Titanium could become a lot cheaper and more commongly used. A non-melt consolidation process being developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and industry partners could reduce the amount of energy required and the cost to make titanium parts from powders by up to 50 percent, making it feasible to use titanium alloys for brake rotors, artificial joint replacements, space vehicles and military vehicles.
Peter noted that the non-melt approach, which includes roll compaction for directly fabricating sheets from powder, press and sinter techniques to produce net shape components and extrusion, offers many advantages over traditional melt processing.
“Instead of using conventional melt processing to produce products from titanium powder, with the new method the powders remain in their solid form during the entire procedure,” Peter said. “This saves a tremendous amount of energy required for processing, greatly reduces the amount of scrap and allows for new alloys and engineered composites.”
While powder metallurgy has been used to produce components for many years, titanium products have not widely been fabricated using these methods because of the high cost of conventional titanium powders. Now, however, new low-cost titanium powders are enabling ORNL, International Titanium Powders, Ametek and BAE Systems to develop these technologies for titanium.
Microsoft Research has launched the WorldWide Telescope (WWT). It is a Web 2.0 visualization software environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope—bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world for a seamless exploration of the universe. WWT is a single rich application portal that blends terabytes of images, information, and stories from multiple sources over the Internet into a seamless, immersive, rich media experience. You have to download and install a component to use it.
Property rights attract private capital and, with government space programs stagnating, a lunar land rush may be just what we need to get things going again.
For thinkers like Wasser, celestial private property is important not simply because of helium-3 mining or moon-based solar arrays, it’s important because it would allow for large-scale colonization. In such a future, Wasser believes, it simply doesn’t make sense not to have private property in space, any more than it would make sense for people in the United States not to be able to buy and sell and inherit their homes.
The colonization of space, in this model, would unfold as a sort of interplanetary suburbanization, with the moon and other celestial bodies being settled thanks to reliable transportation and the ready availability of private plots of land. For all the technological marvels required to make this happen, it’s a story Americans are pretty familiar with.