Are you nostalgic for a time when the word "zeppelin" stood for leisurely intercontinental travel for the rich and famous, rather than bass-heavy portable sound
and MotoBlur phones
? Take heart, as Ukrainian entrepreneur Igor Pasternak claims to have solved the "buoyancy problem" that has long limited the usefulness of airships. The problem is that burning fuel or dropping cargo lightens the ship, which then needs to vent costly helium to return to earth; without a way to control buoyancy, take-offs and landings become complicated to the point of uselessness. Pasternak claims to have solved this sticking point by compressing the pricey gas, thereby conserving it for later use. The Defense Department (which loves its warblimps
) has contracted his company, Aeros, to provide a working demonstration by 2012-13. Dubbed Pelican, it will only fly without a payload at first -- but if the technology proves feasible, we might just see a new Era of Airships.