Science Saturday: $1/2 Mil Starship Design + Curiousity Ready + Transparent Plane + Deep Space DIY

This week in a very spacey edition of Science Saturday, wave bon voyage to Mars rover Curiosity, win $500k for sending humans to another star, tour the universe and help scientists discover new objects in our galaxy, and see Star Trek on This Week @ NASA. All this and more plus our gadget of the week: Futuristic transparent airplane!


Pentagon Awarding $500k for Best Plan for Man-rated Interstellar Travel
The U.S. Defense Department is holding a contest to design a program that will get a human to another star, and they are awarding half a million dollars to the winning idea. 150 competitors have already begun the challenge, and officials say that some “big names” are among those interested. Competitors must come up with an idea that would send a human to another star in about a century. The fastest rocket today would take 4,000 years to get to Proxima Centauri, the Sun’s nearest stellar neighbor. “This is not just about thinking new rocket methods,” said David Neyland, director of DARPA’s tactical technology office to AP. “It is also about coping with extended life in space, raising issues of medicine, agriculture, ethics and self-reliance.”

Faster then light travel: Possible within 100 years?

Mars Rover Packed and Shipped, Ready for Launch
Last Thursday, June 16th, was the last chance to get a glimpse of Mars rover Curiosity on Earth. That’s because bunny-suited JPL scientists packed and loaded the largest lander ever bound for the Red Planet and shipped her of to Kennedy Space Center where she will launch from this November. Check out this time-lapse video of Curiosity being wrapped in Amerstat and Kapton tape, ready for shipment.

Two Cool Interactive Universe Tools: Nova’s Solar System Tour & Zooniverse’s Milky Way Project
Here’s just two more ways you can explore and interact with our universe. First, check out a great 3-dimensional map of our solar system, put together by PBS’s NOVA program, that let’s you zoom around the planets and moons of sector 001.

NOVA’s 3D interactive Solar System tool

Scientists studying our universe need your help in identifying interesting objects in deep space. Zooniverse is working with scientists using data from the Spitzer Space Telescope to croud source the immense number of images coming back to Earth. Navigate the galaxy and identify bubbles, knots, star clusters, and other objects hidden throughout these images such as young stars, supernova remnants and never-before-seen galaxies.

Take part at The Milky Way Project.

The Milky Way Project – Getting Started from The Zooniverse on Vimeo.

Star Trek: The Exhibition on This Week @ NASA
This Week @ NASA (or TW@N), is a weekly video podcast developed by NASA featuring all of the weekly news going on at various NASA facilities. This week’s edition includes the opening of Star Trek: The Exhibition at the Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex. Check out the video below (and jump to 10:24 for Star Trek).

Jump to 10:24 for Star Trek: The Exhibition

Gadget of the Week: Transparent Airplane of the Future
If Airbus truly creates it’s “airplane of the future” by 2050, as they claim, air travel will cease to be a stressful burden and become an incredible adventure. Every aspect of the craft is designed to be tailored to the passenger, including mood lighting, biomorphing seats capable of massage and acupuncture, and even a transparent fuselage. Yes, no longer will you be trapped in a dark tube, but you’ll be a part of the panorama in which you are flying. How incredible would that be? Of course, they may need to take a page from Scotty’s book and invent transparent aluminum to make this a reality.

Science Bytes
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.


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A see-through plane? I guess it would put an even bigger challenge for those joining the mile-high club!

Wow,a star in a century. I think I’ll wait for somebody else to try that frist;and then maybe when we have warp drive I’ll give it a go! :)

Hmmm. Here is my idea. Use Matter and Antimater and use them to help. Get a Converter assembly to use the Dilithiem crystel to help power the Mater and Antimater stream. Ok. Maybe better get Scotty to build this. Or maybe someone named Cochern and Archer.

Wonder Woman will be pissed you stole the plans to her plane!!

A transparent plane will really help people with that whole fear of flying thing, I’m sure of it.

I’d have to wear sunglasses inside of that plane because it would be too bright for me with that sun. It looks neat though.


Ever heard of transition lenses? Just make the fuselage out of that stuff.

