|A recent scene from one of Al Gore's Nocturnal Fantasies...|
In case you were wondering, the image above is not some Science Fiction prediction of the future by the SyFy Channel. This image faithfully represents the future of cargo transport in development today.
The future they say is, 'Now'.
It began in 2013.
Oh. And, um, sorry Tommy... (More on this shortly)
TUSTIN, Calif. (AP) — The massive blimp-like aircraft flies but just barely, hovering only a dozen feet off a military hangar floor during flight testing south of Los Angeles.
Still, the fact that the hulking 230-foot-long Aeroscraft could fly for just a few minutes represents a step forward in aviation, according to the engineers who developed it. The Department of Defense and NASA have invested $35 million in the prototype because of its potential to one day carry more cargo than any other aircraft to disaster zones and forward military bases.
The airship is undergoing testing this month at Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, and must go through several more rounds of flight testing before it could be used in a disaster zone or anywhere else. The first major flight test took place Jan. 3.
The lighter-than-air vehicle is not a blimp because it has a rigid structure made out of ultra-light carbon fiber and aluminum underneath its high-tech Mylar skin. Inside, balloons hold the helium that gives the vehicle lift. Unlike hydrogen, the gas used in the Hindenburg airship that crashed in 1937, helium is not flammable.
The airship functions like a submarine, releasing air to rise and taking in air to descend, said Aeros mechanical engineer Tim Kenny. It can take off vertically, like a helicopter, then change its buoyancy to become heavier than air for landing and unloading.
Pretty cool huh? A 'lighter-than-air' ship into which the Federal Government has invested $35 MILLION into the prototype - wow, that's great!!!
Didn't I read something recently about 'Helium'? You know, the gas used to lift this beasty off the ground?
Oh, yes. I see that I did...
|A helium enrichment plant above a helium reserve in Amarillo, Tex. PHOTO Credit NY Times|
NY Times.com, December 19, 2012: AMARILLO, Tex. — One chain of party supply stores in Texas and Oklahoma was forced to make a cut worthy of Scrooge: no more balloons donated to charity events. A gated community on Lake Erie in Ohio that had handed out balloons to children at a Fourth of July parade for decades did not give out a single balloon this year.
A global helium shortage has turned the second-most abundant element in the universe (after hydrogen) into a sought-after scarcity, disrupting its use in everything from party balloons and holiday parade floats to M.R.I. machines and scientific research.
The shortage is the result of a complex interplay between commercial gas companies and the federal government, which maintains an underground helium reserve northwest of downtown Amarillo that produces roughly 30 percent of the world’s helium.
Experts say the shortage has many causes. Because helium is a byproduct of natural gas extraction, a drop in natural gas prices has reduced the financial incentives for many overseas companies to produce helium.
“The shortage is due to demand exceeding our ability to produce helium,” said Sam Burton, assistant field manager for helium operations for the federal Bureau of Land Management, which operates the reserve in Amarillo. “Typically in the past, there’s been enough helium in the distribution system that the end consumer never saw the problem. This has been an extended shortage, and all of the helium that’s been in the supply chain has been expended.”
The federal government’s role in helium production began in the early 20th century. The Army and Navy prized the gas as a nonflammable alternative to the explosive hydrogen that was being used in observation balloons and airships. By 1925, Congress had created a helium program to make sure the gas would be available for national defense.
Though the government’s role has been scaled back since then, it continues to dominate the market, effectively setting the global price and supplying enriched crude helium for sale to private refineries and plants via a 450-mile pipeline system.
In October, the Bureau of Land Management raised the government’s price for crude helium to $84 per thousand cubic feet, up from $75.75.
Huh. That's weird. I didn't know that the Federal Government pulled the collective balloon 'strings' on the Nation's helium supply. Did you? Even weirder is the fact that they are investing in technology which may, or may not, be able to get an ample supply of helium for in the future.
There are other questions which spring to mind on this sub-20 degree February night:
- I thought the government HATED natural gas and anything to do with the depletion of fossil fuels? I assumed this because they won't allow anyone else get natural gas on Federal Lands for the past few years. This being the case, how have the Feds been dredging up the Helium for the past eighty-plus years? From the article quoted above: "helium is a byproduct of natural gas extraction" So it's okay for the Feds to pursue natural gas extraction but no one else? Wouldn't this be considered a monopoly? And, aren't business, or product monopolies, 'bad' things?
- A more pressing issue tugs at my freezer-burned consciousness: Who will fulfill the needs of our CHILDREN? Yes, children around this great Nation are being deprived of the simple joy associated with colorful latex and myler balloons on their special day! How will the 'most helpless among us' feel knowing that they CANNOT have balloons at their party because... THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS SAVING ALL THEIR HELIUM (and LOVE) FOR - NASA? Oh, the horror...
- Generations of children will have their self-esteem damaged beyond repair - at the hands of a monopolistic, evil government Space program (which, surprisingly, doesn't go into space any longer).
- As we turn our Nation's technology clock back to the good old days of cholera, plague, smallpox, and rickets, I wonder why this Administration continues to invest in technologies of the past? Consider the following:
|Doc Brown - Obama Administration's "Wayback Czar"|
Sure, I know there's a lot of 'other stuff' going on in the Nation lately, but what about the children? Can't we have a bit of love for THEM??? What about THEIR happiness?
Why does this Administration HATE children and LOVE Natural Gas extraction?
I want to know.
No. I don't need to know. But these CHILDREN must know - since they'll be paying for the $35MILLION we borrowed from China for most of their adult lives...
Yes, for the sake of the children, President Obama, I'm pleading with you...
Make more gas.
Um, helium gas.
Make more helium gas.
Thank you, and good night.