Friday, July 17, 2009

Space Exploration and Its Spinoffs

Forty years after the moon landing, folks are still asking, "How has space exploration benefited ME? What did I get for MY money?" First of all, for every dollar the U.S. spends on R and D in the space program, it gets $7 back in the form of corporate and personal income taxes from increased jobs and economic growth. Second, space exploration spawned thousands of spinoffs, in dozens of categories, that have improved our lives. Here are just a few...

Health and Medicine -- digital-imaging breast-biopsy systems, arteriosclerosis detectors, ultrasound scanners, MRI, portable x-ray device implantable heart aids, cataract surgery tools… and more.

Environmental and Resource Management -- solar energy devices, weather forecasting aids, sensors for forest management, environmental control and pollution measurement and control, radioactive leak detectors, earthquake prediction systems, sewage treatment devices, energy-saving air conditioning and air purifiers… and more.

Public Safety -- radiation hazard detectors, pen-sized personal alarm systems, lightweight cutters for freeing accident victims from wreckage, lighter-weight firefighter's air tanks, Doppler radar, fire detectors, corrosion protection coatings, protective clothing and robotic hands…
and more
.

Consumer/Home/Recreation -- water purification systems, the Dustbuster, shock-absorbing helmets, flat-panel televisions, high-density batteries, trash compactors, freeze-dried food packaging, sports bras, hair styling appliances, composite golf clubs and hang gliders... and more.

If you want a comprehensive accounting of the spinoffs that you've paid for, check them out yourself.

There's another way to look at the return on investment from space exploration. Tony England, a University of Michigan engineering professor, looks at the ROI by posing the question: Are NASA's programs still relevant? His response: "On the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing, it’s appropriate to assert an emphatic 'yes.' Human spaceflight will eventually answer the question, 'Do humans have a viable future beyond the Earth?' A great society needs to invest, at some effective level, in pushing back its boundaries -- both its knowledge boundaries and its physical boundaries. NASA's programs are one of the ways we do this."

To be or not to be? To explore or to not explore? Those are the questions. I choose to be and to explore. My outlay for cable TV exceeds what I pay for U.S. space exploration. If I had to give up one to have the other, I'd pitch my cable box. Then I'd go out and look at the sky -- just as I did 40 years ago -- except this time I'll be wearing polarized sunglasses, my cool running shoes and a pretty-good smelling shirt (even if I'd had it on all day). Oh… and I'll probably grab a glass of Tang.

Read more:





Space Exploration and Its Spinoffs

Forty years after the moon landing, folks are still asking, "How has space exploration benefited ME? What did I get for MY money?" First of all, for every dollar the U.S. spends on R and D in the space program, it gets $7 back in the form of corporate and personal income taxes from increased jobs and economic growth. Second, space exploration spawned thousands of spinoffs, in dozens of categories, that have improved our lives. Here are just a few...

Health and Medicine -- digital-imaging breast-biopsy systems, arteriosclerosis detectors, ultrasound scanners, MRI, portable x-ray device implantable heart aids, cataract surgery tools… and more.

Environmental and Resource Management -- solar energy devices, weather forecasting aids, sensors for forest management, environmental control and pollution measurement and control, radioactive leak detectors, earthquake prediction systems, sewage treatment devices, energy-saving air conditioning and air purifiers… and more.

Public Safety -- radiation hazard detectors, pen-sized personal alarm systems, lightweight cutters for freeing accident victims from wreckage, lighter-weight firefighter's air tanks, Doppler radar, fire detectors, corrosion protection coatings, protective clothing and robotic hands…
and more
.

Consumer/Home/Recreation -- water purification systems, the Dustbuster, shock-absorbing helmets, flat-panel televisions, high-density batteries, trash compactors, freeze-dried food packaging, sports bras, hair styling appliances, composite golf clubs and hang gliders... and more.

If you want a comprehensive accounting of the spinoffs that you've paid for, check them out yourself.

There's another way to look at the return on investment from space exploration. Tony England, a University of Michigan engineering professor, looks at the ROI by posing the question: Are NASA's programs still relevant? His response: "On the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing, it’s appropriate to assert an emphatic 'yes.' Human spaceflight will eventually answer the question, 'Do humans have a viable future beyond the Earth?' A great society needs to invest, at some effective level, in pushing back its boundaries -- both its knowledge boundaries and its physical boundaries. NASA's programs are one of the ways we do this."

