Tuesday, April 24, 2012

GOLD RUSH IN SPACE! Asteroid Mining is Coming!

So it seems my previous post kicking off a new adventure was more timely than I thought: space mining is the next big thing! Planetary Resources Inc., which may as well be called Rich Billionaires Inc., is a consortium of wealthy space geeks who want to start mining asteroids for mineral commodities. With almost 9,000 known asteroids out in the Mars-Jupiter belt that might go for as much as a billion bucks a piece, this isn't as far-out as it initially sounds.

From Wired.com:
In terms of extraction, Planetary Resources hopes to go after the platinum-group metals — which include platinum, palladium, osmium, and iridium — highly valuable commodities used in medical devices, renewable energy products, catalytic converters, and potentially in automotive fuel cells.

Platinum alone is worth around $23,000 a pound — nearly the same as gold. Mining the top few feet of a single modestly sized, half-mile-diameter asteroid could yield around 130 tons of platinum, worth roughly $6 billion.

Within the next 18 to 24 months, Planetary Resources hopes to launch between two and five space-based telescopes at an estimated cost of a few million dollars each that will identify potentially valuable asteroids. Other than their size and orbit, little detailed information is available about the current catalog of near-Earth asteroids. Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-101 Space Telescopes will figure out whether any are worth the trouble of resource extraction.

Within five to seven years, the company hopes to send out a small swarm of similar spacecraft for a more detailed prospecting mission, mapping out a valuable asteroid in detail and identifying rich resource veins. They estimate such a mission will cost between $25 and 30 million.

The group is also planning on using robots to do the mining (reducing human risks) as well as shipping it home.

If there's anything that will get private enterprise to drive a new space race folks--THIS IS IT. And with it, here's hoping a few thousand scientific discoveries along the way.

Check out the cool videos put up by ABC News
More at Gizmodo

Image: Artist concept by Denise Watt for NASA

Friday, April 20, 2012

New animated "TRON Uprising" is lightcycle-tacular!

The animation quality looks incredible! Wish this had been released prior to the latest movie.

BONUS: Here's the behind-the-scenes preview from the 2011 Comicon:

P.S. Any readers down in Florida? I heard they're re-vamping Tomorrowland to look very Tron-y, is this still the case?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Filling in the Map: PART 1

LOGFILE: Kuiper Belt Expedition 505
DATE: 2612.4.18
AUTHOR: Col. Valerie Animus, Dept. of History, University of
Sagan, Lagrangian Station 3.

Near the outskirts of our home solar system exists the Kuiper Belt, a vast array of ice and rock left over from the birth of the planets. The belt is made up of icy chunks, asteroids, and planetary bodies that include dwarf planets like Pluto, Hamumea, and the "nearly dwarf" Orcus.

When the Space Settlement Act of 2436 was passed, many of our system's planets (and moons) were
settled not only by corporations, governments, and billionaires, but by the everyfolk that struggled to make a better life for themselves and their communities.

For the decades and centuries that followed, asteroids inside the Mars-Jupiter Interplanetary Ridge were successfully mined by multinational megacorps and Mom-and-Pop operations alike. Interplanetary shipping, manufacturing, and mercantile operations sprung up seemingly overnight to support a burgeoning industry. But while the inner belt prospered, the Kuiper became a sort of Bermuda Triangle where ships would venture and never be seen or heard from again.

One after another, starships, freighters, and exploratory missions would venture in, and no sooner, disappear inside the Kuiper's icy grasp. No remains of any kind, no derelicts or debris were ever recovered in more than 117 separate cases.

Soon after faster-than-light travel became commonplace, the belt was relegated to Sargasso Sea status: deemed too treacherous to warrant further navigation. But a few still longed for the rich minerals and scientific gold rush for which the region seemed primed.

Even dating back to ancient Earth times, scientists have claimed the Kuiper--like the Oort Cloud beyond it--has long held the secrets to life itself in the form of chemical compounds frozen in ice crystals, carried to inner planets by comets, and released into the warm embrace of Earth's atmosphere where they seeded life.

