For this week’s episode, I spoke with Mclee Kerolle, a veteran space lawyer and the Mentorship Coordinator with the Space Court Foundation (SCF). In the course of our chat, we discuss the SCF’s education and outreach programs and how they are focused on mentoring the next generation of space lawyers (with an emphasis on greater inclusion and diversity). We also got into the evolving field of space law and its importance in the current age of human spaceflight.
If I could summarize the episode and everything we spoke of in two bullet points, they would be:
The new space age is defined by growing cooperation and access, and it is important to promote and amplify the voices of those unsung heroes worldwide that are helping make it happen
A legal framework needs to be established TODAY so that we don’t a “Wild West” situation in space tomorrow
We also got into the SCF’s various programs that teach about existing space law and encourage people to think about the kinds of laws that need to be put in place before we being mining asteroids, establishing settlements on the Moon and Mars, conducting space tourism, and create habitats that allow for a permanent human presence in space. Check it out below!
This week’s episode is a special one. Instead of the usual stories from space, I get to talking about stories about space and humanity’s bold future in it. In short, I talked about science fiction, the books that inspired me throughout my life, and how I dreamed of one day writing the kind of books that inspired me. By the time I became a science communicator who writes about this stuff for a living, I finally found my voice.
This journey eventually led me to write the Formist Series, which was published between 2017 and 2020. And frankly, I’m just getting started! Before I put my pen down, there are countless stories I would like to tell. And I am fortunate enough to work in a field that actively inspires me to think about humanity’s future in space and learn the technical aspects involved. I even recount the exact article I’d written in 2015 that made everything click in my mind!
Want to hear more about this journey? Check out the links below:\
The subject of this week’s episode is the science being transforming extraterrestrial planets to make them more “Earth-like” – aka. Terraforming! This is a subject near and dear to my heart and something I wrote about at length a few years ago over at Universe Today, titled “The Definitive Guide to Terraforming.” I also took the opportunity to share some good news: the essay I wrote about terraforming will soon be published in the upcoming The Ross 248 Project!
As I mentioned in a previous post, this is an anthology of SF stories and scientific essays edited by author and NASA scientist Les Johnson and terraforming expert Ken Roy. The topic is how humans could populate rocky planets that orbit red dwarf suns – like Ross 128, Proxima Centauri, or TRAPPIST-1 – in the near future. For the sake of fiction, Johnson and Roy decided to use Ross 248 (a red dwarf over 10 light-years from Earth) as the setting since it is not yet known if it supports a planetary system.
My contribution was an essay titled “Under Crimson Skies” that looked at how these planets could be ecologically engineered to make them into future homes for humanity!
This week, I got back into the Fermi Paradox (“Where are all the aliens?”) to address one of my favorite proposed resolutions. Could it be that the reason humanity hasn’t heard from extraterrestrial civilizations is that they have evolved beyond anything we would recognize? This is the thrust of the Transcension Hypothesis, a proposed resolution that has had many contributors over the past century.
This includes Russian-Soviet “farther of rocketry” Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, theoretical physicist John D. Barrow (inventor of the Barrow Scale), and John M. Smart – the man who crystallized the idea as we know it today. The reason why this proposed resolution is so appealing is that it combines so many ground-breaking ideas, ranging from nanotech, neural uploading, black hole physics, evolutionary development (evo-devo), and clinical immortality.
And as always, the implications of this theory could be incredibly profound. Not only does it mean we may someday encounter beings that are so far beyond our comprehension. It also offers a glimpse of what humanity itself could become someday.
In this episode, I circle back to the Fermi Paradox (“Where are all the aliens?”) and address the first proposed resolution. In 1975, astrophysicist (and white supremacist) Michael Hart framed the Fermi Paradox as we know it. As he defined it, there was a disparity between the assumed prevalence of life in the Universe and the dearth of evidence for it. Hart’s explanation: extraterrestrial intelligence doesn’t exist. This argument was articulated a few years later by astrophysicist Frank Tipler (NOT a white supremacist), who provided far more intelligent parameters.
While it is a simple and arguably oversimplified answer to a very serious question, the Conjecture does have some good points. Given the age of the Universe, the sheer number of stars, planets, and galaxies in the Universe, and the fact that the ingredients for life are in abundance everywhere, why is it that we don’t see evidence of advanced intelligence out there? There are many reasons, and the question begs further investigation.
