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Guest: Dr. Martin Elvis: Topics: Our guest discussed his new book, "Asteroids: How Love, Fear and Greed Will Determine Our Future In Space" plus the developing space economy, usage of space resources, competition, capitalism in space and more.
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We welcomed Dr. Martin Elvis back to the program to discuss his new book being released June 8 of this year, " Asteroids: How Love, Fear and Greed Will Determine Our Future In Space". We started our 70 minute discussion by asking our guest about the book, why he wrote it and then to tell us the behind the scenes story regarding the terms used in the title. Before we went on air, Martin explained to me the limitations coming up in astronomy because of the telescope limitation issue. Near the end of the program I asked him to talk about this problem which he gladly did for our benefit. Be sure to hear what he said as we concluded our discussion talking about a potential upcoming telescope problem which was turned out to be a starting point for him to look at asteroids and resource usage.
Regarding the title of the book, we learned that Love was for the love of knowledge. Fear dealt with the fear of an asteroid impact doing us in like the dinosaurs. As for Greed, our guest said it was an excellent motivator. During our discussion with Dr. Elvis, you will hear him reference resources, partnerships, and capitalism multiple times. He also talked about finding NEOs, what has been found so far, risks, and related topics. Our guest mentioned various mitigation technologies being studied but seemed to focus more on the plausibility of a kinetic impactor. You might want to comment about that on our blog so go for it.
Asteroid raw materials were a big part of our discussion and the same for his book. For example, his book has Ch. 7, "Greed: Asteroid Prospecting, then he has chapter 9 on Making Space Safe for Capitalism. Besides explaining the nature of his title, he also devotes chapters to asteroid science and resource exploration and usage, dealing with and mitigating the asteroid impact threat plus summary chapters on how to get stared and make the long run pay off because that is where the benefits will come from along with wealth and development.
In talking about raw materials, Martin said that the main asteroid belt had several million times the resource we have here on Earth. He talked about O'Neill cylinders in space as essential saying that there was not enough land on the Moon or Mars to do what needs to be done for the future. Make sure you listen to all of what he said on this topic. This would be a good point for you the listener to post a comment or two or ask a question of our guest using our blog for this show. Moving along to the subject of greed, he again reminded us of what a great motivator it was while love and fear were simply not enough of a kicker to jump start us. This is why capitalism in space was so important as he wrote in the book and as he explained to us during our discussion. He mentioned other companies and businesses including SpaceX and later a 3D printing company possibly being able to print replacement body organs in space. In talking about the greed factor, listener Bill from Denver asked him by email if one could close a business case today on developing or exploiting resources. Martin said this was not obvious now but it would be at some point. He talked about the need for markets, water which we talked about at length, timelines which he suggested might go out ten years and supply lines for space development. He was also asked about the market for bringing resources back to Earth. He said maybe for precious metals but extraction and other costs were still too high at this time.
A listener asked our guest about China seeking space resources and their goals compared to what we in the US are doing. Martin provided us with an unexpected and fresh response to this email question so don't miss what was said or the companies he mentioned. He suggested that government needed to do more for infrastructure. Marshall called to talk about mining asteroids and iron. Martin and Marshall had an interesting exchange about iron ins space plus the subject of tar in space came up. This prompted Paul to send in an email asking if tar in space was created the way it was on Earth. Martin said know and explained space tar to us involving interstellar clouds, carbon, hydrogen, O2, and more.
As we moved along with our discussion, Reid in Tucson asked our guest if he thought the first trillionaires would come from space commerce. You might be surprised by what Martin said in response to this question. Richard asked our guest if his peer group agreed with him. Martin thought that was an interesting question and said he was a bit of an outlier. You do not want to miss Martin's complete response on this one. I then asked our guest to explain his Ch. 9 Making Space Safe for Capitalism. Martin provided us with quite an explanation and discussion on this topic so pay attention as you listen to what our guest said. His response included the Outer Space Treaty, legal concerns, property rights and more. As I said, don't miss this important discussion which also touched upon the Space Force, treaties, and a host of regulations.
As we were moving toward the end of the program, listener Jane in St. Louis asked Martin for his thoughts on benefit sharing. This opened up another important discussion with a focus on redistribution issues, policy, law, diplomacy, taxation and the like. Toward the end he said that despite the challenges and risks ahead, he remained bullish.
At this point, I asked him to return to our pre-show conversation and to elaborate on the telescope issue I mentioned briefly at the start of this summary. Martin went into the subject and clearly laid out the problems and challenges for astronomy, the use and availability of telescopes going forward and the high cost problems that much be addressed. I urge you to keep this issue in mind as we address these concerns in future Space Show programs with other guests. He said the costs were way too high, other telescopes which he named were either aging fast or already out of service. The costs were absurd citing the $9 billion for the JWST. He talked about telescopes and other space agencies including ESA and in other locations. Hopefully capitalism and economic development in space will help to lower some of these costs plus shorten development time.
Please post your comments/questions on our blog for this show. You can reach our guest through me or his faculty page at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.