CONTRARY BRIN: Space resources and advances… plus aliens & UFOs, oh my!

Okay SPAAAACE-time. To the chagrin of those trying to destroy our confidence, we keep doing fine and wonderful things!

Let’s begin with my own milestone… after 12 years in the funnest gig ever, I just attended (in Houston) my last Symposium for NASA’s Innovative & Advanced Concepts program – (NIAC) – as a member of the External Council watching (and critiquing!) presentations about some of the coolest (and often weird) just-barely-plausible projects that NASA has deemed worthy of small-scale seed grant support.

Cool stuff! Look up the wide range of bold concepts, from several revolutionary kinds of space telescope to Venus gliders that move through the thick haze like manta rays. Or propelling spacecraft by firing fuel pellets at em, from behind! Or several kinds of stimulated isotope nuclear rockets, safer and cheaper than other nukes, but also much faster than chemical ones. From Mars habitats built of algae to a portable pharmacy that might make any drug on demand.

You can either read up on past projects or catch the Symposium recorded free, at the NIAC site.

== How asteroids may offer wealth – or threats…. ==

NASA just launched the Psyche spacecraft aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket – on its journey to the unique metal-rich asteroid, Psyche. Data from this mission could advance plans for future asteroid mining. Headlines that Psyche is worth “quadrillions of dollars” of course neglect the fact that – after a few measly thousands of tons of gold and platinum harvested to Earth – prices would collapse and you’d be using gold foil to wrap sandwiches. (Now, I wonder which parties here on Earth would not like their mines to go obsolete? And hence pushed for the silly-useless”Artemis” distraction-“race” to re-do Apollo footprint stunts on a vast plain of useless, poison lunar dust?)

The first asteroid sample has been returned to Earth; the sample capsule from the OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid Bennu was retrieved after landing in the Utah desert. Samples are being analyzed at the Johnson Space Center.

Meanwhile, the asteroid-defense foundation, B612 – helping track potentially devastating rocks out there – has launched the Schweickart Prize – honoring Apollo 9 & Skylab astronaut Rusty Schweickart’s contributions to space exploration and planetary defense across a 60-year career. The $10,000 award aims to stimulate graduate student contributions to planetary defense and advancement of humanity’s cosmic journey, safeguarding our transition into the wider cosmos. Awardees will also receive a museum-quality meteorite. Not just technical advances qualify! Also in fields of policy and education about this existential purpose.

And if that weren’t enough… almost daily we get incredible wonders from the utterly intricate James Webb and its partner telescopes, in space and on Earth, some of them mentioned in my last posting about space.

And meanwhile, recovery (with stunning pinpoint accuracy) of perfect asteroid samples, brought back across (literally) a billion miles? The Curiosity and Perseverance rovers doing dazzling Mars science accompanied by a spectacular little helicopter? And that’s just marvels we’ve accomplished in Space!

There’s far, far more down here on Earth. Making pessimism kinda… well… one of the dumber attitudes even remotely possible.

== Fermi Redux. I stand by prevalence of Life! Just not folks with starships ==

First. Way fun stuff by John Michael Godier about the most isolated human tribe on Earth… the Sentinelese… and whether they exist in a version of the “Zoo Hypothesis” for the Fermi Paradox. Of course, Isaac Arthur has probaly 30+ videos dissecting the same topic in great detail… that I don’t always agree-with!  But certainly fascinating riffs!

An interesting and cogent video about the Fermi Paradox by charismatic astrophysicist David Kipping is informative and entertaining. Alas, it is also… ultimately… deeply wrongheaded.

Oh, surely something is depressing the observability of interstellar (IS) civilizations… and as I stated in my 1983 paper – the first that really tried to appraise the range of ‘fermi proposals’ to explain the Great Silence – there are dozens of possibilities, ranging to “They are out there, just hard to notice.”

This fellow’s argument is that LIFE may be the key factor and that the existence of living material on Earth might be the statistical fluke. He goes on, claiming we have no idea what f(L) in the Drake equation must be. And he does poke at some logical fallacies that eager folks often lean upon, to support their faith in Otherness.

Still, while that his claim of “we don’t know F(L)” is true, his ‘hence life on Earth is likely a fluke’ is unsupportable…

Read the rest at: CONTRARY BRIN: Space resources and advances… plus aliens & ufos, oh my!

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