From America Space:
There have been occasional suggestions that NASA should scrap its Space Launch System (SLS) in favor of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy for fulfilling its beyond low-Earth orbit needs . The claim forwarded by some is that the as-yet-untested-and-unflown 53 mt low-Earth orbit (LEO) (200 km @ 28°) Falcon Heavy is now “cheaper” than the as-yet-untested-and-unflown SLS. Furthermore, canceling the SLS would supposedly save NASA $10 billion—money that could otherwise be used to fund such programs as the Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap), to conduct a flight test of Orion on a Falcon Heavy, and to focus on building a small-scale space station in the area near the Moon. One issue not addressed by proponents of canceling SLS is whether it is a good idea to couple a nation’s human exploration spaceflight capabilities to a private company. An issue which appears to be altogether ignored, is the Falcon Heavy’s small lunar payload capability and the impact this would have on an already complex and risky endeavor such as lunar exploration.
According to SpaceX, the Falcon 9 Heavy, also called the Falcon Heavy, will have a 53 mt (metric ton) payload capacity to LEO of 200 km with an inclination of 28° . Such a LEO payload capability will be impressive, allowing SpaceX to launch nearly twice the payload of a Delta IV Heavy or an Atlas V, and to do so more cheaply than either. But when it comes to launching payload to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) or beyond, the Falcon 9 Heavy falls far short of either the Delta or Atlas launchers. With a GTO payload of barely over 12 mt, the Falcon 9 Heavy is at least 1 metric ton, or 1,000 kg, under what either the Delta IV Heavy or Atlas V can deliver to the same point in space.
The Falcon 9 Heavy is, much like United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy, a triple-bodied version of the company’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Photo Credit: SpaceX
The Falcon 9 Heavy’s GTO payload deficiency relative to the existing EELV launch vehicles has other down-stream effects as to its appropriateness for beyond-Earth orbit (BEO) crewed exploration. It is safe to assume that the Falcon Heavy’s low-lunar orbit (LLO) payload capacity will not top much above 10 mt . How will the Falcon 9 Heavy’s meager LLO payload capacity enable a meaningful return to the Moon? And why even talk about the Falcon Heavy as a possible launcher of crewed lunar exploration when each of the Delta IV Heavy and Atlas V launchers can send over 1,000 kg more than the Falcon Heavy to the Moon? Moreover, while the Delta IV and Atlas V have extensive flight histories, the Falcon Heavy has no such experience.
Advocates of using the Falcon Heavy don’t just want to rewrite who takes us beyond-Earth orbit, but more fundamentally how such missions are built. Reliance upon the Falcon Heavy for launching a beyond-Earth exploration program means some hard choices as to mission architecture. Traditionally, crewed exploration beyond low-Earth orbit has focused on minimizing complexity, and therefore risk and cost, by using a heavy-lift rocket (HLV). The logic behind using an HLV for lunar exploration in the past was that fewer launches correlated to less risk. The Falcon Heavy’s 10 mt capability means that any lunar exploration program will have to be one of assembling pieces/parts in low-Earth orbit, where the Falcon Heavy’s (LEO) 53 mt payload capacity can really shine. Some have claimed that centering a beyond-Earth exploration program on the Falcon Heavy does not mean ending the Orion spacecraft program. They point this out because Orion is the only spacecraft designed from the ground up for beyond-Earth exploration. Certainly, a Falcon Heavy can place an Orion crewed and service module in low-Earth orbit. But several additional launches will be needed to send Orion and her crew to the Moon. A lunar crewed mission using the Falcon Heavy would mean assembling, at necessary LEO locations, a crewed vehicle, a lander, a trans-lunar injection stage, a stage to get the crewed spacecraft and lander into LLO, and possibly a separate stage to enable the crewed spacecraft to return to Earth .
While supporters of an all-commercial approach frequently tout the company’s laudable accomplishments, they just as frequently ignore the limitations of both the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle and the Dragon spacecraft. Photo Credit: SpaceX
One problem with a non-HLV approach to lunar exploration is that if a replacement Falcon Heavy and payload are not handy, any launch failure could very well mean a scrubbed mission. So a non-HLV approach necessarily means an inventory of not just a spare Falcon Heavy, but of duplicate spaceflight hardware—or designing hardware and refueling stations such that a delay of weeks or months would have only a marginal impact on the mission. Solving all of these unknown-unknowns (or unk-unks in engineering speak) associated with multiple launches, assembling a mission in LEO, in-space refueling at an orbiting location, among others flowing from a non-HLV approach to beyond-Earth exploration, could see the cost advantage of using the relatively unproven Falcon Heavy largely, if not completely, evaporate.
A beyond-Earth exploration program using the Falcon Heavy in an HLV architecture has its own downsides and associated costs. In order to enable the Falcon 9 Heavy to be a capable beyond low-Earth orbit launcher, funds will certainly be needed to create a new cryogenic second-stage. This will be needed because, in its current configuration, a Falcon 9 Heavy could not even launch one 11.6 mt Unity node module, much less a 20 mt Bigelow BA 330 Nautilus module. Even with a brand new second-stage, reliance upon the Falcon 9 Heavy to build, visit, and maintain a lunar orbiting outpost will dictate doing so in very small chunks; the number of launches will then begin to add-up, as will the complexity, risk, and cost. A Falcon Heavy cannot place an Orion spacecraft even in high-Earth, much less lunar, orbit. So reliance upon the Falcon 9 Heavy for beyond low-Earth missions in an HLV-based lunar mission architecture would only set NASA up to cancel Orion and go with Dragon for our nation’s crewed space exploration needs.
While it may be true that the Dragon spacecraft has a heatshield capable of allowing the spacecraft safe reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, little else of Dragon is crew, much less lunar mission, capable. SpaceX’s Dragon is currently a participant in NASA’s commercial crew and cargo programs. One goal of NASA’s commercial crew program is to enable spacecraft built and operated by commercial space companies to get crews to and from the International Space Station by late 2017. But the requirements for a crewed spacecraft tailored for low-Earth orbit are different than those for beyond-Earth orbit. For one, a LEO capable spacecraft need only be capable of hours of operation, where a lunar spacecraft needs a capability of days. This means that the use of the Falcon Heavy as a means to returning humans to the Moon very likely means funding further enhancements, and verifying those enhancements to the Dragon spacecraft. As with over 90 percent of the funding for Falcon 9 and Dragon, this additional financial burden would fall upon NASA’s, and therefore the U.S. taxpayer’s, shoulders. Even with an enhanced Falcon Heavy launcher and Dragon spacecraft, more than one Falcon Heavy launch would still be needed to support a crewed lunar landing mission. Several Falcon Heavy launches would be needed to build a lunar orbiting outpost.
NASA’s SLS has the full support, to include funding, of Congress. As such, efforts to cancel the system in lieu of one that favors the company that SpaceX supporters approve of is not likely to occur. Image Credit: NASA
Or NASA could send a crewed lunar mission or build a lunar outpost with far fewer SLS launches. That’s because the very first iteration of the SLS, the Block I, will carry twice the payload of a Falcon Heavy to the Moon. The SLS Block II will have a lunar payload capacity nearly 3–4 times that of the Falcon Heavy, depending upon what engines are selected for the SLS’s advanced booster.
Beyond the SLS’s substantial payload advantage for lunar missions, the question of cost remains. Are 3 or 4 Falcon Heavy launches really cheaper than just one SLS Block II launch? That is a hard question to answer given that both launchers are still effectively “paper” rockets. In factoring launch costs, there is the cost of the launch vehicle, the launch pad, launch support, and post-launch management, just to name a few.
The bigger problem for those wishing to end the Space Launch System program is that it is currently ahead of schedule. According to John Elbon, Boeing VP & General Manager, Space Exploration, “We’re on budget, ahead of schedule. There’s incredible progress going on with that rocket” . Canceling a rocket that is ahead of schedule would be difficult at best. Given that Congress has, over three votes, not only supported SLS but increased its funding over amounts sought by the Obama Administration, the odds of opponents getting SLS canceled are slim-to-none.
Space Launch System opponents suggest that the SLS program should cancel until a mission requiring such a rocket is identified. John Shannon, also with Boeing, recently stated, “This ‘SLS doesn’t have a mission’ is a smokescreen that’s been put out there by people who would like to see that [program’s] budget go to their own pet projects. SLS is every mission beyond low Earth orbit. The fact that NASA has not picked one single mission is kind of irrelevant” . It bears mentioning that a good part of the reason there is no meaningful mission for the Orion-SLS is because the Obama Administration has not agreed with Congress that, as Congress noted in its 2010 NASA Authorization Act, cislunar space is the next step in our efforts beyond Earth and that the SLS is an integral part of that step.
Moreover, both short- and long-term missions for SLS have emerged in recent months. Within the 2014 FY Budget Proposal Request, NASA was directed to retrieve an asteroid, place it in lunar orbit, and then send astronauts to study it. The vehicle of choice is SLS. During a recent interview, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Dan Dumbacher stated on AmericaSpace that the long-term mission for SLS was to send astronauts to Mars.
Mr. Jillhouse sings the acolades of the Space Launch System as others sing them about SpaceX’s Falcon9 rockets. What he fails to mention is the SLS’s massive program slippages and muti-billion dollar cost overruns, versus commercial’s million dollar overruns and schedule slippages. It’s not even in the same ballgame, let alone ballpark.
Also the point should be that NASA should’ve bid the SLS job out in order to save the taxpayers money, but the function of SLS isn’t primarily for beyond Earth orbit exploration.
It’s to provide jobs in states that have NASA centers. And that’s why these projects are perpetually underfunded, just enough money is sent in order to keep people employed as long as the politicians can make it possible.
Maybe in the end the SLS will get finished and work as advertised. If I live long enough.
From Huffington Post:
The mummified remains of what looks like a 6-inch space alien has turned “Sirius” into the most eagerly awaited documentary among UFO enthusiasts.
The findings, however, might come as a disappointment.
In early publicity, filmmakers claimed the documentary would reveal that the DNA of the creature with an oversized alien-looking head couldn’t be medically classified.
In fact, the film, which premiered Monday in Hollywood, features a scientist who concluded the little humanoid was human.
“I can say with absolute certainty that it is not a monkey. It is human — closer to human than chimpanzees. It lived to the age of six to eight. Obviously, it was breathing, it was eating, it was metabolizing. It calls into question how big the thing might have been when it was born,”said Garry Nolan, director of stem cell biology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine in California.
“The DNA tells the story and we have the computational techniques that allows us to determine, in very short order, whether, in fact, this is human,” Nolan, who performed the DNA tests, explains in the film.
“Sirius” focuses on the remains of the small humanoid, nicknamed Ata, that was discovered in Chile’s Atacama Desert 10 years ago and has, literally, gone through different hands and ownership since then.
