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Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Why We Must Leave the Earth, or Die Trying

          The short answer is that if we don’t leave the Earth soon, the human race will perish here.  As Dr. Stephen Hawking stated in the Spring of 2008 “If we don’t move off world and create self supporting colonies on the Moon, Mars, Asteroids, the Moons of Jupiter and Saturn and some day other star systems, then sooner or later something is going to get us”.  Sounds a bit like fear mongering in order to garner support for a particular point of view or project.  This is only true though, if there are no real dangers that could threaten our existence as a species.  So, can we think of any past threats or disasters that could have been the death of us or our civilization?

          Many of us remember the Cuban missile crisis of the early 1960’s, but since we dodged that bullet, we tend to forget just how close to a civilization if not species destroying event it could have been.  If the Soviet leader had been just a tad more stubborn and the bombs had been launched, you probably would not be here today reading this essay.  Even in the 1960’s there were enough bombs to destroy all of Mankind plus how many other species we don’t know.  Today, this danger still has not gone away, though terrorism appears to be more likely.  Bioterrorist could potentially create a pandemic that would reduce our civilization to a mere shadow of today’s level. 

          These are some examples of man made disasters, but there are many others of naturally occurring origins.  For example, by studying Mitochondrial DNA, scientist have determined that our human ancestors experienced a population bottle neck about 70,000 years ago.  They estimate that there may have been as few as 1000 breeding pairs at one point.  We would have been on the endangered species list of the time.  What could have caused such a reduction in our numbers?  Our best guess is that the explosion of a super volcano in Indonesia around 70,000 years ago filled the atmosphere with 700 – 1000 cubic miles of dust and ash that exacerbated an ice age that had already been underway,  reducing the population of many plants and animals.  Shortages of food and very cold temperatures reduced our numbers to dangerously low levels.  There are many of these super volcanoes around the Earth; the most famous of which is under Yellowstone National Park.  This one last blew about 600,000 years ago, but could explode again at any time, since it is still an active volcanic zone today.  A society as large as ours that depends on huge areas of cultivation and dependable transportation to distribute food supplies would be much more seriously impacted by such an event than the hunter/gathers of 70,000 years ago.  We could easily loose a major portion of today’s population and civilization.

          Another example of a recent natural disaster is the 1908 Tunguska event in Siberia.  A small meteor or comet appears to have exploded above the ground leveling over 830 square miles of forest.  There is no city on Earth big enough that it would not have been totally destroyed by a similar event.  This object was a small one, around 30 meters in diameter, causing a reduction of temperatures of a couple of degrees world wide for several years.  What if the object had been ten to a hundred times as large; would we or our civilization have survived?  Dr. Hawking speculates that in our solar system and any others formed in the same manner as ours, (which may be all of them) every planet will be struck by an object big enough to cause large extinctions once every million years.  The reason we haven’t heard from ET may now be apparent.  A million years is not long enough for intelligent life to develop; so no messages for SETI to receive.  If  Dr. Hawking’s extinction theory holds; how then did we not get wiped out during our evolutionary development?  Some believe that we were protected by a large Moon and the super planet Jupiter, whose gravitational pull sucked in many of the large objects that might have hit us.  The Moon, Jupiter and a little bit of luck and we survive for now; but this combination makes for a poor insurance policy, because the Earth has still been struck by some fairly large objects; just not large enough to get us, yet. 

          This is just a cursory examination of some of the dangers that we face and that are most likely to occur.  There are many more events that are less likely, but could still destroy the Human Race, such as: a nearby supernova explosion, a gamma ray burst or a flare up of the Sun; just to name a few.  One or more of these may have caused mass extinctions in the distant past, but we don’t have a way to judge when such events might have occurred or when they might happen again.  The most disturbing and most likely possibility is that we might be the instrument of our own demise.  By inhabiting outer space and other worlds, maybe we can save ourselves from ourselves.

