Kickstarting the Future

Kickstarting the Future

We are living in the era of Kickstarter! Crowd funding is taking off for projects around the world and connecting people with ideas.  With micro-funding, masses of everyday people, giving small amounts of cash can fund innovations in areas as diverse as the arts, science and engineering.  I participated in the Kickstarter for Planetary Resource’s Arkyd telescope, which reached a total of over $1.5M.  As I am typing this the BLEduino Kickstarter just ended; $75,000 was raised for the $15,000 goal of creating a mini Arduino with built in Bluetooth 4.0. University of Michigan’s Project to build a prototype plasma thruster for interplanetary CubeSats is 15 days into its funding campaign and has raised 20% of their $200,000 goal.

In exchange for supporting these projects, not only do the donors get to take an active financial hand in advancing a project they care about, there are often physical rewards. Arkyd will be displaying my image in space and taking a photo. I also get a full year membership to the Planetary Society,  a T-shirt and a mission patch for $139.  For my $90 dollars donated to UofM’s CubeSat initiative, I’m getting thank you note laser etched on a solar cell, team T-shirt, mission patch and pen. BLEduino will be shipping me the very project I backed this November for my $34 contribution.

This emerging online system isn’t just for charity, it’s for making projects come to life.

COSMOS: Speaking of projects coming to life, It was just announced that Neil deGrasse Tyson will be hosting the reboot of Carl Sagan’s classic series Cosmos, on FOX. Enjoy the trailer.

ELON: PJ Media has put together a fun little video recapping SpaceX’s triumphs the last few years, and giving Elon Musk another chance to make the case for Mars.

The Knights of Afghanistan

Just another day in Afghanistan, fighting dragons and repairing my government issue chain mail. Check out the above video of these two historical reenactors. We have a lot of free time to develop hobbies out here. Some of us build things, or paint miniatures. So smoke cigars every night and a few play D&D. Then you have guys like this who take their playtime seriously. I have to hand it to these guys, they had some great showmanship for two people wrapped in leather and steel in 110 degree heat hitting each other with bats. Bravo.

TIME: Speaking of history, fighting and time in general, I09 had a great short article detailing “The first Time War“. It did exist, in the 16th century, in fact.

SONIC: What does it sound like to take the original 1963 Doctor Who theme and slow it down to a whopping 20 min. Its a sonic experience you have to hear to believe.

NASA:  With all the space shuttles in museums, NASA is dead, right? Wrong! Huffington Post blogger, Lauren Lyons is doing her part to educate the masses with her blogpost “5 Popular Misconception About NASA” Did you know that public opinion polls show Americans believe that we spend 20% of the national budget on NASA? Or that NASA is part of the Department of Defense? Get the facts by clicking the links above.

With only 38 days left in theater, I am getting really excited about coming home.



Sometimes, scientific truth can be so simple and beautiful that it is best represented as art itself. The feature photo, which is soon to become your desktop background, is one of those pieces of art; the periodic table of elements as a ovoid chart of similar elemental qualities from a Time Magazine article in 1947 . Working in space outreach, I get to see and create a lot of art designed to inform and inspire the exploration of our universe. I think this blog is the perfect place to share these one of a kind pieces.

LEGOS: Speaking of one of a kind pieces, I’d like to show you this amazing video of AmputeeOT building a prosthetic leg from Legos. As the video description states, it was done on a dare from one of her co-works. That will teach them to dare her! Go AmputeeOT! Check out her other videos and awesome tattoos on her YouTube channel.

CLASSICAL MUSIC: Keeping on our art theme, lets take a jaunt into the realm of classical music and bar graphs, with this absolutely mind grabbing visual representation of the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony. Let me know if everything keeps sliding to the left when the video is over. If you enjoy it there is a lot more on Smalin’s channel, including the entirety of the 9th.

MORE UP GOER FIVE: Some of you may remember XKCD’s Up Goer Five comic. If not, here it is below. The reason I showed you this is to introduce a blog post by Bill Dunford on the Planetary Society’s website. In this blog you will find a video tribute to the Saturn Cassini mission done in the Up Goer Five style. It really is worth your time and I can’t wait to show it to my own little one.

Up Goer Five

If you made it all the way to the bottom, you deserve a prize. Here is the song of the week, Deadmau5’s Faxing Berlin, arguably the song that started it all.

Business and Science, The Future of SEDS

When you think of the kind of students a space club recruits, you probably imagine membership that is heavy on STEM, fields like engineers and geologists, astronomers and rocket scientists. If you looked at the make-up of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, for the most part you would be right. In fact, what SEDS needs more than ever is a heavy dose of business majors, pre-law undergraduates and aspiring marketing professionals.

Why does SEDS need students from Sandra Day O’Connor, W. P. Carey and the Herberger institute? Isn’t SEDS all about inspiring the scientists and engineers, the people who will develop the technology that reaches beyond Earth? We all know the reason we don’t have a base on the Moon or a colony on Mars is because of a lack of advanced technology. Or is it?

Today every student walks around with a computer more advanced than what Buzz and Neil had in their capsule. NASA has had schematics for nuclear powered engines, engines that could take astronauts to Mars in a matter of months, since the 70’s. The life support systems onboard the ISS today would still be recognizable to the engineers of Apollo. A lack of technology is not holding us back.

English: President Barack Obama tours SpaceX l...

