Dear Reader,

As regular readers know, I’m a space enthusiast. My dream as a kid was to be an astronaut. And I completed Purdue University’s aeronautical engineering program toward that goal. But a high school football injury stopped that dream in its tracks.

Still, I love to keep up on the latest news in space travel. And I hope you’re as interested in space as I am, because today we have a special space-themed edition of The Bleeding Edge

This is in honor of yet another amazing accomplishment by the team at SpaceX, which has been disrupting, in a great way, the entire aerospace industry.

SpaceX continues to run circles around NASA and the large, slow incumbents in the industry.

We are one step closer to going to Mars…

SpaceX’s Starhopper just finished up its test flights… successfully. This is the spacecraft that will ultimately shuttle humans to Mars.

Starhopper took off from a launch pad and rose to a height of 500 feet. That was the FAA’s limit for the test. Then it hovered sideways… and descended to a separate landing pad to complete the test.

As I mentioned, I dreamed of being an astronaut as a kid. But I have to say, we never envisioned anything like the Starhopper back then. Designs always tended to look futuristic.

This craft looks like a massive corn silo. It’s fascinating. And it can carry up to 100 passengers.

The SpaceX Starhopper

Source: SpaceX

One note on the strange shape… This craft is optimized for travel to Mars. It doesn’t need to be perfectly aerodynamic because the atmosphere of Mars is about 100 times thinner than that of Earth. Plus, its gravity is much weaker. This vehicle is also perfectly suitable for putting astronauts on the Moon.

So we’re getting closer to SpaceX’s goal of taking humans to Mars. And what’s amazing to me is that SpaceX continues to make massive progress in short periods of time.

The company’s next step is to come up with the orbital prototype. It’s already working on two potentials – MK1 and MK2. SpaceX will go with the best of these two. That’s the final precursor to actual spaceflight. And it could happen by 2021.

From there, SpaceX’s first trip around the Moon is scheduled for 2023. That trip will take eight people, including Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. After that it’s off to Mars…

Introducing the “space elevator”…

Interesting research just came out of a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and Columbia University. The title of the research paper is “The Spaceline: A Practical Space Elevator Alternative Achievable With Current Technology.”

In the paper, researchers describe a space elevator that could be used to transport goods from Earth to space. I won’t get too technical, but the idea is to attach a long cable to the Moon and let it dangle into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Then all we have to do is launch payloads into low orbit and connect them to the cable. The cable will shuttle them up to the Moon. That’s much easier than launching rockets full of goods into space.

The “Spaceline”

Source: GeekWire (hypothetical depiction)

I know this sounds like the stuff of science fiction. But we have everything we need to make this happen today. We don’t need new materials or a radical new design. The tech already exists.

And here’s the key… A space elevator like this would not be expensive to build. A few billion dollars would do it.

They may sound like a lot. But consider that, in 2008, NASA signed a contract with SpaceX for 12 launches to supply the International Space Station. The price tag: $1.6 billion. That’s just for a dozen launches.

Once ready, this space elevator would drop the cost of transporting things to space. That’s the biggest impediment to colonizing space right now… It’s too expensive to get heavy goods up there.

I know it’s hard to wrap our heads around stories like this. But we are entering the new Space Age right now. We will colonize the Moon and Mars in our lifetimes. What a wonderful time to be alive.

Traveling the universe through wormholes…

Incredible research just came out of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Department of Physics. It conceived of a way to create a wormhole in space. It’s just theoretical right now… but we could use the wormhole to reach far-flung parts of the universe. Here’s how…

The theory is that we can create a wormhole using two oppositely-charged black holes. One positive and one negative. We know black holes bend the space-time continuum. They bend the fabric of the universe. That’s what creates a wormhole.

But there has always been a difficulty with wormholes… They are inherently unstable.

Until now, there weren’t any good ideas on how to fix that problem. After all, if a wormhole is unstable, it all but guarantees an undesired outcome for a spaceship attempting to pass through it.

And that’s where this new research is so interesting. The team theorizes that by using cosmic strings in a certain way, a wormhole will become stable… enabling spacefaring citizens to build an interstellar highway system throughout the universe.

Cosmic strings are thought to be remnants of the Big Bang.

If you were to fly a spaceship into one, it would cut the ship in half like a laser. That’s how dense these things are.

And without getting technical, that density is what theoretically can make a wormhole stable. And since the wormhole was created by two oppositely-charged black holes bending the universe itself, traveling through it would lead to far-reaching corners of the universe.

Wormholes have long been the stuff of science fiction, and with this latest research, we are one step closer to science fact.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge