More good stuff on the open frontiers – 8/26

Just like the wild west in the late 1800s, the frontiers of private space exploration, energy and technology are wide open. Here are a few of the articles that stretched my understanding of this amazing world we live in. A brief comment on each.


8/21 – Wall Street Journal – Mining Asteroids and Exploiting the New Space Economy – Dr. K. Dean Larson – Asteroids contain water, titanium, iron, platinum, and lots of other resources needed to build things and sustain life in space. What’s the big deal?

Why asteroids? Because it currently costs several thousand dollars per pound to put anything from Earth into low-earth orbit. Asteroids are probably made of all the ingredients necessary to live in space, including water.

It would save huge amounts of money to pull water and other resources off asteroids to build things instead of lifting all those resources up from the earth.

A few companies, like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are on a long-term plan to mine asteroids.

One of many challenges is that the law is murky. A solution is in Congress in the form of a law that would make working with asteroids similar to fishing: the catch belongs to who got it and others can’t interfere with their effort.

Faster please.

8/22 – Daily Bulletin – NASA may choose SpaceX as contractor for future manned space flight projects – NASA has already provided $1.5B of startup funding for SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada to develop private space flight capability. Article says NASA may provide an additional $785M in the next few weeks to one or more of the companies to develop a capsule to ferry astronauts to and from space. We lost that ability when the shuttle shut down so we have to buy rides on Russian launches at $76M per seat. Also, Russia has threatened to stop selling engines to United Launch Alliance, which would shut down all US heavy lift launches. So, it is well past time to develop our own capability again. Faster please.

Progress is not a straight line up – 8/22 – Daily Bulletin – SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight in Texas – A SpaceX three engine Falcon 9R rocket blew itself up after detecting an anomaly during a test flight. Keep going!


Travel time in 1800s. When William Sherman was a Lieutenant, he transferred from Pennsylvania to California. He left New York on the U.S.S. Lexington, which was loaded with cannon. That meant the cargo was too heavy to portage across the Isthmus of Panama, so the ship went via Cape Hope. The journey took 6 months:

The Lexington finally glided into Monterey on January 26, 1847, after 198 days at sea.

O’Connell, Robert L. (2014-07-01). Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman (Kindle Locations 667-668). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Police wear of body cameras – With citizens everywhere having a camera to record interactions, police departments are starting to step up with cameras worn by officers. An experiment in a city just a bit east of where I lived has shown the value, for everyone.

8/15 – Wall Street Journal – More Officers Wearing Body Cameras – Check out these stats:

In the Southern California city of Rialto, the number of citizen complaints against police dropped from 24 to 3 in the first year that the patrol officers began wearing cameras in 2012. Use-of-force incidents plummeted from 61 to 25 during the same period.

The reason cited by several researchers quoted in the article is that everybody behaves better when they know they are on camera. Those are the kind of good results that tech can produce. Everyone is better off – citizens, police officers, and the general public.


8/20 – Dickinson Press – Wind energy project in north-central N.D. gets final go-ahead – The Public Service Commission gave final approval to a 66 turbine wind farm covering 122 square miles on the north side of Rolla, ND, which is itself almost on the Canadian border. The 2008 letter of intent estimated costs at $300M but the current owner won’t give a cost estimate because it is a trade secret. Costs have dropped substantially since 2008 so the total price tag will be much lower.  Project was delayed because no buyer could be found for a project that didn’t have transmissions lines. The slice-and-dicer project is called Border Winds and will have a rated capacity of 150 MW.

8/22 – The Feed – Fuzzy Math Can’t Hide Shale Boom’s Green Credentials – Apparently there is a research study out there that falsely claims our increased use of natural gas to replace coal has increased CO2 output. That concept should fail on its face, but apparently someone is actually making that claim.  For future reference, this article gives a few details of the cooked numbers in the study. It also links to a more detailed report that gives far more explanation. One example: to reach that conclusion, the underlying analysis includes coal that is exported from the US as a part of CO2 produced inside the US. Clever. Invalid and false, but clever.

I agree wholeheartedly with this conclusion:

One day, with the right technologies, we’ll be able to power society without relying on fossil fuels, but we’re not there yet. Until then, natural gas is one of our best options, and greens would do well to recognize the fracking boom for what it is: good news.

One day we will stop using fossil fuels. We will stop pulling coal, gas, oil, and uranium out of the ground when something abundant, better, cleaner, and cheaper comes along.

I hope that happens soon. Until then? Frack away.

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