English: President Barack Obama tours SpaceX launch pad with CEO Elon Musk, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The true log-jam holding back a flood of space development and exploration is economics. Elon Musk , founder of SpaceX, didn’t build a rocket company from the ground up because he had a revolutionary engine. What he had was a revolutionary business model, that instead of nestling subcontracts within subcontracts for rocket parts like Boeing and Lockheed, he would build everything in house. With this economic model his company ran so lean that in just a few short years he beat industry giants for NASA contracts so old they could have been called fossils.

Peter Diamandsis, who made his wealth as an Intel entrepreneur, understood humanity would never step beyond low earth orbit without an economic incentive. With the X-Prize Foundation he uses cash rewards to encourage competition in achieving technological goals such as landing a rover on the Moon and developing a handheld medical device that can diagnose medical issues like a live doctor. His company, Planetary Resources, is working to establish water and fuel depots from near Earth orbit asteroids, while also recovering their vast platinum group mineral wealth.

Each of these novel technologies, each of these steps into space, is wrapped in a business plan, marketed to the public or angel investors, and has teams of lawyers opening the frozen realms of space law. We need lawyers, who dream of space development, working to change restrictive laws that make private space ventures prohibitive. We need accountants and business people to take our engineering or science ideas and make them profitable and viable. We need marketing gurus to design our kickstarters and hunt out angel investors to fund our enterprises. In the end, we must boldly go where no SEDS-er has gone before, into the schools of law and business to seek out professionals and undergraduates passionate about the final frontier.


Saturn on Earth

I’m going to try a new format for this blog, a weekly gathering of  articles, music, stories and events. There is always content I feel I don’t get to share, or archive, content that really effects me every week, and I want to share it with you and my future self, digital time capsule style. One day, my son may even read this. I know I would read my father’s and grandfather’s if they had this technology.

Today is one month and 22 days till I leave my job here in Kabul, Afghanistan working for the CJIATF 435. I’m so excited to be on the precipice of returning home and building a new life in the East Valley of Phoenix. I have met a wonderful person out here in Afghanistan, and I’m looking forward to sharing this readjustment period together and the possibility of more. I have been looking at homes in East and South Phoenix for several weeks now with my family, trying to find a place to lay my head and provide a roof for my son and dogs. I think we are getting close to finding a decent home in my price range that will suit me for the next decade or more. Be sure, that when I get that good news that the sale has gone through, you will all hear about it across the InterWebTubes (TM).

I would rather sail the rings, but the lack of air would be a problem for my lungs.

SATURN: So lets start off the feature photo from an article on The Planetary Society’s website. Click here to see what the sky on Earth would look like with Saturn’s rings. Also, in related news ASU-SEDS is celebrating the announcement that Bill Nye will be the keynote speaker at this year’s SpaceVision hosted in Tempe. I really cant wait to hit the ground in Phoenix and help get that up and running.

PHYSICS: You guys may have noticed that every Tuesday I blow up your feeds with links to and quotes from XKCD‘s “What if” blag. I’m going to try to mitigate that webclogging spam by containing my excitement here. So this week we ask, What place on Earth would allow you to freefall the longest by jumping off it? What about using a squirrel suit?

VIDEO GAMES: Civilization 5 is the only game I play consistently these days.  The replay value is off the charts, its incredibly addictive, plus I feel like I’m learning something about history and strategy. So when I came across Russ Pitts’ interview with the crew at Firaxis I had to share it with all of you who stay up into the wee hours of the morning. “Just one more turn!” 

FUSION RESEARCH: We are not supposed to call it cold fusion anymore, but apparently the last seam on the Wendelstein X-7 was finished this week and is covered in this article.

NSFW: Science Joke of the Week comes from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and is NSFW 🙂

VIDEO: Let’s close this week up with one of Melody Sheep’s videos, Blue & Beautiful featuring an auto tuned Neil Armstrong.

Do all of it.

I hope you enjoyed that little video. Seriously, that kinda stuff gets me up in the morning. Anyway, time to restart this blog and come out of hibernation. It really feels like my life has been on hold out here in Afghanistan too. My trip to Florida started the thawing of my connections back in Arizona out of stasis. The ASU Lunabot team was participating in NASA’s competition while I was there. I got to hangout at Epcot and Magic Kingdom with April Davis. I helped fund ASU-SEDS High Powered rocket. I’m really ready to go home now. There is so much to do when I get home. Buy a house. Buy a Car. Enroll in my next semester. Fall in love. Raise my Son. Build a Rover, a Rocket, a Tractor. I’m so excited to do all of it.

Sol 117 : Hot cup of tea

Sometimes all you need is a hot cup of tea. Other times the solution to life’s problems is a bit more complicated. Its too damn bad all I got is the tea. Its really good tea though…

I want things in life, same as anyone else. I have career goals and standards of living I aspire to. I have places I want to explore and experiences I want to enjoy. All of my dreams I brush with different strokes, sometimes with paints that do not mix. Even if I have a goal pictured vividly in my mind it’s like I’m trying to paint several pictures on one canvas.

On other, less metaphorical, news, I’m making my room a bit more homely. I have this fantastic red plaid robe for going down the hall to the bathroom, or just lounging.  I’ve got a Kurig beverage maker on my shelf, so I can enjoy a hot cup of earl grey. My morning news is collected by my tablet and my Google Currents app. Rather cozy.