The film also explores an ongoing grassroots movement to get the U.S. government to reveal what it reportedly knows about UFOs, extraterrestrials and the availability of advanced alternative energy technologies that could greatly benefit everyone on Earth.
One odd thing about the Ata controversy is how it came to the recent attention of the American public.
Early in the documentary, Greer refers to Ata as an extraterrestrial being, explaining how it was found in the Atacama Desert and “we don’t know how it came about.” That seems strange because HuffPost recently reported on the well known history of little Ata since its discovery 10 years ago and subsequent moving from hand to hand, ending up in Spain.
Early PR for “Sirius” referred to the “paradigm shifting physical evidence of a medically and scientifically analyzed DNA sequenced humanoid creature of unknown classification.” This fueled rumors, speculation and more than likely, the hope many people had that, finally, a real alien creature had been discovered and proven to have non-human DNA.
But now that the film is available to everybody, and DNA analysis shows that Ata was human, was that early PR hype about the humanoid a bit premature?
“My interest, frankly, is to disprove that it’s anything unusual or anything paranormal,” Nolan said prior to beginning his DNA study of the small portions of Ata he was allowed to work with. “I would like to prove that this is human [and] just an interesting mutation. In every situation with scientists, your reputation’s at stake. I have every expectation that even doing this is going to lead to some ribbing from some of my colleagues.”
Or this could be what Dan Burisch claims about the “greys” ( J-Rods ), that they are human descendents from the future?
That could explain the human DNA.
Not that I’m a huge fan of Greer or Burisch, but this leaves a lot of the UFO/alien issue definitely in the air.
Orbital Sciences Corporation Sunday launched its Antares rocket at 05:00 p.m. EDT from the new Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The test flight was the first launch from the pad at Wallops and was the first flight of Antares, which delivered the equivalent mass of a spacecraft, a so-called mass simulated payload, into Earth’s orbit.
“Today’s successful test marks another significant milestone in NASA’s plan to rely on American companies to launch supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station, bringing this important work back to the United States where it belongs,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Congratulations to Orbital Sciences and the NASA team that worked alongside them for the picture-perfect launch of the Antares rocket. In addition to providing further evidence that our strategic space exploration plan is moving forward, this test also inaugurates America’s newest spaceport capable of launching to the space station, opening up additional opportunities for commercial and government users.
“President Obama has presented a budget for next year that ensures the United States will remain the world leader in space exploration, and a critical part of this budget is the funding needed to advance NASA’s commercial space initiative. In order to stop outsourcing American space launches, we need to have the President’s budget enacted. It’s a budget that’s good for our economy, good for the U.S. Space program — and good for American taxpayers.”
The test of the Antares launch system began with the rocket’s rollout and placement on the launch pad April 6, and culminated with the separation of the mass simulator payload from the rocket.
The completed flight paves the way for a demonstration mission by Orbital to resupply the space station later this year. Antares will launch experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory carried aboard the company’s new Cygnus cargo spacecraft through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
“Today’s successful test flight of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket from the spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia, demonstrates an additional private space-launch capability for the United States and lays the groundwork for the first Antares cargo mission to the International Space Station later this year,” said John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The growing potential of America’s commercial space industry and NASA’s use of public-private partnerships are central to President Obama’s strategy to ensure U.S. leadership in space exploration while pushing the bounds of scientific discovery and innovation in the 21st century. With NASA focusing on the challenging and exciting task of sending humans deeper into space than ever before, private companies will be crucial in taking the baton for American cargo and crew launches into low-Earth orbit.
“I congratulate Orbital Sciences and the NASA teams at Wallops, and look forward to more groundbreaking missions in the months and years ahead.”
Orbital is building and testing its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. After successful completion of a COTS demonstration mission to the station, Orbital will begin conducting eight planned cargo resupply flights to the orbiting laboratory through NASA’s $1.9 billion CRS contract with the company.
NASA initiatives, such as COTS, are helping to develop a robust U.S. commercial space transportation industry with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program also is working with commercial space partners to develop capabilities to launch U.S. astronauts from American soil in the next few years.
Although Orbital had to reschedule three times, they got their test launch off.
Let’s hope they solved their fairing separation issues before the main Cygnus missions start.
Across the world’s great deserts, a mysterious sheen has been found on boulders and rock faces. These layers of manganese, arsenic and silica are known as desert varnish and they are found in the Atacama desert in Chile, the Mojave desert in California, and in many other arid places. They can make the desert glitter with surprising colour and, by scraping off pieces of varnish, native people have created intriguing symbols and images on rock walls and surfaces.
How desert varnish forms has yet to be resolved, despite intense research by geologists. Most theories suggest it is produced by chemical reactions that act over thousands of years or by ecological processes yet to be determined.
Professor Carol Cleland, of Colorado University, has a very different suggestion. She believes desert varnish could be the manifestation of an alternative, invisible biological world. Cleland, a philosopher based at the university’s astrobiology centre, calls this ethereal dimension the shadow biosphere. “The idea is straightforward,” she says. “On Earth we may be co-inhabiting with microbial lifeforms that have a completely different biochemistry from the one shared by life as we currently know it.”
It is a striking idea: We share our planet with another domain of life that exists “like the realm of fairies and elves just beyond the hedgerow”, as David Toomey puts it in his newly published Weird Life: The Search for Life that is Very, Very Different from Our Own. But an alternative biosphere to our own would be more than a mere scientific curiosity: it is of crucial importance, for its existence would greatly boost expectations of finding life elsewhere in the cosmos. As Paul Davies, of Arizona State University, has put it: “If life started more than once on Earth, we could be virtually certain that the universe is teeming with it.”
However, by the same token, if it turns out we have failed to realise that we have been sharing a planet with these shadowy lifeforms for eons, despite all the scientific advances of the 19th and 20th centuries, then we may need to think again about the way we hunt for life on other worlds. Robot spacecraft – such as the Mars rover Curiosity – are certainly sophisticated. But what chance do they have of detecting alien entities if the massed laboratories of modern science have not yet spotted them on our own planet? This point is stressed by the US biologist Craig Venter. As he has remarked: “We’re looking for life on Mars and we don’t even know what’s on Earth!”
The concept of a shadow biosphere was first outlined by Cleland and her Colorado colleague Shelley Copley in a paper in 2006 in the International Journal of Astrobiology, and is now supported by many other scientists, including astrobiologists Chris McKay, who is based at Nasa’s Ames Research Centre, California, and Paul Davies.
These researchers believe life may exist in more than one form on Earth: standard life – like ours – and “weird life”, as they term the conjectured inhabitants of the shadow biosphere. “All the micro-organisms we have detected on Earth to date have had a biology like our own: proteins made up of a maximum of 20 amino acids and a DNA genetic code made out of only four chemical bases: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine,” says Cleland. “Yet there are up to 100 amino acids in nature and at least a dozen bases. These could easily have combined in the remote past to create lifeforms with a very different biochemistry to our own. More to the point, some may still exist in corners of the planet.”
Science’s failure to date to spot this weird life may seem puzzling. The natural history of our planet has been scrupulously studied and analysed by scientists, so how could a whole new type of life, albeit a microbial one, have been missed? Cleland has an answer. The methods we use to detect micro-organisms today are based entirely on our own biochemistry and are therefore incapable of spotting shadow microbes, she argues. A sample of weird microbial life would simply not trigger responses to biochemists’ probes and would end up being thrown out with the rubbish.
That is why unexplained phenomena like desert varnish are important, she says, because they might provide us with clues about the shadow biosphere. We may have failed to detect the source of desert varnish for the simple reason that it is the handiwork of weird microbes which generate energy by oxidising minerals, leaving deposits behind them.
The idea of the shadow biosphere is also controversial and is challenged by several other scientists. “I think it is very unlikely that after 300 years of microbiology we would not have detected such organisms despite the fact that they are supposed to have a different biochemistry from the kind we know about today,” says Professor Charles Cockell, of the UK Centre for Astrobiology at Edinburgh University. “It is really quite unlikely,” adds Cockell, whose centre will be officially opened this week at a ceremony in Edinburgh.
Ways need to be found to determine whether or not the shadow biosphere exists, says Dimitar Sasselov, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. “If you want a clue you can count up the amount of carbon that is emitted by living things – cows, sheep, grass, plants, forests and all the planet’s bacteria. When you do, you find there is a discrepancy of around 5% when you compare the amount given off from Earth’s standard biosphere and the amount you find in the atmosphere.”
In other words, there is slightly too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than can be explained by the emissions of standard lifeforms on Earth. There could be an error in these calculations, of course. Alternatively, the shadow biosphere could be responsible for this excess, says Sasselov. “There is plenty of room for a shadow biosphere. That is clear. Certainly, it is not true, as some allege, that we have strong evidence to show that it does not exist. In fact, the opposite is true: we do not have good enough evidence to dismiss it.”
A key point to note is that scientists – although describing the inhabitants of the shadow biosphere as weird – still assume they will be carbon-based entities. Complex chemistry based on other elements, such as silicon, is possible, they acknowledge but these alternatives cannot create the vast range of organic materials that carbon can generate. In other words, the shadow biosphere, if it exists, will almost certainly be inhabited by carbon life, albeit of an alien variety.
“Billions of years ago, life based on different types of carbon biochemistry could have arisen in several places on Earth,” says Cleland. “These varieties would have been based on different combinations of bases and amino acids. Eventually, one – based on DNA and on proteins made from 20 amino acids – formed multicellular entities and became the dominant form of life on Earth. That is why we find that life as we know it, from insects to humans and from plants to birds, has DNA as its genetic code. However, other lifeforms based on different bases and proteins could still have survived – in the shadow biosphere.”
A different prospect is highlighted by Sasselov, who points out that a complex organic chemical can come in two different shapes even though they have the same chemical formula. Each is a mirror-image of the other and are said to have a different chirality. “Amino acids are an example,” says Sasselov. “Each comes in a right-handed version and a left-handed version. Our bodies – in common with all other lifeforms – only use left-handed versions to create proteins. Right-handed amino acids are simply ignored by our bodies. However, there may be some organisms, somewhere on the planet, that use only right-handed amino acids. They could make up the weird life of the shadow biosphere.”
But how can scientists pinpoint this weird life? Microbes are usually detected in laboratories by feeding nutrients to suspected samples so they grow and expend. Then the resulting cultures can be analysed. A weird lifeform – such as one made only of proteins formed out of right-handed amino acids – will not respond to left-handed nutrients, however. It will fail to form cultures and register its existence.
One solution to this problem is being pursued by Sasselov and colleagues’ Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. They are building an artificial cell – or bionic system – made only of right-handed components including right-handed DNA and right-handed ribosomes. “If there are right-handed lifeforms out there, many of them will be viruses – which will attempt to hijack the DNA of our bionic cells,” adds Sasselov. “When they do that they will leave evidence of their existence. Essentially we are building honey traps to catch any right-handed viruses that might live in the shadow biosphere and so reveal their existence.”