          One of the greatest dangers we face that is of our own creation is that of pollution.  If the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere can be considered pollution as a by product of the burning of fossil fuels, then Global Warming is a pollution problem.  If as many have predicted, Global Warming causes sea levels to rise, we could over time loose one quarter to one third of our present living land area.  The very areas where most of Earth’s population lives are the areas that will be lost first.  With millions of people driven from their homes, we could easily be fighting wars over food, living space and other basic human needs.  When things get this bad we will not have the resources to do what we should be doing now – colonizing space and the system’s planets and moons.

          Global Warming is not the only type of pollution, though it may be the most pressing.  We have also created vast polluted areas related to the mining, refining and manufacturing of many goods and services.  The generation of electrical energy is probably the largest contributor to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.  Then there are the millions of pounds of nuclear waste that have accumulated because we have no proven safe way to dispose of it.  We can save the Earth from all this pollution by moving into space, building habitats in space and colonies on the Moon, planets and asteroids.  We begin by mining near earth asteroids and the Moon.  Using materials thus obtained to manufacture the equipment to build huge solar power satellites to beam power back to Earth to wherever it is needed.  We would be removing the major causes of pollution to land and atmosphere to outer space where it can be more easily managed.

          Related to the use of resources from space to solve pollution problems is the question of whether there is a developing crisis of depletion of natural resources on Earth.  Some would say that the oil crisis in the Summer of 2008 is a prime example of such a depletion of resources.  Many experts believe that we have reached the peak production possible and that we will not be able to find new sources of oil fast enough to keep production from decreasing over time.  If we can build solar power satellites in space and beam back to earth clean non polluting energy, we can move away from a fossil fuel economy forever. 

          There are many other natural resources without which it would be difficult if not impossible to maintain our present level of civilization much less advance to a higher level.  Several of these are grouped into what are called the rare earth metals.  Rare earths are used in many chemical processes as catalysts that would be extremely expensive or impossible without them.  Some are also used in electric motors and batteries for hybrid and electric cars( ).  The rare earths are not really rare as a function of their abundance in the Earth’s crust, but are very much so in concentrations that can be mined.  Known supplies of some of these resources will last for only another 15 – 20 years.  How then can we move to an electric economy powered by solar energy to the degree necessary for our future needs?  John S. Lewis gives us the answer in his book Mining the Sky: Untold Riches from the Asteroids, Comets, and Planets.  He  estimates the economic value of one small M-type asteroid 3554 Amun at $20 trillion dollars, $8 trillion worth of iron and nickel, $6 trillion worth of cobalt, and about $6 trillion in platinum-group metals(rare earth metals).  "As we enter the 21st century, humankind must deal with the energy crisis, the depletion of natural resources and the pollution of the earth.  The solution to all these problems lies beyond the earth by tapping the vast resources of the solar system, in particular the Moon and asteroids, as a source of materials and the sun as a source of power, which will also remove to outer space some of the major sources of pollution.  Uncountable dollars worth of metals, fuels, and life-sustaining substances await in nearby space.  Vast amounts of these important substances are locked away--for now--in the asteroids, comets, moons and planets of our own solar system.  The abundant resources of the solar system, including effectively limitless solar energy, could support a vast civilization of 1016 people"; that's over a million times our present population.  John S. Lewis argues in his book Mining The Sky that the "shortage of resources is an illusion born of ignorance." 

Posted by jplspace at 3:12 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 8 September 2009 9:49 PM EDT
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Thursday, 30 July 2009
Space Elevator Conference Press Release
"Stairway to the Stars" Space Elevator Conference 2009 Set To Open August 13 Redmond, WA.  Scientists, researchers and space enthusiasts from throughout the world will gather on the Microsoft campus August 13-16 for Space Elevator Conference 2009, an exploration of the technical, legal and social issues and challenges of building an Elevator to Space. A variety of events are planned for the public, as well as the scientific community, on this revolutionary way to send cargo and humans into space. Events include:

* A four-day technical conference discussing the issues and
   challenges of constructing an Elevator to Space
* Space Elevator 101, a half-day public information event
   geared towards the layperson
* A special showing of the film
   "Orphans of Apollo"
* The NASA Centennial Challenge Strong Tethers Competition,
   for a possible purse prize of up to $2 million

Space Elevator Conference 2009 will kick off on Wednesday, August 12 with a free Space Elevator overview presentation and Q & A session open to the public at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Wash. Space Elevator Conference 2009 is sponsored by the Space Engineering and Science Institute (SESI), JPL Space Foundation and Microsoft Corporation. Dates are as follows:

* Space Elevator overview presentation: Wednesday, August
   12, 7-8:30PM
* Technical conference: August 13-16, 7AM-8:30PM Thursday
   through Saturday, and 7AM-6PM on Sunday
* NASA Centennial Challenge Strong Tether Competition: Friday
   August 14, 9:30-11AM
* "Orphans of Apollo": Friday, August 14, 7-8:30PM
* Space Elevator 101: Saturday, August 15, 9AM-1PM and

Pricing for the technical conference is $300 in advance and $375 after August 1 for the full four days, including breakfast and lunch daily. Student pricing as well as one- and two-day passes to the technical conference are also available. The NASA Centennial Challenge Strong Tether Competition is open to conference attendees only and is included in the price of registration. Admission to Space Elevator 101 is $40 in advance for 1-4 people or $50 at the door. Ticket prices for "Orphans of Apollo" are $10 per person. To register online or to purchase advance tickets, please visit

#### Contacts: Michael Laine, Belinda Young ####
Space Elevator Conference BYPR
Telephone: 360-863-1417 Telephone: 206-932-3145,

Copyright © Space Elevator Conference
If you have a comment, please Contact us..
If you have been hoping that someone would find an affordable, reliable and save way to access space and would like to show your support for these efforts at no cost to you, please check out the many ways that you can help at:  www.JPLSpaceFoundation.Org/id21.html

Posted by jplspace at 12:47 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 30 July 2009 12:54 PM EDT
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Friday, 10 July 2009


The official newsletter of the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC)


Our mission statement:
"... ISEC promotes the development, construction and operation of a space elevator as a revolutionary and efficient way to space for all humanity ..."

The ISEC e-Newsletter - Issue #1 - July, 2009


The Space Elevator Games are ON!


The Spaceward Foundation and NASA have announced that the Space Elevator Games Climber / Power-Beaming competition has been scheduled for August 5-7 at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

From the Press Release: "We are thrilled to be working with the people at NASA HQ and Dryden” said Ben Shelef, Founder of the Spaceward Foundation, host of the Space Elevator games. 'NASA is a symbol of mankind's quest to explore space and Dryden is the symbol of beyond-cutting-edge technology development. The people and atmosphere here are everything the ‘Right Stuff' was all about. This year's challenges will feature several teams from the US and Canada competing for $2,000,000 of prize money, and it promises to be a spectacular race. Most of the teams competing this year are veterans of past competitions and they are now the experts in this field.'"

The official website for these games is  Because this competition will not be open to the public (due to the secure facility where it is being held), it will be televised on NASA TV and via a webcast at the official website.  In addition, the official website will show interviews, team standings, blog posts from the competition, clips from previous year's competitions, etc. - in short, everything you need to stay on top of the Games.

Ben Shelef, the CEO of the Spaceward Foundation (host of the Space Elevator Games), gives us this latest update:

  "The latest and greatest in Space Elevator gamesland!

We're almost, almost, almost there. For those of you not following the Games blog (, the Power Beaming challenge is scheduled for August 5 through 7, (Wed – Fri) coupled with a Space Elevator symposium on site on Tuesday, August 4. The Tether Strength challenge will be held on Aug 13th at the Space Elevator conference in Redmond, Washington.

