Monday, 28 April 2014

O Canada

I've been in the beautiful country of Canada this past week and a half and although the time has now come for me to return to Munich  I thought a blog post would make my trip last a bit longer, through the photos of course.

 I visited downtown Toronto on the first weekend we were here. It's been 14 years since I last visited Toronto so it was really great to see the city again, this time from a different perspective. 

My sister, Vinita and I tried the surprisingly delicious combination of fried chicken and waffles with Niagara cherry jam, maple syrup and cream at The Drake Hotel. Their brunch menu was so good, and I loved their cute and quirky restaurant style. I definitely recommend it! :)

The Canadian $5 note is a little bit cool. Depicting an astronaut alongside the Canadaarm 2 — the Bank of Canada began circulating this new note last year — symbolising Canada's contribution to space exploration. I'd heard a lot about the new design so was excited to finally see it (and try not to use it)!


Niagara Falls was a magnificent sight to see. The three waterfalls dotted along the border between the United States and Canada were an incredible shade of turquoise in the Springtime sun — a rainbow even sat on the water which made for a great photo!

I stayed in Niagara-on-the-Lake which is about an hour and a half away from Toronto by car. Famed for its wine and ice wine production, the area is scattered with wineries  as well as the Georgian McFarland HouseFloral Clock and the famous Rainbow Bridge — connecting the United States and Canada.

It's always fun revisiting places you first saw as a child and can now experience as an adult.

I'll be working in Montreal from June this year so I'm looking forward to spending more time in Canada, it really is a lovely country :)


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Fairytale in Vienna

 A week or so ago I travelled to Vienna for the weekend with some friends. A 4 or 5 hour train journey away  I'd heard a lot of about the city and couldn't wait to see the capital of Austria for myself. 

Schloss Schönbrunn, a beautiful former imperial palace is a famous cultural attraction in Vienna. As Empress Elisabeth of Austria's former summer residence, it's also referred to as 'Sisi's Palace'. The mixture of palaces and whimsical architecture in Vienna gave the city a fairytale feeling.

My sweet tooth couldn't say no to the famous Sachertorte. Traditionally made in Hotel Sacher, it is one of the most famous Viennese culinary delights. So I had to try some, just for the cultural experience, obviously :)


Vienna was in full bloom, with bustling Easter markets and cherry blossom falling from the trees. As a previously self-proclaimed Autumn person, I think Spring might be my new favourite time of the year. The pastel shades of the season perfectly decorated the city's blend of old and modern architecture.


The street art beside the Danube River was amazing. I found this painting of a female astronaut and had to get a photo with it :) 

Vienna is a beautiful city and I could definitely see myself living there one day. Although, the great thing about living in Munich is that I'm relatively close to quite a few cool European cities.

 Next, I've got my eye on Italy! 


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

From Rocket to Space Hotel

Utilizing existing technology and sustainably housing humans in space is a seemingly futuristic concept that already has its wheels in motion today. Space company Tasha9503 is designing hotels to put into low Earth orbit (LEO) using used rocketry and the available technology of today.
Orbital colonization as the next step for humanity was discussed in the recent Space Safety article, Living in Space. Exploration is in our nature and settling amongst the stars inside orbital habitats is a method through which this can be achieved.
Constant human presence in space has already been established through the International Space Station (ISS) — which has housed humans continually ever since its first crew in 2000. This powerhouse of scientific
An artist's impression of Tasha9503's space hotel (Credits: Tasha9503).
An artist’s impression of Tasha9503′s space hotel (Credits: Tasha9503).
research is the product of international cooperation between 15 nations and is a powerful testament to our potential in space. By unlocking this potential capability to work together both on and off of our home planet has been demonstrated — and in turn gives rise to a plethora of new orbital habitat concepts that may one day become a reality.
In order to live in space sustainably, cost needs to be low and reusability must be a key component.  This will allow maximum utility to be gained from the grand endeavour. One such concept that focuses on reusing existing components is HotelsInSpace by Tasha9503  — which aims to put great numbers of people in space at a low cost. The company will build spaceships from specially designed used rockets, which are capable of lifting 6 satellite payloads and up to 200 paying customers.
This ambitious plan arose after the founder Trevor Cooper heard somebody mention that they would like a spaceship in which their children could mine smelt forge at the Asteroid Belt, manufacture living accommodations on site, whilst continuing to study the cosmos. And so, HotelsInSpace was born.
The International Space Station orbits majestically as the first permanent human outpost in space Credits: NASA).
The International Space Station orbits majestically as the first permanent human outpost in space Credits: NASA).
In an attempt to open up space travel and space tourism to the general public, Tasha9503 is offering a destination in LEO for the cost of one million US dollars per week. In 2005, they drew up a redesign of the ‘Saturn V’ rocket so that upon arrival in LEO, it could be easily reconfigured and attached to five other redesigned rockets, forming a 72 until hotel. The company has estimated that 500, 000 people investing $25 per week are required in order to have the first hotel in space within seven years. Once in orbit, this hotel in space will be open for business to rent as holiday resorts.
The vision of Tasha9503 extends past sustainable living in Earth orbit. Additional hotels will be built, which cannot land but are capable of taking people on away missions to any orbit within our solar system.
With destinations such as the Asteroid Belt, Earth’s Moon, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus in mind — Tasha9503 dreams big and intends to use the magic of engineering to bring these to life.
Another secondary goal is to help to clean up the existing space junk. Activities in space currently add to the space debris issue that our planet is facing. Littered above our heads are the remnants of the past 60 years of human space activities. A wonderful achievement, yet it comes with a responsibility to protect our planet. Comprised of defunct satellites and spent rocket stages — explosion and fragmentation of this debris further exacerbates the problem.
Tasha9503 plan to use their hotels to collect space junk. Each spaceship will include 6 robotic arms in order to collect orbiting debris. The cost of this great number of robotic arms will be covered through renting out the
The Earth is surrounded by a halo of space debris (Credits: ESA).
The Earth is surrounded by a halo of space debris (Credits: ESA).
72 units within each spaceship, as well as private funding.
Trevor Cooper commented on the concept:
“Wrapped around the spaceship are magnetic tracks that these arms can travel along or spin at a safe speed. Depending on the speed and direction of the SpaceJunk, the arm holding the rocket engine will spin around the spaceship so as the SpaceJunk approaches; it will end within the rocket engine. Then the robotic arm slows the spin and passes the rocket engine in through a large day door.”
The Stanford Torus, one of the several orbital habitat designs proposed by Gerard O'Neill (Credits: Rick Guidice/NASA Ames Research Center).
The Stanford Torus, one of the several orbital habitat designs proposed by Gerard O’Neill (Credits: Rick Guidice/NASA Ames Research Center).
Old satellites can also be collected and refurbished, rebuilt, repositioned or scrapped by this technology. Space debris may also be used as shields when in proximity to the Asteroid Belt. Trevor explains, “Because most of the SpaceJunk is moving in the same direction, but dozens of miles apart we will only be able to capture what we get close to — unlike the ISS which is moved away from SpaceJunk for safety.”
The concept of living in space sustainably is not a new one and Tasha9503 is certainly not the only player in this space arena. Space habitats in LEO have been conjectured for years. In the 1970s, Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill demonstrated that orbital space colonies were physically possible, attractive places to live, and may make economic sense. Now, private companies and nations are developing methods by which this can be achieved. Companies such as SpaceX are building cheaper rockets, and have sustainability at the forefront of their design process.
Bigelow Aerospace's first operational spacecraft Genesis I was a tremendous success (Credits: Bigelow Aerospace).
Bigelow Aerospace’s first operational spacecraft Genesis I was a tremendous success (Credits: Bigelow Aerospace).
Bigelow Aerospace plans to greatly increase the usable space of the ISS at a fraction of the cost. Established in 1999, Bigelow spacecraft utilizes expandable or ‘inflatable’ structures and space systems. By redesigning initial NASA inflatable space habitat designs, the company launched the world’s first expandable space habitat prototypes with the Genesis program’s Genesis I in 2006. Tasha9503 hopes to one day wrap the outer surface of each hotel with a layer of Bigelow’s inflatable structures. Such cooperation is essential in order to achieve greatness as a species, as demonstrated brilliantly by the ISS.
Orbital colonization is a stepping stone to Mars and eventually interstellar spaceflight. Building an oasis in space may help to save our species in case of a catastrophic disaster on Earth, or will be a way to gain orbital perspective on vacation from our busy lives on Earth. Either way, it is a demonstration of our human intelligence and capability. The research that we conduct today will form the foundation of Earth’s home away from home of tomorrow.
Written for Space Safety Magazine by Nikita Marwaha.
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