It's not 'Star Trek,' but NASA wants a 'tractor beam'
This image shows how a NASA robot might use "tractor beam" lasers to reel in particles for analysis.
November 3rd, 2011
11:45 AM ET

It's not 'Star Trek,' but NASA wants a 'tractor beam'

The Death Star in "Star Wars" reeled in space ships with "tractor beams." So did Captain Kirk's USS Enterprise on "Star Trek."

Now NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, aims to develop a real tractor beam, but on a much smaller scale.

Here's the concept: Unmanned space probes might use laser beam technology to catch tiny particles several meters away and pull them into the probe for analysis.

Technically, the idea isn't called a "tractor beam" - scientists know it as "optical trapping." Its beginnings date back to the  1970s, according to NASA's Paul Stysley and Barry Coyle. They, along with colleague Demetrios Poulios, have been given $100,000 to begin the first phase toward developing the technology.

The project started when Stysley, Coyle and Poulios heard that scientists had successfully manipulated laser beams to pull particles back in the direction of a laser beam. "It caught our attention,"  said Coyle.

So the trio walked down the hall from their Greenbelt offices to speak with scientists working on NASA's upcoming unmanned missions to the Red Planet, the ExoMars orbiter and the Mars Science Laboratory.

"We asked if they'd be interested in this in the future - and they didn't laugh at us," joked Coyle. " Now we're collaborating with them on applications and what kinds of particles we can use."

There are three basic techniques the trio is interested in exploring: radiation waves, pressure from particles of light called photons, and coordinating two laser beams in a circular pattern.

The technology might help NASA reduce risk to its missions. For example, a NASA satellite equipped with a tractor beam could study a comet without flying dangerously close. "You could follow your target and, from a distance, bring in those particles," said Stysley. "It's less risky than  landing on the comet or flying through a stream of stuff that could damage the satellite."

On the surface of a planet, where a NASA robot might use a drill to take rock samples, a tractor beam could eliminate the possibility of breaking a drill bit, Stysley said, because no drilling would be required. The tractor beam would simply pull tiny particles of the rock into the robot for analysis.  Also, a tractor beam could significantly increase the number of samples that a robot could gather.

The project was chosen as part of the reestablished NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program aimed at spurring revolutionary space technologies.

Still in its initial stages of development, the scientists said it's way too early to know if the technology is practical, but "if everything works according to plan - that's 10 years away, give or take."

Stysley and Coyle admitted they were fans of both "Star Wars" and "Star Trek."

"We'd be lying if we said they didn't inspires us to come to NASA and work on this sort of stuff," said Stysley. "It's fun having a chance to make science fiction into reality."

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Filed under: Hardware in Orbit • In Space • News
soundoff (322 Responses)
  1. buy vpn account

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    April 1, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  2. Sixer Saturn

    I wholly agree with Kristina Erin Kaye, no matter what the White Coats call it, it will always be a Tractor Beam. Cool innit?

    November 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  3. yo mams

    We should use this to zap china for fun.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  4. CommonSense

    NASA is really cool with coming up with NEAT stuff like this. However, who needs to spend millions of dollars on a pen that will work in 0G, when a pencil will do the same job? I wonder if NASA has thought of rigging an arm that swings to collect materials to do the same job as the proposed TRACTOR BEAM? There could be some practicable applications here on earth. It can be used on Earth to retrieve the TV remote or a can of beer from the frig.

    November 7, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • yo mams

      Pencils will cause death if you inhale a broken pencil lead. Easy to do in zero gravity. No ER up there, smarty ;)

      November 8, 2011 at 11:49 am |
      • EasyRoller

        Yo Mams,
        You are joking? Correct?

        November 9, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Ludovic

      The Fisher Space Pen was developed independently of the Space Program, and offered to NASA for the publicity. After all, pens that can write upside down are useful on Earth, as well.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  5. Guest

    I saw a tractor beam once at a county fair
    Beamed the hell out of 2 tons of trailer

    November 6, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  6. helenecha

    Laser beam technology can catch tiny particles several meters away and pull them into the probe for analysis. Well, it must be amazing if "tractor beam" lasers can catch cancer cells away from body. Giggles!

    November 6, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  7. solarsails

    All Your Base Are Belong To Us

    November 4, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  8. Rob0476

    cool

    November 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  9. Mike

    Will this work in sofa cushions?

    November 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  10. Les Movingparts

    How about this for picking-up small particals? Equipment the robot explorer with a hammer. The hammer thumps the surface, particals rise up, a vaccum sucks them in for analysis, I wonder if they even do that for 100K?

    November 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Raptor

      There is no air in space so no vacuum... not at any price.

      November 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  11. ObiWan

    That is no moon!

    November 4, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  12. pirate

    Next Tuesday a giant asteroid is moving close to Earth. Could we use the tractor beam to pull that asteroid in and drop it on top of Mecca?

    November 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  13. Allen N Wollscheidt

    One does NOT "FLY" in space - No air. . Thus one does not "FLY" in, say, water.

    One MOVES in space, just as one SWIMS in water.

    November 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Levi

      yeah yeah keep it to yourself. i don't see anyone proud of your irrelevant comment besides your sorry a$$ so just keep it to yourself next time.

      November 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  14. SJJ

    What, no mention of Spaceballs? They had a tractor beam in that! It was probably called "SPACEBALLS THE TRACTOR BEAM!"

    November 4, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • U-Turn

      The problem with Spaceballs tractor beam was that it went from suck to blow!

      November 4, 2011 at 11:52 am |
      • solarsails

        ...that was Mega-maid. May the schwartz be with you.

        November 4, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • AdamK1095

      "#@&*! Even in the future nothing works!"

      November 4, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • War919

      Well what do we have in this thing? A Cuisinart?

      November 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  15. TommyO

    Screw the tractor beam – I want a holodeck. Ah the fun to be had in there ... ;-)

    November 4, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • insert sarcastic remark here

      Kif: The holo-shed's on the fritz again! The characters turned real!
      Zap Brannigan: Damn! The last time that happened, I got slapped with three paternity suits.

      November 4, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Sean

      That was funny. I agree!

      November 4, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Joe

      I would develp holodiction :)

      November 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • solarsails

      ...you probably couldn't get laid in there, either...

      November 4, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  16. Maverick

    (Star Wars fans) But...but...but...we got cooler tractor beams than those trekkies!

    November 4, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  17. peick

    "We'd be lying if we said they didn't inspires us to come to NASA and work on this sort of stuff," said Stysley.

    Maybe Stylsley says "inspires" because he's accustomed to the extra esses in his name.

    November 4, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  18. brian

    oh good.. now china's hackers knows to look for these research results

    November 4, 2011 at 3:53 am |
    • yo mams

      Well we all know they arent smart enough to invent it.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  19. dion

    The FIRST tractor beam I remember was in the movie: "This Island Earth" 1955.

    November 4, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • Kahuna

      I remember that! It was a piper cub (like) plane that was pulled into the flying saucer.

      They hijacked our scientist to solve the problem of the destruction of their planet if I remember correctly.

      That movie scared the bejesus out of me as I was 4 or 5 at the time.

      November 4, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • vbscript2

      The MST3K version of that movie was great.

      November 11, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  20. True Blue Whovian

    Who cares if Star Trek came out in 1966, and Star Wars in '70-something? Doctor Who came out in '63, and when was the last time you heard people laughing at Whovians (as compared to Trekkies or SW fans)? Doctor Who was spacey-wacey and timey-wimey before them both. Now can we end the pointless debate and focus on the article? :)

    November 3, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • wjmknight

      CNN is an American company playing toA merican audiences. Star Trek and Star Wars are references that most Americans will get. Just face it mate, no one over here cares about Dr Who ro soccar, so just get over it.

