The subject of this episode is Exoplanets! What are they? Where are they? How are we finding them? And, most importantly, will we find life on them someday (perhaps even soon)? It’s no exaggeration to say that the field of exoplanet study has exploded in the past two decades. Between 1992 and 2022, we’ve gone from having a single confirmed exoplanet for astronomers to study to over 5,000*! In the coming years, that number is expected to reach well into the tens of thousands.
What’s more, next-generation telescopes will offer the kind of sensitivity and high-resolution needed to find more rocky planets that orbit closer to their stars (which is where “Earth-like” and habitable exoplanets are most likely to be found). With thousands of worlds in the exoplanet census and so many more waiting to be added, could the first detection of life beyond the Solar System be far behind? It is impossible to say, but many astrobiologists speculate that the first evidence could be found in less than 20 years.
If you’re the kind of person who likes the long odds, you might want to place your bets now!
The space elevator is a dream originally proposed over a century ago that would enable regular and cost-effective access to space. In its modern form, it would consist of a tether connecting Earth to a counterweight and space station in orbit. Earth’s rotation keeps the tether taut while climbers deliver payloads and crews to orbit at a fraction of the cost of rocket launches.
At least once a generation, the idea is revisited to see if we have the capability to build one. Alas, the stumbling block has always been the tether itself since no known material has ever been strong enough to handle the stresses involved.
A few months ago, I caught up with Dr. Swan and Nixon when I was writing an article on the topic for Interesting Engineering, and they revealed that we are now at a point where such a structure could be realized! The key is graphene ribbons and an industrial manufacturing technique that can mass produce them for a lot less than previously thought!
Given the current rate of progress, humanity could have an elevator to space and all the things it will enable before mid-century. This includes space-based solar power (SBSP), the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit (LEO), near-earth asteroid mining, missions to deep space, and settlements on the Moon and Mars.
Best of all, a space elevator is a “green” alternative to rocket launches that release a tremendous amount of greenhouse gases. So, in addition to ensuring humanity’s future in space, it is also a means of saving the planet from Climate Change! Check out the episode below:
About seven years ago, I was struck by inspiration. During a conversation with a friend about the peculiar characteristics of the planet Mercury, I realized that I had an idea for a story. For years, I had been plying my trade as an aspiring science fiction writer, hoping that I could one day create something that would catch the eye of publishers and readers. At last, I felt like I finally had something I would be proud to put my name on! Within a few months of plotting, planning, and liaising with other aspiring authors, I managed to attract the attention of a publisher (Paul P. Corcoran at Castrum Press).
Another two years passed, wherein I wrote the manuscript for my first novel, The Cronian Incident. This was published in 2017 and was followed a year later by its sequel, The Jovian Manifesto. By 2020, the third and final installment, The Frost Line Fracture, was published. The Formist Series was complete, and I planned to write several more (as per the plan hatched by Paul and me). Alas, the pandemic wasn’t kind to Castrum and other upstart publishing houses. A few months ago, I was told that Castrum would be closing its doors and that my titles (along with its other publications) would be discontinued.
Luckily, I had a backup plan. And after a brief hiatus, my trilogy is back on the shelf! The entire series can be found on Amazon again, along with the original artwork (thanks to the publisher!) They are available in paperback and ebook, with will be available from Audible in the not-too-distant future. The current editions have even been updated and polished to ensure they deliver the best reading experience. Follow the links below to learn more or to buy copies:
The topic of this latest episode is, What is the Future of Space Law? My guests were Christopher M. Hearsey and Nathan Johnson, the founders of the Space Court Foundation. Hearsey and Johnson discuss the history of space law, what it will take to ensure that space remains “for all humanity,” and how to avoid a “Wild West 2.0” in space. They also discuss a bold new project they’ll be unveiled at this year’s International Aeronautical Congress (IAC 2022) in Paris (Sept. 18th to 22nd).
In this episode, the topic is Mars! In the near future, we will be sending crewed missions there for the first time. These missions are based on planning and proposals that go all the way back to the earliest days of the Space Age. But what exactly are we hoping to find there? What mysteries stand to be revealed? And will we be able to live there someday? These are questions I will be addressing in greater depth this fall when I teach a course titled The Exploration and Potential Settlement of Mars through the Kepler Space Institute!
In this episode, I had the good fortune of speaking to Dr. Harold “Sonny” White, the famed physicist and aerospace engineer who has spent years working to make the Alcubierre Warp Drive a reality! Formerly the head of Advanced Propulsion for NASA Eagleworks, Dr. White is now developing the warp drive and other advanced propulsion concepts through the Limitless Space Institute (LSI).
Yep, that’s the shape of it. Not long ago, the publisher of my trilogy announced that due to the pandemic, they were facing a crunch and needed to drop authors from their rolls. In other words, the Formist Series will be shelved until I find another publisher (or independently publish it). I signed the paperwork this past week and got my last royalty check. They are still available through Amazon and Audible, but not for much longer, I’m afraid.
The topic for the second episode of my new podcast is (drumroll!) the Fermi Paradox! In 1950, famed physicist and Manhattan Project scientist Enrico Fermi asked the question that launched a thousand possible resolutions – “Where is Everybody?” Given that the Universe is immensely vast, incredibly old, and filled with the ingredients for life, it stands to reason that intelligent life and advanced civilizations have evolved many times in our galaxy alone. So why haven’t we heard from any of them?
This is the essence of the Fermi Paradox, which is still going strong 70+ plus years later. And the range of proposed resolutions is wide and varied. Are they ignoring us? Are they all dead? Are they so advanced that we can’t recognize them? Are we not looking in the right places and/or for the right things? Addressing this question forces us to think big, dig deep, and confront how little we know about life, intelligence, and our place in the Universe. And this episode is just the tip of the iceberg!
Gee, that title kind of says it all, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, I am happy to announce that my latest chat with Marco Ciapelli and Sean Martin at ITSP Magazine was not only a good time, talking about exoplanet studies and science. It was also a chance to introduce Stories from Space, my new podcast at ITSP Magazine, which is all about the history, future, and people that make human spaceflight a reality.
The episode is part of Ciapelli and Martin’s series, Audio Signals, where we talked about the various methods astronomers use to detect, confirm, and study planets beyond our Solar System. We also got into how all of that is about to change thanks to next-generation telescopes like theJames Webb, which will be releasing its first images on July 12th (one of which is of an exoplanet’s atmosphere)!
Check out the interview here and stay tuned for more!