Exploring space information, concentrating on the Moon.
Monday, July 1, 2013
Star light, Star bright, wish to fly there tonight.
First a quick note before getting to the topic nuclear fusion generators.
NASA.gov website has had a change that threw me for a loop and I should have expected it but I guess a slow learner.
I got my NASA Headquarters list server email that said welcome aboard and then a follow up email telling me I was not on a new list but just a name change. Then while trying to find some information on fusion engines at http://www.nasa.gov/thought I was at some different place. Expect some links to be broken.
This is not a new list, merely a new return address. Over the weekend, NASA migrated most of its web services, including some of the agency's email lists. Users have not been subscribed to any new lists, and they will continue to receive one copy of each news release.
Despite the wording of the original announcement, members of this list cannot send messages to be distributed via this list, nor is its membership public.
To start with, we've got a refreshed look, lightening the site's color palette. We hope this will address some of the complaints we've had about clutter and the page being hard to navigate visually. But that's just the beginning.
You've no doubt noticed that the navigation buttons are gone from the NASA Home Page. The topics are still there in the "Popular Topics" drop-down menu to the right of the main news stories. We moved them there to make more space for live events. When we solicited feedback on what people wanted from NASA.gov, the most-popular idea (among those we could actually implement) was to make live events more prominent. So here is where we'll be putting links to launches, major press conferences and speeches, planetary encounters and anything else we want to draw your attention to.
You may have already viewed the video at The Objective Standard link from the Lockheed/Martin Skunk Works presentation.
I found TOS Blog informative as well and got me thinking about fusion generation in general.
At anther link, the lead scientist, Tom McGuire's PHD thesis was mentioned in the comments, and I have been reading. My math is not that great but our 6 year old granddaughter was finding numbers and letters in the many equations. I had put it down and the next day started again. I asked her where we left off and she told me "30", that is, page 30. Right on.
Even though I don' fully understand the math, Tom passes on a lot of historical information and tells an interesting story of his thesis work. It was a long road an in his acknowledgements he mentions, "I’d like to thank my advisor Ray Sedwick for supporting me through the years (7.5, but I’m not counting)."
If you didn't check out the file before I think you will find it an interesting read. (which I am still trying to digest)
If you want to fly missions to far away places in the solar system it would be helpful to have some kind of continuous thrust that could be used to provide acceleration for half the journey and continuous thrust to slow down if you want to orbit the celestial body. Such missions have been proposed and a nuclear power source would be handy.
Lack of money and opposition to launching nuclear power sources can get in the way of success. Then there is the problem that present nuclear power sources are often massive. Deciding whether to include humans adds to the mix of problems that need to be overcome. You can read about the proposed Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO)mission or Project Prometheusto get a feel for the politics involved.
You can get a lot of heat from nuclear fission (atomic bomb, splitting apart heavy elements) or nuclear fusion (hydrogen bomb, putting light elements together). Generally speaking, bombs don't make for good sound bites to the general public, although throwing bombs out behind a pusher shield have been suggested.
So many creative ideas that make for good science fiction but are hard to achieve in the here and now. I live over a hill fromLawrence Livermore National Laboratory that is noted for its work with powerful lasers and have some really fast computers. Their job also has to do with monitoring our nuclear stock pile and finding ways to ensure a nuclear device would work if called on to do so but no more blowing up the real thing.
Creating a nuclear fusion generator using their lasers to help in ignition at the National Ignition Facility, that then might be used to generate electrical power, makes for good sound bites. Taking a long time to have success and costing a lot of money, doesn't play well with the budget watchers. Playing your national defence card may not work either.
Over the past 50 years or so tens of billions of dollars have been spent on nuclear fusion research, yet just as some projects are beginning to get into their stride doubts are growing and funding is under threat; especially from the US.
After failing to achieve break-even last year, the fusion reactor being developed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF), is now under threat of having its funding cut, and congress is also reconsidering the contribution that it had promised to the international ITER fusion project in France.