      And yes, you can take back Beckham and Posh Spice, please!

      November 4, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • Zeke2112

      Everyone knows that Americans have a history of taking British mediocrity, improving it, and making it great.

      America – improving all things British since 1776.

      November 4, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Polly Prissypants

      TB, forget about these emoTreks. I too grew up on the Trek, the Wars, then the Trek again – but by the grace of all that's Wholy, I found the Doctor. I may be from the states but I am whole-heartedly a Sonic Screwdriver kind of girl! ;)

      November 4, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • solarsails

      ...the theme from Doctor Who rules!!

      November 4, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  21. Rod C. Venger

    It'd be far cheaper to use a net, you dummies!

    November 3, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • lerxt

      Or wrap some duct take backwards around a stick – you can pick up all kinds of stuff with that!

      November 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
      • Levi

        wth is duct take?? I can see if it was a mistype for tape but k and p aren't even in the same row. fail...

        November 4, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Bob

      The cost of transporting a net and the mechanics to "reel it in" would be WAY more expensive, dummy.

      November 4, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  22. George

    Flying cars are already here. Google terrafugia.

    November 3, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • mark

      Yea there called Airplanes.

      November 3, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
      • TruAmeriKan

        "There" Where?

        November 4, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  23. Johnjon

    tractor beam?.............. I'd be more impressed with a "force field", as seen on Lost in Space.

    November 3, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Scott

      technically not feasible, but you can come close with a plasma window

      November 4, 2011 at 8:10 am |
      • Zeke2112

        Not feasible? Perhaps not with current technology. Why limit yourself?

        November 4, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Dreamer96

      Force fields exist now in nature, we just need to learn to use these forces....

      Magnetic force fields...like magnetic poles repel, this repelling force gets much stronger the closer they are to each other.

      Charged like particles force fields....

      protons are of same charge positive and repel each other, this repelling force gets much stronger the closer they are to each other. Protons can only be close to another proton, if there is a nuetron attached to them..this is the stronge force at work.

      negative electrons are of the same charge and repel each other,this repelling force gets much stronger the closer they are to each other.

      Someday we may have a real force field based on one, or some combination, or all of these natural forces....

      November 4, 2011 at 9:51 am |
      • Dreamer96

        Yes, Yes, I know what is a nuetron? It's a neutron, except in my house where I have fat fingers, bad eyes, and many other lame reasons for making typos, and not catching them before I hit the post button..

        November 4, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  24. Rick

    The US should work with the rest of the "modern" world to develop products to use in space exploration instead of wasting money on wars with the anachronisms that still inhabit this earth. If we could do that, we might achieve space travel to distant planets within this century.

    November 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • jf79

      Uhhh, we already do. Most of the things we send out into space are jointly made by the US and Europe, Russia, Japan...

      November 3, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  25. mark

    Actually I would think Gene Roddenberry owns the patent on the tractor beam, not George Lucas.

    November 3, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Roberet

      Well put!

      November 3, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  26. mark

    Actually I would think Gene Roddenberry owns the patent on the tractor be, not George Lucas.

    November 3, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  27. mark

    Nothing has ever been built that has not been dream t "Mark S"

    November 3, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  28. joelc

    I have a proof of concept tractor beam. All I need now is a 100 million dollar government contract to bring it to fruition.

    November 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Dreamer96

      Read this board, you also have to past a group of other scientist at NASA, or on this board, that will review your idea to see if it has any scientific merits, before they give you the money.....If they give it the thumbs down,(it was actually thumbs up in the old Rome, but anyway), you get no money...

      November 3, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
      • SilentBoy741

        My Satire Detector Module is ready for deployment right now, and not a moment too soon.

        November 4, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • yo mams

      Youll have to settle for 100,000.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  29. jon

    Oh yeah...I want the food replicator....hook a brother up!

    November 3, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  30. Dreamer96

    So what are they really talking about using a single laser and then vary the wave length to suck it back to them or multiple lasers with different wave lengths, or pulses of a laser to heatup area and create a vacum, in the vacum of space?

    I'll be waiting for the locals here to inform me of their expert option on the science behind this optical trapping.

    November 3, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Dreamer96

      Are they talking about putting the laser beam through a set of optical lenses and changing it from a wide beam to a narrow beam? Or is this a variation of the optical technique used to correct for the atmosphere heat so we can see from the surface of the earth, Hawaii optical telescopes, the use of flex mirrors and lasers making thousand of optical changes in the flex mirror surface?

      November 3, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
      • D. Poulios

        None of the above.

        November 3, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Dreamer96

      Google laser tractor beam and find out...this from the "the register" site for anyone who is interested, three methods proposed;

      One of the methods under study uses "optical tweezers" – two counter-propagating beams of light. This is already in use in a limited way and adjusts the strength of the two beams to move particles within the ring-like structure created by the beams, via the heat that those beams generates. While promising, this technique does require an atmosphere in which to work, making it unsuitable for many missions.

      The second technique, which has been tested in the laboratory, uses optical solenoid beams – which the boffins define as "those whose intensity peaks spiral around the axis of propagation" – to pull particles towards the light source using electromagnetic effects. This technique will work in a vacuum, making it suitable for deep space missions.

      The third technique is entirely theoretical at this point, but uses Bessel beams to induce electrical or magnetic fields within particulates, and use those to propel them.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  31. chris

    100,000$

    LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!

    I feel like sending them a few bucks anyone got an address?

    November 3, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • davetharave

      I'm amazed they didn't say they needed 463 billion to start ...

      November 3, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
      • Sean

        We don’t know what they asked for, only what they were given. Personal I say start taxing Churches and give that money to NASA.

        November 3, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  32. ROCKWOOD

    I think they need to do something like this and go clean up all the space junk that's orbiting our planet.....

    November 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • davetharave

      Yes !! exactly . . . great idea. My idea was an orbiting robot ship to slide up to objects of junk and pull them in to an ejectable container headed for the sun, but someone said it would require too much fuel to be practical. Maybe this wouldn't.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
      • Sean

        Then a fleet of smaller solar powered ones.

        November 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
      • Sandman

        No, send it back down to earth and recycle them. There are rare earths and metals that can be reclaimed and reused. Heck most computer boards have gold on them.

        November 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • johnibn

      IThey already have that tool, it's called a magnet.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • D. Poulios

      We are working on that, actually.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  33. Dreamer96

    The already collected particales (space dust), from the tail of a comet using the stardust spacecraft and a cone and a impact aerogel material to capure the tiny particals for study, why not use that method...

    November 3, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • CHARLES ANDERAON (SAILOR)

      SIMPLE MATHEMATICS~"NASA"
      YOU GOT TO LATCH ON TO THE AFFIRMATIVE AND ELIMINATE THE NEGATIVE AND DON'T MESS WITH THE PHOTONS IN BETWEEN.
      NOW SEND ME THE $100,000,000~ AND I WILL PICK UP A NEW ROLLS ROYCE PHONTON DROPHEAD COUPE.
      CAPT. BILLY
      .

      November 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Sean

      We got around using just our feet for ions, later we used horse buggys. Now we use Cars…. Need I explain further?

      November 3, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
      • robert eisman

        feet for eons*

        November 3, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
      • Dreamer96

        Sean

        Yes and I still use my feet too, because they still work just fine many times during my day...

