Posted by on June 30, 2020

President’s Column

The Most Precious Resource

The most precious resource we have on Earth doesn’t come out of the ground or the ocean. That resource is us. It is people. When people are forced to lead wasted lives because of the color of their skin, or national origin, their beliefs, or their economic status, we hurt not just them; society as a whole is the loser.

The racism that made George Floyd a victim and the anger and hate that made Derek Chauvin a killer have thrown into stark relief the untenable conditions that destroy the very lives that could be the hope of our species’ future.

For all we know, the next Einstein, or Lincoln, or King died today of starvation in Africa or died of an overdose in Detroit. We cannot afford this loss. We must change.

We know what we are against. The harder question is to know what we are for. How can we put in place the policies and laws that will prevent this tragedy of human waste? How can we enforce them in true and equal justice for all? We need to answer these questions in the civilization we have now before we build another.

It is true that those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. Fear of the “other” is a legacy of our own primitive days living in the caves. We have followed that path for over 10,000 years. It is time to make a new choice. What kind of society should we take to the stars? Let us know.

For Whom the Bell Tolls
by John Donne ( 1572-1631)

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a Promontory were.
As well as if a Manor of thine own
Or of thine friends were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Barry Greene

Educational Space

Proud Strides in Space
by Anyi Wen

A pride flag was launched into space in 2016 as a symbol of love and support for LGTBQ+ community (Image credit: Youtube/PlantingPeace)

Happy Pride Month from High Frontier Outpost! We are proud to support our friends, family, and community members of all gender identities and relationship styles. Let’s show the LGTBQ+ community some extra love by learning about some notable moments and people who have made contributions to space exploration and knowledge.

Sally Ride

There are very few instances of openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual astronauts. In most cases, that may be because people don’t feel like it’s necessary to reveal that information, or they worry about the possibility of being discriminated against, or treated unfairly because of a difference others don’t like. Some people don’t think it’s right for two women or two men to love each other. It’s okay for everyone to have different opinions on topics, but it is not okay to hurt someone just because they don’t have the same beliefs or lifestyle as you. Even though we have made progress in gaining more laws to protect groups that have been vulnerable to harm throughout history, there are still hate crimes being committed and people being treated differently by others just because of their personal choices in love and personal expression.

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, worked for nearly 10 years with NASA
(Image credit: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Sally Ride was the youngest astronaut to travel to space at age 32, and the first American woman to do so (that happened on June 18, 1983 – making it 27 years ago this month)! After almost a decade (ten years) of working with NASA, Ride became a physics professor at the University of California San Diego. She was a great role model for women and girls during her lifetime, encouraging them to study math, science, and technology (Wild). Some people thought that women would not make good astronauts, and Ride proved them wrong. Sally Ride is also the only NASA astronaut who is known to be gay or bisexual. However, that was only revealed to the public after her death in 2012, when it was published in an obituary that she “was survived by Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years” (Wolchover). Since then, she has become a source of inspiration for LGTBQ+ youth.

Efforts to Increase Representation in the Space Industry

A gay pride flag was flown up into space in 2016 by a group called Planting Peace as a beautiful symbol of acceptance and inclusion. We believe that the diversity of our world’s people should be reflected visibly in every industry. You can read about some LGTBQ+ scientists who are doing amazing work in astrophysics and astronomy, two fields that study different aspects of space.

The Out Astronaut Project is holding a contest to train and send the first openly LGTBQ+ astronaut out to space. Check it out or share it with a friend for a chance to make history! This organization is led by a team of professionals and students who are working hard to increase LGTBQ+ inclusion and representation in the sciences and space, and their advisory board members are open to being guest speakers at schools upon request.

The High Frontier Outpost will be a place for everyone. How can we make sure that happens? We’d love to hear about how your school, workplace, or community has developed an environment of inclusion. Did they do anything in honor of pride month, or are there everyday efforts to show that they care? Share your comments and ideas with us at

“Our future lies with today’s kid and tomorrow’s space exploration.”

-Dr. Sally Ride

For More Information

500 Queer Scientists. (n.d.). 500 Queer Scientists Visibility Campaign.
BBC News. (2016, September 29). Gay pride flag launched into space ‘to spread peace’
Hamer, A. (2019, August 1). 5 LGBT Scientists Who Changed the World
Jackman, J. (2017, May 24). Who was the first gay astronaut?
Out Astronaut Project. (n.d.) Out Astronaut LGBTQ Advisory Board
Out Astronaut Project. (n.d.) Out Astronaut Contest
Smith, R. (2019, June 24). Space contest to send LGBT+ astronaut where no queer has gone before
Wild, F. (2014, June 18). Who Was Sally Ride?
Wolchover, N. (2012, July 24). Why Aren’t There Any Openly Gay Astronauts?