That Airbus concept plane has almost nothing to do with the real world. It’s high-grade Public Relations baloney. Airlines will want nothing to do with it. What the airlines want is a way to squeeze another row of seats into their planes or make their planes 10% more fuel efficient, not fancy transparent ceilings that add extra weight and do nothing useful (show passengers the plain blue sky in day time, you won’t see stars at night because the dude next to you will have his reading lamp on, spolling your night vision… both assume its not cloudy on your flight.

By 2050 the need to cut useless weight and squeeze more seats into airliners will be even greater than it is now, and airliners are cattle cars now with most amenities that we had just ten years ago now gone.


By 2050, your arguement will be moot seeing as how the average human will weigh about 500 pounds and stuck to their couches, let alone be able to fit in an airline seat.

I foresee many flights making U turns to disgorge screaming passengers to waiting TSA goons, who by then will be allowed to also feel you up getting OFF the plane.

Mars Curiosity is to study whether Mars has ever supported microbial life or whether it still can. Fascinating. She’ll probably find the answer before the next Star Trek hits the screens. I keeed. I keeed.

Ahem, I don’t mean to get all conspiracy on you all, but why is the Defense Department sponsoring a competition to determine the best way to travel to another star? Yeah I get different governmental agencies have diffferent amounts of money to spend but isn’t this something that NASA should be looking at? Why would the military want to travel to another star? Make first contact with aliens and do what?

#12 That is the bit that had me wondering as well. Turn space into a place of warmongering and create more trash sites littered with debris and remains resulting from conflict. Ick.

12. Basement Blogger – June 18, 2011

Ahem, I don’t mean to get all conspiracy on you all, but why is the Defense Department sponsoring a competition to determine the best way to travel to another star?

… Why would the military want to travel to another star? Make first contact with aliens and do what?


The best defense is a good offense.

Well, I’ve yet to hear any declarations of war on neigboring star systems, so I’m going to assume the Defense Department is wanting to push technological innovation… again.

I’m not saying government research is always on the up and up, but DARPA (originally ARPA) did create the foundation for what would later become—the internet.

Reminds me of that famous Orson Welles speech from “The Third Man.”

“Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”

Cuckoo clocks are actually a product of the Black Forest region of Germany, but let’s not split hairs. ;)

Why do we keep saying “Man” instead of “Human” – that’s highly sexist!

I will only show the dept of defense my idea for 10billion euro, not a penny less.


They stole our gold and coffee beans, we must go to their world to get it back. Well here is the deal earth is messed by humans and aliens are coming to wipe us so we need to get to new earth discovered to repopulate.


Quote from Thor, a wise leader never seeks out war.

Humans are forbidden to travel outside out our solar system, still too young and destructive, we kill ourselves over petty material gain. No soup for you.

I’m all for interplanetary travel, but putting out the call for ideas is premature. It’s more important to properly colonize this solar system first, and develop some advanced technologies, based on discoveries that we have yet to make.


Because NASA doesn’t have the money to do that and is being hacked to death by the government.

They get less than 1/2 % of the US Yearly budget.

They have contracts that are laying off thousands.

12… DoD just wants big ideas that can be applied to a variety of systems, they don’t actually expect to build a starship.

17… No one has come up with a good alternative to ‘manned’ and ‘unmanned’. ‘Crewed’ sounds awful. ‘Staffed’ sounds like a real estate office.

Transparent plane? Wonder Woman!

We won’t need any of this by 2050. If you read the book “2050: A Future History, Volume I: Gods of Little Earth” by J. Zornado, you’ll see why. I loved the book.

Because before they destroy the planet, the DoD needs a new world to go to. It’s a variation of the know-where-all-the-exits-are rule.

My understanding is that the term “man” is actually a Scandinavian word which means “one”, “all”, which has made its way into the English language, probably by way of the Vikings. However, lately, it seems to have to come to mean/represent one part of humanity, the male, masculine half and apparently ignoring, negating the female side. The original word “man” was neutral and could apply to either or both.

@12. DofD has decided that we need to take back all those humans abducted by the aliens….


Too late they were eaten by the mothman dracos.

The price for technology was too high.


You make a valid point. It’s not about getting humans to a star, it’s about fast interstellar (and thus intrasolar system) travel that would give the US a military advantage and dominant presence in space.