        November 4, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  34. GatorALLin

    ..can they just fix the solar panels so that they don't get dirty and keep this buggy rolling for years...vs. months ?? I guess waiting for a dust storm to clean off your solar panels was a bad plan. I loved the other posters comments to use a stick and some gum on the end to get in more particles. How about drilling down in the ice and using a microscope to see if there was ever life on mars....seems like that is the big question most of us want confirmed (*without having to send people there to figure that out). these laser things sound cool, but lets figure out was there life on mars ever...??...

    November 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Bob

      The answer to dirty solar panels is the RTG (nuclear electric generator) on the new Curiosity Mars probe. I'll be amazed if the anti-nuke tree huggers aren't out in a gloom and doom protest when Curiosity blasts off.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • SB

      Gator, the Mars rovers *did* for years when their expected lifespan was only about three months. Information is free, brother; get some before making a statement like that again.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
      • SB

        That should read "did last for years".

        November 3, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
      • GatorALLin

        ...Yeah, I know they got lucky and it lasted for years...so why get your rover all the way to mars to plan for 3 months...wtf?

        why not plan a way to clean your solar panels ??

        November 3, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  35. Merrin Of Giles

    This sounds just like our government : Give the scientists $100,000 to develop 24th century technology, but let's spend BILLIONS on war and loans to other countries. Makes perfect sense. I hope these guys do produce a tractor beam. We could use it to pull all of the useless politicians out of the capitol.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Einstein

      It's not 24th century technology as the article states. But you're right, $100,000 is paltry – not enough to cover a national lab postdoc salary for more than a year.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • iagreebuttheydont

      I agree that 100,000 is a joke, but if they were given any more than that there would be the endless stream of people saying how we should put that money towards our problems here at home on this planet, etc, instead of "wasting" it on good science and technology. You know them, they are the people that demanded the effective shut-down of the astronaut program. What do we have 1 astronaut on the Space station now? and we hitch a ride with the Russians. We really have no more space program for all intents and purposes.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Hallux

      Consider though, the outcry if we only spent 100,000 dollars on wars, etc., and gave scientists billions to develop "tractor beams". For near-atom-scale particles. Not everyone is as educated as... I'm guessing... most of the people who read this story instead of the one about Paris Hilton or whatever. Most (uneducated) people would SCREAM if they did that. They can get away with giving fractional millions of dollars to pie-in-the-sky projects because the numbers are so small in the grand scheme of things. To any of us, a multi-billionaire spending 100,000 on a car seems reasonable, after all he/she has billions. For someone with a net worth of 3 billion dollars to spend let's say... 1.5 BILLION dollars on a car seems ridiculous to us, forgetting of course that such a purchase leaves him/her with a billion and a half dollars, more, I think it can be argued, than most people would ever need. But *WE* would scream "that's ridiculous! Over a billion on a car? What's it made out of?!?

      November 3, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  36. BBoy705

    I sort of thought a piece of sticky gum on a long string might work just as well!

    Kidding of course, Star Trek and Star Wars (but specifically Star Trek) have been the inspiration for hundreds of inventions proving that life does indeed imitate art!

    November 3, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • csam18

      Yup. Creation and creativity are one in the same. Anything we can think of in our minds will be possible in due time. If you think about it, we are very much a part of the universe as a whole, so no wonder all of our thoughts and ideas can be made possible.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • mb2010a

      So...ummm. Where is my flying car??

      November 3, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
      • Sandman

        Watching the way people drive, you don't want them flying. Can you imagine some young lady talking on her cell phone rather than flying. Not only would she be changing lanes at random, she would be changing altitude at random as well. No, we are better off in only 2 dimensions.

        November 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
      • Pepinium

        Flying cars will be around by the end of this century, but as far as teleportation goes, THAT will not be happening any time soon !!

        November 3, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
      • David

        Teleportation has been around. Like this tractor beam it's not ST level but we've been teleporting light since the 50's if I'm not mistaken.

        November 4, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • BBoy705

      Sandman – I agree completely! Sorry mb2010a but you won't be flying around like the Jetsons any time soon!

      November 3, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  37. Dreamer96

    This is not really new, just place a charge on the particles, (a laser will add energy to outer electrons and cause them to leave particals, that makes them short electrons and charged) and use and opposite charge to attract them, of course if you want to study the particles natural charge this will probably mess that up, and could cause lose electrons off the partciles you want to study....

    November 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Bible Beater

      Wow...way to state the obvious... did you read the article?

      "scientists know it as "optical trapping." Its beginnings date back to the 1970s"

      November 3, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Einstein

      Right, which is why you don't want to ionize! Optical trapping relies on higher multipole moments than a monopole.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • cocoloco

      Don't waste more money in space, people! We have enough problems here on earth, and stupid scientists who turn their eyes to the real dilemmas of life is one of them! Geez!!!

      Give the money to real problems: Crime, Food, Water, Respect for human life, Ethics, Morals, etc.

      Good thing one day every single human being must face judgment day to give an account of all the waste!

      Have a great day!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
      • BBoy705

        Cocoloco lives up to his or hers handle... loco!

        November 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
      • Einstein

        GTFO teabag scum/

        November 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
      • Thomas

        What an ignorant thing to say. Not stupid just ignorant. Space exploration and study has formed a great wealth of knowledge about our word and the universe. As far as judgment day I would hope that you might want to leave that to something better than yourself.

        November 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
      • Sean

        Crime is a human trait. You can’t spend this away; there isn’t enough money on the planet. Even the rich commit crimes.

        Food is already being worked on by scientists. Almost everything you eat has been sprayed, genetically altered or in some other way affected by scientists. Chickens are a great example.

        Water purification is also being worked on. Recent articles on this very site talk about using the Earth’s oceans as a potable water source.

        Respect for human life, Ethics and Morals.. if bought are anything but.

        If you spent more time educating yourself with real world facts and not a focusing on book of myths and legends you would already know this.

        November 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
      • truth hurts

        So funny how people continue to attack the space program using the very technology (like computers and microprocessors) that are a result of the space program. The state of math and science education and basic knowledge in the U.S. is just so very sad.

        November 3, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
      • To infinite debt and beyond

        It is a waste of money, but my issue is it is stolen money. Who cares how it is wasted? If it is such a wonderful thing with such big returns, why not invest your own money to do it rather than cheering the government on in it's extortion of tax victims in order to provide these people with toys to play with? There are rocks on Mars. What a surprise. Maybe some water full of salt. Yippee. Sure, some people with engineering degrees get to play around with other people's money and some contract companies get in on the take, but it is a waste of money just the same.

        November 3, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
      • Curious George

        Why don't we just build the space donut and leave these idiots to themselves here on Earth to self destruct? Space is so much more exciting than CNN TV ratings. Who's with me? Now all we need is about a trillion dollars... oh wait.... we spent it on people who have money... We're all attached to another object by an incline plane, wrapped helicly around an axis!

        November 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
      • Hallux

        The problems you've mentioned do not require "stupid" scientists, they require ECONOMISTS, mostly. You going to forbid people from becoming anything OTHER than what YOU think the "world" needs? By the way, enjoy your microwave? Like things made with plastic? Do you enjoy posting on the internet using your COMPUTER? Yeah... stupid ol' scientists, always wasting their time... creating new materials and things, figuring out how to make barren ground bear fruit... morons. There are, as we all know, no peripheral benefits to scientific advancement, (like penicillin, for instance) that aren't the original thrust or intent of the research that produced them (Post-It's (TM)) so yeah, why waste time?

        November 3, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
      • SB

        Money isn't space in space, coco. It *is* spent here on the ground. It employs countless people at numerous companies and facilities. And money spent on learning is never wasted; unless of course it was the money spent at whatever institution failed to educate you.

        November 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Dreamer96

      If you want to add electrons, just grab an old tube TV, or tube computer monitor, and take the Cathode ray out of the tube, (I would advise you not to do it though, becuase you have to be really careful if you turn it on, because the electrical current in the wiring will kill you if you don't know what you are doing.., and of course the heavy metals inside the tube can kill you too), thats just an electron beam, and blast the particles with that, so you are bound to add some electrons to particles, and charge them that way....then use the opposite charge to attract the electron rich particles....

      November 3, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
      • Einstein

        Wrong again dreamboy. Attaching electrons will cause chemistry to occur just as removing them will.

        November 3, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Dreamer96

      Either a laser or Cathorde beam could be used to attract all that space junk and haul it back to earth.....

      November 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
      • Bob

        Cathord beam? Is that part of an endoscopy machine?

        November 3, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
      • Dreamer96

        Yes Bob it's a typo, Cathode ray beam, and electron beam, used in any old tube TV, or tube computer monitor, read my other posts....

        November 3, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  38. Ken

    I think NASA should bring Scottie and B'Lanna Torres from Star Trek on board to develope their Tractor Beam. Hollywood can do all of these things a lot cheaper than NASA. LOL

    November 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  39. NASA

    NASA is full of crap!

    November 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Dreamer96

      I don't think you drank enough TANG as a kid.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Einstein

      GTFO teabag scum

      November 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Hallux

      What an odd remark for NASA to make...

      November 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • SilentBoy741

      I know "NASA" the comment poster is!

      November 4, 2011 at 3:52 am |
  40. James PDX

    I've owned a few tractors, but none of them came equipped with any rays or beams. Where are you people getting your tractors from?

    November 3, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Like A Deere

      I have a John Deere. it has a beam right on the front of it. Lights up the whole yard when I am mowing at night... drunk... at my neighbors house. Guess I know why he hates me so much now!

      November 3, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  41. dale

    I have an idea on how to deploy a tractor beam but who am I

    November 3, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  42. Byron

    yup, just had a nerdgasm.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  43. dale

    I have an idea that will probably work but who am I

    November 3, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Capercorn

      Write it down. Include your equations, and how you derived them.

      Submit it to a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

      If it works, you'll be rolling in the heaps.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
      • Einstein

        "rolling in the heaps" Not unless you patent it rather than submit to a journal!

        November 3, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Hallux

      someone who hit 'post' more than once? :)

      November 3, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  44. Capercorn

    [Becomes obsessed with space and space travel at young age.]

    [Becomes a mathematician.]

    "You were born too soon. You will never explore the galaxy."

    :feelsbadman:

    November 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Einstein

      > Learns how to green text

      November 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • tarts

      Consider the statistical if not quantum possibility of reincarnation. You may get to travel the galaxy in another life

      November 3, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  45. A Griff

    This is not the first invention or idea to be influenced by Trek. The cel phone, the computer disc and many medical instruments were inspired by original Trek. Steve Jobs directly credits Next Generation for the ipad. He stated in an interview many years ago that he was working on a holodeck next, again Next Gen .inspired. And the great Stephen Hawking has been theorizing on the concept of warp drive for almost twenty-five years. He is admitted to being mesmerized by the concept of moving space rather than the vessel.Chinese scientist have invented a matter transporter. So far it can only transport one single cell. But it's a start.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • rkt210

      I've already perfected time travel. So far, though, I can only go forward at a rate of one second per second...

      November 3, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Jason K

      Chinese Matter Transporter!? What!? When? Last I heard the Japanese at Tokyo University had one, but it could only transport information, not physical matter!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Einstein

      "Matter transporter" I call BS

      November 3, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Bob

      heh, Chinese tatter transporter? I think you're referring to experiments where the spin information of one particle are "transported" to another over distance "creating" or "teleporting" to somewhere else. We're still a long way from Jeff Goldblum (or David Hedison depending on your age) walking around with a fly head yelling "Help me!"

      November 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  46. Mike_88

    It's a visual magnet.

    November 3, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Curious George

      So it's like a hot chick? Or you only see it coming at you, but it never does? Sorry, nerd-dom showing through.

      "I was a physics major, but ended up programming websites."
      George B.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  47. Luke

    All Sci-Fi technology that makes it into the real-world and onto the headlines always ends up being on a "much smaller scale".

    Scientists create invisibility cloak (on a much smaller scale)

    Scientists say time-travel may become a reality (but not in your life time)

    Scientists want to create a tractor beam (but nothing as cool as Star Trek)

    November 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Capercorn

      Kurt Godel's solutions to General Relativity [which allow for time travel] only work if the universe is spinning.

      It does not appear to be spinning. You cannot travel back in time.

      :feelsbadman:

      November 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
      • flashtrum

        Not the only time travel theory out there, chief.

        November 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
      • RobertOfNJ

        Do you feel the earth spinning? We know it is because we have other objects for reference. Since we cannot see beyond our universe, how could we know it is not spinning?

        November 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • jc

      Stupid Universe – get with the program.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  48. Capercorn

    I kind of wish Freeman Dyson was still coming up with bizarre methods of spacecraft propulsion.

    Too bad he started building safe nuclear reactors for hospitals to generate isotopes needed for X-rays, and being a fairly interesting philosopher.

    Because the science muggles would be shocked at some of his ideas [for example, using a nuclear bomb to propel manned capsules through space at extremely high velocities].

    November 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Chase

      Zero point energy is sufficient enough for spacecraft propulsion

      November 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Bob

      Dyson must have realized the folly of manned space flight. That's why he moved on to designing expensive vacuum cleaners.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Hallux

      How are you going to use an atomic blast? Assuming the spacecraft is not destroyed, and the people on board aren't killed by the blast, you would have to find a way to cushion the acceleration, spreading it out over time using something like a very large spring... by the same logic, we should not drive cars, we should instead detonate cars' gas tanks, to propel them at "very high speeds"... the whole point of the piston ICE is to spread the consumption of fuel over the greatest time that allows us to achieve a desired speed. We could easily build production cars that go 500 miles per hour... but there are few places you could travel at that speed safely, the rest of the time you'd be paying to haul around the capability to go that fast, and hardly ever get to use it. It would waste fuel at any speed, since at low speeds you're dragging extra mass, plus the large size of the vehicle due to the large amount of fuel you'd have to carry... (greater volume=greater surface area=greater drag) then at high speeds there's the exponential increase in fuel requirements due to increasing aerodynamic drag... etc.,. Nuclear reactions might work well for propulsion, but an all-at-once jolt is stupid. Also, you can achieve much better results by figuring out a way NOT to jump suddenly to very high speed, but instead to accelerate smoothly to the midway point at the same rate... (let's say, about 9.8m/sec) and then decelerate the rest of the way to your destination, maintaining 1g the whole time! You'd be amazed how quick you'd get to most places, and not even feel any ill effects from being in space in zero or micro gravity.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  49. Belle Carillon

    Finally, a plan for something that's good for pulling ...

    November 3, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  50. gdiian

    I Love how they can spend millions and billions on a tractor beam research project, but cant spare another dime for cancer or lukumia research.

    November 3, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Capercorn

      You do know that the overwhelming majority of research dollars spent in space are spent on projects with direct medical applications, right?

      Cancer research has so much funding above and beyond what the astrophysicists have to work with.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Breck

      The article says they have been given $100,000 to work with. I am quite certain that is from NASA's budget, and not from money that is set aside for cancer research.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • phearis

      *holds the bridge of his nose, shakes his head and sighs* Did you bother to even read the story?

