Tag Archives: Project Icarus

Music company just played a vinyl record 28,000 meters above the Earth

Third Man Records, founded by famous musician Jack White has just become the first company to ever play a vinyl record, on a turntable, in space. The 80-minute long recording, consisting of a mix of composer John Boswell’s A Glorious Dawn and audio clips of Carl Sagan, was sent to space using a high-altitude balloon.

Image via officialTMR

Image via officialTMR

“Our main goal from inception to completion of this project was to inject imagination and inspiration into the daily discourse of music and vinyl lovers,” White told The Guardian.

“We hope that in meeting our goal we inspire others to dream big and start their own missions, whatever they may be.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve sent a record to space — that distinction belongs to the 1977 Voyager mission. But those records are meant for another, more alien, audience. Really, it’s meant for aliens. This is the first time we’ve sent vinyls to space for no other reason than to play them.

Now, turntables aren’t made to survive in the harshness of space — surprising, I know. So White and his colleagues had to find a special container that could protect it and the record on their adventure. They turned to Kevin Carrico, and engineer whose father worked on NASA’s Viking missions.

Carrico spent the past three years designing the Icarus Craft, a container designed to carry a gold-covered vinyl record to the outer limit of the Earth’s atmosphere using a high-altitude balloon. Gold was used to keep the record cool, as Carrico explains:

“As you rise higher and higher into the thinning atmosphere, temperature and increasing vacuum (lack of air) can cause issues,” Carrico said.

“Vinyl has a rather low melting point (71°C/160°F) and without air to keep things cool, you could wind up with a lump of melted plastic on your hands if a record is exposed to the sun for too long.”

The record played for 80 minutes, after which the Icarus eventually crashed in a vineyard. The team reports that the record was still spinning when they finally recovered it.

“Once the return to Earth began (with the craft attached to a parachute and falling about 4x faster than it rose), the turntable automatically went into ‘turbulence mode’, where the record continued to spin, but the tone arm was triggered to lift from the record surface and stay in its locked position, to protect both the needle and the record itself,” the team says on their YouTube Channel.

“When Icarus reached the ground – a vineyard, to be exact – the record still spun, unfazed by its incredible journey.”

You see the vinyl’s journey and its historic playback in this video Third Man Records put together:

The Daedalus Project

Harvesting gas from Uranus might power interstellar flight

The Daedalus Project

Project Icarus is an extremely fascinating initiative which aims to bring humanity closer to the stars. The latest theory proposed by scientists there is related to the development of system which could allow the harvesting of helium-3 gas from Uranus to fuel a possible interstellar mission. Uranus, then, seems to be a very resourceful planet, considering scientists believe it’s covered in oceans of diamonds.

Helium-3 is a great fuel for fusion power, however it’s only found in extremely limited quantities here on Earth, but there’s more than plenty on the distant planet. In fact, the gas is so efficient that only 14,000 tons of it would be enough to power the entire planet for a year. Doesn’t seem such a crazy idea, anymore, right? Also, don’t mind the title of this post.

The mining process, scientists say, could be possible with the help of a robotic hot air balloon which could be filled with the gas and then float it back to Earth. The robot balloon would take 70 days to reach  Uranus, and  be able to take  500 tons of helium-3 at a time.

The Daedalus Project

Project Icarus is actually following in the foot steps of a previous interstellar innitiative from the 1970’s, Project Daedalus, whose purporse was to “design a credible interstellar probe that is a concept design for a potential mission in the coming centuries.”

Daedalus scientists managed to sketch the most complete interstellar probe concept to date, before it eventually got shut down – the probe would be used for a flyby mission to Barnard’s star 5.9 light years away. In the scientists’ plans, the 54,000 ton two-stage vehicle was powered by inertial confinement fusion using electron beams to compress the D/He3 fusion capsules to ignition. It would obtain an eventual cruise velocity of 36,000km/s or 12% of light speed from over 700kN of thrust, burning at a specific impulse of 1 million seconds, reaching its destination in approximately 50 years.

The mission’s main impediment was fuel, but helium-3, it could actually work. Scientists speculate, with today’s technology, an interstellar flight might be ready by 2100.

Exiting, pseudo-science, bull – what’s your take?