Friday, January 9, 2009

GreatHites # 35

This week we have five stories from:

Guy David
Justin Lowmaster
Norval Joe
Laurence Simon
Jeff Hite

Great Hites 35
Carbon Nanotubes By Guy David
Floor Two Please By Justin Lowmaster
The Space Elevator By Norval Joe
The Space Elevator By Laurence Simon
2016 By Jeffrey Hite free polls


Laurence didn't send the text of his story, so if you want to get his story then you have to listen to the podcast.

Carbon Nanotubes
By: Guy David

The carbon nanotubes stretched up beyond my field of view. I shielded my eyes from the sun and looked way up, marveling at the thin cluster of threads, holding up the space elevator. I was excited. The first elevator to the moon, and I was going to be on it.

Moonbase Hotel, the state of the art in vacationing science. We where to be the first guests, the pioneers, the first space vacationers. We slowly walked towards the elevator. A single elevator pod could hold up to 100 people, and there where 10 of them, one of them the cargo hold. That wasn't much, but it was only the beginning. There was more to come. As I entered the pod with the other guests a tingling feeling risen about my belly. I chuckled in silent surprise. I didn't experience butterflies in my stomach since the high school prom. That was such a long time ago. I'm much older now. I set down and waited with everyone else.

The doors of the pod closed and there was a slight tremor, then the elevator started rising, first gently, then accelerating slowly. The room inside the elevator pod was completely plastic white with purple furniture, not my taste in decor, but it would do for this short journey. Soon, a robo-stewardess appeared and walked between our sits, offering us snacks and drinks. I declined gently, enjoying the view from out the window. I could see for miles away now. Everything looked so tiny, then the signs of civilization faded slowly in the distance as we lifted above the small layer of clouds.

The journey inside the elevator pod lasted a few days, then it slowed down gradually and we landed at the lunar base. We checked out in customs and went to get our luggage. It never came. I went over to find the manager. We all did. It turned out someone forgot to lock the door of the luggage pod. Now it was scattered all over some desert or another. I had nothing there of value and I was determined not to let this ruin my vacation. As it turned out, they had some good shops there at the lunar base and I was able to find replacements for almost everything. Part of me wondered if they haven't left the doors open deliberately so that we would have to go shopping. It didn't matter. Material goods where never that important for me. I checked into my hotel room, took a quick shower and meditated. So began my vacation on a world beyond our world.

Floor Two Please
By: Justin Lowmaster

The first space elevator, also known as a sky hook, had a brilliant record until disaster struck. Several unmanned trips had succeeded without mishap. The elevator works much like any elevator, but it uses a electromagnetic structure, sometimes called 'rail gun technology', to pull an elevator car from the earth's surface to a structure in orbit. This latest trip, starting in the desert of Texas and going up to the New Genesis space station held a cargo of non-perishable supplies and one passenger, one Marcus Vance, one of the designers of the elevator. The elevator nearly was never built because of one main issue with such a project; micro meteors. Tiny space debris normally burns up in the atmosphere, but a space elevator rises high into that atmosphere, making it vulnerable to these debris, whether cosmic or man-made, by being high enough that it could be struck before the debris burned up, compromising structural integrity. With no metal inexpensive enough to withstand micro meteors available, the project was nearly scrapped. Hope came with an invention by the aforementioned Marcus Vance. An intricate and fast acting point-defense system coupled with a sensor grid made to track small objects. He had been working on the two components separately when he read an article on the failing sky hook elevator project. He put his two ideas together and presented it to the designers of the elevator. The financial backers of Vance's projects gave extra funding to the project as well as the elevator project as well, since the success of both would cause a greater chance of profits than any one single project alone. Soon, the elevator and Vance's defense grid were merged into an elevator that was designed to defend itself from space debris with lasers that would deflect or incinerate incoming debris that had a trajectory that would strike the elevator. Because Marcus had saved the project, he was given the option, and the honor, to be the first person to ride the sky hook. Unfortunately, this what when a bug in the latest version of the sensor grid showed itself.