In 1964, Russian-Soviet astrophysicist and radio astronomer Nikolai Kardashev wrote a paper where he described how alien civilizations could be categorized based on the energy they could harness. At the time, Kardashev was trying to suggest the kinds of transmissions astronomers should be looking for in their pursuit of finding extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI). However, this paper spawned a means of classifying ETIs based on the amount of energy they could harness.
This has come to be known as the Kardashev Scale, which categories civilizations into the planetary, stellar, and galactic scales. Today, it remains a central feature in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
This announcement has been a long time in the making, but such is the nature of publishing (especially where multiple authors are involved). And it will be a few more months before it is available in print and ebook format. But I assure you, it is well worth the wait! This anthology is a collection of science fiction short stories and scientific essays edited by famed author and NASA scientist Les Johnson and famed engineer/terraformer Ken Roy (inventor of the “Shell World” concept).
The title of this volume is The Ross 248 Project, which explores how humanity may settle worlds that orbit Red Dwarf stars someday – like our nearest extrasolar planetary neighbor, Proxima b! It is the spiritual sequel to the anthology Going Interstellar (also edited by Les Johnson), which explores how humanity may travel to distant star systems someday.
Some truly heavy hitters in the science and science fiction communities took part in this project, and I was honored to be working with them. My contribution was an essay on the subject of terraforming planets that orbit Red Dwarfs. I was asked to write it by Dr. Johnson himself based on a series I wrote for Universe Today (The Definitive Guide to Terraforming).
It is the longest piece I have ever written and (I don’t want to brag, yes I do!), I was told by an authority on the subject (won’t say whom) that it was the “one of the better [essays] that I’ve come across.”
The book is available for pre-order on Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster. Check it out below!
For this latest episode, I got to talk with space philosopher and author Frank White, the man who literally wrote the book on the Overview Effect. This term describes the psychological shift astronauts experience when going to space and seeing Earth without national boundaries or divisions. The first edition was released in 1987 when only two space agencies sent people to space, and the commercial space sector barely existed.
Today, the term has become mainstream with the rise of the NewSpace industry and commercial astronauts. There’s also a renewed interest in space exploration, thanks to new and exciting missions that are doing everything from exploring Mars and the outer reaches of the Solar System to preparing to send humans back to the Moon (to stay, this time!) Twenty-five years ago, Frank predicted that these sorts of changes would allow more people to experience the Overview Effect and how it could contribute to creating a better world.
It’s little wonder why Frank’s book has been re-released several times with updated material, more interviews with astronauts, and more thoughts on the future. Today, Frank continues to spread the lessons astronauts have learned via the Overview Institute and countless education and outreach efforts.
For this most recent episode, my guest was none other than Joan Marie (Joan Melendez Misner), also known by her handle @yourfemaleengineer. Marie is a NASA engineer who worked on jet fighters for the US Navy, the Double-Asteroid Redirect Test (DART), and is currently developing theEuropa Clipperand Dragonflymissions. During our chat, we talked about what it’s like to land your dream job, how to persevere in the face of adversity, and what it’s like being a female scientist in a field still dominated by men.
Marie is also a science communicator and social media personality who advocates for space exploration, the STEMs, and young women who want to pursue careers in both. Her brand of mixing personal experience and life lessons with music and humor has earned her an international following. As if that wasn’t enough, Marie was selected for Uplift Aerospace‘s first commercial astronaut training program (Space+) and will be going to space in the near future (fingers crossed)!
You can access the episode by following the links below, and don’t forget to check out her social media channels for more information:
The subject of this podcast was architecture and living for Mars, and my featured guest was none other than the world’s first “Marschitect” herself, Vera Mulyani. Mulyani is an esteemed architect, artist, filmmaker, entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Mars City Design – an education, outreach, and entrepreneurial organization dedicated to ensuring that humans can live on Mars someday. Their philosophy is that with the right combination of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM), humans can not only survive on Mars but thrive.
For years, MCD has hosted design competitions that have produced some of the most intricate, detailed, and awesome designs for Martian habitats and cities. A few years ago, I did a series of articles* about their design competitions and other events. Between 2018 and 2020, I had the honor of working with Mulyani and MCD on a podcast series. Keep an eye out for it. It’s called “The Martian Dispatches,” and it will be premiering in the near future! You can check out this latest episode on any of the channels below: