J05H writes "Soldier and veteran suicide rates are increasing due to various factors. Critically the rates have jumped in recent years. Bayesian search experts use gathered, anonymous Veteran's Administration notes to predict suicide risks. The main link is to the paper in PLoS One. A related effort by Mr. Poulin is the Durkheim Project that uses opt-in social media data for similar purposes http://www.durkheimproject.org..." Link to Original Source top
J05H writes "Scaled Composites team hurt in teststand explosion this afternoon. There are threads on Uplink and NSF. Drudge and various news agencies are carrying the news. Two dead, four injured critcally at Mojave Airport, one minor injury. Suspected explosion of Nitrous Oxide (NOX)tank, which serves as oxidizer in the SS2 hybrid engine. While safer to handle than liquid hydrogen, NOX can decompose violently when contminated or disturbed. Images from local newscopters looks like the MONODS test trailer was involved. A sad day for the families, everyone at Scaled, Mojave and the space community." Link to Original Source top
J05H writes "NASAWatch.com is carrying the following additional trouble for the US space program:
NASA RSRM Train crashes in Alabama Train Derails Carrying NASA Rocket Motors, AP Bridge Collapse Causes Train Crash, Fox 6 "A train carrying a load for NASA crashed Wednesday when the bridge it was crossing collapsed, injuring six people."" top
I just got back from the incredible Wirefly XPrize Cup. This was by far the best space event I've ever attended. Conferences might be more informative but this event had the volume turned to 11. As I was flying a booth, I didn't see much actual flying, but almost everything was perfect and incredible. Since inception and the Space Ship One flights, the XPrize has been rocking the foundations of the space community. The star-spangled spaceplane has really made history.
Both the original prize and the new Cup are changing the way people think about Space. Even with this geometric change in attitudes, some things never change. This rant includes observations, lessons I learned, gossip that you won't find anywhere else and one major prediction.
For everyone reading this that attended the XPrize, please tell people about it. Tell them about what you saw and help spread the word. Only you can make "space" happen.
On Friday, nearly 10,000 school children arrived for the event. Their enthusiasm and bright smiles were infectious. My greatest hope for these space events is that they inspire this youngest generation to pursue the new frontier.
People I'd like to thank include Denise and Nancy who handled Logistics for this very complicated event. All the volunteers and people that put blood, sweat and tears into making it happen deserve applause. Thank you. Sky Fire Lab were the best booth-neighbors ever, it was great seeing Evan again and fun meeting Kevin and Jessica, Mike, Kayoko, Yuki, Phil, Rocky, Kennda, the whole VR Skydive crew and Monica, Aaron and Darla from Seattle. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the Postcards To Space booth and especiallly those who stepped up and voted with their dollars.
None of this would be possible without the investment and foresight of Dr. Peter Diamandis and the Ansari family. All of these folks share the Vision Thing.
Good stuff that happened in my presence includes seeing Jon Carmack and team resting in the shade of the broken Pixel, after the first day of flying, exhausted and happy as a kid. He's doing rocket science and immense fun. The Tripoli rockets were fascinating, a class of high-power amateur rockets built by students and young adults. Some of these rockets break the sound barrier seconds after launch, truly a crowd pleaser.
VR Skydive provided a vertical wind tunnel and crew of coaches to provide another crowd pleaser: flying in the blast of air from this portable training facility. Put on a parachute suit, goggles and helmet, get in and the coaches stabilize you as you are lifted by the airstream. They literally fly out of the top of the tunnel cage, it's amazing. Patrick, Abe, Matt, Amy and James kept everyone safe and having a great time. Free flying on a blast of prop-wash is one of the coolest things I've ever done, I'm actively coming up with excuses to become a tunnel rat.
OK, now for the Dirt and lessons I learned.
Let's start at the beginning. After Teddy and Bunny, the first toy I remember is my plastic Apollo lander. I've been a member of the Planetary Society for 2 decades and taking part in space conferences since CATS in '97 (thanks again, Chaz). Back in the 90s, I brainstormed on sci.space.policy with the brains behind many NewSpace companies including SpaceDev, XCOR, Rotary Rocket, Armadillo and others. Some have come, some gone, others enabled a private astronaut to fly in space. I built the first SpaceDev website in '97 and was at the first SS1 XPrize flight in September '04. My art has included space themes consistently since childhood, inspiring me to begin development on the world's first space sculpture, the STREET space ring. I can be found online in my role as the informed peanut gallery on uplink.space.com as J05H and as user #5625 (J05H) on Slashdot. I've been doing this space-advocacy thing for a long time.