To be or not to be? To explore or to not explore? Those are the questions. I choose to be and to explore. My outlay for cable TV exceeds what I pay for U.S. space exploration. If I had to give up one to have the other, I'd pitch my cable box. Then I'd go out and look at the sky -- just as I did 40 years ago -- except this time I'll be wearing polarized sunglasses, my cool running shoes and a pretty-good smelling shirt (even if I'd had it on all day). Oh… and I'll probably grab a glass of Tang.

Read more:





Tuesday, July 14, 2009

FUNdamentals -- The Doctor, the Lawyer and the Engineer

During the French Revolution, a doctor, a lawyer, and an engineer were arrested, put on trial and convicted  of "crimes against the state." A hooded executioner led them up the stairs and left them to standing near the guillotine. The crowd roared -- they wanted blood.

The executioner grabbed the doctor and positioned his head in the guillotine. An official read the declaration of guilt: "You profited from the illness of others. Off with your head!" The executioner yanked the rope. The blade hissed downward -- then stuck just inches from the doctor's neck.

"Fate has saved this man for a reason!" said the official. "He is free!"

The crowd screamed, bitterly disappointed. The executioner pushed the lawyer's neck into place. The official read the declaration: "You persecuted the innocent and coddled the guilty. Off with your head!" The executioner pulled the rope. The blade plummeted through the wooden guides, gathering speed -- then stopped just inches from the lawyer's neck. Again, fate had intervened, and the official released the prisoner.

The crowd surged toward the platform, screaming, hurling rocks at the engineer who pulled the official aside and said, "You know, I can fix that."

FUNdamentals -- The Doctor, the Lawyer and the Engineer

During the French Revolution, a doctor, a lawyer, and an engineer were arrested, put on trial and convicted  of "crimes against the state." A hooded executioner led them up the stairs and left them to standing near the guillotine. The crowd roared -- they wanted blood.

The executioner grabbed the doctor and positioned his head in the guillotine. An official read the declaration of guilt: "You profited from the illness of others. Off with your head!" The executioner yanked the rope. The blade hissed downward -- then stuck just inches from the doctor's neck.

"Fate has saved this man for a reason!" said the official. "He is free!"

The crowd screamed, bitterly disappointed. The executioner pushed the lawyer's neck into place. The official read the declaration: "You persecuted the innocent and coddled the guilty. Off with your head!" The executioner pulled the rope. The blade plummeted through the wooden guides, gathering speed -- then stopped just inches from the lawyer's neck. Again, fate had intervened, and the official released the prisoner.

The crowd surged toward the platform, screaming, hurling rocks at the engineer who pulled the official aside and said, "You know, I can fix that."

Friday, July 10, 2009

What Happens After Hubble?


This is the International Year of Astronomy -- 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope to study the skies, and Kepler's publication of Astronomia Nova. It's also the year that NASA gave the Hubble telescope its fifth update, extending its life to about 2014, when the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a large, infrared-optimized instrument, will replace Hubble and start sending back images of the Universe.

Tom Griffin, a University of Michigan engineering alum, has been the Hubble Space Telescope Observatory Manager since 1997.  Working at the Goddard Space Flight Center, Griffin was in charge of the Hubble spacecraft flight hardware installed during the space shuttle's recent servicing mission in May.  He said that the most remarkable legacy of Hubble would be "its phenomenal discoveries that have rewritten astronomy textbooks. Hubble's lifespan has been extraordinary, too -- and it'll continue to be a productive scientific instrument for discovery through about 2014. This has all been achievable because Hubble's design facilitated in-orbit servicing -- the Space Shuttle and its crew could carry out their updating missions with a high degree of assurance that they'd be successful, as they were with the STS-125 mission in May, which left Hubble able to operate with peak efficiency and productivity. The crew installed two new state-of-the-art science instruments and repaired two others -- those, plus the spacecraft components they installed, such as the gyroscopes, batteries and fine guidance sensor, should allow continued operations."