A mistake in the system code caused a section of code to become 'commented out,' or ignored, while being compiled. When the program was updated, that section of code was no longer present. The missing section of code told the sensor grid and defense lasers to ignore the elevator itself when tracking moving objects. Computer simulations had not shown the error because in the simulations the elevator's movement had not been included. As the elevator rose into the air, the defense system began to track it when it moved into the scope of the sensors and lasers. The lasers immediately began trying to disintegrate and deflect the elevator itself, causing structural damage. The elevator operator on the ground, codenamed 'bellhop', saw the lasers firing and shut them down, but it was too late. The damage itself was minor, but as the elevator increased speed, the gravity began to tear the elevator apart. Much of the cargo was pulled from the elevator from pressure and wind as a side wall was torn away. Inside, wearing a space suit, Vance held on for his life. The elevator operator aborted the ascent and lowered the elevator at reduced speeds. High winds and magnetic fields caused some of the falling cargo to strike the elevator's support system, but it was at such low speeds that no damage was caused. As the elevator lowered, Vance lost his grip, but was able to wrap his arms around a beam of the elevator's structure and held on. One of the bones in his arms was fractured and his suit tore, but he was lowered into breathable atmosphere in time and suffered no further injuries.

The elevator car was the only equipment damaged in the disaster, and Vance healed quickly from his injuries. Despite the louder cries from the elevators long-time naysayers, the project is continuing. A more thorough and complete simulation process is now in effect any time a change to any part of the systems programs is changed to prevent further mishaps of this type. Even with this setback, the project is still a bright beacon of hope for those who yearn to explore the far reaches of space.

The Space Elevator
By: Norval Joe

"Third floor, men's lingerie, rubber baby buggy bumpers," Jeremy said as the box began its' climb up the composite ribbons. The three other occupants of the space elevator, white faced and white knuckled, eyed him nervously, not sharing his humor.
Jeremy sat buckled in his safety seat, the one in the north east corner, the same one he had sat in for the last twenty three climbs. He had said his same little joke to himself each of those twenty three climbs as well. This was his first climb with an audience; with passengers.
At the low orbit station Jeremy had found, through casual conversation with the other lift pilots, that he was not the only one who had developed silly rituals for the climbs and descents. Superstition wasn't dead in the days of the space elevator, and anything that would add a little extra luck wasn't going to be scoffed at.
Especially since the failure, last spring, that left the contents of the space elevator spread across the desert. He remembered the scathing headlines in the local and national papers. "Now for humans?" The journalists were asking. Since that accident some of the pilots had even taken up the archaic ritual of praying to a god.
Jeremy kept his luck rituals; his jokes, sitting in the same safety seat every time, eating chicken for dinner the night before the climb. He didn't want to become known as the pilot of the first manned lift to come down.
Ground people didn't really understand, anyway. Space elevators were still new technology. Really, they were still mostly experimental.
He had to sign liability wavers, and 'no fault clauses' just to apply for the program. Heck, his parents, and even his little sister, had to sign affidavits saying that they wouldn't sue for anything, in the event of 'lift failure.'
He remembered, as a child, the space shuttle, Challenger, disaster. His father was stationed at a military base in Hawaii at the time, and Ellison Onizuka, the first Hawaiian astronaut, was on the flight. Jeremy could remember monument of flowers at the Punch Bowl Cemetery, in Honolulu, that was set up in Onizuka's honor.
Would they make such a monument for him if his box crashed?
His stomach lurched and he broke out in a cold sweat. How could he have allowed himself to think that? Had he just jinxed himself? Twenty three climbs and he had never allowed himself to think about death. And now with passengers!
It was their fault. The passengers didn't understand luck. They had never climbed the ribbon before. They hadn't performed any rituals. They were going to bring the lift down and spread bits of their DNA across the desert at the lifts base; theirs and his.
Panic overwhelmed him, pressure was bearing down on his chest, and he struggled for breath against the straps and buckles of the safety seat.
His worst fears were realized when there was a sudden jolt, a hiss of air and the straps holding him to the seat released him to rocket toward the ceiling of the box, in the weightlessness of space.
The door to the lift opened. Jeremy steadied himself with a handhold on the bulkhead. He smiled weakly and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, huddled masses and wretched refuse, welcome to Ellis Island, you're in America,
now," and directed his passengers onto the space station.