This isn't bragging, my credentials need to be established for what you're about to read. I'm inured to most geek's antisocial behavior and have already had one assination threat over my project. Opinions don't scare me.
The XPrize Cup was one of the coolest events I've ever attended, be it conference, concert or party. Almost everybody there ROCKS. There are lessons that I learned from the people that don't rock and the interactions we all had.
Karma affects everyone, geek, astronaut and businessperson alike. My first encounter during Thursday's setup was seeing a guy named Bill wearing a t-shirt that reads "Rocket Scientist". My second encounter was over-hearing several graybeards express the most basic human reaction: blustering arrogance in the face of superiority. Quote one guy regarding his company's unflown hybrid motor versus a flown competitor's engine, "I try to kick his ass at every opportunity."
Another replied "He says he'll be first to flight."
The first answered back, "Goes to show you shouldn't believe your own hype."
Two days later, proving karma brings all full circle, this same dude tumbles off a chair at the SFF closing party. His competitor was both not drunk and not falling off chairs at the time. My wife says this shouldn't be public info and that this man should be told this to his face. I think it should be very public (if anonymous) and that braggarts and chair-divers do great harm to their efforts. Perhaps I will tell it to his face.
I understand there are big egos involved in NewSpace and potentially lots of money. Aerospace has always had plenty of bravado, arrogance, puffery and one-upmanship. There is a huge difference between one-upping a competitor and cutting him down.
As a martial artist, ego interferes with Doing. Flight and rocketry are similiar at this critical level: egos kill crews and dreams. Dan the Rocketman flies his peroxide-powered rocket belt without ego or undue emotion, a drop of anger or hubris spoils his day. He displays the calm and control of a Roshii, a Zen teacher. There is always someone smarter than you. Thinking you are important is vastly different from doing important works.
My Lesson One: There is usually someone watching.
Amid the blossoming enthusiasm of a sea of school children, I stepped into the trap of Team Toad. Instead of tapping the cameraman at my booth on the shoulder and asking "Hey man, what's up?", I walked right into my booth and caught their media assault full force. Next time I will know better.
It was early in the morning and I had returned to the booth with only my 3rd cup of coffee to find a flying wedge of 5 or 6 engineers and as many video operators. I hesitate to call the video crew a "documentary" team, as they lacked the critical girl-ninja (see below) or any sense of decorum. During this attack, the head of Team Toad stood in front of me long enough to hear the short version of my pitch then proceeded to pretty much say "Hey, your pretty cool. Do you want to, like, do business? Heh, heh." It was totally Beavis and very uncomfortable. At the end of this, their producer lady dropped a clip board with a release in front of me.
Professionals have a biz-dev who travels the show with perhaps an engineer to OK things. He's as likely to have an old NSS friend or college roommate along, not the largest film crew at the XPrize. NOVA has a smaller film crew including host, than Team Toad. Plenty of companies stopped by the booth, chit-chatted and exchanged cards. They all rock. None of them stuck 18" boom mics that looked like stuffed animals in my face. Team Toad here is a clue from a media professional: learn how to use that camera. If you're going to tote around a crew that size, SCHEDULE YOUR INTERVIEWS!! Not "Can I bring a couple of my guys around?" as you asked, but "I'd like to interview you in a sit-down location, what would be a good time for you?" I'm not sure if Team Toad has any flying hardware, but I hope they are better at rocket science than representing themselves in the New Media.
My Lesson Two: Know your tools and environment.
In Shogunate Japan, the kunoichi were specialized girl-ninjas that did the things their male teammates could not. No longer wielding kunai, naginata and themselves as weapons, these young warrior-women still tread among us. In the 21st Century the modern girl-ninja holds a hallowed position as moderator, troubleshooter and reaper of the tech whirlwind. She is Athena reborn. Every media team, crew and studio that functions properly has at least one of these young women. She is often assistant, PA, producer or video editor. No media organization can work effectively without the girl-ninja keeping everything Rolling. This is exhibited in the following two examples.