JWST, the next generation space telescope, will be bigger than Hubble, but the real key to its "eyesight" will be a process that cools structures such as its multiple segmented hexagonal mirrors to 225 degrees below zero Centigrade and gives it the ability to detect light that's red-shifted into infrared from deep space. It's technology that'll enable JWST to eclipse Hubble'http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/images/content/175671main_jwst_artist.jpgs capabilities -- astronomers will be able to look at galaxies that formed in the very beginnings of the Universe and, in the process, connect the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy.

Thomas Zurbuchen, an engineering professor in the University of Michigan departments of Aerospace and Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, said that JWST "is going to become the new Hubble -- a telescope that will change the way we look at the universe and a set very high standard for the entire field of astronomy. As compared to Hubble, JWST will be able to look much deeper into the infrared and thus be able to look much further into the past towards the very beginnings of Universe. With this new and improved capacity, we'll also be able to make new observations that'll provide measurements of the chemical properties of planetary systems and thus shed new light on the processes that are responsible for life."

Katherine Freese, another University of Michigan professor, is studying "dark stars," which she believes might have been the first stars to form in the early universe and which would have burned out by now or might have evolved into something unlike anything we currently know about. JWST will be able to detect these mysterious interstellar creatures.

"Guessing from the Hubble experience, we should expect that JWST will discover entirely new aspects of many fields in astronomy," Zurbuchen said. "The most affected will be questions that relate to the earliest stage of the Universe, galaxies, the birth of new stars and the search and analysis of planetary systems."

Existing instruments, such as Hubble, are unable to detect non-solar planetary systems (planets orbiting stars other than the Sun); however, detection of non-solar planetary systems would play a major part in determining the origin of our solar system and in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. JWST's infrared is ideal for this kind of exploration -- when you look at the ratio of power of radiation received from stars and planets, infrared offers an advantage of about 105 over visible light.

NASA hopes to keep JWST operational for more than 10 years, but that'll depend not only on the amount of fuel needed to maintain the telescope's orbit but on the ability of the craft's instrumentation to keep functioning. JWST's distance from Earth -- about 1 million miles -- will make it impossible to service in the same way that NASA now services Hubble, which orbits about 375 miles above the Earth's surface.

Science will never forget Hubble but, come 2014, JWST will command everyone's attention. Who could resist a look at the infant Universe and objects that are now only matters of speculation?

What Happens After Hubble?


This is the International Year of Astronomy -- 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope to study the skies, and Kepler's publication of Astronomia Nova. It's also the year that NASA gave the Hubble telescope its fifth update, extending its life to about 2014, when the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a large, infrared-optimized instrument, will replace Hubble and start sending back images of the Universe.

Tom Griffin, a University of Michigan engineering alum, has been the Hubble Space Telescope Observatory Manager since 1997.  Working at the Goddard Space Flight Center, Griffin was in charge of the Hubble spacecraft flight hardware installed during the space shuttle's recent servicing mission in May.  He said that the most remarkable legacy of Hubble would be "its phenomenal discoveries that have rewritten astronomy textbooks. Hubble's lifespan has been extraordinary, too -- and it'll continue to be a productive scientific instrument for discovery through about 2014. This has all been achievable because Hubble's design facilitated in-orbit servicing -- the Space Shuttle and its crew could carry out their updating missions with a high degree of assurance that they'd be successful, as they were with the STS-125 mission in May, which left Hubble able to operate with peak efficiency and productivity. The crew installed two new state-of-the-art science instruments and repaired two others -- those, plus the spacecraft components they installed, such as the gyroscopes, batteries and fine guidance sensor, should allow continued operations."

JWST, the next generation space telescope, will be bigger than Hubble, but the real key to its "eyesight" will be a process that cools structures such as its multiple segmented hexagonal mirrors to 225 degrees below zero Centigrade and gives it the ability to detect light that's red-shifted into infrared from deep space. It's technology that'll enable JWST to eclipse Hubble'http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/images/content/175671main_jwst_artist.jpgs capabilities -- astronomers will be able to look at galaxies that formed in the very beginnings of the Universe and, in the process, connect the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy.

Thomas Zurbuchen, an engineering professor in the University of Michigan departments of Aerospace and Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, said that JWST "is going to become the new Hubble -- a telescope that will change the way we look at the universe and a set very high standard for the entire field of astronomy. As compared to Hubble, JWST will be able to look much deeper into the infrared and thus be able to look much further into the past towards the very beginnings of Universe. With this new and improved capacity, we'll also be able to make new observations that'll provide measurements of the chemical properties of planetary systems and thus shed new light on the processes that are responsible for life."