Other scientists suggest a different approach – by looking at Earth’s most inhospitable ecological niches: hot vents on the seafloor, mountaintops, highly saline lakes, Antarctic ice sheets and deserts. Standard lifeforms, mainly bacteria, have been found in these places but only a few. Some niches, researchers speculate, may prove to be just too inhospitable for standard life but may just be tolerable enough to support weird life. Microscopic studies would reveal their existence while standard culture tests would show they had a different biochemistry from standard lifeforms.
Stripes of desert varnish line the canyon walls of Capitol Gorge in Utah. No laboratory has been able to re-create the phenomenon. Photograph: Larry Geddis/Alamy
And a promising example is provided by the desert varnish proposed as a target by Cleland and backed by David Toomey in Weird Life. “No laboratory microbiologist has been able to coax bacteria or algae to make desert varnish,” he states. “It is also possible that the stuff is the end result of some very weird chemistry but no one has been able to reproduce that either.” So yes, these sites could provide proof of the shadow biosphere’s existence, he argues.
Not surprisingly, Cleland agrees. “The only trouble is that no one has yet got round to investigating desert varnish for weird life,” adds Cleland. “I confess I find that disappointing.”
Fascinating. I have come across different versions of Earth “shadow” life over the years; Mac Tonnies’ “cryptoterrestrials“, ancient creatures older than mankind whom remain hidden and undetectable from us. And Peter Watts’ “Behemoth” right-handed amino acid life forms taking over the Earth during the 21st Century.
And I’m not even counting legends of elves, Bigfoot, dwarves, demons and angels from past decades and centuries.
So the idea of Earthly “alien” life isn’t new.
But maybe, just maybe with advanced biotechnology techniques, we’ll be able to detect this shadow life.
Perhaps a whole hidden world!
Hat tip to the Daily Grail.
NASA’s bold plan to drag an asteroid into orbit around the moon may sound like science fiction, but it’s achievable with current technology, experts say.
President Barack Obama’s 2014 federal budget request, which will be unveiled today (April 10), likely includes about $100 million for NASA to jump-start an asteroid-capture mission, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) said last week.
The plan aims to place a roughly 23-foot-wide (7 meters) space rock into a stable lunar orbit, where astronauts could begin visiting it as soon as 2021 using NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, Nelson said.
While challenging, the mission is definitely doable, said Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer of billionaire-backed asteroid-mining firm Planetary Resources. [NASA’s Asteroid-Capture Plan (Video)]
“Return of a near-Earth asteroid of this size would require today’s largest launch vehicles and today’s most efficient propulsion systems in order to achieve the mission,” Lewicki, who served as flight director for NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers and surface mission manager for the agency’s Phoenix Mars lander, wrote in a blog post Sunday (April 7).
“Even so, capturing and transporting a small asteroid should be a fairly straightforward affair,” Lewicki added. “Mission cost and complexity are likely on par with missions like the [$2.5 billion] Curiosity Mars rover.”
Spurring solar system exploration
NASA’s idea is similar to one proposed last year by scientists based at Caltech’s Keck Institute for Space Studies in Pasadena.
The Keck study estimated that a robotic spacecraft could drag a 23-foot near-Earth asteroid (NEA) — which would likely weigh about 500 tons — into a high lunar orbit for $2.6 billion. The returns on this initial investment are potentially huge, the researchers said.
“Experience gained via human expeditions to the small returned NEA would transfer directly to follow-on international expeditions beyond the Earth-moon system: to other near-Earth asteroids, [the Mars moons] Phobos and Deimos, Mars and potentially someday to the main asteroid belt,” the Keck team wrote in a feasibility study of their plan.
The mission would also help develop asteroid-mining technology, advocates say, and advance scientists’ understanding of how our solar system took shape more than 4.5 billion years ago.
Asteroids “probably represent samples of the earliest matter that was made available to form our solar system and our Earth,” Caltech’s Paul Dimotakis, a member of the Keck study team, told SPACE.com in February.
“We learned a lot about the moon by analyzing the moon rocks that Apollo astronauts brought back,” he added. [NASA’s 17 Apollo Moon Missions in Pictures]
A challenging mission
Unmanned probes have successfully rendezvoused with asteroids in deep space multiple times. Japan’s Hayabusa craft even snagged pieces of the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa in 2005, sending them back to our planet for study.
But bagging an entire asteroid and dragging it to our neck of the cosmic woods is unprecedented, and it presents several daunting challenges.
For example, the target asteroid will be spinning, which doesn’t make for a smooth ride to lunar orbit. After the spacecraft captures the asteroid and brings it into a hold of sorts, the space rock will have to be de-spun, likely with thrusters, Dimotakis said.
“You might use reaction jets to take out most of it [the spin],” he said. “You would give you yourself a lot of time to do this, because there’s no second chance in any of this.”
Further, bringing the asteroid onboard greatly increases the spacecraft’s mass, making propulsion and navigation much more difficult. And precise navigation will definitely be required to deliver the space rock to its desired orbit, Dimotakis said (though he also stressed that any asteroid chosen would pose no danger to humanity even if it somehow struck our planet).
But ion thrusters like the ones powering NASA’s Dawn mission to the huge asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres should be muscular enough to make the journey, likely taking a few years to reach the asteroid and somewhat longer to come back. And the asteroid-laden probe could probably still be guided with great care, he added.
“My guess is that all of these are not insurmountable challenges, and you would be able to calibrate yourself after you snagged it and adjust your controls,” Dimotakis said.
Choosing a target
Perhaps the biggest challenge of the entire mission is picking a suitable space rock to retrieve, Lewicki wrote in his blog post.
The Keck study recommends going after a carbonaceous asteroid packed full of water and other volatiles. Carbonaceous asteroids can be very dark, and it’s tough to spot and characterize a 23-foot asteroid in the vast depths of space whatever its color.
So both Lewicki and Dimotakis stressed the importance of searching for potential asteroid targets sooner rather than later. Planetary Resources plans to begin launching a line of small prospecting space telescopes in 2014 or 2015, and these “Arkyd-100” craft could aid NASA’s mission, Lewicki wrote.
Dimotakis, for his part, is engaged in a follow-up to the Keck study that’s looking for potential targets in observations made by current telescopes.
“We are developing software in collaboration with JPL [NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory] that is going to exploit the observational digital record and essentially flag things that could be of interest and might be in this class,” he said. “This has never happened before.”
Still, mission scientists and engineers shouldn’t just sit on their hands until an asteroid selection is made, he added.
It’s important “to start developing the spacecraft before you even know where you’re going,” Dimotakis said. “If you do these things in parallel, then the mission timeline shrinks.”
The $2.6 Billion price tag looks a little low to me, but the Russians seem to want to get onboard with this idea too.
Unfortunately, the Russian space program is largely financed by NASA payments to launch American and international astronauts to the ISS. So the cost will still be born by the U.S. taxpayer.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think this is a worthwhile effort, but I think NASA should continue to partner with private industry and the Europeans to help defray the expences.
This picture was produced by my son Chris with my assistance to develop imagery that helps describe a “solid light” case that was focused at a beach headland area at Kiama New South Wales in Australia back in the early 1970s. I have revisited this affair many times and it has inspired my worldwide focus on similar cases. Gildas Bourdais from France helped me immensely with regard to the strange event played at Taize back in 1972. I have also focused on the classic Trancas case from Argentina in 1963. Both cases are striking, but not without their weaknesses and possible explanations. In both cases my enquiries to date suggest the possible explanations are not all that compelling, but we still need to examine them, to see how the evidence for these classic cases stack up.An objective and solid evidence based focus on the role military and government has emerged with the appearance of the book “UFOs and Government – A Historical Inquiry” by the UFO History Group, the primary authors being Dr. Michael Swords and Robert Powell, and contributions from the rest of the group – Clas Svahn, Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos, myself (Bill Chalker), Barry Greenwood, Richard Thieme, Jan Aldrich and Steve Purcell.One of the major themes that runs through the “UFOs and Government” narrative is the recurring sense of lost opportunities to engage appropriately with a consistently unexplained phenomena, which if studied properly could yield fascinating scientific breakthroughs. When the picture presented is of poor investigation and active debunking with far too little serious in depth analysis, and yet we have impressive international evidence of a consistent unexplained phenomenon, there is a vast disconnection from an appropriate scientific response.The book “UFOs and Government” alludes to several lost opportunities to focus on enduring unexplained attributes of the UFO phenomenon. Unfortunately if your only insight into the UFO phenomenon was the typical debunking official military response revealed time and time again by their documents and histories, you would miss these strange and possibly breakthrough attributes of the UFO phenomenon.A striking example of this is the fascinating 1960 Red Bluff California case where official attitudes caused a UFO witness, a highway patrol officer, to not initially describe the “light beam projected by the object seemed like what would be described today, as a big, fat laser beam. That is, it did not spread out or diffuse “properly.” But worse than that, the beam seemed to have an “end” to it,” wrote Mike Swords. Here was a remarkable example of what many researchers have called “solid light” in action. In writing this Dr. Swords touched upon a critical issue. He highlighted that Dr. James McDonald did manage to draw out this remarkable detail, because he was actually interested in what the witnesses reported, rather than conducting a myopic debunking exercise. Genuine scientific skepticism, driven by a desire to question and carefully investigate an experience can potentially yield scientific breakthroughs. We now know that there are many such cases of “this peculiar sawed-off light” or “solid light.”Indeed Michael Sword’s indicated in an endnote in “UFOs and Government” that “sawed-off light” cases are “a peculiar feature of a smallish set of “high strangeness” UFO encounters. As these encounters are widely spread across the world, this feature is suprising and difficult to explain on sociological grounds.” He indicated he had some 44 cases in his own files.I had been studying these sorts of “solid light” cases for decades so I naturally contacted Mike about his collection.I emailed Mike Swords:“I have been quietly studying for decades this strange aspect of many worldwide UFO cases and have developed a very disorganised collection of material on such cases.“In both “The OZ Files” and “Hair of the Alien” I refer to solid light cases and describe an Australian case from Kiama, southern NSW from the early 1970s. I have been looking into the case since learning of it in the 1990s and earlier this year conducted a very detailed site investigation to determine if the observations reported by the primary witness were possible and to see if further information could be found. The case is rather complicated and also has entity and abduction aspects. The primary witness has closely guarded his privacy and I have only had one face to face meeting with him, as well as many phone conversations, written statements and emails.“The on site investigations this year took place because the main witness was more forthcoming with locational details. Some of this was in my original interview notes and material when we originally talked in person, however they were not precise enough to undertake an on site reconstruction. Finally this year these confirmations were forthcoming and I had sufficient detail to locate the exact viewing locations, lines of sight, and confirm accurately the Kiama beach location. I stayed there for 2 days gathering information and managed to confirm that his ex parents in law were still living at the house in question. The ex father in law while elderly recollected the night, but while he feels he may not remember the event as the main witness Graham described to me, he is certain that his former son-in-law would not have invented the story. Bill, the ex-father in law, recollects that Graham was agitated and focused on the incident, but Bill cannot recollect that his own involvement was as Graham described it in his accounts to me.“Having talked to Graham a number of times over the years I have found him to be a compelling witness, but one who has struggled mightily with the ontological status of the events. Indeed he was originally much more comfortable casting the event as a strange dream. While the recent investigations seem to caste the stranger aspects as being witnessed by Graham only with marginal supporting cast in the form of his ex wife and ex father and mother in law, as well as possibly some neighbours, who may have interpreted the event in different ways, this seems to be a strange “display” event, so frequently reported in many CE type cases, particularly those with high strangeness elements, such as this one. In many of these sorts of cases there often seems to be selective perceptions of the events, sometimes so acute that often people near to each other have a very different experience, as if a central witness is the only intended viewer?“The ongoing investigation has continued to energise my interest in solid light cases and I have been attempting to drag all my solid light cases together with a view to create a catalogue of such cases, building on the early SOBEPS catalogue of the 1970s.“I was also intrigued with a UFO film taken by Ray Stanford, covered in Chris Lambright‘s recent e-book “X Descending”. Because I had some previous contact with Ray back in the 1970s and early 1980s and talked to him briefly at the 1987 Washington DC MUFON symposium, I renewed our acquaintance. This lead to some extensive email exchanges in which he elaborated on the “new film”, beyond the “air spike”/Leik Myrabo connection which Chris has understandably focused on.