Growing Genetically Modified Organisms In Space

There remains much controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  From genetically modified food to plants that produce non-food to bacteria that produce specific molecules.  One of the larger concerns is what happens if a GMO gets loose in the wild.  The results could be a new invasive species to a detrimental affect on the food supply.  However, the chance a GMO gains freedom can be dramatically reduced if they are raised in a space station.

Why grow something in space?  A simple answer would be so we do not need to launch whatever we have grown into space.  That is costly.   Seeds and spores travel  much easier and with far less mass than whole foods.  And yet, I think we will grow food but more likely get GMOs to grow the building blocks for other purposes.  I’m specifically thinking of GMOs that would need little water, nutrient, or substrate to produce a product.    For example, growing the substrate a 3D fabricator can use to print parts.  A bacteria to produce a special fuel or fuel additive.  Maybe we use algae to produce oxygen as the product.  The applications are limited only by genetic modification.

Which gets us back to safety of GMOs and their containment.  Fundamental research for the GMO could take place on Earth but ship the prospective GMO to space to scale up to production.  This reduces large accidental releases at any rate.  The question then is it feasible for Earth based researchers to have a robotic lab in space?  Of course it is.  GMOs can be sent to space in an effectively switched off condition but then converted to the final active form once at the space station.  This would further reduce possible exposures.

Genetically modified organisms will be important to produce the building blocks of space colonization.  Reducing the risk of GMOs to fully enjoy their reward will be critical to their success and ours.

Space Data Centers

The letter:

Dear Human,

Would you like to move to space?  Live in comfort at one of many off world locations?  Experience new art, embrace new job opportunities, and try zero G sports.  All of this is waiting for you.  Call us today!


The call back:

<ring … RING!>

operator: Hello, HumansToSpace.  The next chapter of your life begins with us!

caller:  Um … I’m calling about a letter I received regarding off world opportunities …

operator:  YES! <sales pitch here>

caller:  I have a question.  Can I watch my favorite streaming movies and video chat?  I’m also an avid online gamer with a rather large guild doing some epic WoW raids …

operator:  Absolutely!  You can stream any movie or video chat with anyone in the same off world location.  Online games are also available at the same off world location.

caller:  WOAH,  what?!  What happened to the freedom of the internet and social media?  That cannot happen in one location but needs to be available for everyone, everywhere.  I’m a guild master for Thrall’s sake!  I can’t just leave my Earthly guild mates.  If I’m to live off world I can’t just leave my friends.

operator:  Oh, you have friends. <uncomfortable silence>  This certainly makes things harder.  Any interest in the now on sale off world location of Io?

caller:  Not until it has connection with Earth and all off world locations.  Thank you, goodbye.

The above illustrates a few concepts.  The first being that I’m playing with a new way to start a blog post.  More importantly, the internet has provided interconnectedness (not a word, yet) between online humans.  That connectedness (nearly a word) is not something many of us with good relationships would want to give up.  Living off world should never require losing online relationships.  Which is why we need to create the internet in space.

The idea of putting data centers in space is a newer concept.  However, ConnectX is starting to make space data centers a reality.  Fortune had an article covering some of ConnectX’s technology.  Powering with solar is a no-brainer, cooling in space is easy, but transmission technology is the hard part.  How do you get petabytes of data to a space data center in reasonable time?  There are several techniques being researched that can use a laser to carry information or a twisted radio signal.  Certainly, these types of data transmissions are becoming feasible to handle large data transmission.  And with a few name servers, some routing, etc., etc. you get an internet in space.

Why do we care?  One reason is floor space on Earth can be limiting where as space has plenty of room.  Solar is free and there is a lot of it in space with no cloudy days.  So, it is practical.  Moreover, it is important to moving to off world.  As illustrated in the above caller dialogue, most people want the freedom to communicate with whom they choose when they choose.  This means the space web/ internet needs to be available not just rotating around Earth.  Think bigger and webbier (ok, that may never be a word).

The space inter web needs to be available to Earth, the moon, the asteroid belt, moons around Jupiter, moons around Saturn, and beyond.  The Earth is in orbit around the sun so anything in orbit around Earth will move.  Which means a static location will lose touch when the Earth is on the other side of the sun.  Granted there are few static locations in space.  A better example would be a location around Mars would like to communicate with Earth.  Both planets orbit the sun at different velocity.  They will be closer sometimes and much further at other times.  Distance as well as large celestial object blockage erode the orbiting data center idea.