The last few weeks have been filled with excitement as we ramped up testing both at Dryden and at individual team facilities. Scroll down the blog and you'll see images from testing at LaserMotive's digs in Seattle (yum!) and further back the results of Kansas City Space Pirates' test runs at the lakebed at Dryden.

We flew the helicopter/tether configuration, but didn't get to finish the test 100% due to a mechanical problem, and so have to re-fly the tests. In addition, we'll have another qualification window for laser testing – all will happen between July 21 and July 24. This will be the chance to see what USST (winner of all previous Games) have up their sleeves. (Due to a string of issues, they could not get qualified last time, having driven from and back to Saskatchewan basically for nothing - though we did all get a chance to admire the paint job on their truck!

Once we're through this set of tests, it is full steam ahead for the Games – there will be very little at the Games that we didn't test previously, so we'll have a high degree of confidence that things will go as planned and the teams will see the fruits of their labor – between 2 and 4 years in the making!

More soon!"

You can read the complete Spaceward press release here (note that the dates of the competition have changed since the press release date.  Check the official website of the Games for the latest information and schedule).

What is ISEC?

The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is the result of a coming-together of leading figures and organizations who have worked long and hard over many years to promote the concept of a Space Elevator.  With organizational members in the United States, Europe and Japan and individual members from around the world, ISEC's goal is nothing less than to get a Space Elevator built.

From our bylaws:

"... ISEC promotes the development, construction and operation of a space elevator as a revolutionary and efficient way to space for all humanity ..."

Our plan of action is based on four pillars: Technology, Law, Business, and Outreach:

Each of the pillars is headed by a pillar lead, who functions much like a university's department head. Their job is to start initiatives (projects), pursue collaborations, guide project leads and prospective project leads in pursuing their individual projects, and generally increase the activity level of their pillar.

If you agree with us that building a Space Elevator should be a priority for all of us and you would like to help make this happen, please Join Us!  Benefits include e-newsletters (such as this one), an e-magazine and e-journal and other items listed on our sign-up page.

Come and join us and help make the future happen!

Why should you join ISEC?

#5] You want to know where your mother's yarn has gone.
#4] Bragging rights – be the first on your block to be a card carrying member
#3] Great Pick-up lines at Cocktail Party
#2] Develops your unassailable credibility as a rocket scientist
#1] Self Satisfaction at furthering space exploration – Actually you ARE!

(*With thanks to Peter Swan and apologies to Mr. Letterman...)

The Japan Space Elevator Games

Japan, too, is holding their version of the Space Elevator Games.  This is their first-ever competition and is entitled the Japan Space Elevator & Technical Competition (JSETEC) - "Climb me to the moon".

This competition will be held on Saturday, August 8th, and Sunday, August 9th at Nihon University in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.  For more details, you can visit their website at

The 2009 Space Elevator Conference

The 2009 Space Elevator Conference will be held from Thursday, August 13th through Sunday, August 16th, at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington.  A full and varied set of activities are planned; everything from "Family Day", where the concept of a Space Elevator is presented to families and others who may be new to the idea, to Roadmap workshops to in-depth presentations on the state of the various technologies necessary to build a Space Elevator.  Corporate sponsors so far include the Space Engineering and Science Institute (SESI), the JPL Space Foundation and the Microsoft corporation.

The official conference website is and here you can stay current with the latest conference developments and  register to participate or attend.  We hope to see you there!

EuroSpaceward to hold its third annual conference in December

On December 5th and 6th, 2009, EuroSpaceward will host it's 3rd International Conference on the Space Elevator, CNT (carbon nanotube) Tether design & Lunar industrialization challenges.  More details on this conference will be coming soon.  Visit the EuroSpaceward website to register.

Visit ISEC on the Web!

Visit our website at  There you can join learn more about what is happening in the Space Elevator community and what is being done to advance the concept of a Space Elevator.  Please consider joining ISEC - we foster research and sponsor Space Elevator-related causes, but to do so takes money.  Your contributions are crucial to our success.  Thank you!

If this newsletter has been forwarded to you, you can also sign up to be on our mailing list so you don't miss a thing!