“Instead I focused on a different part of the same footage which appears to show a “solid light” projection event.“Apart from many other cases I was also drawn towards a Chinese event I located that occurred in 1998 at a desert Air Force base, involving a Chinese Air Force F-6 pursuit. The possibly striking confirmation of Zhao Xu, who is described as a famous Chinese Defence expert in unmanned aircraft, as one of the various high level witnesses, who mentioned “Surprisingly these two light beams of light were not as we normally see light beams, as has been according to the distance and spread, but as two light-emitting entities, sticking out from the bottom of the UFO ending on a certain length. At least today we have not got control of this sort of light technology.” Radar detection was also involved. Given this comment was made by a defence specialist* I suspect some Chinese military science investigation and research since then.* Correction: following further research and more detailed translations the quote above referring to “two light-emitting entities” comes from General Li the PLAAF missile base commander in the Badain Jaran Desert in Lanzhou province. Major General Zhao Xu witnessed the UFO incident. It was General Li’s pilots who undertook the attempted aerial pirsuits and close up observations.“Meanwhile open science has been playing with Bose-Einstein condensates et.al to manipulate light in diverse ways – our crude opening gambit in a direction that might show us “solid light” effects that have been reported for decades in a diverse range of international (UFO) case material. Mainstream science directions in this area have been nicely summarised with references in Sidney Perkowitz‘s “Slow Light: Invisibility, Teleportation, and other mysteries of light” (2011).“Hence my ongoing deep focus on “solid light” cases and my long winded way of asking if I can get a copy of your 44 “solid light” case files! A big ask I know, but it would support an in-depth focus on these cases and perhaps a collaborative workup of a catalogue of such cases to build on the early and somewhat flawed SOBEPS catalogue?“Best wishes in “solid light” anticipation, like don’t keep me in the dark (pun intended),Bill”Mike was very helpful and shared his listing of cases. Indeed he addressed this research focus in his always interesting blog “The Big Study” – thebiggeststudy.blogspot.com – on October 19 2012 – with a post entitled” “SLOW LIGHT & UFOs”:“Bill Chalker wrote the other day. He’s contemplating making a review of so-called “solid light” UFO cases, and I welcome that. Bill’s a hard-science-trained ufologist and might just be able to make some sense of a real puzzlement in this field. He asked me if I’d scour my files for such cases [since I’d foolishly admitted to having around 44 of such things], and so I did, making a list for him to pursue and build his analysis more robustly [Bill already had a bigger bunch than that].”Mike further stated, “In my understanding the term “solid light” came from witness testimony— the light beam seemed “solid”; it was as if the beam extended like a solid tube, etc. This phrase stuck but is probably a bad one. The light effects that we’re witnessing in these cases behave not like solids but like “regular” light which is abnormally “contained” somehow. Things don’t seem to be “impacted” by these beams, only illuminated by them. The things [generally] seem to be more like spatially-constrained lasers [admittedly of wide diameter] than anything solid, and might well be more like tubes [i.e. hollow] than “full” beams.”I recommend readers read Mike Swords valuable post on this fascinating group of cases.I’ve included the core details of the catalyst for this re-invigorated enquiry into “solid light” cases.BIZZARE UFO “LIGHT” PHENOMENA AT KIAMA…. I was approached by a man who was troubled by a bizarre episode on the south coast at Kiama, in the early 1970s…. The reporting witness, who I will call Graham, has pondered the nature of what occurred. He is troubled by it and now feels more comfortable with it being a dream. The fragmentary nature of the events and the strange elements of the experience beckon this interpretation. But there are startling aspects that fit in with some extraordinary characteristics of the UFO phenomenon. I have spoken to Graham on a number of occasions and meet him directly for an extended interview. I found him to be a compelling witness who is grappling with the ontological issues that striking episodes often force us to confront. I have quoted from his own prepared statement:“Awoken by a light coming into the room, I was too drowsy to do anything about it, I wanted to sleep. It came to mind that the only way light could come into the window was a light was being shone at it. I thought it may be an intruder so I forced myself awake, to step over the baby and my two year old daughter sleeping on the floor beside me. When I got to the window I could see nothing unusual outside. Thinking it must have been a dream because I had remarked on the endless stream of car headlights winding their way along the old highway towards Sydney. I laid down again and fell quickly asleep. Again the light came into the room. This time I jumped up quickly, wide awake again, there was nothing unusual outside. Suddenly I saw a light beam white in colour with a blue fluorescent tinge evaporating from it. Because of the luminescence of the light I was able to make out the shape of a flying craft from which the beam projected at an angle to the ground of about 75o. “The beam was about 30 feet long and about 2 feet six inches diameter, given the craft was between the headland I was on and the next headland. Suddenly the beam, still only 30 feet long fell, like a perfect cylinder of solid light. It did not fall in the direction of gravity, it continued along the path of its own axis. The cylinder of solid light hit a caravan. Upon impact the light behaved like water, pouring over the caravan, over its roof, over its walls, over every nook and cranny of the van. Like fluorescent paint from an electro, airless spray gun. The caravan illuminated completely for about three seconds then the light faded away. My attention was on the light. I could not see the craft any more.“I rubbed my eyes and looked for the craft. It appeared slightly to the left of its original position with another beam of light, descending from it at a very slow speed; say about only 3 feet per second. When the beam reached a given length, longer than the first time, it began falling as before. This time it hit an amenities block and the light covered its surfaces completely illuminating it in the same way as the caravan. Again the light faded away.“From the same location, the craft let another beam go at an angle of about 45o to the ground level line. The beam was much longer than before. It reached the beach and illuminated approximately an area of sand forty feet at its widest. Inside the lighted area were two men standing motionless looking up at the craft. A young woman jumped up from sitting near a small beach fire and ran to stand with the two men. A second young woman was running backwards trying to brush the light off her arms and body. Then she too stood separate to the other three and also stared up at the craft. The light suddenly went out and I looked for the people. Has it taken the people I thought. Where as I was marvelling at the craft and light before, I now became angry, thinking it has terrorised that woman. It was not a good thing as I first thought. Now I could see the fire dimly glowing. I looked this way and that to see if any of the people walked in front of the fire, to prove they were still there. I fell asleep on my feet. When I awoke I was standing on the other side of the window, one hand on the window.“I looked outside the window only feet away. The craft hovered over the street in front of the house. It manoeuvred very close to the window. I was impressed that it looked like a spaceship. It had no helicopter noises or blades. It did not force itself off the ground. There was no blowing of the small trees. It was not a hovercraft, and it had no wings like a plane. The metallic material it was made of appeared as though it was unpolished Zinc alloy. It had no seams, no rivets, no weld marks, no plates visible. It was as if it was made from one piece of metal about 40 feet wide and 10 feet high, which began to spin in one direction, then it stopped and spun for a shorter time in the opposite direction. Then it stopped spinning, hovering in a steady position above the skyline. There were no thoughts it belonged to the western world. That it was a secret craft, that got into difficulty. That I wasn’t meant to see. I blacked out.“When I came to, the craft was still opposite my window. I thought why was I meant to see that it had no welds or seams, it seemed to want to show me that. I looked at a window shape about six feet wide and two feet six inches high with carved corners. The metallic window shield suddenly disappeared and I could see inside the craft. I saw no fittings. It had flat vertical off white walls. I felt very peaciful. A man walked into the room of the craft and stood in front of the window. As he walked in he was looking at a flat object he was holding in his hands, like a clip board but thicker. He began to move his arms as though he was working on something at bench height below the window. Totally absorbed, he worked away. I felt completely safe. Another man then entered the room looking at the other man and what he was doing. He stood also facing me looking at the bench and pointing like without words he was helping the other fix something.“They had bright silver one piece suits like thin wetsuits on, with no badges or markings. They carried no weapons or tools. The craft had no fittings or anything that looked like a weapon, so I felt safe. And besides, they didn’t know I was watching them. With that thought the last one to enter the room smiled at the other, then they both smiled directly at me. I had physical fright, my hair stood on end literally and I knew what it meant to be really scared. I dropped to the floor and said, “Everybody keep down. Stay out of the light.” I knew that in the light they could control my thinking to feel and think peacefully. Suddenly great noise and severe vibration of the house took place. The laundry light went dim, the fridge began jumping about and there was great noise above the roof. The washing machine was bumping about also. I said, “Quickly get under the doorways, the house is going to fall.” It was like the craft overhead sucked the electricity out of the house, then took off.“Bill shouted out, “Shit, what was that? It took the bloody roof off.” I said, “It was a UFO.” Somebody said what, againI said, it was a UFO. Bill said, “Yes I saw it as it took the roof off.” Bill was trying to comprehend how come the roof was still there.“Gordon __ living behind came out to his back door and said very explicitly, “What the …… was that? I thought it took the roof off.” He too was greatly concerned with checking out his roof, reassuring himself it was still there. The lady next door on the seaward side opened a window and said, “Where did it crash? Do we have to get out?” She became very angry saying again, “Do we have to get out?” No you’re safe. It’s gone. Relieved, she said, “I am alone with the children tonight, that bloody pilot should be shot for that.” It was unusual to hear people who I had never heard swear before, swearing.“Bill and Gordon were saying it was a UFO. Suddenly, __, Bill’s wife began to try and quieten everyone down and get us all inside. We decided that I should phone the Nowra base. I spoke to the duty officer. He said he was the only one on duty. He asked me if I saw any orange lights. I said, “Yes.” He then quickly said it was a weather balloon you saw, it was let go at such and such a time from Jambaroo, it didn’t inflate properly and other people reported seeing it as an orange light over Kiama. In my mind I thought, he knows what it was, it must be secret. I’ve done my duty reporting it, so that was that.“The next day (our wives) said two men in dark suits with ID tags came to the door asking did any one see anything unusual last night. Frightened by the men, they said no and the men went on. (Our wives) warned me not to speak about it, they were very frightened that something would happen to me if I spoke up and also it would make us a laughing stock in the community. The plan was we would forget it, not talk about it, even to one another. So it would be distanced from our lives.“Bill was reading the paper some days later and said an expensive Navy helicopter flew from Jambaroo over Kiama. It lost its electronics and crashed forty kilometres out to sea off Kiama. The navy was reported to be trying to recover it to find out what happened. The crew were rescued. I said, “Yeh, I know about losing power, the same thing happened to the helicopter as what happened to the fridge and the laundry light. The UFO took its electricity.” Nothing was said further. We ignored the event. What I saw holds future understanding for me, if it was a dream I believe. Possibly it was an active imagination, a dream and actual occurrences combined.”This strange affair has several defined stages, but the evident discontinuities in awareness, argue both for a surreal, dream like quality and also reflect the paradoxical reality of some of the stranger elements of the UFO phenomenon. The extraordinary behaviour of the “light beams” behaving as both “solid” and “liquid” has been reported elsewhere in Australia and overseas. The apparent display quality to episodes in the incident is reflected in many cases. There seems to have been a number of gaps in the time sequence. The apparent plight of the people on the beach is provocative, and one I am trying to unravel. This is clearly a case that would benefit from further in depth enquiry.Fortunately the original witness to the Kiama case re-contacted me. He has been very difficult to relocate after my original interviews with him. He is still very guarded about his privacy and protecting the welfare of his family. However we were able to have some very extensive discussions and a detailed interview where I was able to locate the events much more precisely in the Kiama area and secure more details about the incident.He confirmed an aspect I had long suspected as part of the experience, which he only original hinted at in the vaguest possible way. He has an abduction recollection that was consciously recollected at the time, but he was extremely reluctant to share these details during our original discussions years ago.He recollects sitting in a curved hallway in a strange environment. He heard a voice and turned to find a woman. She asked him, “Do you remember what happened in there?” “No,” he replied. “Do you?” he asked. “Put it this way, I won’t be telling my husband.”He doesn’t recollect much more, or he volunteered little further detail about this aspect of the Kiama encounter. However he did say he started to frequent some UFO group meetings with the express purpose of seeing if he could find the woman he had encountered in the Kiama experience. At one meeting he saw a woman who looked like the woman encountered in the “strange environment”, presumably onboard the UFO. When he started to talk to her he felt she was not the right person and did not persist with the conversation.
