So Crazy They Just Might Work


From the Washington Post (via no-reg Houston Chronicle) comes a quick report on some things cooking with NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts, a program to provide some financial support to experimental space-based ideas from outside NASA's own staff. Featured most prominently in the piece is the "space elevator"–a tether hanging down to Earth from a satellite in geosynchronous orbit with which to ferry materials and people into space. (That idea first took the science fiction world in 1979, with simultaneous novels based on the idea by Arthur C. Clarke and Charles Sheffield.) Jerome Pearson, the man who got the NASA money for researching this, is also keen on building them from the Moon to orbit as well, possibly to "lift carts full of lunar "regolith"–the coarse lunar sand in which Neil Armstrong left his footprints 35 years ago–to be ferried into Earth orbit for use as cheap radiation insulation in spaceships, space hotels and space stations."

Also getting some government cheese through this program in 2004 were

projects to genetically alter plants so they can prosper on Mars; to use sunlight to power a space-based laser that lunar explorers and passing spaceships can use as a power source; to make a superconducting magnetic field to shield astronauts from radiation; and to build a buoyancy-driven glider to fly in thick, "extreme" atmospheres such as those of Venus or Saturn's moon, Titan.

The government support part of these endeavors is certainly questionable (the Institute funds research to the tune of $3 million a year); the fascinating and revolutionary steps in human evolution part, not so much.