Realistically speaking, it would be far more cost effective and safer to develop an unmanned probe that could reach our nearest star neighbor in a century.

Because.. maybe the Pentagon found a signal from another planet and isn’t telling anyone?? Hmmmmmmm. Very interesting.


Wouldn’t it be better to have the entire world contribute to space travel not just the US Military or DOD? I just don’t like the idea of just the US in space, all the worlds powerful nation should come together for this kind of project.

The UN should have a space agency, not just one country to represent Mankind.

With all the wars and politics, I wonder how humans ever left our solar system in Star Trek.

@32. Yeah, right, the world dosen’t shoulder their portion of their national defense, what makes you think they are going to pony up the bucks to have a presence in space?

The UN space agency? Well, if we plan to export corruption to the stars I can’t think of a better agency to lead the way.


That’s a pretty bold statement considering the national debt is what trillions?

If anything other nations can lend a helping hand.

Remove the ego and understand Earth is not represented by one nation.

Until Earth’s science can find better and faster ways to travel in space, enjoy the special space school buses and be a joke to the milky way.

Beware the Alien, the Mutant, the Heretic…


In all seriousness, though; it’s good to see NOVA finally creating some original content of their own, rather than just re-recording the narration on old episodes of Horizon & Equinox (from the BBC & Channel 4 networks in Britain, respectively)…



Yeah, we can always count on the United Nations to lead the way!
To boldy go where no indecisive bureaucrat has gone before.

Keep dreaming, buddy.

Is Wonder Woman piloting the see-through plane?

“…biomorphing seats capable of massage and acupuncture,”


I feel a great disturbance in the force, as if a legion of hack SciFi… ahem… excuse me… SyFy screenwriters just typed the words “First Draft” simultaneously.

There is a bill that everybody who runs a website should be aware of (you too AP) which criminalizes embedding YouTube videos. You could get 5 years in prison for “copyright infringement” under the PROTECT IP ACT.


That’s the spirit, good to know Star Trek inspires you.


Star Trek inspires. The UN does not.
Remember Zefram Cochrane? I don’t recall Trek depicting any sort of world government supporting his endeavour into space (aside from those friendly time-travelers).

Hmmm… a lone wolf that ends up bringing the pack together… then future pack must go back in time to save the lone wolf from a competing pack…

So I guess they’re trying to tell us individualism is the key to the future.
Hey, you’re right. Star Trek does inspire!


The UN will most likely become the core of Earth’s space mission, similar to the United Federation of Planets.

Star Trek Earth does have a president if I recall from the Undiscovered Country.

Excuse me, but in classic SciFi the closest star is Alpha Centauri ( as in, “Next year, Alpha Centauri!”). I’m sure it was in something I read during the last 1/2 century.

@44. Oh, gee, that’s funny. The UN can’t deliver humanitarian aid here without the Blue Helmets stealing 1/3 of it. If corruption is an export, then the UN will be more then qualified to bring it to the stars…..

Oh, and the UN gets about 25% of it’s funding from the US. I’d have no problem with that money being redirected to NASA.


You really think corruption is only exists at the UN? The last time I checked every organization and country has had some form of corruption or another from assassinations, water gates, illegal wars, tweeting wieners to bailouts to black op deals to with aliens, a deficit that keeps growing.

Corruption is not isolated to the UN, it is a human condition based on greed and self serving material gaining systems.

I much prefer the UN over any form of unilateralism nation.

The other point that supports global partnership in space travel is of course cost.

I’m not sure how Americans feel about each owing $50k at the moment, with regular space flight and exploration, that deficit could grow to $200k a person. What’s a trillion :) heck make it a zillion.

Space exploration is such a huge undertaking that many nations must be willing to pool up and participate, if not the USA would be crippled with more financial burden.

Why does it have to be “nations” leading the way? From the look of things, it’s private enterprise (no pun intended) that’s trying to put the average folks without astronaut wings into space, not governments.

Sure, we can put the UN in charge of space exploration, but I’d rather not wait a thousand years for it to happen.

How about a global partnership between multi-billion-dollar corporations? Okay, okay, we may have to put up with big Virgin Galactic, AT&T and Pepsi logos on the spaceship, but at least we would be going somewhere… perhaps to open the first Starbucks on Mars. ;)