I described some of the results of my 2012 field investigations in the Kiama area in my email to Mike Swords quoted above. I hope that further research and investigation will continue to assist the evaluation of this strange case. It will be fascinating if the ongoing enquiries further validate the affair. “Solid light” cases represent an intriguing and challenging opportunity to research a potential “breakthrough” aspect of the UFO phenomenon. If we can get to the bottom of such extraordinary manipulations of light and other associated UFO light phenomena, then real progress in a UFO science can be made. Maybe mainstream science is slowly catching up. New Scientist has done a few reports on “tractor beam” development following the Bessel beam principle, including this one:which was accompanied by this Russell Tate/Getty Imagest image:
An earlier New Scientist piece (3 March 2011) highlighted the Chinese connection: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20193-treklike-tractor-beam-is-possible.html(This image accompanied the March 2011 New Scientist article)
Now Jun Chen of Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and colleagues, have shown that it is possible to create exotic beams that would pull rather than push on an object. For tiny particles with dimensions of a thousandth of a millimetre or so, this would result in the particle being drawn back towards the beam.Hmm … I wonder what inspired them? Perhaps the Zhao Xu and General Li 1998 UFO observation? Seems to me that maybe someone within our more clandestine scientific community is already trawling through “solid light” UFO cases?
The “solid light” phenomenon is gaining scientific value in the laboratory as in the actual “slowing down” of light in crystals and heavy gases using diffuse lasers.
All in all, I think that the answer to the UFO issue lies in finding the answer to quantum entanglement, brane theory and linking of parallel universes at a practical level.
Hat tip to The Anomalist.
From Centauri Dreams:
I’ve always wondered how Arthur C. Clarke coped with the news he received in 1986, when doctors in London told him he was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a terminal illness that in the States is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease. The diagnosis was mistaken — it turns out Clarke actually suffered from what is known as ‘post-polio syndrome,’ a debilitating but not fatal condition. For two long years, though, he must have thought through all the symptoms of ALS, knowing that the degenerative motor neuron breakdown could gradually sap him of strength and movement. How would such an energetic man cope with an agonizing, slow fade?
Neil McAleer’s revised biography (Visionary: The Odyssey of Sir Arthur C. Clarke) gives the answer, as recounted by Clarke’s brother Fred:
“…after the initial shock, Arthur more or less said, damn it, he’d got an enormous amount he wanted to do, and if he’s only got fifteen months to do it, he’d better whack into it. And he did whack into it, and the next year he produced four books.
“Eighteen months later he was still writing, and all the horrible things they told him might happen hadn’t happened to him. Of course they had told him all the things he should do to keep it under control—what diets to take and what exercises to do, which he very religiously did. He carried on working intensely and produced an enormous amount of work, which might have been the saving grace. If he had been the sort to say, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die in fifteen months,’ he probably would have…”
That story speaks volumes about the man, identifying a resolve that kept him working despite his other ailments into his nineties. It also tells me that he was able to place himself mentally in a context that weighed a single human life against the broad movement of history. I think Clarke was happy to see himself as someone who instigated currents of thought, changed perspectives and launched careers. He did these things for people of all ages both by the example of his own life and by the lives he created in fiction that showed us what humanity might become.
Young Writer at Work
By the time Clarke moved from Somerset to London in 1936 he was already suffused with science fiction and in particular enraptured with Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men, not to mention the second-hand copies of American science fiction magazines that were then available in England. He spoke of the ‘ravenous addiction’ these magazines inspired and the effect that Stapledon’s novel, with a time scale spanning five billion years, had upon his imagination. He was twelve years old when he first read Last and First Men, awed by its cosmic reach and its placement of the evolution of humanity against the broader backdrop of the cosmos.
Think for a moment of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Has any film ever covered a wider swath of time, from the beginnings of tool making to the apotheosis of the species in an extraterrestrial encounter? This was Clarke’s stage, but the other great discovery of his youth, David Lasser’s The Conquest of Space (1931) gave him the technology he would spend a life examining. Lasser was the founder of the American Interplanetary Society (which became the American Rocket Society and, eventually, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics). He was also, for a time, the editor of Hugo Gernsback’s Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories. If Stapledon brought Clarke the cosmos, Lasser gave the boy a focus on the attainable, the idea of space as a reachable frontier.
In London, Clarke had a tiny flat in Norfolk Square and was soon co-editing (with science fiction writer William Temple) the fanzine Novae Terrae, whose editorial sessions were so cramped in Clarke’s quarters that Temple once said “…there was hardly room for the two of us, and A[rthur]’s Ego had to be left outside on the landing.” Clarke’s nickname of Ego derives from this period when Temple and Clarke both discovered the latter’s competitive nature. I think McAleer is right in stressing, though, that Clarke’s volubility was largely the result of his enthusiasms. This was a man who loved, above all else, the communication of an idea.
Into the Remote Future
For those keeping score, Novae Terrae would soon become, under the editorship of Ted Carnell, the influential magazine New Worlds. But in the days just before World War II, while working on issues of Novae Terrae and assorted publications for the British Interplanetary Society, Clarke found time to begin developing his first novel from ideas that had come to him back in Somerset. “Against the Fall of Night” would appear in an early version in Startling Stories in November of 1948, but that hardly ended the tale. Clarke kept rewriting the story, seeing it into print as a novel from Gnome Press in 1953 and then putting it through a major revision as The City and the Stars, published in 1956.
I seldom think of Clarke as a reader of poetry, but he clearly knew his Housman:
Here, on the level sand, Between the sea and land, What shall I build or write Against the fall of night?
The words are from Housman’s poem “Smooth Between Sea and Land.” Maybe the idea of long stretches of sand and a metaphorical night that comes to us all fired his imagination. I came across The City and the Stars just a few years after it was published and was mesmerized by its setting in much the way Clarke was taken with Stapledon’s Last and First Men. Here was Diaspar, the city of the far future, the only city on planet Earth, whose inhabitants moved through a high-tech monument to stasis. Nothing changes in Diaspar even as the world around it loses its oceans and becomes desert. Clarke would have much to say about the kind of inward thinking that his characters have to overcome, but the unmistakable fact about Diaspar is that the city at the end of time is also achingly, eerily beautiful.
Here’s science fiction writer Jo Walton on the book, nailing its essential allure:
The plot is quite simple. Diaspar is beautiful but entirely inward turned. Alvin looks out and discovers that there is more in the universe than his one city. He recovers the truth about human history, and rather than wrecking what is left of human civilization, revitalises it. By the end of the novel, Man, Diaspar, and Earth have begun to turn outward again. That’s all well and good. What’s always stayed with me is the in-turned Diaspar and the sense of deep time. That’s what’s memorable, and cool, and influential. Clarke recognized though that there isn’t, and can’t be, any story there, beyond that amazing image. It’s a short book even so, 159 pages and not a wasted word.
As to its author, I love the way he could never let this book go. It was, after all, his first novel, and as such it was perhaps the most deeply inspired by the reading of his youth. When he wrote a new preface to it in 1955, he noted that developments in information theory encouraged him to re-think the future course of humanity, a revision that would lead, says McAleer, to a whopping seventy-five percent new prose. The man was indefatigable; he couldn’t let go when ideas seized him, and when he had the wind behind him, no horizon was too far to strive for.
Restless Thoughts from Orbit
On the same visit to the United States in which he met Neil McAleer and learned that he did not have ALS after all, Clarke visited the National Air and Space Museum with Gregory Benford, long-term colleague Fred Durant and Hector Ekanayake, whose friendship with Clarke in Sri Lanka spanned decades. Benford noted the lack of long-term perspective in much contemporary science fiction and pointed out that The City and the Stars had been written before the discovery of DNA, so biology made no significant appearance in the story. Benford and Clarke’s Beyond the Fall of Night (1990) would be the result of that conversation.
McAleer’s biography gives the details on all of Clarke’s books, but my childhood fascination with The City and the Stars has kept me focused on the early stages of Clarke’s career in London and the ideas that began germinating both there and earlier in Somerset. The Signet paperback illustrated here is not the edition I first encountered, but I have to run it because of my love of Richard Powers, whose cover art appeared in so many paperbacks from this period. In this case, Powers’ surreal images go far toward capturing the timeless allure of the city in the desert.