Space Elevator
By: Laurence Simon

No Text sent in.

By Jeffrey Hite

"Do you know what this is about?" Jonathan asked one of the other reporters that he didn't know.
"No, but this better be damn good, They managed to convince my boss that I needed to drop all my other stories for this week for this. Hey you are the NPR guy from Florida, I heard a rumor that there were going to be some of the older astronauts here, you know anything about that?"
"No, but I heard that rumor too, maybe they are keeping them away from us until the announcement. they probably know more about what is going on. Then again they could be here and we just can't see them, this place is huge," he said gesturing to the enormous hanger like building they were in. "Hey are you a local?" He turned asking the other reporter but he had wandered off toward the buffet table. "This is damned odd," Jonathan mumbled to himself. Half a dozen reporters in a huge hanger like facility, that no one had heard of in the middle of Colorado farm country. An invitation with plane ticket, hotel and rental car all paid for by a company, SOL 586, that no one had ever heard of to make some big announcement that no one had a clue about. The only information was that it was a big break through in space exploration, and the hint that former astronauts would be there to comment on the announcement to be made. "I can't believe that I accepted this invite."
"Ladies and Gentlemen," A voice boomed through the speakers setup on the platform in the center of the room. "If you will all come up here near the platform we can have a more intimate conversation and I won't have to use the microphone." Jonathan turned to see a tall skinny man dressed in a very nice business suit standing at the podium flanked by none other than Neil Armstrong and Gene Kranz. He started is recorder and immediately headed toward the stage.
"Thank you," The man said as they got closer "I have always hated those things," he said smiling. "I am Michael Jenkins and I am the press Secretary for SOL686, and I believe you know our esteemed guests, but in case you have missed the last 50 years of history, this is Neil Armstrong and Gene Krantz," He said gesturing to each site of him. "I can promise you that you have not wasted your time in coming out here," He said now sitting down on the edge of the stage. "In a few moments on that screen behind me, the SOL686's owner is going to presenting you with what you all came to see. In the mean time I am here to make sure that you have everything you need. Food, drink, recording devices whatever you might need."
As soon as he stopped speaking there was a free-for-all of questions. He let it go on for a minute or so and then held up his. "Folks, I have been given specific instructions not to tell you anything. I talk too much and I loose my job. I promise you, that you will only have to wait another few moments. We are just waiting for the technicians to get the feed right."
"Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen," The voice came over the speakers as a grainy and off color image appeared on the huge projection screen. "I am sorry about the quality of the feed, but we are fighting a solar flare that has been causing our technicians a few problems today," He paused for a moment looking out over his guests. "Today is a momentous occasion. Today you will are being let in one of the best kept secrets of the last ten years. About nine years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a dream. Ever since I was a little kid, I have dreamed about the space race. I watch my heroes, a couple of whom you see before you, do the things that I wanted to do. But, my dream went way beyond anything that we as humans have done thus far. Then I woke up and I realized that with the way things were going my dream was never going to happen. And I was quite saddened by that. I realized that with the set backs that we have faced that getting people off this planet to do the work of spreading the human race was just not going to happen any time soon. So I dreamed up SOL686." A few groans went up from the crowd and Jonathan saw Glen roll his eyes ever so slightly. A new company that was going to enter the space race was just no longer really news. "Now, there is a delay in the feed, so i can't see you reactions , but I can guess at them . I bet that John, you just rolled your eyes. As you have seen more of these opening that is your fair share. I am here to tell you that you will not be disappointed, oh yup I saw that John. See I knew you would. You are one of my heroes and I have spent a good deal of time watching you. But that is not the point here. I am Martin Joyce and I have earned my lumps and about ten billion dollars in relestate and about a dozen other industries, If you do your home work which I am sure you will you will find me. I have been careful not to put myself in the spot light. I am a pretty private person and normally this kind of thing would be against everything I believe in. But, since this is the, if I might steal the phrase from a friend that unfortunately could not be here today, one giant leap for man kind, I felt it was worth breaking my rules." He paused for a moment and looked off camera.