3D Printing Human Tissues in Space
by Roxanne Lee

Space is a strange place to live. Its conditions, like temperatures and low gravity, make it unlike any place on Earth. While this makes it a hard place for humans to inhabit, it also means that we can do things there that may be hard or impossible back home. One of the unique opportunities space could enable in the future is organ printing.

Astronaut Andrew Morgan using the bioprinter in the US National Laboratory. Image Source: NASA

This April, commercial space company Techshot Inc’s project bore fruit, as scientists manufactured human knee cartilage in the International Space Station’s US National Laboratory for the first time (Listek 2020). Using adult human cells and adult tissue-derived proteins as bio-ink, the bioprinter was able to create human meniscus, the cartilaginous material present in joints like the wrist and knees. The tissue was made for Techshot’s customer, 4D Bioprinting, Biofabrication, and Biomanufacturing program (Listek 2020).

Human meniscus. Image Source:

To better study potential 3D bioprinting, Techshot Inc worked alongside nScrypt, a 3D bioprinter and electrical printer manufacturer, to develop the 3D BioFabrication Facility (BFF) (Listek 2020). The BFF is built into the International Space Station, and astronauts can conduct bioprinting experiments there with the microgravity conditions of space. To learn more about microgravity and how it affects objects, check out NASA’s article here.

Organ printing is a technique where 3D printing technology is used to print human organs using organic material or biocompatible plastic. 3D printing biological materials is relatively new, but the ISS has used a regular 3D printer for lots of things already. To learn more about 3D printing on board the station, check out NASA’s site here. Just as 3D printing uses layers of plastic to create objects, organ printing also uses connected layers to create the desired object. Scientists and those involved in the healthcare fields are especially interested in organ printing because of all the ways it could save lives. Ideally, organ printing could be used to make new organs for people as soon as they need them, so they don’t have to wait for a matching organ from a donor to be ready for transplant.

Space is a good environment to study organ printing because of its very low gravity. Just as in plastic 3D printing, bioprinting requires the tissue to be built layer by layer (Listek 2020). Human organs are delicate, so they may collapse before they reach completion when built in Earth’s gravity. Biological tissues printed on Earth require the addition of thickening agents so that they can withstand the force of gravity (Sparrow 2020). The microgravity of space relieves pressure on the organs, giving them a higher chance of reaching completion. Some success has been made on Earth with printing bones and cartilage, but soft tissues are proving to be more challenging (Listek 2020).

It could be decades before we see the first fully functioning organs, like hearts, 3D printed in space and shipped down to Earth, but the potential is nonetheless substantial. These experiments could open the way for an entire biomedical field of industry entirely existing in space and space habitats. In addition, the extra organs could be potential lifesavers for people on Earth. Even if printing organs isn’t viable commercially, the experiments being conducted could go a long way in furthering our understanding of the human body, maybe even helping us learn how to heal it better. We have a long way to go, but the promise is enough to keep scientists and companies involved for the long haul.

For More Information

Dunbar, B.(2012, June 15) What Is Microgravity?
Johnson, M. (2019, December 16). Solving the Challenges of Long Duration Space Flight with 3D Printing.
Listek, V. (2020, April 8). Techshot’s Bioprinter Successfully Fabricates Human Menisci in Space.
Sparrow, N. (2020, January 14). We Are One Step Closer to 3D Printing Human Organs in Outer Space.

Why Ion Drives for The Outpost?
by Barry Greene

Every module that is part of the Outpost’s shell will have a steerable ion engine mounted on its exterior surface. The initial use of this engine will be to assist the positioning of the module into its location in the habitat’s shell. However, that will not be its primary function. That function will be to act as a component of what we are calling the distributed engine. The Outpost needs to be mobile, to have the ability to bring its vast resources to any location in the solar system. Should it be needed to support a Mars colony, it could travel there.

A propulsion engine large enough to move a 20-mile-long habitat would be immense and would require vast amounts of fuel. It could not be used for precision maneuvering or stabilization of the habitat. The distributed engine can.

An ion engine requires two things, electrical power and ions (electrically charged particles). The power, most likely from a nuclear source, would be available in all the modules throughout the habitat. The ion source will preferably be the heavy gas Xenon, but it could be almost any material that can be gasified and ionized.

Since every module in the Outpost would have its own engine controlled from a central computer, the huge habitat could be steered with an undreamed-of degree of precision. The slightest deviations could be quickly and accurately corrected.