The letters that McAleer has access to offer insights from Clarke’s old associates, and some new ones as well. In 2006 a British engineer named Nicholas Patrick was about to fly on a Space Shuttle mission, Discovery STS-116. He wrote Clarke to invite him to the launch, telling him he had been reading Clarke’s books since growing up in London. Due to his health problems, Clarke was unable to appear, though he wrote an enthusiastic response thanking Patrick, who replied:
“I am sad to hear that you will not be able to attend the launch, but understand completely given the circumstances. Perhaps instead, if you are willing, I might email you from orbit. “A month ago I reread The City and the Stars, perhaps my favourite book, and was again drawn by the ideas in it. Ever since I first read it, I have wanted to find an old spaceship and travel to distant suns. I shall be very happy in low earth orbit, but I don’t think it will completely satisfy me.”
And that’s the thing: Anyone who has grown up with The City and the Stars is going to find even the wonders of Earth orbit a bit tame. Clarke was always at his best as a science fiction writer when taking the long view. His characters would learn to burst free from Diaspar, but its very conception is as staggering and poetic as anything he ever wrote. From the book:
Here was the end of an evolution almost as long as Man’s. Its beginnings were lost in the mists of the Dawn Ages, when humanity had first learned the use of power and sent its noisy engines clanking about the world. Steam, water, wind-all had been harnessed for a little while and then abandoned. For centuries the energy of matter had run the world until it too had been superseded, and with each change the old machines were forgotten and new ones took their place. Very slowly, over thousands of years, the ideal of the perfect machine was approached – that ideal which had once been a dream, then a distant prospect, and at last reality: No machine may contain any moving parts. Here was the ultimate expression of that ideal. Its achievement had taken Man perhaps a hundred million years, and in the moment of his triumph he had turned his back upon the machine forever. It had reached finality, and thenceforth could sustain itself eternally while serving him.
Thus Clarke’s description of the computer that runs Diaspar free from all human intervention. What continues to confound me about Clarke is what McAleer brings out so well, the duality between an imagination capable of transcending time and the canny engineering horse-sense that spawned near-term space achievements. This is the man who dreamed up communications satellites when not dreaming of eternal cities of the far future. Tomorrow, then, let’s look at Clarke the space pioneer.
Sir Arthur was one of my favorites growing up and I found his “hard” science science-fiction very entertaining and thought provoking. His ‘Rendezvous With Rama’ and ‘Songs of Distant Earth’ was the pinnacle of his “interstellar works” and no doubt influenced many of the rocket scientists working in NASA and private industry.
I did in fact read ‘The City and The Stars’, but after I read the other two books. I found “City” kind of esoteric and very advanced for it’s time period. In fact, I found several “Singularity” ideas in it.
Excellent post by Paul Gilster!
NASA’s first manned outpost in deep space may be a repurposed rocket part, just like the agency’s first-ever astronaut abode in Earth orbit.
With a little tinkering, the upper-stage hydrogen propellant tank of NASA’s huge Space Launch System rocket would make a nice and relatively cheap deep-space habitat, some researchers say. They call the proposed craft “Skylab II,” an homage to the 1970s Skylab space station that was a modified third stage of a Saturn V moon rocket.
“This idea is not challenging technology,” said Brand Griffin, an engineer with Gray Research, Inc., who works with the Advanced Concepts Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
“It’s just trying to say, ‘Is this the time to be able to look at existing assets, planned assets and incorporate those into what we have as a destination of getting humans beyond LEO [low-Earth orbit]?'” Griffin said Wednesday (March 27) during a presentation with NASA’s Future In-Space Operations working group.
A roomy home in deep space
NASA is developing the Space Launch System (SLS) to launch astronauts toward distant destinations such as near-Earth asteroids and Mars. The rocket’s first test flight is slated for 2017, and NASA wants it to start lofting crews by 2021.
The SLS will stand 384 feet tall (117 meters) in its biggest (“evolved”) incarnation, which will be capable of blasting 130 metric tons of payload to orbit. Its upper-stage hydrogen tank is big, too, measuring 36.1 feet tall by 27.6 feet wide (11.15 m by 8.5 m).
The tank’s dimensions yield an internal volume of 17,481 cubic feet (495 cubic m) — roughly equivalent to a two-story house. That’s much roomier than a potential deep-space habitat derived from modules of the International Space Station (ISS), which are just 14.8 feet (4.5 m) wide, Griffin said.
The tank-based Skylab II could accommodate a crew of four comfortably and carry enough gear and food to last for several years at a time without requiring a resupply, he added. Further, it would launch aboard the SLS in a single piece, whereas ISS-derived habitats would need to link up multiple components in space.
Because of this, Skylab II would require relatively few launches to establish and maintain, Griffin said. That and the use of existing SLS-manufacturing infrastructure would translate into big cost savings — a key selling point in today’s tough fiscal climate.
“We will have the facilities in place, the tooling, the personnel, all the supply chain and everything else,” Griffin said.
He compared the overall concept with the original Skylab space station, which was built in a time of declining NASA budgets after the boom years of the Apollo program.
Skylab “was a project embedded under the Apollo program,” Griffin said. “In many ways, this could follow that same pattern. It could be a project embedded under SLS and be able to, ideally, not incur some of the costs of program startup.”
There has been much caterwauling in the space advocacy community about the Space Launch System ( ne, “The Senate Launch System” ) concerning its cost and lack of purpose and/or destinations.
Of course, the thing was designed by Congress in order to fund a jobs program in the NASA Centers for the good voters of those districts. But it’s a seriously underfunded program, with just enough money to keep the civil servants of NASA employed, with just enough contractor support to keep them happy.
In the meantime, ideas like Skylab II, the Spacehab at EML-2 and the asteroid capture scheme rear their ugly heads and claim they’re economical in these austeric times.
My money is still on Elon Musk, Bob Bigelow, Dennis Tito and company.
Transcript of classified tape recording made at Camp David, Maryland during a presidential briefing regarding the subject of UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS and EXTRATERRESTRIAL VISITATION of EARTH. President RONALD REAGAN was present. The recording was made between March 6 and 8, 1981.
WILLIAM CASEY: Mr President, good morning. As we discussed in February, this briefing contains some very sensational and some very, very classified information. I am not sure, oh, well, I’m not going to make a decision on who you want in the room. That will be your decision, Mr President. This will be a real tough one to follow since the briefing starts back, historically speaking, that is, and runs up to recent times. I believe we have prepared a good chronological order of events. I’m sure you, Mr President, will have many questions.
The list of questions presented to me by ADVISER #2 should all be answered during this briefing. I hope they are, more than anyone, especially you, Mr President, leave this briefing with questions still unanswered. I have asked The Caretaker to conduct this briefing. He is a contract employee of the CIA and is the present custodian of the information. Are we to assume that everyone is present?
PRESIDENT: Well, it will be entirely up to you, Bill. I guess everyone must be cleared for this briefing of information, is that not correct?
WM CASEY: Well, it appears everyone is, but as you will see Mr President, this stuff is pretty high up on the food chain. We call it ATS or “Above Top Secret.” This stuff has its own classification and markings. We have a special container, special printers and copiers for this stuff. Every word of this material is printed on special paper then placed inside special covers. The caretakers have taken special efforts to protect all of this stuff from being released inadvertently or copied by some unauthorized person.
But all of this material is protected by a special group of people. The Caretaker is in charge of protecting this information and all of the other stuff associated with this information. I would prefer that you, Mr President, decide on who you want in this room. Remember, this material is a closely guarded secret. Although the gist of the story has been out there for many years, very little of the ACTUAL TRUTH has ever been released to the public. Oh, yes, well, by some of the renegades maybe, but many of them have been discredited.
PRESIDENT: OK, Bill, I guess we need ADVISER #1, you, ADVISER #3 and Caspar here. I think ADVISER #2 and Michael can leave.
ADVISER #2: Mr President, excuse me, but I would prefer to leave. I don’t wish to know this information. You know, plausible denial or something like that.
MICHAEL DEAVER: Mr President, whatever you wish, I’ll do. It would be an interesting subject, but do I really have a need to know? No, I don’t think so.
PRESIDENT: OK, I guess that is it.
WM CASEY: Thank you, Mr President. I will now turn the briefing over to The Caretaker.
ADVISER #3: Mr President, and Mr Director, I already had this briefing. I can stay or leave. Secretary Weinberger and myself received this a few weeks ago.
SECRETARY WEINBERGER: Mr President, as you know, we have some pending business regarding that Soviet problem in Berlin. I think we might just handle that. ADVISER #3 and I will let you close this meeting to just a few.
PRESIDENT: OK, Casp, I guess you and ADVISER #3 can leave. Thanks for coming.
WM CASEY: OK, Mr President, that certainly narrows the audience. I think this is just right.
PRESIDENT: OK, well, I can’t wait to hear this. Let’s proceed.
The CARETAKER: Good morning, Mr President. First of all, I would like to give you a bit of information on my background. But before that, please, Mr President, if you have questions during this briefing, just interrupt me, sir. I have been employed by the CIA for the past 31 years. I started the caretaking status of this project in 1960. We have a special group of people whom we call “Group 6,” that cares for all this information.
PRESIDENT: Good morning, I hope, well, I believe I will ask questions. Bill briefed me back in January, but I’m not sure … huh … well, was it detailed, no, I don’t think so … huh … OK, well I’m sure Bill didn’t tell me all ’cause we only had about one hour.
WM CASEY: Mr President, I only gave you a quick briefing for the NSDD (National Security Decision Directives) that we want to incorporate into the overall action directives about this subject. ADVISER #3, Caspar and I have details far beyond what I knew before January. The last administration wasn’t too keen on making all of this stuff accessible to us during the briefings in November and December.
PRESIDENT: Well, I knew a little about this subject before. Back in 1970. Nixon had all of the good stuff and wanted to share it with some of his friends. Nixon showed me some papers. Not sure about who authored them, but they … huh … well something about New Mexico and other places. Nixon was pretty … huh … well, you know, fascinated with it. He showed me something, some kind of object or device that came from one of their craft. Something that was taken from the New Mexico crash site. I don’t know if, well … huh … do we know what it was? I don’t think we knew or maybe now, after 11 years, we might know.
The CARETAKER: Mr President, I can answer some of those questions. Do you wish for me to begin?
PRESIDENT: Oh, well, what level is this? I mean, what was it called? I don’t remember what they called this.
WM CASEY: Mr President, codeword. It’s called Top Secret Codeword. This information is beyond Top Secret as I said before. It has its own classification. It is very compartmentalized.
PRESIDENT: Well, I guess just the minimum. Are we recording this?
The CARETAKER: Mr President, no, unless you wish.
