March 21, 2019

Astro-Vid Of the Week: To The Asteroids & Beyond

An artist’s concept of asteroid capture.

(Credit: NASA).

We never miss a chance to catch the fascinating series of talks posted weekly on YouTube via the SETI Institute. Beyond just aliens, these thought expanding seminars cover the length and breadth of space science. Often, the talks are highly technical, but we almost always grab something out of even the advanced ones.

A great talk recently popped up by University of Arizona professor John Lewis. We had been on the fence about the whole idea of retrieving an asteroid and mining it for profit, but Mr. Lewis will make you a convert in this 1 hour and 44 minute talk:

But beyond just asteroid retrieval, Mr. Lewis lays out a manifesto for innovative new propulsion systems, means for an off-world economy to become sustainable, and how humanity could grow as a species. His talk touches on the Mond process for mineral extraction in situ, helium-3 mining on the lunar surface for use in fusion technology, and exotic technologies such as solar thermal propulsion.

And this all comes as NASA narrows down its proposed target list of Near Earth Asteroids for retrieval from 14 to 4. Said space rocks will be about 3-metres in size and will be placed around the Moon for exploitation. Unlike the Earth, where the bulk of the precious metals sink to the core, asteroids have them relatively exposed and ready for utilization.

Be sure to check out this fascinating SETI talk— it provides a vision of hope in this age of sequestration!

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