Monthly Archives: January 2009

Could Australia pioneer new space technologies?

If there’s one thing about Australia that would appeal to a Space program it would be the large amount of unused space, partially due to its inhability. However, dry conditions with a distinct lack of variable weather do make for great launch sites and technology test beds (See the success of Mojave Air and Space Port). So the question remains, why don’t we see more aeronautical innovation coming out of Australia? Well the answer is two fold but I still believe that there is an untapped opportunity for a certain technology to make its name in Australia.

Although Australia is a resource rich country we lack the capital needed to get a space program off the ground. There’s no discounting the fact that space travel is damned expensive and holding onto the talented people required is difficult even for Australia’s current industries. This means that even though we may have the resources and the talent to do it, Australia just can’t really pony up the few billion a year to support what amounts to a glorified science mission. If Australia’s GDP does get up past a certain level, one where the space program was 1% of GDP or so, we might start to see the government looking seriously at such an initiative, but for now it’s too expensive.

Additionally there’s not enough base infrastructure in place for investors and innovators to take the risk of establishing a aeronautical research company anywhere on Australian shores. Typically, whilst Australian airlines are big purchasers of new technology we aren’t active in research and development. Again I’d put this down to our size since we really don’t have enough people to make development of such technology viable.

However, we do have a massive amount of unused and uninhabitable land right at our doorsteps. Now you may be wondering why this would be useful for testing space technology. Well there’s one kind of tech that requires this much space to be tested safely, the Project Orion. Here’s a video of the idea in action (using normal explosives):

The basic idea behind this kind of rocket is to use nuclear warheads to propel the space craft forward. We all know the devastating power that such devices hold and utilizing them as propulsion is not without its risks. However, even the smallest projected rocket from this technology already passes NASA’s Ares V rocket, and the largest is enough to transport an entire, pre-built city into orbit. Whilst I’m cautious about quoting figures like that it is hard to ignore the lower end of the scale, which would increase our space capability dramatically.

Since we have so much unusable space in the middle of Australia I believe that setting up a base to test this technology on the small scale could be of huge benefit. The risks to people are extremely low, and if we pick the right site the risks to the local flora and fauna could be greatly reduced. It is also a great way to rid ourselves of the nuclear arsenel that has been accumulated over the years.

So, with the resources at hand and a large space to test in, why shouldn’t we give this idea a go?

The Universe, Yours to Discover.


This year is the Internation Year of Astronomy to celebrate 400 years of astromincal observation and study. This is a great oppotunity for anyone who has even a mild interest in the stars and our place in the universe to get involved in some astronomy. I know that I will be spending the better part of this year staring up at the sky and hopefully, sharing it with everyone who is willing 🙂

I think what puts most people off astronomy is the idea that you have to get up at 1am and drive out to remote locations to get a good view of the stars. Whilst that’s true if you want the best view it doesn’t mean you can’t do some pretty good observing from the comfort of your backyard. In fact there are some great things to see and you don’t even need a telescope, although I’d reccomend picking up a pair of binoculars if you’d like to get a better look at some things.

So, what are some interesting sights to see? Personally I’d reccomend starting off with the Moon, since it’s big, bright and with a pair of binoculars you can seem some incredible detail. The other favourites are Mars, Jupiter and Venus, since they’re all fairly bright and can be seen with the naked eye.

One of my all time favourites will be the International Space Station, which you can plot sighting times using NASA’s Skywatch program. Just select your city and it will give you times that you can view the station.

If you’re hungry for more, the best website I’ve found for sightings of many different astronomical objects is Heaven’s Above. They’ve even got a great guide for deciphering all the terms that use so even if you’ve never done this kind of thing before, you’ll be able to find what you want in the sky.

I spent a weekend down at the coast when the moon was full just a couple weeks ago. I got some fantastic pictures whilst I was lazing on the beach long into the night. I’ll be sure to share them all with you here.

Consumer Electronics Show 2009.

Well it’s the start of a new year and to get it off to a great start the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is underway with all the big names displaying new tech and gadgets for us all. I usually get pretty excited when these shows roll around as it usually dictates where some of my hard earned dollars will end up. It’s also a good chance to get a glimpse at future trends and what I should be looking at researching for the coming year.

So what have we seen so far? Well there are a couple cool bits of tech that I think everyone should have a look at.

LG GD910 Watch Phone: The good old watch phone. I’ve seen a few of these come and go in my lifetime but none of them have had the appeal that this one does. With touch interfaces becoming very mature and the integration of 3G, video calling,  Bluetooth and voice recognition it seems like an actual competitor to other small phones, rather than just a novelty. Depending on the size it may or may not sell well, as I know many people who can’t stand giant watches on their wrists. Couple this with an INVISO G5 and you’re good to go with little more then a pocket full of gear.

EEEPC T91: Now while I’m not the biggest fan of the whole Netbook scene (Windows mobile guy myself, but that’s another story) this is actually quite a bit step forward and I must say, its got me very interested. Although there’s not much info on it, the bigger brother EEEPC T101H is probably the one I’d hang out for. Ever since these low cost laptops hit the market I always hoped that they’d eventually trickle down into a tablet so I’d have a use for them (taking notes in a conference anyone?) and it seems that ASUS has been listening to the market very closely. I’d expect to see these things appearing in all sorts of places, probably replacing many Windows Mobile and Palm devices that are currently being used.

Samsung MBP200 Pico Projector: Whilst it seems that every company under the sun has been releasing tiny projectors this is one of the newest to the scene and it actually works! Many of the other projectors have just been detailed in press releases and what not, but this one is actually on display at CES. Although they are lacking some of the more juicy details like price and release date it is still a cool bit of tech, and would go very nicely with an EEEPC or similar.

I’m going to be following CES pretty closely as it develops and I’ll be sure to pass on anything amazing onto everyone. It seems that this year we’ll be seeing a lot of miniaturization, green technologies and products targeting the low cost high volume market. I’m very interested to see what the next few days of CES will bring us.

Sometimes you just need see it for yourself.

If you had asked me just on a year ago what I thought about astronomy, space and exploration outside our atmosphere I would’ve replied that it was interesting and probably left it at that. But after spending a year looking into such exciting projects as Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne I started to believe that it might be possible, in our lifetimes, for those who wish to travel into space to do it without spending untold millions for the privaledge. I think it was at that time I realised that if I wanted to do something like that, I should start filling my head with the knowledge of space.

What really got me started was looking at pictures of the vast array of space projects that America, Russian and now the European Union paticipate in. It was in my travels across the internet that I stumbled onto The Big Picture by The Boston Globe. They have some of the most awe inspiring pictures I have ever seen, and I believe everyone should see them. Of course, I’ll also point you in the direction of some of my choice series which got me hooked on the site in the first place 😉

Enceladus: An amazing array of pictures centered around  this amazing moon of Saturn. Picture 2 is a piece of art and the animated picture 9 shows just how incredible it is that we have pictures like this.

The ISS, Shuttle and Baikonur Cosmodrome: Something a little more close to home that really shows the human effort involved in getting into space and maintaining a presence there. My favourite is definitely the ISS, I can stare at pictures of that place for hours on end.

It is my hope that one day we will all have the chance to take pictures like this, and not just look at them.