Monday, 18 August 2003

Courage, Plasma, and Lasers

Today I was honoured to meet and shake hands with probably the Bravest person I've ever met. Mrs Peggy Marguerite Chang Diaz. Memorable quote :
I have all the worry, He has all the fun
Oh yes, I also got to meet her husband, Dr Franklin Chiang Diaz (veteran of 7 Shuttle missions) too. (BTW he looks about 30, and wears braces.. Not many people know that)

Dr Chiang Diaz is currently visiting the Australian National University, pursuing what seems to be a favourite topic of his : Plasma Rocketry. He described the specific impulse of such engines as being in "the thousands", compared with the 200-300 of current rockets.

Also there at the presentation was Dr Ben Greene, CEO of "the most interesting company in Queanbeyan", Electro Optic Systems, otherwise known around here as "Lasers R Us". Apart from doing a lot of highly classified Defence work, they've got a laser tracker that can get the position of any piece of space junk to an accuracy of a millimetre. Their more powerful lasers can also be used to zap a few microns of surface off of a spent satellite (or whatever) in LEO and push it into a decaying orbit. He reckons the problem of "space junk" will be licked, starting in about a decade.

From the ABC Radio National Science Week Site :
Monday 18, 6pm'Space Business' - Richard Aedy from The Buzz on Radio National hosts a discussion with NASA Astronaut Dr Franklin Chang-Diaz. Royal Theatre at the National Convention centre, Canberra.
Broadcast on Radio National on Monday August 25 at 1.05pm (AEST)
That's Sunday at about 6-9pm in the US, and Monday 3am in the UK. A transcript and streaming audio will be available on the web.

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