So it's with great pride, that at 06:00 Central Sol Time this morning, we launched the first of a series of scientific missions into a thicket of dense debris in the hopes finding evidence that would spawn a new gold rush to the belt.

Like the Earth sailors of old, we fling ourselves into Neptune's domain and beyond in the name of discovery and enterprise. And perhaps we'll also yet learn the fates of all those who never did return....


Images: NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, Our Universe, and Chesley Bonestell

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"The A2s always were a bit twitchy."

The David 8s, however, are nothing but sublime!

So here's your next X-plorers non-player android. He's an NPC of course so he can go and hijack the mission with new, hidden objectives. I've included basic PC stats as well. Enjoy!

MODEL: DAVID 8 (prefers to go by "David")
MAKE: Weyland Industries, Cybernetics Division
HEIGHT: 1.86 meters
WEIGHT: 86 kg
PRESENCE (PRE): 12 (cannot be higher due to manufacturer's program settings)
CLASS: Scientist
HP 10 +1d6 per level
BASIC HIT BONUS n/a; skill levels begin at advanced levels to compensate
AC 14

While David 8 is constructed of the most advanced Dura-ternity™ polymers for rugged use, he must wear a pressurized suit (space suit) for submarine, offworld, or EVA excursions. Further data on this is classified at this time.

David model androids are capable of executing a wide array of enhanced skills set programs. Below are some of our more popular enhancements and the related attribute. All Davids begin with "Science" as their primary skill. Purchasers may pick three (3)  more skills at no cost. Additional skills are $6,000 cr. Skills always begin at level 3.
  • Science (INT) - the primary skill for the David 8, purchasers may choose a model with a subspecialty at no additional cost. May be swapped for "Medicine" skill but model cannot have both.
  • Computers (INT)
  • Security (INT) - hidden espionage skill
  • Mechanics (INT)
  • Robotics (INT) - self repair, remote drone construction and repair
  • Pilot (AGL) - all Weyland Corp. vehicles (space, land, air, aquatic) full catalog included
  • Linguistics (INT)  - fluent in all known Earth languages, this is a free skill. 
  • Sociology (INT) 
  • Games (INT) - all models come highly knowledgable in chess (up to Grand Master level) as well as many others
  • Sleight of Hand (AGL) comes in handy for fixed-blade, mess hall exhibitions

David upgrades his skills using a small wireless data antenna embedded in his left wrist. This port acts as a universal computer interface that allow him to control complex systems without need for manual or verbal commands. It also comes with a nifty helmet, which serves no practical purpose, save to be stylish.

As David is an android (we prefer the term "cybernetic being") he is not capable of psionic abilities. He may eat regular food and metabolize from it, as a human would, but he prefers to interface with a power port in his quarters when possible to fully charge. A full charge will last 30 Earth days. Without a full charge after the 30 days, the unit will begin to lose -1 attribute score per day (GM's choice). He takes one full sleep cycle to recharge fully at which point his attributes will be restored. David recharges wirelessly in a modified sleep pod to avoid "confusing" human crew members.

Also, there may be occasion for you to program your David 8 to violate one of the 3 Laws of Robotics in order to achieve classified mission goals. You'll be happy to know that David 8 is fully capable of executing these commands without damaging his logic systems.

More about David 8 from Weyland Industries

NOTE: This version is undergoing revision. I may need to revisit/revise this posting further once the film debuts to reflect a more accurate portrayal. As it is, I took some liberties anyway. :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Prometheus deck plans and interior shots!

Go figure. Just ONE DAY after I did a write-up in an attempt to pin some stats to the Prometheus, and they go and release BLUEPRINTS!

When it rains it pours, I guess. The awesome part? They're practically game ready maps and handouts!

So here ya go, feast your eyes on the pics, most of which were first released on Collider.com (click to enlarge)...