      November 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Pliny

      Are you serious? You believe that the Federal Government of the United States of America "cant spare another dime for cancer or lukumia research"????

      You had better pray that they start to 'spend a dime' for curing stupidity. It's your only hope.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
      • Brett

        Your talking about the guys that are running a $1.6 TRILLION deficit in the current year, and have a $15+ Trillion accumulated debt, right? Ya, I'm SURE they have a lot of spare millions floating around to add to their current commitment on cancer research.

        November 3, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Mike

      Why on Earth do we want to spend more money extending people's lives? There are already over 7 billion people. We should be spending money to save other species, human birth control, and work on technology that will one day take us to other planets where we can spread like a virus.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Jason K

      By millions and billions you must mean the $100,000.00 which was quoted in the article. The $100k that is worth 1/2 my house built in 1965...

      November 3, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
      • Sean

        May I come live with you!?

        November 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Hallux

      No apportioning of the government's budget will please everyone, and you're part of everyone, so... get used to disappointment.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  51. Death Metal Danny

    first off lets make it clear that tractor beams are from star wars originally. star trek sucks and is filled with terrible acting second. nasa.. build the death star already...

    November 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • A Griff

      Star Wars came out in 1977, more than ten years after Trek's first season. I know. I saw it when it came out in the theatres. The tractor beam concept in Sci-Fi goes back to the days of the old radio shows from the 1930's and the short stories orf that era. As for your acting comment, William Shatner makes around $100,000 a day when he appears at the cons. So does Nimoy. So I think it is possible they don't care about what you think about their acting abilities.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
      • Hallux

        Thank you for correcting that opinion. What would the internet do without you?

        November 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Bryan

      Since Star Trek TOS was in 1966 and Star Wars was what 1978, I guess Tractor Beam was from Star Trek after all

      November 3, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Capercorn

      8/10.

      Good job.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Capitol of Texas far removed

      Sorry DMD but you're incorrect. As A Griff mentioned Star Wars came out long after Star Trek. To go a bit nerd on you here are several references in TOS (The Original Series) of the use of the tractor beam.

      "The Corbomite Remover" -The Enterprise is placed under a tractor beam by the alien ship Fesarius.

      "Space Seed" – The Enterprise places the Botany Bay under a tractor beam to tow it back to a Star base. Yes this is the episode that introduced Khan.

      "Doomsday Machine" The Enterprise encounters the completely disabled and mostly deserted (except for Commodore Decker) USS Constellation. Kirk says "There's no ship to leave! It's a dead hulk..we'll take her in tow. Mr Scott and I will stay on board and get her ready". Now while not directly saying "Tractor Beam" it's a pretty obvious reference to one.

      I'm sure there are more that's just off of the top of my head. For the record I love both universes equally and am sad to have seen each crater horribly into stupidity. The Star Wars Prequels and the TNG movies have destroyed what was once great fun.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Jason K

      I love both, but I'm pretty sure Star Trek predates Star Wars by at least 10 years. I'm not a big enought nerd to site the first use though.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Brandon

      FURTHERMORE...

      haha yeah 8 or 9 out of 10

      November 3, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Chartreuxe

      Death Metal Danny fail.

      November 4, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  52. palintwit

    You may be right. We definitely started trending downward soon after 9-11.

    November 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  53. Justin

    I want a tractor beam to get beer from the fridge on Sunday football so won't have to move.

    November 3, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • LZ Boy

      ...and a tractor beam to take the urine to the bathroom without gettin up...

      November 3, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • flashtrum

      Doh!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Sean

      Good idea, I’m sure you could use it to get up of the couch too.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  54. twh

    well the way this country's economy has been ruined...this ain't gonna happen anytime soon. America will cease to exist in several years anyway....

    November 3, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  55. NmdcOne

    (for anyone who cares, in regards to the population comment)

    it took somewhere around 13-14 years to go from 6 billion to 7 billion, and that's slowly speeding up...

    so probably 12-13 years to make it to 8 billion...and maybe 35-36 total years to reach the aforementioned 10 billion mark

    November 3, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Sean

      Actually the latest reports suggest population growth is slowing tremendously. As cited in a CNN article from just a few days ago.. women around the world are having less children than their mothers and grandmothers. Averaging a global 2.5 children per woman.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  56. David

    Are we using Scotty's Dilithium crystals? It might blow up if you are not careful

    November 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  57. Belle Carillon

    Personally, I favor John Deere Tractor beams, along with Jim Beam to make me tractable.

    November 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Mike

      I think I'd like to meet you . . .

      November 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • sam

      yeah, i thought a tractor beam was the bottle you kept stashed behind the seat in your massey. sometimes i'd get crickets caught in my tractor beam.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  58. Robert from Canada

    What about developing a deflector/repulser beam to protect the planet from asteroids? If a system can be developed to attrack something, could reversing the polarity of the system be used to repulse?

    November 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Belle Carillon

      You must mean the 'Lohan Effect." it's in development, as we speak.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
      • Almord Hiiganton

        ^ What?

        You Fail.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  59. Dave Bowman

    So we put all our eggs in the non-manned basket. We build the ultimate robotic explorer and send it to the outer planets. It transmits its data back to a supercomputer for analysis. We type in "c:\> DISPLAY FINDINGS OF NEPTUNE PROBE." Response is,"I'M SORRY DAVE I'M AFRAID I CAN'T DO THAT."

    November 3, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Wyler Chesterfield

      C:\? No way man! This is the 21st century... Just send an iOS probe with Siri. Even if she goes rogue, she'll do it in the most clever, witty and charming way possible.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Capercorn

      That is why you do not place a sapient AI in charge of things. If you have on aboard, you keep its circuitry separate from all other systems. Including power.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  60. Belle Carillon

    Funding will first have to be obtained for Captain Kirk's trip to alpha Centauri, where he will pick the tractor beam up (well ... tractor it aboard) at drive-through. Using the beam, the starship Private Enterprise will tow back (well ... tractor back) an eighty-ton dilithium crystal that will be used to power the Democratic campaign.

    November 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Josh

      I thought it was the Robinson Family that journeyed to Alpha Centauri . Or least attempted to, before they were lost in space.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  61. Trish ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Hey guys, will you do me a favor and visit HelpFaye.ORG a friend of mine is fighting for her life... Thanks

    November 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • WARNING!!!!

      DO NOT DONATE TO THIS WOMAN!!! SHE'S BEEN POSTING THIS CRAP FOR MONTHS! IT'S A SCAM!

      November 3, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
      • Sean

        Years actually.

        November 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  62. John

    Let me know when I can beam to work.

    November 3, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  63. Jance Macheal Weston

    I love what yall do my dream is to work for ya but i think the tractor beam is cool I want to invent something cool to put in space i am intrested in becoming one of what you all are but i have ben sketching the idea i have i want to go to space one day mabe find a new life for one day or maybe yall will and then we wont be the only life form in our solar system then we could probaly see if we can live with them on a diffrent planet im interested in how people think there are UFO's i kind of think so but i want to see for my self my dad told me as long as i believe that i can do anything i can be one of yall im 15 and yall are my goal for life. :)

    November 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • tnn

      you should start with separating different sentences with a period.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • brian

      I would first consider getting a proper education. You may only be 15, but your grammar skills are horrendous.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Dan C

      Keep your dreams alive Jance! This is an excellent goal to strive for.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • JamBit

      I could not understand what you were saying. If you tell me when your sentence ends I might understand what that statement had to offer. Keep working on your grammar, it will take you a long way in your goals. At your age I was bad a spelling, and still struggle with it (six years later). The one I learned early is how to structure my sentences which will bring your statements more meaning then spelling ever will. That and we have spell check. Oh, and learn to leave out your ascent. It will bring your statement more meaning and clarity. Good Luck Man.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
      • What?

