Monday, October 22, 2007

Space Elevator Games Day 3 (and now 4)

The Space Elevator Games continued Sunday, with attempts, but no wins, from all 4 climber teams. The games are extended to Monday (today) for those teams that can stay. All of the details, and some cool pictures of climbers against backdrops of snowy mountains and lasers firing at night are at The Space Elevator Blog and The Space Elevator Reference.

Update: More attempts have been made, but there haven't been any successes yet. One issue is that there may be problems with the ribbon itself. See the links above for more details.

There's a summary at Wired Science and TreeHugger.

Meanwhile, RLV News has links and comments on the games here and here. In addition to the posts, you should check out the comments, some of which are from NASA Centennial Challenge's Ken Davidian. One comment from RLV News that I agree with is the following:

One thing I would suggest, though, is that some preliminary events be arranged to help the competitors get some "practice" before the one big annual contest. Just going through the process of moving the apparatus, setting it up, seeing if everything is compatible with the rules, finding unexpected problems, etc. will help a team prepare for the real thing later. Such preliminary meets might offer only some minor prizes or even just some travel support for the contestants. The tether strength competition, in particular, doesn't involve a big hardware setup. I could imagine, for example, the National Space Society sponsoring a mini-competition of the tether pull at its annual meeting in May. A materials sciences conference of some sort might also be interested in such a contest.

This idea seems like a potential win-win-win-win for NASA, the Alliance Organization (in this case Spaceward), the event organizer (such as the National Space Society ISDC), and the competitor teams (and their sponsors). It applies to other similar Challenges, too.

For NASA: More good public relations, and more of a chance to get better technical results from the challenges. For example, a test Regolith Excavation run using good lunar simulant a half year early might teach a team something early, and get them producing results earlier. Misconceptions about the expectations (eg: mobility) might also be brought to light earlier this way. Similar scenarios could hold for Space Elevator competitors (although I suppose it's less likely after 3 years of Space Elevator games).

For the Alliance Organization (like Spaceward): This would allow them to iron out some problems early, making their main event more of a success. Possibly just as important, it would be a good chance for public attention to their event and cause, helping sponsorship, attendance, and more. In the case of a Washington DC event, they might even get some favorable political exposure. It would probably be a lot of work ... but maybe some volunteers at the event could help.

For the event organizer (let's pick the NSS ISDC): Such an event at, or near (in time/space) the ISDC would be a draw to the rest of the ISDC, both for the general public and for Space Elevator fans. As with Spaceward, it would bring more attention to their event and organization. Even if a full-fledged event can't be held because it's too difficult, it would be good to have some kind of dry run event like the qualification event at the Games, or at least a display of hardware. It would be interesting to see teams show up not only to compete in a mini-Games, but also to have a Space Elevator or Power Beaming/Tether track at the ISDC so the teams can show their stuff and so other elevator/power beaming/tether experts can present. Having some kind of associated competition, like the Light Racers, or a smaller power beaming, material strength, or related challenge (either for kids or grown-ups) would also fit in nicely. I wouldn't limit ideas for associated mini-challenges to the ones at the Space Elevator Games -- anything on the path to the Space Elevator, or perhaps other space-related advances that can be accomplished with improved power beaming or tether technologies, would work just as well. With such a "theme" as part of the ISDC, one can imagine a nice Ad Astra article with photos almost writing itself.

For Teams - One potentially nice thing about the timing of ISDC is that it might be convenient for university students who might be between Spring semester and a summer job at that time. Obviously the additional exposure and dry run would help them raise money and increase their chances of winning the prize. It would be a good networking opportunity, too. It should be a lot of fun, too.

Oh, I almost forgot the ISDC attendees - the dry run and any associated mini-games or lecture tracks would be a nice addition to their ISDC experience.

So ... there are a lot of advantages ... but clearly it would involve scarce money and time. It seems like a worthwhile thing to try, anyway.