Posted by jplspace at 12:20 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 10 July 2009 12:24 PM EDT
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Monday, 16 February 2009
Adopt A Foundation
Mood:  spacey
Topic: Adopt JPLSpaceFoundation
The JPL Space Foundation seeks to be adopted by any individual, class, school, or school system that would like their students to have a direct and active role in the development and direction of Mankinds last frontier - Space Exploration. Anyone involved in the education of children knows that the development of confidence and self-esteem is difficult. Students often feel that they are not able to do anything that really matters in the real world. Adopting the foundation can change this feeling because students will be able to help support the foundation by raising money through their everyday activities. Most elementary school students and older are computer literate enough to search the web for information and this is how they can help.

If students visit our website at: and click on the banner at the top of the page, they will be taken to the GoodSearch home page where they can download the GoodSearch "search bar". When they use the search bar to look up information on the web, Yahoo will pay GoodSearch two cents, who will then donate one cent to the foundation. They also have a GoodShop button, which when clicked will show a list of several hundred online stores from which parents can shop. Each store will then donate from 0.5 - 7.5% of the purchase price to the foundation. The cost of the items bought will be the same as it would have been if they had gone to the store directly. Students can keep up with the progress of donations by visiting the GoodSearch site and clicking the "Amount Raised" button. The number of searches are updated in real time and donations from shopping on a weekly basis.

Teachers may use the foundation wedsite as an educational resource for all matters related to space, space exploration and astronomy. The home page will always contain information about the current projects that we are supporting so that students can see where the money raised from their efforts will be spent. Presently, the home page deals with the Space Elevator with links to information that explains what the space elevator is, how it will work and the state of research in the development of the elevator. There is also a "Space and Astronomy Page" with links to almost everything related to space exploration, NASA missions, the Solar System and understanding the Universe.

Our mission involves not only supporting research but also supporting educational programs that promote greater understanding of Science, Space and Astronomy. To provide educational content as it relates to Space and Space travel we are curating a Space and Technology Channel on called "jplspace".  Nibipedia has welded the millions of videos on Youtube to the millions of text articles in Wikipedia.  Students not only learn by watching and reading, Teachers can also allow students to add their own content so that they not only learn but also teach.

The greatest educational benefit will be derived by students who discover that their efforts can make a real difference in not only their own education but also in an area that is becoming increasingly important to mankind-Space Exploration.

Posted by jplspace at 6:10 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 17 February 2009 1:33 PM EST
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Monday, 22 December 2008
ISEC Press Release

Leading Players in the Space Elevator Movement Join Together to Form New International Consortium

New Independent Group to Foster Global Research, Develop International Standards and Serve as a Worldwide Information Exchange on the Space Elevator

Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. (December 22, 2008) – A coalition of leaders in the Space Elevator movement today announced the formation of The International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), a new independent group designed to promote standards and foster research relating to the construction of an Elevator to Space at the global level.

Founding members of ISEC include the Spaceward Foundation, the Space Elevator Reference, the Space Elevator Blog, EuroSpaceward and the Japan Space Elevator Association.  Heading the new organization is Ted Semon of the Space Elevator Blog, who will serve as president.

According to the Consortium, the goal of ISEC is to promote the development, construction and operation of the Space Elevator as a revolutionary and efficient way to space for all humanity.  The group will accomplish this through these key areas:

- Development of a unified plan and roadmap for the Space Elevator and the coordinated assignment of specific research topics
- Funding of research on technologies relevant to the Space Elevator
- Development of the international legal framework necessary for the operation of the Space Elevator
- Global public outreach and central information exchange on Space Elevator activities

The Space Elevator is a project whose time has come,” said Semon.  “With the challenges facing today’s global economy, it is clear that new industries and new ideas are needed to help our planet in the 21st Century.  The Space Elevator can be a key positive contributor, from providing inexpensive nanotechnology material science breakthroughs that will make your car stronger and lighter, to the creation of new industries that offer opportunities for investment and job creation.  The International Space Elevator Consortium devoted to its development can make this happen.”

ISEC will be unveiling additional plans and details in the upcoming weeks, including a board of directors, technical journals, university and industry relationships, research opportunities and scholarships.  Memberships will be available on the individual, corporate, academic and governmental levels.

Headquartered in the greater Los Angeles area, center of the aerospace industry, the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) is a non-profit organization devoted to the research and construction of an Elevator to Space.  For more information please visit

For more information please contact:

Ted Semon
ted [at]

Belinda Young
byoung [at]

Posted by jplspace at 2:38 PM EST
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Saturday, 15 November 2008
From Ted Semon at The Space Elevator Blog

Introducing the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC)

November 15th, 2008

“ISEC promotes the development, construction and operation of a space elevator as a revolutionary and efficient way to space for all humanity”

This is the mission statement of the newly formed International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), an organization created to encourage the growing international interest and momentum towards building a Space Elevator.  Several attendees at the recent Space Elevator Conference in Seattle talked about pooling their efforts to get such an effort underway and, after a false start or two, we’ve now succeeded in forming this Consortium.

We have incorporated as a non-profit corporation in the State of California and are now working on establishing our Federal 501c3 status (and for those of you who would like to point out how difficult this is, I’d just like to say that IRS Form 1023 and I are old friends :) ).

Several groups have joined together in this effort; The Spaceward Foundation, The Japan Space Elevator Association, EuroSpaceward, The Space Elevator Reference and this Space Elevator Blog.  In addition to these groups, several other individuals (both long-timers in the Space Elevator community and newcomers from the Seattle conference) have joined this Consortium.

Yours truly has been chosen as the President of this organization; an honor which I find very humbling and exciting at the same time.  I have lots of plans to aggressively grow this organization and make no mistake about it; our goal is nothing less than to get a Space Elevator built.

You will be hearing much, much more about this organization in the near future so stay tuned.  In the meantime, I encourage you to head to the ISEC website and sign up for our newsletter so you can stay current with all of our efforts.

Posted by jplspace at 9:27 AM EST
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Monday, 4 August 2008
Raising Money For Space Activities

The recent Space Elevator Conference (July 18, 19, & 20) was a huge success in the minds of the attendees.  The inclusion of a Japanese group added an international flavor and a new slant on what the elevator should look like.  See for more information.

Raising money for the conferences and other space activities remains a challenge.  One new idea that came out of the conference was that of using GoodSearch to allow any and all space enthuaist to help raise money.  The idea was presented by the JPL Space Foundation who  believe that there are thousands, if not millions of space enthusiasts who share our dream of finding an affordable, reliable and safe access to space and would help make affordable access to space a reality if only they could find a way. We think we have found a way that we all can do something to help raise money. There is a new search engine called Good Search which is powered by Yahoo that will contribute one cent to a charity of your choice every time you use Good Search to look up anything on the web. All you need do is go to: and click the Good Search Banner and download the Good Search "search bar" when you get to their site. Choose JPL Space Foundation as your Charity, if it doesn’t show up automatically and then surf the web as usual using Good Search. All proceeds will be used to support research for the Space Elevator and any other technology that will allow us to reach space at an affordable cost.

Also, if you shop on-line a good deal, just click the Good Search logo on the search bar and then the Good Shop link and again choose JPL Space Foundation as your charity and you can shop from Amazon to Sears to Wal-Mart and many others. A percentage of your purchase will go to support the Foundation. I know a few percent or a few cents per person isn't much, but all of us together and all our friends that might like to help can make a big difference over time. It’s not what we do that matters, but how many of us that do it.

I think there are many people who would love to learn of a way they could help advance our efforts to explore space on a faster schedule.

1000 people at 2 clicks/day equals from $7000-$25,000 per year including shopping.

John Lee

JPL Space Foundation

Posted by jplspace at 12:46 PM EDT
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