The most powerful ion engine developed to date only produces a couple of kilograms of thrust, about the equivalent of the gentle breeze. You cannot reach orbit from Earth’s surface with an ion engine. So what’s the point? The point is time. A powerful rocket gets thrust by burning a massive amount of fuel in a few minutes. The rest of the trip is just coasting on the built-up momentum. An ion engine can provide thrust continuously, even over months and years. That can add up to a far greater velocity, over time, than any rocket can reach.

An ion engine has other advantages. There is an important formula, F=ma; Force is equal to mass multiplied by acceleration. A rocket gets its force by using a large amount of mass ‒ the fuel ‒ igniting it and forcing out the resulting gas at high speed because of Newton’s law that for every action (in this case, the gas shooting out of the rocket) there is an equal and opposite reaction (the rocket goes up).

An ion engine exploits a different part of the equation. Instead of a large mass and a relatively low acceleration, the ion engine uses a very small mass but an extremely large acceleration. In fact, with a large enough electrical charge, the ionized gas can be propelled out at a significant fraction of light-speed (186,000 miles per second). This force generated as a continuous thrust can ultimately reach far greater velocities than is possible with a rocket. Like the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” slow and steady wins the race.

To give an example of how dramatically this slow but steady acceleration can add up, we will use an example of only one thousandth of a gravity (1/1000 G) of acceleration. At that acceleration, it would take about 145 days to reach Mars  ‒ somewhat shorter than the trip with conventional rockets, if not dramatically so. However, if we were to use that same acceleration and travel to Pluto, it would take about 145 weeks.  ‒ a little under 3 years. The probe that recently took photos of Pluto took 9 1/2 years to get there. If the acceleration can be increased by a factor of 10 to 1/100G, we could reach Pluto in about nine months and Mars in a month and a half.

Ion thrusters are not the stuff of science-fiction. They have already been used on deep space probes. The Dawn spacecraft that took photos of the dwarf planet Ceres was launched in 1998. Dawn carries 3 ion thrusters. During its mission, the thrusters will operate for over 2,000 days. The Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft launched in 2003 to sample an asteroid is also powered by ion thrusters.

Newer and more powerful ion engines are being developed and will be used more frequently on deep space probes in the future. When we are ready to build the Outpost, ion engines will be a well-established and efficient technology.

For educational purposes, High Frontier Outpost is building a demonstrator ion engine. When completed, the demonstrator will be steerable just as a full-sized one on the Outpost would be, and all components are adjustable so that we can experiment with means of increasing its efficiency. Our engine will use air as the propulsive gas instead of Xenon. Air has the big advantages of being cheap and readily available. The circuitry is set up in several modules to make it easier to explain how each component functions. I’ve included several photos showing its current state of development.

Ion Engine Prototype Demonstration 1
Ion Engine Prototype Demonstration 2

Closing Words

Space Holidays

In this time of pandemic and social upheaval, we believe that it is important to celebrate milestones that are significant for the entire human race. With that in mind, we propose two holidays that commemorate the two greatest breakthroughs in recent history – perhaps the greatest of all time.

The first holiday, which we are tentatively calling Space Day, commemorates the launch of the first satellite into orbit around the Earth. Sputnik 1 launched on October 4th, 1957.

Before Sputnik, reaching space was purely a science fiction dream – the subject of grade B movies, far-out novels and lurid magazines. Sputnik was the first real step into the void beyond our homeworld. Before Sputnik, it was a fantasy. Suddenly, on October 4th 1957 it became real and a generation grew up with stars in their eyes.

The second holiday, Apollo Day, commemorates the day (July 20th 1969) that the first human being set foot on another world. On that date, humanity took its real first steps to becoming truly a spacefaring civilization.

It is often said that the longest journey begins with the first steps. These holidays commemorate our first tentative steps into the vaster universe beyond.

“O, let America be America Again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.”

-Langston Hughes

Around the Cosmos

Creative Space

In this edition we have a painting by HFO President, Barry Greene. Titled “The Seed of a New Beginning,” it is an allegorical relief sculpture showing The Outpost heading into deep space from Earth carrying the seed of a spacefaring civilization.

Show us your creativity of bringing science and art together! Submit your art to

We have also started a poster challenge project. For details please visit our HITRECORD challenge page.

Space Holidays

  • Sally Ride – June 18 1983: The first American woman to go into space.
  • Space Day – October 4 1957: Sputnik becomes first satellite to orbit Earth.
  • Apollo Day – July 20 1969: First human to set foot on another world.


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