        "I was bad a spelling, and still struggle with it (six years later)." "Oh, and learn to leave out your ascent." You sound like the perfect role model.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
      • JamBit

        @What. Wooopie... I forgot one (T). thanks for chatching that my friend...

        November 3, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
      • Kuriakos

        [At your age I was bad a spelling, and still struggle with it ]
        Unnecessary use of a comma

        [which will bring your statements more meaning then spelling ever will.]
        "then" should be THAN. THEN is a reference to a point in time and THAN is a comparative word which, in part, is used as a function word to indicate the second member or the member taken as the point of departure in a comparison expressive of inequality; used with comparative adjectives and comparative adverbs

        [thanks for chatching that my friend...]
        First word of the sentence not capitalized. CATCHING misspelled. Improper use of an elipsis.

        [Oh, and learn to leave out your ascent.]
        I am assuming you meant accent here. Accent is not truly an accurate term to use here. Colloquial vernacular would be a much more apt term to utilize.

        November 4, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  64. D

    A mere $100,000? It's sad that it's so easy to throw millions and billions around on destroying, but developing something as cool as this barely gets one engineer's salary.

    November 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • G

      $100K only gets you about 4 months of work from a senior engineer or scientists.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jason K

      Doesn't say where the $100k came from Probably a private organization or foundation. The Military Industrial Complex won't pay for anything that doesn't "dust sand n***ers". I mean if can't stop the Islamists from assimilating Earth, what chance to we stand against the Borg?!

      November 3, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  65. MiketheElectrician

    I rather have the Star Treck Transporter capability...hahaha

    November 3, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • skyder

      Give me a replicator any day.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
      • Pliny

        I want a holo-deck.

        And a program that features one of those green women (from the original series).

        Oh...and a few bottles of Astro-Glide.

        November 3, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
      • shan

        An interesting Trek dilemma indeed.
        Transporter, replicator, or holodeck.
        Transporter saves time and energy, holodecks are more entertaining AND instructional, but the replicator would be the most useful.

        November 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  66. Amber

    SO COOL!!! i can't wait for the 10 or years years to pass and we see if it works or is close to being completeed. :) can't wait!!

    November 3, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Amber

      don't know what happened.. i mean to say **10 or so years to pass**

      November 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Ian

      technology is evolving quickly
      i wudnt be suprised if they had a prototype in the next 5years.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
      • Sean

        Some tech close to this must be in existence somewhere for NASA to even think it is possible.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  67. Jeromy

    This is more like the TRICORDER – it reaches out and analizes the materials around it by drawing a few of them in. Could you imagine? By projecting the laser's presense (assuming the laser is harmless) into a person and using a refractive analysis, it could be like a "portable MRI". – I realize none of this is possible yet, just saying *possibilities are endless* – *There are always alternatives*. Anyway I think this is more like the tricorder, and not much like a tractor beam at all.

    November 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Capercorn

      And you just gave another great reason to fund NASA.

      NASA comes up with cool thing that they need for pure research. Enterprising Engineer sees cool thing, and comes up with idea to make cool thing to practical stuff for us down here; propelling our standard of living even higher and higher.

      :feelsgoodman:

      November 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
      • Kwolf

        We, engineers, can also do our own research. We are also sophisticated. Many of us can apply high level mathematics to model systems and optimize performance, reliability and check function. We are also very scientific and can apply proper experimental practices. I like NASA, but don't paint engineers as just people who can put together different gadgets that someone else came up with to make machines. Only the hack engineers (there are many of them) can't go beyond that capability.

        November 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
      • Capercorn

        Wasn't attempting to dis the engineers working in pure research.

        However, muggles would call them "scientists."

        November 3, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Dactyl

      Qualcomm (San Diego, makes the comm chips in your cell phones) announced an X-Prize for the first company to make a working Star Trek-like Tricorder. At first I though they were nuts, but after seeing several approaches thought up by companies in the competition, I think we will see a nascent Tricorder within 5 to 10 years.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  68. Jason

    This is awesome. ENGAGE!

    NASA needs to take this beam to that giant diamond planet they found and bring some goodies back to fund themselves since everyone else is trying to shut it down.

    Naysaying B@st@rds.

    November 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  69. Josh

    I vote to skip the Tractor Beam for now, and focus R&D on Transporter Technology and Warp Drive.

    November 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Capercorn

      They're working on the warp drive. All we need is just a convenient means to warp the space-time manifold about a space craft.

      Once we figure out how to do that [without having to sacrifice a star], we're golden.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
      • Sting

        Don't know why but this makes me think of your mama joke. Your mama is so fat we can use her to generate warp field in front of a spacecraft. LOL

        November 3, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Juniys Gallio

      Second the motion! :)

      November 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • TheThinker

      You "warp drive" ludite. GRAVITON fields are the future! ;)

      November 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
      • skyder

        It's all berilium sphere's these days guys.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  70. A_bully

    NERDS!!!

    November 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Capercorn

      Getting paid $70 thousand a year, right out of grad school, for drawing weird symbols on a chalkboard [that can only be understood by other people with similar training] is totally worth it.

      The world needs nerds, and society is willing to pay top dollar for us.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
      • Josh

        Right out of grad school? Try $80K right out of high school ! ! !

        November 3, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • A_bully

      I still reserve the right to beat nerds up and take their 80k lunch money.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
      • nerdy and married to trophy wife

        we always need people to pump our gas

        November 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
      • Sea Dog

        Some of us joined the Navy and would love to see you try. No $80k right out of high school though ...

        November 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
      • Nutter

        Until you realize said nerd is sporting a skull gun. (yes, I'm reading Stephenson).

        November 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
      • Gotcha Covered

        And while those nerds are busily at work, someone needs to pay special attention to the trophy wives! I volunteer!

        November 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
      • Polly Prissypants

        <===== Nerd Wife of a Phenomenal Nerd. 5'8, sz6, strawberry blonde but the best part? I have a 168 IQ. I kick massive gnome ass in WOW, dominate my hubby in Call of Duty, <3 me some Tennent Who but Matt's a cutie too...and my Nook has more Sci-fi than any other cat. :D NERDS are like Fezes and bow ties – simply – COOL!

        November 4, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • A_bully

      I hope you can use that tractor beam to get you out from being upside down in that trash can.

      November 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  71. T

    Unmanned trips....
    Geez, are we ever going to make it to a Manned mission within our lifetime ?
    By the way, the tractor beam news is so cool !

    November 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Capercorn

      Once COTS is up and running, frequent trips to LEO will be common again, and operated by private companies to boot!

      However, the really exciting stuff will come about when the Space Launch System is fully operational in about 6 years.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Obi Wan

      Patience, young Skywalker.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  72. Bob

    Use the Force, Rover!

    November 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  73. jj

    An original star trek fan, I really became impressed a few years after it ended, when I read an article about an experimental 'gun' that shot two laser beams, out of phase. I realized 'that's a phaser!' (and I was, uh, stunned...)

    November 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Tinkey

      As a nerdy mom (who owns all the original Star Treks and I'm working my way through 178 episodes of Next Generation) this is very cool news but what I'm really waiting on is the "food replicator" ;o)

      November 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
      • Capercorn

        That would be the Condensed Matter Physicists you should be bothering.

        After developing lasers, it's been pretty tough for them; add more than a few thousand particles to the mix, and it turns into an algebra nightmare.

        And the whole point of TCM is to do away with using thermodynamic models for situations that require extreme precision [thermodynamics can only give probabilities as answers, due to the epistemic difficulties of understanding complex systems with trillions of particles at play].

        November 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
      • Chris

        The Food Replicator and the Holodeck both used the transporter technology.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  74. Capercorn

    For the anti-NASA luddites out there:

    One of the biggest motivations in my life came from when I was five, and my parents took me to the Kennedy Space Center, where I saw the Saturn V on display. I became obsessed with the space program.

    My childhood heroes were the brilliant men and women who flung themselves into the depths of space, with no fear.

    I envied them, and I dove headfirst into my studies.

    I'm now studying to become a mathematician.

    November 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Bob

      Well I was around for the Apollo program. Saw the first moon walk on TV etc. Very exciting. But one of the things people forget is that around the same time as the last Apollo mission was up there, the soviets had a robot rover that dug deeper than the Astronauts ever did and returned samples to earth. The old saying that you need people "out there" to make real time decisions is just a lot of nonsense. My hat's off to those people with the "right stuff", but as far as science goes, once you eliminate "Tang" and cheese flavored dog food there really isn't much from the manned space program that couldn't have been done more cheaply and efficiently by unmanned probes. If there was a buck to be made from manned space travel you can bet we'd have strip bars on Mars by now. The fact is, there is no compelling commercial need to send people into space, and absolutely no scientific reason for manned missions to Mars or asteroids or whatever.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
      • Capercorn

        We have 7 billion reasons to expand the manned exploration of space. It may not be a problem now, but a century from now, when the Earth has 10 billion mouths to feed and house, it may be too late.

        The research we do now regarding humans living in space may well save our civilization in the future. Once the explorers pave the way, it can be reproduced cheaply.

        November 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
      • John R

        Capercorn,

        Agreed, but it will hardly take a century to get to 10 billion. Might happen in 12 or so years.

        November 3, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
      • george b.

        robots over men...wow that's intelligent design...would you let a robot operate on your brain please?

        November 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
      • Steve

        Tang and cheese?? Are you kidding me? How about cellphones? Use those? How about GPS? Isnt that useful? How about water filters...Africa likes that. How about long life foods. How about high speed internet? How about modern CPU/GPUs in computers? How about Teflon..ever have that on a cooking pan? List goes on and on and you can only come up with Tang and cheese? God if you represent a majority of our society then we truely are doomed. Move to the Middle East if you want to be technologically retarded.

        November 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
      • Big-J

        Steve – none of those things you listed were developed by NASA!
        Tang – General Foods (1958), Teflon – Dupont (1938), Velcro – Sweden (1944), GPS – DoD, Cell Phones – Motorola...the list goes on and on! Sure, NASA used these products, but none of these products were developed by, or for NASA. The reason these products are a part of our everyday lives is because someone, other than the Government, made them commercially viable.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
      • Sea Dog

        @Capercorn – I think it would be much more feasible to colonize the oceans here. They are a lot closer, and we know that they are full of food. Space is rather empty. ... Hence the name.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
      • Mike

        Bob-

        That ain't so. The Russians tried unmanned lunar landings around the time of the Apollo program, but they all failed.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
      • Bob

        "Mike
        Bob-
        That ain't so. The Russians tried unmanned lunar landings around the time of the Apollo program, but they all failed."

        Mike, do the most basic web search. Luna 16, 20 and 24 returned samples of moon rocks to earth.

        November 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
      • Bob

        george b.
        robots over men...wow that's intelligent design...would you let a robot operate on your brain please?

        George, assuming we'll have surgical robots available soon (oh wait, we already do!). Would I rather have a precise machine operate on my brain under the direction of a qualified medical team or some neuro surgeon who's shaking off a hangover, wondering how the market is doing today and hoping he didn't leave his "bad boy phone" where his wife could find it?

        November 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
      • OneOfTheSheep

        No "compelling commercial need to send people into space, and absolutely no scientific reason for manned missions to Mars or asteroids or whatever"?

        In all the years of recorded history man is no closer to "playing well with others" that in prehistory. So long as ALL man's eggs are in this one basket called Earth, the clock is ticking down to the day our big blue marble becomes a big brown marble. Don't you HEAR it?

        If the developed nations don't convince the whole world to work together toward self-sustaining colonies on the moon and Mars, etc. ASAP, one or a few will have to "go it alone". In that case, just like earlier cruises of discovery and the raising of territorial flags, the real estate should be become the territory of the financing sovereigns...er, governments with vision.

        November 4, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • Rob

      @Bob, I respectfully disagree. Manned missions and life support systems development in space can provide benefits to people on earth.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
      • Bob

        Rob, of course there is some benefit there. But not to the tune of the hundreds of billions of dollars we've spent on manned missions and the support of the ISS. Everything about manned space flights is fought with risk to life that no reasonable risk/benefit analysis would support. Lack of air, long duration without gravity, temperature, radiation (particularly once we get beyond low earth orbit), boredom, medical issues.
        The military realized long ago that there was no need to involve humans in space flight for their missions. That's why they ditched the Shuttle and abandoned the Vanderberg launch site. If you've got a billion dollars to spend to get a payload into orbit, and you are spending more than half of that to keep the crew alive, there is just no economic sense.

        November 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
      • Sean

        The billions you speak of are irrelevant in the long run. We created money and it only holds value as long as we say it does. What we NEED it the technology to get off this rock. Population over load is just one reason, pollution, global extinction (pick your poison) are a couple others.
        Robot exploration is indispensable no argument there. They are the vanguard… but we need to follow them with manned missions if we hope to survive as a species.

        November 3, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
      • Bob

        Sean, calm down. Nature will take care of the human population. My bet is a "Walking Dead" scenario.

        November 3, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  75. us1776

    Well, we reeled it in with our laser beam finally.

    Only problem is that it's now a melted smoldering blob.

    .

    November 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Correction

      Is that some sort of movie quote, or are you just stupid?

      November 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  76. Pliny

    One feature that this tractor beam MUST have...

    Whenever it is used, a voice recording of Patrick Stewart must say "Engage".

    November 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Tinkey

      Or "Make it So";o)

      November 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  77. Bob

    beam me up Scotty! oh w8 not there yet....

    November 3, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • PatrickB

      ***YET*** ;)

      Who knows where science will be in another 25, 50, 100 years or more? Gene Roddenberry may well one day be remembered as our generations Jules Verne.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
      • Nutter

        Isn't he already?

        November 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
      • Sean

        The way we tend to rewrite history.. he will be a god. Look what happen with that carpenter fella.

        November 3, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  78. don Jones

    There are benefits to projects in space but none of them have anything to do with having people up there. I always thought that the NASA space program was a publicity stunt to get people to buy into the costs of a space program. All the crap about colonies on Mars and the moon is science Fiction. JUst go back to the basic physics and it becomes very apparent. Anything else is just a money grab by the scientists....

    November 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Kristina Erin Kaye

      Well, what a short sighted comment ... again!

      November 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Pliny

      don Jones.

      The 12th century called.
      They want their willful ignorance back.

      November 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
      • Amber

        HAHA!! :)

        November 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
      • Strategic Bob

        Pliny,

        If the 12th Century really wants its willful ignorance back it should go to the 21st Century's motherlode. Its the Tea Party and GOP.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
      • Nutter

        Primo.... Burn!

        November 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      you think scientists keep the money they get given for their research?

      November 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
      • Capercorn

        Science isn't cheep.

        The first scientists were rich guys who had nothing better to do but play around with vacuums and chemicals.

        Then engineers realized that useful things could be done by applying the boredom-driven results of their work.

        November 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  79. Muggleborn

    Yeah, or... use a vacuum cleaner. Just duct tape it to the rover. I think you may get some particles.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Kristina Erin Kaye

      Yeah ... smart call. Does a vacuum cleaner work in space?

      November 3, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
      • Pete

        Watch Mega Maid in Spaceballs.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • J

      Would a vacuum cleaner work in the vacuum of space?

      November 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • dude

      yeah, vacuum cleaner, in space (a vacuum).

      November 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  80. Pliny

    Where are the anti-NASA luddites today???
    I miss hearing them complain about funding NASA.
    I miss their ignorance.
    I miss their fear.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • palintwit

      They are in bible study class today.

      November 3, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • PatrickB

      That or they are arguing about the issues that matter to them – like who got booted off of Dancing with the Stars.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  81. palintwit

    It's too bad that none of the 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls believe in science. Teabaggers – launching us forward to the 13th century !

    November 3, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Capercorn

      I was going to correct you, and mention Huntsman, but then I saw the word "hopeful."

      :feelsbadman:

      November 3, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
      • rb3331

        Funny!

        November 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Enough already

      Leave it to the Libs to bring in politics and go on the attack. Sooo intelligent.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
      • Capercorn

        Once Conservatives start preferring the Jon Huntsmans of the world, over the Rick Perrys and Michelle Bachmanns of the world, then we can talk.

        November 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
      • Nutter

        Oh and conservatives never reduce anything to politics.... like... say... the debt ceiling fiasco. Give me a break.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  82. KL

    Call it a "Torchwood" beam.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  83. DON63

    What we really need is a pusher beam for these roaming comets and asteriods

    November 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  84. bcat

    Well that's easy, simple thermophoresis in gas (air). You can already do this, termed laser tweezers. This is one of my areas of interests.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  85. startrekfangirl

    Thank you...when I saw tractor "ray", I knew the person who wrote the article was not a Star Trek/Star Wars fan. And if you really want to get picky about it, the first line should've mentioned Star Trek's USS Enterprise before writing about the Death Star....

    November 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Kristina Erin Kaye

      Agreed!!!

      November 3, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @startrekfangirl: That's silly. Star Wars came before Star Trek.

      November 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
      • rb3331

        @Sean – Check your facts, the original star trek aired in the late 60's or early 70's well before Star Wars

        November 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
      • Data

        Star Trek: 1966-1968 (TV series)
        Star Wars: 1977 (motion picture)

        Check your facts first, please.

        November 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
      • SeanNJ

        No...I'm pretty sure Star Wars was first.

        November 3, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
      • Strategic Bob

        SeanNJ, I'm going to guess that you are a Conservative Tea Party type. How else to explain your stubborn refusal to accept the proven fact that Star Trek pre-dates Star Wars?

        November 3, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
      • SeanNJ

        @Strategic Bob: That's not a proven fact...just a THEORY.

        November 3, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • jj

      Wait, who came first? Didn't Star Wars happen 'a long time ago'??? Surely they meant before 1966! ;>

      November 3, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  86. gary

    Nasa wants? I want good schools for kids.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Pliny

      No gary. You want ignorance. It suits you.

      How many hours have you spent at your kid's school this month?
      What percentage of your taxes goto schools?
      What percentage of your taxes goto NASA?

      Gary...please...reverse your opinion on funding NASA.
      Instead of spreading your ignorance, you should argue for MUCH MORE NASA FUNDING.
      You should suggest that NASA build a probe to distant galaxies.
      And then, you should get a seat on that probe.

      I'm sick to death of hearing you ignorant savages try to hold back progress.

      November 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
      • Dude

        When NASA was setting new records with almost every flight and going further than ever on a regular basis, American kids idolized Astronauts, scientists and engineers. We were #1 in the world in science, engineering and invention.

        Today, American kids idolize celebrities who are famous for being famous. We are not in the top 10 in anything important. China graduates twice as many engineers as we do per capita and six times as many over all.

        Schools cannot make a scientist out of a child who is uninspired and has no vision to follow. An inspired student with a vision can succeed despite a school that is lacking.

        Education is very important, but so is inspiration.

        America is more concerned with saying "we're number one" that we are with being number one.

        November 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
      • Bob

        Dude:
        Watch "Apollo 13". The public was bored by moon landings pretty quick. The drama of almost losing a crew in space brought it back into the news for a while, but the last couple of missions were cancelled. You can still see the hardware at KSC and the Smithsonian.

        November 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Relictus

      Good luck, Gary. The sciences are based on education. Maybe if there was some big flashy way of getting the average person interested in science, we could get voters interested in education and schools.

      One of the big problems in education today is people do not know what science really is. Fancy talking people make science sound like whatever they want it to be, and that's wrong. The bedrock of science is four simple ideas called the "scientific method". Much of Life is just asking the right questions. That's what scientists do, they ask questions. Think about what you want to know, and why – then you are halfway to becoming a scientist yourself. The rest is just education, ability and drive.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
      • Sean

        This is true, howeve a much bigger problem would be the trend toward theoligy in the U.S. As long as people are brain washing their children into beleive some all powerful yet absent sky demon is controlling their lives, they have little motivation to learn anything else. Afterall the this is the end of days!

        November 3, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Capercorn

      You can have the best schools in the world, and without motivation, the students will never do anything.

      You need something to inspire the students. The exploration of space is exciting, and kids love it.

      Brilliant people, who studied long and hard in mathematics and science, flinging themselves into the deadly void of space, with no fear. That is exciting, and the thought of it still gives me goosebumps today.

      Because the promise of a comfortably paying 9-5 job is not exciting to kids. Space is.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • jj

      I've read the entire NASA budget is less than what they spend to air condition the military buildings in Iraq/Afghanistan.
      I have no idea if this is true. Maybe it said a certain NASA program. But the point is – their budget is small.
      And yes, we want better schools, too. And better learning!

      November 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • sumday

      Gary what do you want your kids to learn in school? That the world is flat and the center of the universe- or do you want them to learn and know about cutting edge technology and science? Besides that what NASA spends is not going to help schools become any better- while you want better schools- I want better students who want to learn and do not take "free" educations as a G-d given right.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  87. Jeff S

    Ready is soo right. Tractor Beam it is! Now...on to the space elevator, and the bulk matter transporter!

    November 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • SilentBoy741

      Every time my ex drives down to the DQ drive-thru; there's your bulk matter transporter.

      November 4, 2011 at 3:34 am |
  88. YES

    I love science.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  89. Pete

    Looks like NASA uses MSPaint for their graphics.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • D. Poulios

      Close. It was PowerPoint....

      November 3, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  90. Joe Mama

    LOL. I'm sorry but that pic is hilariously bad. Did you guys use MS Paint to add those special effects?

    November 3, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Cyrus

      They gave the Mars Rover picture to the Fall Intern and gave him a lecture about budget cuts. He did what he could. Go easy.

      November 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • D. Poulios

      We just wanted to get the point across in the proposal (where the picture is taken from), and didn't want to spend too much time making it look pretty.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  91. ready

    If this thing is made and it works you better call it a tractor beam, damnit.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • blah9999

      Unless George Lucas copyrights "tractor beam" which isn't far fetched...

      November 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
      • vbscript2

        He already did that with "Droid." Verizon pays Lucasfilm to license the name for phones that are branded as "Droid."

        November 11, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • lawforlife

      AMEN!

      November 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Kristina Erin Kaye

      I agree ... but even if it isn;t oficially called a TRACTOR BEAM, it will always be know as such ... no doubt about it!!!

      November 3, 2011 at 12:40 pm |

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