WM CASEY: Yes, it is [CIA FEMALE TRANSCRIBER] who is doing that. I think we should. I don’t want to make any mistakes later about this. ADVISER #4 should also stay, since he is one of the caretakers of the information.
PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t want anyone leaking this stuff. Not knowing what we are about to discuss … huh … oh, well, Bill I guess it is your call. ADVISER #4 should stay. I guess he should … huh … oh, OK, well, you make the call, Bill.
WM CASEY: OK, I guess ADVISER #4 will stay. But I think [CIA FEMALE TRANSCRIBER] must stay. I’ll make that call.
PRESIDENT: OK, I guess we can do our business first, give me a few minutes. Let’s get some food first, or snacks. How long will … huh …. oh, about one hour?
The CARETAKER: Mr President, I estimate this will last about one hour, at least the first part of it. This is a very complicated subject to brief. I can do it, but maybe the questions will extend [beyond the first] the time period.
PRESIDENT: OK, I see. Let’s take a break and then reconvene.
The CARETAKER: OK, Mr President, are we ready?
PRESIDENT: Yes, we are, let’s go.
The CARETAKER: Mr President, as was mentioned earlier, I must say, that this briefing has the highest classification within the U.S. government. I will start with a slide presentation. I have most of this briefing on the slides, but I also have an outline that I have passed out to each [person] in attendance.
PRESIDENT: Oh, OK, so are we … can we follow it with the [outline] paper?
The CARETAKER: Yes, Mr President, you can follow the briefing with the outline in front of you.
PRESIDENT: Thank you.
The CARETAKER: The United States of America has been visited by Extraterrestrial Visitors since 1947. We have proof of that. However, we also have some proof that Earth has been visited for many THOUSANDS OF YEARS by various races of Extraterrestrial Visitors. Mr President, I’ll just refer to those visits as ETs. In July, 1947, a remarkable event occurred in New Mexico. During a storm, two ET spacecraft crashed. One crashed southwest of Corona, New Mexico and one crashed near Datil, New Mexico. The U.S. Army eventually found both sites and recovered all of the debris and one live Alien. I’ll refer to this live Alien as “EBE 1.” PRESIDENT: What does that mean? Do we have codes or a special terminology for this?
The CARETAKER: Mr President, EBE means “Extraterrestrial Biological Entity.” It was a code designated to this creature by the U.S. Army back in those days. This creature was not human and we had to decide on a term for it. So, scientists designated the creature as EBE 1. We also referred to it as “Noah.” There was different terminology used by various aspects of the U.S. military and intelligence community back then.
PRESIDENT: Do we or did we have others? The number “1” would seem to indicate we had others.
The CARETAKER: Yes, we had others. Back then, the term was EBE and no number designation. We’ll explain how the others came into our knowledge.
PRESIDENT: OK, sorry, I was just wondering and I guess, well, I’m sure the briefing will cover this. Please continue.
The CARETAKER: All the debris and EBEs recovered from the first crash site were taken to Roswell Army Air Field, Roswell, New Mexico. EBE was treated for some minor injuries and then taken to Los Alamos National Laboratories, which was the safest and most secure location in the world. Special accommodations were made for EBE. The debris was eventually transferred to Dayton, Ohio, home of the Air Force Foreign Technology Division. The second crash site wasn’t discovered until 1949 by some ranchers. There were no live Aliens at this site. All this debris went to Sandia Army Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
PRESIDENT: OK, a question, regarding the first site, how many aliens were in the spaceship?
The CARETAKER: Five (5) dead aliens and one (1) alive. The bodies of the dead aliens were transported to Wright Field in Ohio and kept in a form of deep freeze. They were later transported to Los Alamos where special containers were made to keep the bodies from decaying. There were four (4) dead aliens in the second crash site. Those bodies were in an advanced state of decaying. They had been in the desert for the past two (2) years. Animals and time got to those bodies. The remains were transported to Sandia Base and eventually onto Los Alamos. We determined both crashed spaceships were of similar design and the bodies of the aliens were all identical. They looked exactly the same. They had the same height, weight and physical features. Here are the photographs of the aliens.
PRESIDENT: Can we classify them? I mean can we … well, connect them with anything Earthly?
The CARETAKER: No, Mr President. They don’t have any similar characteristics of a human, with exception of there eyes, ears and a mouth. Their internal body organs are different. Their skin is different, their eyes, ears and even breathing is different. Their blood wasn’t red and their brain was entirely different from human. We could not classify any part of the Aliens with humans. They had blood and skin, although considerably different than human skin. Their eyes had two different eyelids. Probably because their home planet was very bright.
PRESIDENT: Maybe I’m getting ahead, but do we know where they came from? Mars, our system or where?
The CARETAKER: Yes, Mr President, we do know where they come from. I can go into this now, or I can wait until it comes up in the briefing.
PRESIDENT: No, no, please, continue. I can wait.
The CARETAKER: Thank you, Mr President. EBE stayed alive until 1952 when it died. We learned a great deal from EBE. Although EBE did not have voice organs like humans, it was able to communicate with an operation performed by military doctors. EBE was extremely intelligent. It learned English quickly, mainly by listening to the military personnel who were responsible for EBE’s safety and care.
EBE was housed in a special area at Los Alamos and Sandia Base. Although many different military doctors, scientists and a select number of civilians studied EBE, it never became upset or angry. EBE helped us learn from all the items found in the two crash sites. EBE showed us how some of the items worked, such as a communications device. It also showed us how various other devices worked.
PRESIDENT: Excuse me, but you are referring to this creature as an IT. Did it have a gender?
The CARETAKER: I’m sorry Mr President, but yes, it was male. Within EBE’s race they had males and females.
PRESIDENT: OK, thank you. Please continue.
The CARETAKER: Thank you, Mr President. EBE died of what military doctors considered natural causes. I don’t think we could really state exactly why EBE died. Although we had five (5) years to study EBE, we didn’t have any standards to compare EBE’s body with standard medical observations. It was difficult to lose EBE, since it was the most interesting thing we as humans could receive and study. A visitor from another planet … ANOTHER WORLD. EBE did explain where he lives in the universe. We call this star system Zeta Reticuli, which is about 40 light-years [38.42] from Earth. EBE’s planet was within this star system.
PRESIDENT: OK, where is this in comparison to something we all know?
The CARETAKER: Well, Mr President, our closet star is four light-years away. I can show you the constellation it is in.
[Alpha Centauri, a yellow star, is the brightest star in the constellation Centaurus, 4.3 light-years away]
PRESIDENT: No, I wouldn’t know much about astronomy. I just thought I could understand the distance. How long did it take this spaceship to get here?
The CARETAKER: Well, Mr President, I can tell you now or we can discuss that in another briefing. As Mr Casey said, this is a complicated subject because there are many levels of compartmentalization. This briefing is just the basic information about a visit to our planet by one particular alien race.
PRESIDENT: Well … huh … what, am I to understand … this isn’t a full briefing?
WM CASEY: Mr President, we have different levels of stuff. If we mix it up, I don’t think it will make sense, nor will we have time this morning. I understand you have a busy schedule today.
PRESIDENT: As the President of the United States, I should know EVERYTHING, right, or shouldn’t I? If I am to assume this was a briefing of substance, then I should hear ALL of it. I think this is more important than some other things on my daily calendar. But maybe I’m jumping the gun. If there are some things I shouldn’t know, please tell me.
WM CASEY: No, no, Mr President, I didn’t mean you shouldn’t know this stuff. I simply meant we should proceed in an orderly fashion as to the briefing. But it is up to you. We will not hold anything back.
PRESIDENT: ADVISER #1, what do you think? Do you know about all this?
ADVISER #1: Mr President, yes, I was briefed many times on this subject matter. As Director Casey stated, this is a very, very complicated subject. I think it took me about one year to be fully briefed into all aspects of this matter. There are different areas. The initial crash, an investigative period, some attempt at contact, A DISINFORMATION OPERATION to protect this matter and several other levels.
PRESIDENT: Oh, wow, I didn’t realize how complicated this was. I’m new at [all of] this. I have a great responsibility to the citizens of this nation to make decisions based on accurate information presented by my advisers … YOU, ALL of you. I won’t interfere in your presentation of this information. So, I guess, we’ll proceed in the order you have chosen. I’m sorry for interrupting in this presentation, but as a person who is interested beyond belief in this, I’ll just shut up and wait to ask questions.
WM CASEY: Mr President. No, no, please ask any questions you wish. You are the President. We are not here to argue with you over the order of this briefing. But some things are SO HIGHLY CLASSIFIED that THIS BRIEFING IS THE LOWEST LEVEL. If you ask a question that is in a different level, then we will have to re-evaluate the audience.
ADVISER #1: Mr President. Everything we know about Alien visitation to Earth is contained in 16 (sixteen) volumes of binders. These binders contain thousands of pages. We can give you anything you wish but, as Director Casey said, we must evaluate the clearances of each person listening to our responses.
PRESIDENT: OK, I now understand. Give me whatever you want and I’ll continue to ask questions. But if you need me to wait on an answer, just tell me.
WM CASEY: OK, Mr President we will do that. I still don’t know the entire story. I have read one tenth of one binder and have hundreds of questions.
PRESIDENT: OK, let’s continue.
The CARETAKER: Mr President, thank you for those responses. I will answer any question, if I can. But if the question is above this level, then Director Casey will have to make that decision for me.
PRESIDENT: I fully understand, please continue.
The CARETAKER: It took the EBE spaceship nine (9) of our months to travel the 40 [38.42] light-years. Now, as you can see, that would mean the EBE spaceship traveled faster than the speed of light. But, this is where it gets really technical. Their spaceships can travel through a form of “space tunnels” that gets them from point “A” to point “B” faster without having to travel at the speed of light. I cannot fully understand how they travel, but we have many top scientists who can understand their concept.
PRESIDENT: Well, I certainly couldn’t understand the science in that. Is it a black hole?
The CARETAKER: Mr President, something like that, but much more complicated.
PRESIDENT: Do they get here … no never mind, please continue. [unintelligible]
WM CASEY: Mr President, I can assure we know how they do it, but we can’t do it.
PRESIDENT: OK. (several speaking at once)
The CARETAKER: As to some history. The original project, started back in 1947, was called “Project GLEEM.” This project contained volumes of documented information collected from the beginning of our investigation of UFOs and Identified Alien Craft, or “IAC.” The project was originally established in the early ’50s by, first President Truman and then by order of President Eisenhower, under control of the National Security Council. President Truman established a group of people to handle this project. The group was called Majority 12 or “MJ-12.”
In 1966, the project’s name was changed to “Aquarius.” The project was funded by confidential [“black world”] funds appropriated within the intelligence community’s budget. The recovery of these alien spacecraft led the United States on an extensive investigative program to determine whether these aliens posed a direct threat to our National Security. As you might remember, Mr President, our country openly investigated UFO sightings under projects Grudge, Sign and finally Blue Book.