To smooth out data transmission, what is needed are many data centers which redundantly communicate.  Let’s call it a communication array.  I totally stole that from Star Trek!  The array has equidistant communication hubs.  Such that all communication times are about the same.  Also, closer proximity reduces data loss.

Interestingly, there is something like this on the internet.  Amazon Web Services (AWS), which I am most familiar with, has edge points.  Basically, information is copied and cached to the edge points and then when requested from your browser the closest edge point is used.  This reduces the transmission time over the internet.  In other words, someone in Seattle, Washington will have the same download times as someone in Sydney, Australia.

The internet and online relationships are ingrained in many of us and spreading to many more.  We are connected through our laptops, phones, cars, and appliances.   It is unreasonable to think that when we begin to migrate to space that our online experience and interconnectedness should change.







Escaping Earth

It is expensive and resource intensive to launch objects into orbit.  NASA’s space shuttle and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 with Dragon are designed to reduce resource and cost of launches.  Recovering spent rockets and of course the vehicle, help to lower costs.  However, turning around a vehicle quickly is still a challenge.  Refueling the rockets is part of the turn around time. What if we did not use rockets and had a system with rapid turn around?  I have an idea and it is not just my own.

I have an idea on how to launch vehicles into orbit without rockets.  Albeit, this is a rather novice view, it may not be completely unfeasible.  What if the vehicle with payload was accelerated overtime in a super accelerator?  Then slowly redirect the vehicle towards space via a very long, angled tunnel.  Take the idea of a supercollider and expand it to a gigantic level and attach a long tunnel off a tangent.  Basically, a circular mass driver.

Let me step you through the process.  An orbital vehicle has been readied with some payload and is entered into the accelerator.  The vehicle hovers in a magnetic field and is accelerated using the same field similar to mag lev.  Prior to acceleration the tunnel has all air removed to become a vacuum.  The vacuum will reduce drag during the acceleration process.  The orbital vehicle has no issue with a vacuum as it will survive the vacuum of space.  The vehicle is then accelerated at 1G  or 1 x Earth’s gravity.  For you math folks 1g = 9.8m/s^2 or 32 ft / s^2 .  Accelerating at 1G is more comfortable for people but other non-human remotely flown payloads could accelerate much faster.  As the vehicle accelerates it tilts onto its side and begins to move to higher acceleration lanes.  This allows for more than one vehicle to be accelerated at once and could also be used to create a controlled deceleration if needed.  The speed of the vehicle has now reached escape velocity of over 40,000 kilometers per hour (25,000 miles per hour), to enter orbit.  When escape velocity is reached the vehicle is launched through a tunnel with a gradual incline.

The tunnel is critical to the rocket-less acceleration.  The gradual incline would cause the vehicle to exit the tunnel at about 2 miles or 3.2 km in elevation.  As an example, Pikes Peak in the Rocky Mountains is short of this elevation by ~0.62 miles or ~1km.  The elevation is key to lower resistance as the air is thin at that altitude.  At very high speeds slamming into a wall of atmosphere would be like a reverse orbital entry.  Not the most desirable for keeping vehicle stress and damage to a minimum.

I have one last concept to keep this vehicle rocket-less, employ a gyroscope.  As the vehicle is accelerated an on-board gyroscope is also accelerated.  By the time the vehicle exits the tunnel it will have a wound gyroscope that can help with movement in space.  Directing the gyroscope allows for acceleration and braking.

The vehicle itself could be a one time use to space only.  Granted moving from space to Earth is also critical.  However, not all vehicles need to be built for round trip.  A one time use vehicle could be recycled into other space vehicles including a return vehicle.  Building a modular vehicle easily assembled into other vehicles or space station modules greatly increases the value of the launch vehicle.  Therefore, no recovery but rather a vehicle that is easily manufactured and has post launch value.

So, where do we build this colossal accelerator? If we use the Rocky Mountains as the incline then there is some very flat space to the east in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, and New Mexico.  Construction like this would create many jobs both high and low tech.  Materials and vehicles would need to be manufactured creating still more jobs.  It would also be safe, clean, quiet technology versus a launch pad with rocket blasts and fuels.  If constructed correctly, it would be something you would want in your backyard.

This is an epic idea that will pay for itself.  Something the entire United States would need to be behind and contributing towards.  A move towards space that has not been seen since JFK’s space race.  It would resoundingly differentiate the United States from other nations.  A new economy with as yet unrealized new jobs would be born around moving payloads to space.  Hopefully, not alienating other nations but bringing all nations together as space becomes easily attainable.  The first nation to accomplish this monumental feat will lead the new space economy.  All because we chose to reignite the space race by not using rockets.