Crew Lounge

Vickers Personal Quarters/Lifeboat

Medical/Science Lab

Med Pod/Surgical Robot


Excursion Suit Room

Single Occupant Escape Pods

Hangar Bay

Prometheus swivels thrusters down into landing gear...
The filmmakers have also released a great image of the heavy ground vehicle carried by Prometheus, called the RT01 Transport. So it looks like I'll have to do stats that are more accurate for that. Heck, I'll have to re-do stats for the ship too!

Cool stuff!

UPDATE: Added a few new images of the lounge and hangar bay.

John Carter Breaks Even

Better than breaking even--the film has taken in about $263,903,533 worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. You'll recall the budget was estimated at $250 million.

While I can't imagine this guarantees a sequel, it's nice to know that at least it made it's money back.

I'm hoping to see it in theaters one more time (second run probably) before it ventures off to the Blu-ray presses.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


The Prometheus! Let's stat this baby up* X-plorers style:

  • Make: Weyland Corporation
  • Ship Class:
  • Type: Frigate (Exploration vessel)
  • Crew: 9 (hypersleep beds, 1 android charge station)
  • Hull Points: 20
  • No. Weapons: none, but if you wanted to add some...
  • Weapons Damage: Four particle beam emitters, 1d6+2 each, with extra gunners they can fire independently
  • AC: 10
  • NPC Skill**: 15/13/11+ (drop to 14/12/10+ if android is on board)
  • XP Value: 140 unarmed; 240 armed
  • Cost (in millions): 65cr unarmed; 100 armed and fully stocked
  • Nuclear Powered Ion Plasma Engines (translation: sublight only) spend 2 million cr and upgrade to hyperdrive; they are swivel mounted though for +1d4 maneuverability
  • Intergalactic Long Range Communication Antennae (Intergalactic? Let's say range: 5 lightyears) 
  • Ejectable lifeboat module: (sorry dude, only holds 8!)
  • Medical bay: four medbay beds with diagnostic sensors, portable triage and surgery packs, biomed scope, 4 canisters to hold extra-terrestrial specimens (very breakable, it turns out...)
  • Multiple cargo bays: Four holds with total capacity of 6 metric tons (6.6 tons)
  • Suit bay: One dozen exo-atmosphere suits for planetary or vaccuum excursions, bubble helmets tend to get stuck if you try to remove in a hurry :)
  • Vehicle bay: Carries one B.A.D.G.E.R class moon wagon; two, 2-person ATVs
  • Armory: 10 laser pistols (2d6/range 50); 10 pulse rifles (4d6+1/range 100), 4 dozen plasma grenades (5d6/range 15), 6 hover sensors for laser-mapping environments
  • And a (giggle) FIREPROOF WINDSCREEN! (+1 vs. fire in an oxygen atmosphere!)
  • More photos, including an uncropped version of above
  • Want more?
EDIT: Based on this article, you can up the crew capacity w/suits to 20 (including 1 android) but just make sure there are fewer seats of the lifeboat than total crew, ya know....just to make things interesting.
*According to the photo and some embellishment on my part.

**Straight from the rulebook: This is a typical Skill Throw for all crew at basic, experienced, and advanced levels. This can be adjusted by the referee for more or less skilled crew as desired.

P.S. Did you know that Las Vegas coulda' built a FULL SIZE Enterprise hotel back in the '90s? But they totally chickened out.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Life and stuff...

Gah, so I missed Thark Thursday--my bad--but I have an excuse! We're in the process of moving to our new (and first!) home. We close at the end of the month and we're extremely excited. For the last 8 years we've been living in a charming but often too-small apartment. In the new place I'll finally get all my books, games, and geek swag into one area. Plus, there's a workbench (!) in the basement which will end up as a mad science lab for all sorts of geeky experiments!

Anywho, with the move just weeks away we've been packing like crazy to get things ready and so blogging and other nerdly pursuits have been moved to the back burner. But never fear space cadets--things will be up and in full swing by middle of May. Until then, blogging will likely be sparse, but I'll try and pop in when time allows.

Hope you all had a great Easter weekend!