"What I am about to tell you I know you are going to have a hard time believing, so I have confirmed with my technicians that they have queued up a series of images and short movies that will back up my claims. We are broad casting to you today from about half way between the Earth and Mars which is of course our destination for the next ten years, at which point it will be our jumping off point for the rest of the solar system, and eventually after that, who knows," Martin paused again and looked off screen. "What you are about to see are images and movies of launches of our equipment over the last few years. We put our equipment in super high orbit between the Earth and the moon, and we slowly built the Capitana, our ship that will carry us to Mars and then be our home for the first few weeks while we get our habitats set up."
The Image of Martin on the screen shrunk in size. And six other movies began to play around him. each of a launch for different location around the world. then images of the ship being assembled in space first by a few people at at time and then many. the Ship in the end was huge, nearly ten times the size of the space shuttle Jonathan knew. Each image was date stamped and showed a progression toward today.
"Then about a month ago, we launched," Martin said with a smile. "That was, until today the greatest day of my life. Since that day my days have gotten better each day." The other images stopped and the screen was split in half. On the right was and image of martin Joyce and on the left was a star field. "Now if you look at the image here you will see slightly off center the Capitata. Can't see it can you? Neither can I and I know what I am looking for but the technicians swear it is there. Zoom in please," he said to someone off screen and after a short delay the image changed, to show the tail end of the Capitana. As you can tell from the image that is us. Heading away from you. I have provided all the information about questions you might ask to Michael he will be handing out a complete copy of this announcement and the images, as well as technical information about our ship, the people on board and the technology we are using. Now two things. One you will notice that I said people on board and not crew, the reason is that there are about 120 people including the crew and myself, you can find details about each of them in the package. We indented to found a colony and so we have enough people to prevent things like founders syndrome. And the other thing, for those of you who are not up on your history, the name of our ship, is the same as the ship Cortez used on his trip to the new world. And where we don't intend to burn our ship when we get there, we will use it and every part of it for the setup of our colony. So there will be no return trip."
"Now, Michael I am sure told you that he is the press secretary for SOL686. He is not a technician or a scientist, that is not a slight it is just the truth, So if you have technical question beyond what the package tells you he can't help you. So don't pester him needlessly. I will be keeping him busy for in the foreseeable future. At then end of the package you will find information about how to contact us. We will review each and every request for information and reply as time allows. I want to thank you all for your attention and your time today."
With that the screen changed to just the view of the Capitina heading away from Earth. Huge room seemed to explode with voices, and Jonathan was still getting his head around what had just happened. Three weeks before the international attempt at a space elevator had dropped it's cargo, and that project looked dead due to litigation. The Space Shuttle had retired nearly seven years ago and they didn't have a good replacement yet, but that was also bogged down there would be no human passengers for either one of them in a long time. Yet, this company that now one had ever heard of was now over half way to Mars. Humans on Mars. He shook his head to clear it.
When he looked up the chaos had not subsided, in fact it seemed to be getting worse. Senator Glenn was asking questions of Jenkins and he didn't look happy. Apparently they were not let in on any of the secrets either. Jonathan was about to push his way to the front so he could try to figure out what it was that John Glenn was saying when a young man in jeans and a white Sol686 tee shirt came up to him.
"Here is your informational package," he said smiling and pushing shiny folder into his hands. "It contains a copy of the press release and all the information promised, and a recording of today's event up until about two minutes ago. We Just burned the disks."
"Thank you," was all he could manage. The young man moved on to the next reporter and repeated his actions.
Jonathan took one more look at the front of the crowd. All the reporters with the same questions over and over again. All the time Jenkins with his hands up plaintively referring to them to the package that they were only just now getting. This was his chance, the only think to be gained here was delay, he could scoop them all if he left right now. Sure, he might miss a quote from John Glen or Gene Krantz, but honestly if they were not old news then this whole thing started they certainly would be now. NASA, hell the rest of the world's space programs had just been up staged. More than than, that there were going to be people on Mars in the next year. Not just a survey team, but a colony.