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Archive for June, 2018

Reflections on the 2018 International Space Development Conference

Monday, June 25th, 2018

Jim Plaxco and Jeff Bezos at the International Space Development Conference VIP Reception
Talking with Jeff Bezos at the International Space Development Conference VIP Reception

If you were searching for me the last week of May you would have found me at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles. This is the second year in a row I’ve attended the conference. Before that, the last time I attended was in 2010 when the conference was held here in Chicago and for which I served as the conference website’s webmaster.

I had three tangible reasons for attending the conference this year. First, the conference had a compelling collection of speakers and presentations. Add to this the presence of Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin and Amazon) and physicist Freeman Dyson whom I hoped to meet (it would be my second time meeting Freeman Dyson).

Factors Impacting the Sustainability of a Cislunar Economy
Factors Impacting the Sustainability of a Cislunar Economy presentation for the 2018 International Space Development Conference

Second, it turned out that I was one of the conference’s speakers. I had submitted a proposal for a presentation titled Factors Impacting the Sustainability of a Cislunar Economy but did not hear back and two follow up inquiries went unanswered. I had no choice but to assume that my submission had not been accepted. I only learned that my presentation proposal had been accepted a couple days before leaving for California. I wound up putting the presentation together in my hotel room as I found the time. As such it was a simplistic presentation completely lacking in graphics (I added an image for the title slide for posting here) and numbers. I was however quite pleased when a number of folks, including Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society, complimented me on my talk. I even got a request from a representative of the Aerospace States Association for a copy of my talk.

Third, I am currently contracted with NSS to perform a number of IT (information technology) tasks. These include designing and deploying a new WordPress mobile-friendly website (see it at space.nss.org), code cleaning and converting the NSS mirror of the NASA Ames Space Settlement website so that it too would be mobile-friendly (with “our” version now running on the NASA side as well), assisting with a migration of the organization’s membership system, and other duties as assigned.

My intangible reason for attending was the opportunity to reunite with old friends and to make new ones.

As it turns out, I was also asked to serve as a judge for the student debate on the topic of universalization. Specifically the debate question was: Can universalization promote global peace through cooperation? A definition for the term universalization that is being advocated by Dr. Lorna Jean Edmonds, Vice Provost for Global Affairs and International
Studies at Ohio University and one of the debate judges, is one meant to describe the next phase of human development, specifically:

as marking the transition from trans-national to interplanetary relations and much more aggressive exploitation of opportunities that lie beyond the confines of Earth. As both a process and an end state, universalization implies an increasingly pervasive, abiding and singular human focus not only on global issues per se but on social, technological, economic and cultural challenges and opportunities extending into our solar system, our galaxy, and well beyond, where cooperation supersedes conflict negotiation.

While I very much enjoyed my experience as a judge, I was disappointed that the debate topic was not more space-centric. If student debates are to be a feature of the 2019 ISDC, I do hope that their topic will be more directly relevant to the theme of the conference.

One unexpected bonus for me was getting to meet Cara Gee, the actress who plays Drummer on the TV series The Expanse and who coincidentally is my favorite female character in the show.

Posing with Cara Gee and Ken Ruffin
Posing with Cara Gee and Ken Ruffin

The photo above was to be a photo of Cara and I taken by Christian Meza, CTO of Aerolite Meteorites. Seeing Ken Ruffin of the National Space Society of North Texas standing nearby, I asked him to join us for a group photo. After the dinner that followed, I did get to speak with Cara Gee some more. I also had a lengthy conversation with Tasha O’Neill, the widow of Gerard K. O’Neill. It was Tasha who presented Jeff Bezos with the NSS Gerard K. O’Neill Award (shown below). Much of my conversation with Tasha dealt with photography as Tasha is a fine art photographer.

With respect to space art, the conference had a screening of the documentary movie "Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future" which was an in-depth look at the life and art of Chesley Bonestell, the greatest of space artists and one whose impact will most likely never be equalled. There was also a sweet exhibit of space art put on by the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA) of which I am a former member. It was great getting a chance to see Rick Sternback and Aldo Spadoni again after so many years (although we do interact on occasion on Facebook – which I am an infrequent user of).

All in all, it was a wonderful, fun, educational, multi-faceted conference which I can highly recommend to anyone with a serious interest in the exploration of space and the development of the space frontier.

A Few Photographs from the
2018 International Space Development Conference

In total I took 560 photographs at ISDC, a few of which I share below. A good number of the photos I took were of the fashion show (yes, a fashion show) that was a part of the Filipino Heritage Night which was also a part of the conference and which featured a variety of music and dance performances. A wonderful way to spend the last evening of the conference.

