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Current Essay Contest

Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

Previous Contests

Wandering Towards a Goal
How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?
December 2, 2016 to March 3, 2017
Contest Partner: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fund.

Trick or Truth: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics
Contest Partners: Nanotronics Imaging, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and The John Templeton Foundation
Media Partner: Scientific American


How Should Humanity Steer the Future?
January 9, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

It From Bit or Bit From It
March 25 - June 28, 2013
Contest Partners: The Gruber Foundation, J. Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

Questioning the Foundations
Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?
May 24 - August 31, 2012
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, SubMeta, and Scientific American

Is Reality Digital or Analog?
November 2010 - February 2011
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation and Scientific American

What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
May - October 2009
Contest Partners: Astrid and Bruce McWilliams

The Nature of Time
August - December 2008

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March 18, 2018

CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: Regenerative Technologies for Long Duration Interstellar Flight by Alexander W Knapton [refresh]
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Author Alexander W Knapton wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 11:24 GMT
Essay Abstract

If humanity can create a living ecosystem through technology, the total sustainability needed for interstellar flight would be achievable. The means of providing food, water, and shelter from fixed resources are termed “regenerative technologies”. This concept has already been applied to some existing space technologies. There is also current research that promises more useful technologies. Many of these technologies involve applications of biological systems.

Author Bio

Alexander Knapton is a Portland State University student studying sustainability with a particular interest in long-duration spaceflight technologies.

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Joe Fisher wrote on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 14:54 GMT
Mr. Knapton,

I found your essay really interesting to read. It was very broad in scope, but it was also masterfully constructed. I do hope that it does well in the competition.


Joe Fisher

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Georgina Woodward wrote on May. 2, 2014 @ 21:09 GMT
Hi Alexander,

you have written a really informative,easy to read, and enjoyable essay. It is nice the way you have told your personal story from childhood to now and shown us your connection with space travel from early star gazing, SciFi., to employment and personal research of the subject alongside many snippets of fascinating factual information.

The radiotrophic fungi are something I have never heard about before. Life is amazing, and the idea of using them as a shield is ingenious. Also the ethylene connection to poor growth of plants in space. Such a simple solution. Couldn't some insect pollinated plants be hand pollinated as is often done in plant research facilities? It would give the astronauts something pleasant, maybe even stress relieving to do. And having some plants with showy flowers might also be a pleasant reminder of Earth's diversity of life.

I too think that mankind would have to take a self sufficient biosphere with him to colonize other worlds. Though I have suggested that we need to develop them and have them work reliably, and may actually need them on Earth, before taking the step into space. The ill fated biosphere II in mind. The way you have considered various hazards and how to overcome them begins to make it seem doable.

Good luck, Georgina

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James A Putnam wrote on May. 6, 2014 @ 21:16 GMT
Alexander W Knapton,

Your essay is interesting and fun. It is another essay that is well suited for this contest with no justifiable reason to have a rating of a single '1'. I am giving it a '10' and lifting it up to where others might take notice and appreciate it.

James Putnam

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Israel Perez wrote on May. 17, 2014 @ 01:54 GMT
Dear Alexander

You wrote a interesting essay. It is well organized and written. Your father advice is very good: Find something you love to do and devote yourself to it.

From your essay I can see that there are still a lot of problems for long trips, even to Mars. I have seen in the news that there is contest for people who wish to go to Mars but with one-way ticket, no return. It seems that they are planning to make a reality show. Surprisingly, many people are interested even if they know they will never be back.

In view, we are still hundreds of years away from these kind of journeys. The good news is that we can use these recycling spatial technologies here on earth and avoid exhausting our natural resources. I discuss a little in my work Indeed, the problem is quite complex.... I would be glad if you could take a look at it.

Good luck!

Best regards


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Peter Jackson wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 15:49 GMT

I agree and support your approach which is undoubtedly valid and valuable. We first have to get there, but I admire your view that;

"I remain optimistic that one day someone will come up with an answer. We have accomplished similar impossible milestones before, we just need a fresh perspective to succeed in this one."

Ah! yes indeed. That fresh perspective is what I suggest in my own essay. Using Bob and Alice for the long trip avoids those needs and allows the new perspective to reveal the quantum leap in science required. Of course we do still have to overcome theoretical inertia before any such advance!

Very well done for yours. Clearly written, well argued and organised and on a valid and practical topic. I feel it shouldn't be in the 3's so am pleased to score it well. I hope you read and understand mine, it's supposed to bring clearer understanding to acheive goals such as yours.

Best wishes


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