Katherine Freese, another University of Michigan professor, is studying "dark stars," which she believes might have been the first stars to form in the early universe and which would have burned out by now or might have evolved into something unlike anything we currently know about. JWST will be able to detect these mysterious interstellar creatures.

"Guessing from the Hubble experience, we should expect that JWST will discover entirely new aspects of many fields in astronomy," Zurbuchen said. "The most affected will be questions that relate to the earliest stage of the Universe, galaxies, the birth of new stars and the search and analysis of planetary systems."

Existing instruments, such as Hubble, are unable to detect non-solar planetary systems (planets orbiting stars other than the Sun); however, detection of non-solar planetary systems would play a major part in determining the origin of our solar system and in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. JWST's infrared is ideal for this kind of exploration -- when you look at the ratio of power of radiation received from stars and planets, infrared offers an advantage of about 105 over visible light.

NASA hopes to keep JWST operational for more than 10 years, but that'll depend not only on the amount of fuel needed to maintain the telescope's orbit but on the ability of the craft's instrumentation to keep functioning. JWST's distance from Earth -- about 1 million miles -- will make it impossible to service in the same way that NASA now services Hubble, which orbits about 375 miles above the Earth's surface.

Science will never forget Hubble but, come 2014, JWST will command everyone's attention. Who could resist a look at the infant Universe and objects that are now only matters of speculation?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where Can You Go for Business Advice?


Unless you've run a start-up, from the ground up, it's helpful to lean on others who've been down that road before. Where do you find these folks who can advise you and point you to the resources you'll need to start and manage your business?

PlanetEureka.org is a good place to start. The U.S. Department of Commerce / Manufacturing Extension Partnership operates the site, which lets you post and search for innovations, as well as put out requests for innovations. It's free and very slick, in the best sense of the word. State business licensing/registration divisions offer pretty good help. You can farm networks such as LinkedIn for information that's directly related to your business -- and it's likely that you'll find more than one person who's willing to talk. Here's an easy one: Go to Google and search for groups and associations related to your profession, then get involved -- you'll meet people with similar interests and objectives. Also, try SCORE, a nonprofit association that educates entrepreneurs and fosters the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide. And you might spend a moment checking out Vistage International, which bills itself as "the world's foremost chief executive leadership organization."

HOWEVER… my suggestion is to take a close look at the University of Michigan's Center for Entrepreneurship(CFE). Primarily it aims to help the University's students, faculty and staff to pursue entrepreneurial achievements "that improve people's lives, drive the economy and help innovators bridge the gap between inventor and the business." But you'll find that the Center is receptive to anyone with an entrepreneurial bent but no one to set them straight.

Check out the CFE website. You'll find resources galore.

Where Can You Go for Business Advice?


Unless you've run a start-up, from the ground up, it's helpful to lean on others who've been down that road before. Where do you find these folks who can advise you and point you to the resources you'll need to start and manage your business?
PlanetEureka.org is a good place to start. The U.S. Department of Commerce / Manufacturing Extension Partnership operates the site, which lets you post and search for innovations, as well as put out requests for innovations. It's free and very slick, in the best sense of the word. State business licensing/registration divisions offer pretty good help. You can farm networks such as LinkedIn for information that's directly related to your business -- and it's likely that you'll find more than one person who's willing to talk. Here's an easy one: Go to Google and search for groups and associations related to your profession, then get involved -- you'll meet people with similar interests and objectives. Also, try SCORE, a nonprofit association that educates entrepreneurs and fosters the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide. And you might spend a moment checking out Vistage International, which bills itself as "the world's foremost chief executive leadership organization."

HOWEVER… my suggestion is to take a close look at the University of Michigan's Center for Entrepreneurship(CFE). Primarily it aims to help the University's students, faculty and staff to pursue entrepreneurial achievements "that improve people's lives, drive the economy and help innovators bridge the gap between inventor and the business." But you'll find that the Center is receptive to anyone with an entrepreneurial bent but no one to set them straight.

Check out the CFE website. You'll find resources galore.