A little bit more about VR Skydive and their portable wind tunnel. This incredible machine blasts a stream of air upward, essentially allowing you to fly. They use it to train for skydiving and thrilling people. It is an incredible crowd-pleaser and great place to scout VIPs. I was watching the action, earplugs in, toward sunset Friday, hoping to get in the next group. A beautiful young woman approaches, taps me on the shoulder and asks who is in charge. She thanked me and proceeded to do the nerd equivalent of cutting in line. This involved her crew and instantly recognizable television science host approaching while we chatted about a mutual colleague. This young woman is their team's ninja, she is polite, smart, sociable, gets stuff done and leaves everyone satisfied with the result. Hanging with these folks was informative and fun, and didn't involve boom-mics that look like hunting trophies.
As this team of gifted people finished up on the wind tunnel, another girl-ninja strode past, walked right to the wind tunnel boss without asking anyone anything. She is a higher level ninja, she always understands Who is Who. Moments later her crew descended on the drop zone so that one Mr. Ansari and party could fly the Friday sunset. Elfen and soft spoken in the silence between wind tunnel runs, she epitomized the motif of getting things done while running point for 15 people and her boss. I exitted for their privacy. Compare those professionals to Team Toad's twiddling.
My Lesson Three: Decorum counts.
There is a value in the space between play, patience and truth. Getting bumped off the wind tunnel Friday proved incredibly interesting, patience allowed me to fly it twice the next day. Truth got my cousin and a friend onboard as well, for the perfection of flying in Saturday's sunset. Play is the greatest motivator after hunger. People stood around the wind tunnel for hours for one minute of lift-off.
A guy named Rocky is forming a freefall football league. It's the coolest thing I've heard about in a long time. Play can be both stress reliever and creative act: I want to field a team for his league. Truth unites play and patience; the three together create a dynamic environment that can change the world.
Now for some raw gossip. During Thursday's setup time, the VIPs held a very hush luncheon. It is, after all, what VIPs do. Having heard a rumor after breakfast, I was surprised when a business jet landed around 11am. During the landing, a local piped up, "That's Al Gore's plane. I saw it on the manifest."
No word on what was discussed, it wouldn't be hush-hush otherwise, but a bunch of heavy-hitters held a Gathering before the event started.
One personage notably absent was Sir Richard Branson. This was a big enough event in one of his fields that his absence seems more than just a scheduling conflict.
A quick prediction: the first boots on Mars will be worn by Sir Richard. He is the only entity on Earth with the combination of drive, capital and daring to realistically do this. I predict his landing within 15 years, possibly even before NASA gets back to the moon.
My Lesson Four: Being in the right place at the right time is vital.
The most interesting phenomenon at the XPrize Cup and ISDC '06 has been the earthquake that I call Generation Get Space Done. These new faces, generally young and enthusiastic, are a surge of people willing to work together to make things happen. Some are academics, others business types, entrepreneurs and the adventurous. None seem stymied by the politics that cause graybeards to tumble off chairs. They actively seek cross-discipline contacts and want to "Do these things in this generation." The oldest in this mindset might be 45 (and the young-at-heart always count) but the vast majority are under 30 and about to make history.
Generation Get Space Done shares something in common with the wealthy patrons who have bankrolled the private projects: They all have the Vision Thing. They don't wake up in the morning thinking "Oh no, not another day." They wake up every day expecting to change the world. The billionaires and mega-millionaires providing macro level funding for the larger efforts can not succeed without the technology and innovation that Generation Get Space Done is creating.
We could go to Mars essentially now with Russian tech backed by someone like Sir Richard. It would be equivalent to the ancient shaman who could cross oceans - you might make it back, you might not. New hardware, practices and nonlinear use of technology from other fields will enable this to be done safer and repeatably. High technology, smart design and the purchasing power of free markets are enabling this. Those with the Vision Thing all seem to understand this. Those with the drive but not the Vision fall of chairs and Beavis people with their boom-mics.
Whatever your talent or skill, everyone with the Vision Thing brings something to the table. Do you have it?
My Lesson Five: Enthusiasm can count more than launch contracts.