds of human beings across the world have signed up.
This isn’t make believe. No, this is quite real. So real, in fact, that Alan Stern and Dan Durda, both friends of mine, both astronomers, and both men with their eyes firmly planted on the skies, created this video. You really, really need to see this.
They also have a followup video about the training of the first class of citizen astronauts as well.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will probably be the first company to launch private citizens into space. They have already sold 300 seats and have deposited $39 million in advance sales! At the meeting, Steven Attenborough with VG said that they expect Space Ship 2 to do a "drop test" (literally be hoisted up to 50,000 feet and dropped by an airplane for a test landing) in the fall of 2010, and undergo its first power tests by the end of the year.
Humans will then be loaded up and sent into space in 2011. That’s next year.
People always lament that we’re past the year 2000 and we still don’t have flying cars. Personally, I don’t trust 95% of the people driving on the ground, let alone in the air. But it doesn’t matter, because the future is here. It’s now. Next year, people will be flying into space. Into space.
This is beyond cool. This is fantastic!
No, scratch that. The base root of that word is fantasy, and this is as real as it gets. While a lot of people have been whining about how the future never comes, my friends and a lot of others will soon be strapping themselves into rockets and making the dreams of Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, and millions of others come true.
Per ardua ad astra. Hodie.