Jeff Bezos NSS Gerard K. O'Neill Award for Space Settlement Advocacy
Jeff Bezos NSS Gerard K. O’Neill Award for Space Settlement Advocacy

ISDC Award Ceremony with Tasha O'Neill and Jeff Bezos
ISDC Award Ceremony with Tasha O’Neill and Jeff Bezos

Cast of the SciFi TV Show The Expanse Viewing Episode Clip
Cast of the SciFi TV show The Expanse viewing a scene from an episode

Student Space Settlement Design Contest Displays
Student Space Settlement Design Contest Displays

Posing for a photograph with Freeman Dyson
Posing for a photograph with Freeman Dyson

Dancing to the music of The Zippers
Saturday night dancing to the music of The Zippers

Jeff Bezos and actor Cas Anvar from The Expanse
Jeff Bezos and actor Cas Anvar from The Expanse

ISDC VIP Reception Buzz Aldrin, Jeff Bezos, Bruce Pittman, and Howard Bloom
At the ISDC VIP Reception from left to right Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin and Amazon), and Bruce Pittman (National Space Society Senior Vice President). Behind and to the left of Buzz is Howard Bloom (author and founder of the Space Development Steering Committee)

HP Mars Home Planet: Designing a Future Human Civilization on Mars in VR by Sean Young of Hewlett Packard
HP Mars Home Planet: Designing a Future Human Civilization on Mars in VR by Sean Young of Hewlett Packard

John Mankins ISDC presentation on Space Solar Power
John Mankins ISDC presentation on Space Solar Power

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Anak Krakatau aka Krakatoa Volcano

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Landsat image of Krakatau Volcano
Landsat image of Krakatau Volcano

I’m not sure what possessed me to seek out a Landsat image of Anak Krakatau (aka the Krakatoa Volcano) at this time – but I did. In my presentation Planet Earth As Art: The View From Space I do include images of several volcanoes so perhaps adding Krakatau was in the back of my mind. Whatever the reason, the Anak Krakatau Volcano is the latest addition to my Planet Earth Satellite Imagery Gallery on Redbubble.

In processing the raw Landsat image files (separate 16-bit black and white images for the red, green, and blue channels along with the panchromatic image for luminosity), I employed a work flow that had a number of differences from work flows I’ve previously used to process satellite images. Of course I tend to employ a slightly different work flow with every satellite remote sensing image I process since I have no interest in creating a workflow “recipe” and don’t bother to document the processing steps I do take.

Krakatau (Krakatoa) Original Landsat Red, Green, Blue, Panchromatic Images Stacked
Krakatau (Krakatoa) Original (Non-Processed) Landsat Red, Green, Blue, Panchromatic Images Stacked

The challenge with this particular image was to visually magnify the contrast of the waters of the Sunda Strait and to brighten the image without blowing out the cloud details. Unfortunately since I kept no notes as to the specific steps I took to get from the raw input to the final output I can’t precisely recreate what I did. This is unfortunate because the results turned out better than I had expected.

Enough about the image processing – it’s time to talk about the volcano and the major features in the image. For reference purposes, use the following map to identify key features in the image.

Map of the region of Krakatau Volcano in Indonesia south of Sumatra
Map of the region of Krakatau Volcano in Indonesia south of Sumatra

Rajabasa is an isolated 1280 meter high stratovolcano located at the southeastern coast of the island of Sumatra. The summit crater is approximately 600 meters in diameter. It is not known when this ancient volcano last erupted.

Sebuku is a low lying island in the eastern part of Lampung Bay and is only 2.5 kilometers north of Sebesi island. Sebuku is also of volcanic origin and probably dates to the Quaternary – the most recent period in the Cenozoic era.

Sebesi is about 12 kilometers north of the Krakatoa islands. While it is volcanic, there are no known dated eruptions. Inhabited at the time of the 1883 eruption of Krakatau, estimates are that some 3,000 people on the island lost their lives as a consequence of that eruption.

Sertung, also known as Verlaten, is another volcanic island a mere 2 kilometers west of Anak Krakatau. Unlike the island of Krakatau which lost about two-thirds of its area in the cataclysmic 1883 eruption, Sertung temporarily tripled in size due to the volcanic fallout (pumice) from the eruption but much of that gain quickly eroded away.

Panjang, also known as Lang and as Pulau Krakatau Kitjil, is the small island about 2 kilometers east of Anak Krakatau.

Krakatau and Rakata are the remains of the original island of Krakatau which was destroyed by the 1883 eruption. Rakata itself is one of the three volcanoes that made up the island of Krakatau – the other two having been destroyed during the 1883 eruption.

Collectively Sertung, Panjang and Rakata represent the boundaries of the large submarine volcanic caldera which is almost 8 kilometers in diameter.

Anak Krakatau (Krakatoa) Volcano - full size detail
Anak Krakatau (Krakatoa) Volcano – full size image detail

Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa) is a new island that emerged in 1930 following submarine volcanic eruptions and represents the center of volcanic activity for Krakatau/Krakatoa. As of 2017, Anak Krakatau’s height was over 400 meters above sea level.

The eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 was one of the most powerful eruptions in recorded history. The energy released in the eruption is estimated to have been on the order of 200 megatons of TNT, which is approximately equal to about 13,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. The eruption also impacted global climate, causing an estimated one degree Celsius decline in the Earth’s average temperature in the year that followed – with global temperatures not getting back to normal until 1888.

If you are a fan of geology, volcanoes in general or Krakatoa in particular, I have made this image of Krakatau available on a number of products in my art gallery on Redbubble. Click either the button or image below for additional product information.

Anak Krakatau (aka Krakatoa) Volcano on Redbubble

Krakatau Volcano Merchandise and Clothing on Redbubble
Krakatau Volcano Merchandise and Clothing on Redbubble

 

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