JBIS Vol 67 No 3

Dear Readers,

JBIS-Mar-2014-lrgIn this issue of your journal we have an exciting collection of papers for you to enjoy.

Timothy Setterfield, Cameron Frazier and Alex Ellery write about the design and testing of instrumented rocker-bogie mobility system, previously used on NASA’s Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, and now proposed for the 30 kg Kapvik micro-rover. The well validated design has an ability to negotiate large obstacles and to equilibrate ground pressure amongst all six wheels.

Stephen Baxter is a world renowned Science and Science Fiction author and a regular contributor to JBIS. In his paper on Super-Earths, he has combined both of his literary talents to create a survey of large Earth planets that have appeared in science fiction literature. Some might enquire as to the relevance of this paper to a technical academic journal dedicated to astronautics, but we must remember that the British Interplanetary Society motto is “From imagination to Reality” and both frequently catalyse each other. Baxter puts it thus “While in retrospect not all these fictional worlds are physically plausible, they do offer a glimpse of the wide array of super-Earths, and perhaps life forms, to be anticipated in reality”.

Lloyd Wood, and co-authors Yuxuan Lou and Opeoluwa Olusola, write about the history of highly elliptical orbits for the use of satellites at high latitudes. In particular, they discuss the idea for a new elliptical O3b satellite constellation which would include coverage at the Earth’s poles. Although the authors admit that such orbits may not gain widespread use for communications, remaining instead a small niche market.

We also have a paper from Daniel Cartin on quantifying the Fermi Paradox in the local solar neighbourhood using so called Percolation theory. As Cartin puts it, this paradox highlights the dichotomy between the lack of physical contact with other civilizations and the expectations that technological civilizations are assumed likely to evolve in many locations in the Milky Way galaxy, given the large number of planetary systems. The authors work builds on earlier work by US scientist Geoffrey Landis who first proposed the Percolation theory in this journal in 1998.

Finally, it was recently announced that a hero of space exploration and a friend of the British Interplanetary Society had been lost, Professor Colin Pillinger, who sadly passed away on 8th May 2014. He became an inspirational space celebrity for his pioneering attempt to reach the surface of Mars using the Beagle 2. Professor Pillinger will be missed by many and the JBIS team sends our heartfelt thoughts to his family. In a recent press release, the BIS President Alistair Scott acknowledged the important role he has played in modern space exploration history: “He was an example to us all and I’m sure inspired a whole new generation of UK scientists and engineers”.

Kelvin F. Long, JBIS Editor

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