The original mission of the Air Force program was to collect and analyze all reported sightings and incidents involving UFOs and then determine whether the information could be interpreted as having any bearing on the national security of the United States. Some information was evaluated with the idea of using the gained data to advance our own space technology and future space programs.
About 90% of the estimated 12,000 reports analyzed by the Air Force under Blue Book were considered hoaxes, explained aerial phenomena or astronomical objects. The other 10% were considered legitimate alien sightings and/or incidents. However, not all UFO sightings or incidents were reported under the Air Force programs of Grudge, Sign and Blue Book.
In 1953, Project Gleem initiated its own investigative detail and certain sightings were reported directly under Gleem rather than one of the other projects. Project Gleem, which became “Project AQUARIUS” in 1966, was a parallel reporting system for UFO sightings and incidents.
Reports collected under Project Aquarius were considered actual sightings of alien spacecraft or actual contacts with alien life forms. We recovered two alien spacecraft from New Mexico. Both were heavily damaged, but we were able to examine them. The two craft were considered technological marvels by our scientists. However, the operating instrumentation was so advanced that our scientists could not decipher it. The two craft were stored in a special security location in the West. We gained a large volume of technological data from these craft.
Several independent scientific investigations, at the request of the Air Force and CIA were initiated during the era of “Project Blue Book.” MJ-12 decided that officially the Air Force should end their investigation of UFO sightings. This decision was arrived at during the NPNN meeting in 1966. The reason was two fold. First, the United States had established communications with the aliens.
PRESIDENT: Hold on, OK … well, Bill, no … never mind, please continue.
WM CASEY: Mr President, the communications project is of a higher level. I recommend we continue on this course and then switch to the next, if we have time.
PRESIDENT: OK, you’re steering the boat, Bill.
The CARETAKER: The United States felt relatively sure the aliens’ exploration of Earth was non-aggressive and non-hostile. It was also established that the aliens’ presence did not directly threaten the security of the United States. Secondly, the public was beginning to believe that UFOs were real. The NSC felt this public feeling could lead to a nationwide panic if we disclosed everything we knew about UFOs and alien visitation. We were involved in one major operation during this time frame that involved our alien visitors. That operation is of a higher level and it will be up to Director Casey to proceed now or wait until later.
WM CASEY: We’ll wait on that part of it. I haven’t been fully briefed and I would like to be able to know everything about that program before trying to brief the President.
ADVISER #1: I agree with Director Casey. That part of the program is really complicated and will require a full day to brief.
PRESIDENT: OK, as I said before, Bill’s the captain of this ship.
The CARETAKER: It was felt that public awareness of these projects would have jeopardized the future space program of the United States. Releasing our secrets about UFOs and alien visitation would also cause a PANIC AMONG RELIGIOUS LEADERS around the world. Therefore, MJ-12 decided that an independent scientific study of the UFO phenomena would be needed to satisfy the public curiosity.
The final official study of the UFO phenomena was accomplished by the University of Colorado under an air force contract. The study concluded that sufficient data did not exist that would indicate that UFOs threatened the security of the United States. The final conclusion satisfied the Government and allowed the Air Force to officially step out of the UFO investigating business.
When the Air Force officially closed “Blue Book” in December 1969, Project Aquarius continued operation under control of NSC/MJ-12. The NSC felt investigation of UFO sightings and incidents had to continue in secrecy without any public knowledge. The reasoning behind the decision was this: If the Air Force continued its investigation of UFOs, eventually some non-cleared and non-briefed Air Force or DOD civilian officials would obtain the facts behind Project Aquarius.
Obviously, for operational security reasons, this could not be allowed. In order to continue the investigation of UFO sightings and incidents in secrecy, investigators from CIA/DCE and MJ-12 were assigned to military investigative units with orders to investigate all legitimate UFO/IAC sightings and incidents. These agents are presently operating at various locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. All reports are filtered either directly or indirectly to MJ-12. These agents are collecting reports of UFO/IAC sightings and incidents occurring on or near sensitive governmental installations.
Many reported sightings and incidents have occurred over nuclear weapons bases. The aliens’ interest in our nuclear weapons can only be attributed to the future threat of a nuclear war on Earth that could affect space. The Air Force has initiated measures to assure the security of the nuclear weapons from alien theft or destruction. MJ-12 feels confident that the aliens are on an exploration of our solar system for peaceful purposes. However, we do have information and that is at another level, that more than one alien species are visiting Earth.
PRESIDENT: Well, that is a lot to digest. I have written down many questions. But let’s take a break and come back to this.
This is a good story and very entertaining, but there is no way to test whether this transcript is true or not.
But one must ask this question…”Why did Ronald Reagan give his “enemy alien” speech at the U.N. in 1987?”
What did Reagan know, or not know?
Was it just a symptom of his oncoming Alzheimer’s Disease?
There’s no way to tell now and this will forever be part of UFO folklore.
Hat tip to supernaturalufo.com.
From Centauri Dreams:
Jules Verne once had the notion of a comet grazing the Earth and carrying off a number of astounded people, whose adventures comprise the plot of the 1877 novel Off on a Comet. It’s a great yarn that was chosen by Hugo Gernsback to be reprinted as a serial in the first issues of his new magazine Amazing Stories back in 1926, but with a diameter of 2300 kilometers, Verne’s comet was much larger than anything we’ve actually observed. Comets tend to be small but they make up for it in volume, with an estimated 100 billion to several trillion thought to exist in the Oort Cloud. All that adds up to a total mass of several times the Earth’s.
Of course, coming up with mass estimates is, as with so much else about the Oort Cloud, a tricky business. Paul R. Weissman noted a probable error of about one order of magnitude when he produced the above estimate in 1983. What we are safe in saying is something that has caught Freeman Dyson’s attention: While most of the mass and volume in the galaxy is comprised of stars and planets, most of the area actually belongs to asteroids and comets. There’s a lot of real estate out there, and we’ll want to take advantage of it as we move into the outer Solar System and beyond.
Comets and Resources
Embedded with rock, dust and organic molecules, comets are composed of water ice as well as frozen gases like methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and an assortment of compounds containing nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur. Porous and undifferentiated, these bodies are malleable enough to make them interesting from the standpoint of resource extraction. Richard P. Terra wrote about the possibilities in a 1991 article published in Analog:
This light fragile structure means that the resources present in the comet nuclei will be readily accessible to any human settlers. The porous mixture of dust and ice would offer little mechanical resistance, and the two components could easily be separated by the application of heat. Volatiles could be further refined through fractional distillation while the dust, which has a high content of iron and other ferrous metals, could easily be manipulated with magnetic fields.
Put a human infrastructure out in the realm of the comets, in other words, and resource extraction should be a workable proposition. Terra talks about colonies operating in the Oort Cloud but we can also consider it, as he does, a proving ground for even deeper space technologies aimed at crossing the gulf between the stars. Either way, as permanent settlements or as way stations offering resources on millennial journeys, comets should be plentiful given that the Oort Cloud may extend half the distance to Alpha Centauri. Terra goes on:
Little additional crushing or other mechanical processing of the dust would be necessary, and its fine, loose-grained structure would make it ideal for subsequent chemical processing and refining. Comet nuclei thus represent a vast reservoir of easily accessible materials: water, carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane, and a variety of metals and complex organics.
Energy by Starlight
Given that comets probably formed on the outer edges of the solar nebula, their early orbits would have been more or less in the same plane as the rest of the young system, but gravitational interactions with passing stars would have randomized their orbital inclinations, eventually producing a sphere of the kind Jan Oort first postulated back in 1950. Much of this is speculative, because we have little observational evidence to go on, but the major part of the cometary shell probably extends from 40,000 to 60,000 AU, while a projected inner Oort population extending from just beyond the Kuiper Belt out to 10,000 AU may have cometary orbits more or less in the plane of the ecliptic. Out past 10,000 AU the separation between comets is wide, perhaps about 20 AU, meaning that any communities that form out here will be incredibly isolated.
Image: An artist’s rendering of the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud. Credit: NASA/Donald K. Yeomans.
Whether humans can exploit cometary resources this far from home will depend on whether or not they can find sources of energy. In a paper called “Fastships and Nomads,” presented at the Conference on Interstellar Migration held at Los Alamos in 1983, Eric Jones and Ben Finney give a nod to non-renewable energy sources like deuterium, given that heavy elements like uranium will be hard to come by. Indeed, a typical comet, in Richard Terra’s figures, holds between 50,000 and 100,000 metric tons of deuterium, enough to power early settlement and mining.
But over the long haul, Jones and Finney are interested in keeping colonies alive through renewable resources, and that means starlight. The researchers talk about building vast mirrors using aluminum from comets, with each 1 MW mirror about the size of the continental United States. Now here’s a science fiction setting with punch, as the two describe it:
Although the mirrors would be tended by autonomous maintenance robots, the nomads would have to live nearby in case something went wrong… Although we could imagine that the several hundred people who could be supported by the resources of a single comet might live in a single habitat, the mirrors supporting that community would be spread across about 150,000 km. Trouble with a mirror or robot on the periphery of the mirror array would mean a long trip, several hours at least. It would make more sense if the community were dispersed in smaller groups so that trouble could be reached in a shorter time. There are also social reasons for expecting the nomad communities to be divided into smaller co-living groups.
Jones and Finney go on to point out that humans tend to work best in groups of about a dozen adults, whether in the form of hunter/gatherer bands, army platoons, bridge clubs or political cells. This observation of behavior leads them to speculate that bands of about 25 men, women and children would live together in a large habitat — think again of an O’Neill cylinder — built out of cometary materials, from which they would tend a mirror farm with the help of robots and computers. Each small group would tend a mirror farm perhaps 30,000 kilometers across.
The picture widens beyond this to include the need for larger communities that would occasionally come together, helping to avoid the genetic dangers of inbreeding and providing a larger social environment. Thus we might have about 500 individuals in clusters of 20 cometary bands which would stay in contact and periodically meet. Jones and Finney consider the band-tribe structure to be the smallest grouping that seems practical for any human community. Who would such a community attract — outcasts, dissidents, adventurers? And how would Oort Cloud settlers react to the possibility of going further still, to another star?
While by no means is this is a new theory, ( note the Jules Verne story ), it presents the scenario of the very slow spreading of intelligent biological life through-out the Galaxy ( see Slow Galactic Colonization, Zoo Hypothesis and the Fermi Paradox ).
Now here’s a thought; could a potential alien Oort Cloud civilization be the basis of the Ancient Astronaut Theory and the legends of the Sumerian Gods, the Anunnaki?
There’s no hard evidence of that of course, but there are Pluto-sized and larger objects in the Kuiper Belt glowing in the infrared, a sign that was said to represent a Dyson Sphere type civilisation.
Either these are natural objects such as Brown Dwarf stars, or potential alien civilisations whom don’t care whether they are detected in the infrared or not.
And that’s disturbing.