While the power outage at the Superbowl has been occupying hearts and minds across the country, at an interesting event not too far away discussions are taking place on far more serious disasters, such as the destruction of the Columbia Shuttle and surviving future disasters. In Huntsville, Alabama a group of scientists from NASA, other agencies, contractors and others who are interested in exploring our solar system and beyond are now meeting at the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop.
The topics of the workshop include concepts of vehicles for exploring our solar system and deep space, solar sails, extra-planetary mining, module design for setting up initial bases on extra-planetary locations and practical aspects such as the Single Person Emergency Atmospheric Re-entry Device for use in catastrophes involving re-entry vehicles such as the Columbia Space Shuttle in 2003.
One of the speakers, scientist and writer Stephanie Osborn, was friends with a crew member, Kalpana Chawla, of the Columbia when it was destroyed during reentry. Last year she met one of the field coroners who was called in to investigate the disaster. The reports indicate that the crew was alive when the shuttle broke up and at least one of the crewmen survived the fall only to be killed on impact with the earth.
After discovering this, Ms. Osborn and others have been working on concepts to cover single person reentry, the Single Person Emergency Atmospheric Re-entry Device, aka SPEARED. Their work was given a boost with the Space skydive of Felix Baumgartner in October 2012. The SPEARED device would include the emergency deployment of heat resistant foam to protect the astronaut and a parachute system to break the fall.
Todays speakers include Travis Taylor of the Rocket City Rednecks. The workshop continues into this evening and concludes Wednesday February 2. 2013 with a tour of one of the local space industry plants. While this event has far less impact over the day to day life than the Superbowl power outage, it has the potential to impact the future of humanity as a whole.