Sir Arthur C. Clarke : 90 Orbits Around the Sun

I shed a tear as I read the obituary of Sir Arthur C. Clarke yesterday. He regaled us with science fiction stories based on fantastic ideas of our future, both on and off the planet. He provided scientific commentary to us during the exciting days of Apollo moon missions, alongside Walter Cronkite. And he has given us many scientific ideas which have become realities like communication satellites, geosynchronous orbits and the space station. Sir Arthur also recently lent his support to the Google Lunar X-Prize competition.

When personal computers would barely fit in your living room let alone on your desk and the Internet was known only to a handful of DARPA researchers as ARPANET, I read a passage in 2001:A Space Odyssey that has stuck with me for over 30 years. It wasn’t even part of the story. It was a short note at the end of the book that said “The entire manuscript for this book was sent from Sri Lanka to my publisher in New York City on a single 5-1/4 inch floppy disk.” At that moment, I realized that if I one day become a writer, I could live and work from anywhere in the world. Little did I know what was to come … but I’ll bet Sir Arthur did.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke left us with three wishes:

“I would like to see some evidence of extra-terrestrial life.”
“I would like to see us kick our addiction to oil and adopt clean energy sources.”
“I dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka.”

He ends his 90th Birthday Reflections video with this quote from Rudyard Kipling:

The Appeal

If I have given you delight
By aught that I have done,
Let me lie quiet in that night
Which shall be yours anon:

And for that little, little span
The dead are borne in mind
Seek not to question other than
The books I leave behind.

Rudyard Kipling, 1939

Guy Pignolet on Space Solar Power

Guy Pignolet from the Sunsat Energy Council gave an interesting presentation about Space Solar Power on 7 February 2008 at a recent LIFT08 Conference.

To see the presentation on the LIFT08 Conference website, click here: Space Solar Power by Guy Pignolet

Debate Topic – Alternative Energy

The National Federation of State High School Associations – Speech, Debate and Theatre Association (NFHS SDTA) has announced Alternative Energy as the 2008-2009 debate topic. One of the suggested debate resolutions is:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase alternative energy incentives in the United States.

This is an excellent opportunity for the current generation of students to become aware of and involved in advocacy for space-based solar power. The students of today have much to gain from the development and deployment of space-based solar power since the majority of them will still be alive near the end of the 21st century!

Space-based solar power would make an excellent topic for a high school debate, research paper of perhaps even a science fair project. Whatever the forum, the more folks that learn about the potential for space-based solar power, the more likely that our political and private sector leaders will become aware of it and influence our energy future as a result.

The NFHS SDTA debate topic paper “The Crisis in Energy: Can the United States Live with an Insatiable Thirst for More Fossil Fuels?” outlines the many aspects of energy independence and alternative energies very well, however it overlooks the concept of space-based solar power. I will attempt to contact the authors and provide them with resources to learn more about space-based solar power.

A Brief Introduction to Space-Based Solar Power

The idea of space-based solar power (SBSP), the generation of unlimited electricity from solar power with orbiting collectors and beaming the energy back to earth for distribution and use, has been around since 1968. Due to low fossil fuel costs and high per-payload-pound launch costs at the time, the idea was not financially feasible. The world has changed significantly since then.

From an open source, internet-based collaborative forum and the collective efforts of over 170 contributors, The USG National Security Space Office has issued a 75 page Phase 0 Architecture Feasibility Study titled “Space-Based Solar Power as an Opportunity for Strategic Security”. This study states that “technological challenges are closing rapidly and the business case for creating SBSP is improving with each passing year.”

Today, there are many drivers for the development of renewable (or practically unlimited) energy sources, with national defense, rampant over-population of the planet, quality of life for future generations and concern for the environment all near the top of the list. Yet we seem content to burn the fuels we can gather from our surroundings, much like our ancestral cave-dwellers did for tens of thousands of years before “modern” man’s arrival.

There are links to much more information about Space-Based Solar Power on the Learn More page. Once you have read about this exciting and potentially game-changing technology, go to the Get the Word Out page for suggestions on who to contact and links to assist. If you don’t want to start with a blank e-mail, use some of the text from the Starter Messages page to get started.

However you decide to do it, spread the word about Space-Based Solar Power. Your voice can make a difference for the future of our families … and for our planet.