SpaceFence: The Movie

Paul Raven @ 20-01-2011

Via FlowingData, here’s a sort of promo-documentary-advertorial-edutainment spot for Lockheed Martin’s Space Fence system, designed to protect us from rogue bits of crap colliding in orbit above us.

As remarked at FD, I think it’s likely that a lot of the visualisations here are speculative, but the result is something that looks momentarily convincing in that ultimately-unconvincing-once-you’ve-thought-about-it Hollywood way – designed to sell the concept rather than the actuality, in other words. (In other words, I expect the Space Fence control room will look a lot less like the bridge of a space opera dreadnought… though there’s a part of me that wishes that wasn’t the case.)

Makes sense, really; if you want to convince people that putting in expensive systems to mitigate (or at least monitor) potential existential risk problems is worthwhile, making them look a bit sexy is a good tactic. I suppose this is a kind of design fiction, too…

[ Note: my assumption that the footage in the video partakes in artistic license is just that, an assumption; I would very much like to see the real thing, or evidence that the footage represents the reality. If anyone at Lockheed is reading, I’d love to drop in and take a closer look… though you’d probably have to stump up my airfare. 🙂 ]


NEOs: Near Earth Objects, or Nasty Existential Obliteration

Paul Raven @ 19-01-2009

meteorite impact sculptureHere’s something else that, alongside finding we have living neighbours on the planet next door, might give the space programs of the world a much needed kick in the backside. President-Elect, take note of the large number of Near Earth Objects, and our current inability to track them all effectively, let alone deal effectively with one on a collision course:

The numbers here are stark. NASA’s Near Earth Object Program reports that we’ve found 5,955 NEOs, some 763 of which are at least one kilometer in diameter. 1008 NEOs larger than 140 meters across come within 4.5 million miles of Earth’s orbit, dangerous to us because perturbing influences could change their trajectories in the future. Centauri Dreams believes that the discovery of an object on a collision course with Earth would galvanize the space program as researchers looked for the best ways to deflect its path. The problem is time.

As existential risks go, a meteor strike is rather different to the others – statistically less likely to happen (or so we hope), but fast and utterly devastating of it does. Keep watching the skies, people… [image by larkspurlazuli]