“Off-Earth: Ethical Questions and Quandaries for Living in Outer Space” with Dr Erika Nesvold

Off Earth book reviewed at Bridging the Gaps: A Portal for Curious Minds

As humanity sets its sights on venturing beyond the confines of Earth, it is immensely important to acknowledge that the journey to space is not merely a technological feat, but a profoundly human endeavour. From pinpointing destinations to preparing flight plans, from developing generational ships to designing habitats, from selecting teams to establishing communities, there is a crucial element that must not be overlooked: the human dimension. From fostering a sense of community and shared purpose among spacefarers to grappling with the enforcement of laws and the establishment of governance structures in extraterrestrial settlements, addressing these aspects is essential for the success and sustainability of our off-world endeavours. Erika Nesvold’s insightful book “Off-Earth: Ethical Questions and Quandaries for Living in Outer Space” serves as a timely reminder that space exploration isn’t solely about the scientific and technical aspects—it’s about grappling with the very human dilemmas that accompany such endeavours. In the episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Dr Erika Nesvold.

Dr Erika Nesvold is an astrophysicist who has worked as a researcher at NASA Goddard and the Carnegie Institution for Science. She is a developer for Universe Sandbox, a physics-based space simulator. She is a co-founder of the nonprofit organisation the JustSpace Alliance. Erika is the creator and host of the podcast Making New Worlds.

We began by discussing the significance of understanding the human aspect of space exploration. The book covers a wide variety of topics and in our discussion we touch upon ethical, social and legal complexities that must be understood and adopted or redeveloped for our extraterrestrial settlements. We also discuss the concepts and principles that can be borrowed from the laws and charters devised during humanity’s exploration of open seas and oceans. Central to our discussion is the importance of initiating a dialogue now to foster an understanding of how our humanity intersects with the challenges and opportunities presented by space exploration. This understanding, we discuss, is fundamental in shaping a future that upholds ethical principles and fosters social equity.

Complement this discussion with “A Traveller’s Guide to the Stars” with Physicist, Author and Nasa Technologist Les Johnson and then listen to “The Next 500 Years: Engineering Life to Reach New Worlds” with Professor Christopher Mason.

By |April 28th, 2024|Future, Podcasts, Research|

“Worlds Without End: Exoplanets, Habitability, and the Future of Humanity” With Professor Chris Impey

When considering the long-term survival and sustainability of human civilization, two developments hold significant implications. Firstly, humanity has been recklessly depleting resources, causing species extinctions, and degrading essential elements for life on Earth for centuries. Secondly, advancements in the science of discovering habitable planets outside our solar system have opened up the possibility of establishing human civilization beyond our increasingly inhospitable planetary home. In his latest book, “Worlds Without End: Exoplanets, Habitability, and the Future of Humanity,” Professor Chris Impey takes readers on a thrilling journey through the frontiers of astronomy and the search for planets that can potentially support life. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Impey about the science behind finding habitable exoplanets, the evolution of space exploration, and the prospect of humans inhabiting a planet far away from our solar system.

Chris Impey is a University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona. He has made significant contributions to the fields of observational cosmology, astrophysics, particularly in the area of exoplanet research. His expertise and passion for the subject have led to many publications and appearances in documentaries, news outlets, and popular science programmes. He has won numerous teaching awards and authored textbooks and many popular science books.

We begin our discussion by examining the historical perspectives on exoplanets, planets beyond our solar system. We then delve into the discovery of the first exoplanet and explore the various methods that scientists have employed to detect these far-off worlds. The Kepler Space Telescope played a pivotal role in this field, and we explore how the James Webb Telescope presents new opportunities for advancing exoplanet research. The diversity of exoplanets is astounding, with variations in size, composition, and orbital characteristics. We delve into these differences and their implications. Additionally, we thoroughly examine the concept of habitability, including how scientists are studying the atmospheric characteristics of these alien worlds. We also touch on the intriguing possibility of orphan planets – large planets without a star – that may sustain habitability characteristics without a sun. We then contemplate the prospect of travelling to these distant planets and potentially establishing human settlements there. We explore the magnitude of such a journey and the challenges involved in interstellar travel. Lastly, we consider the possibility of extraterrestrial life in the universe.

Complement this discussion with Search for Exoplanets: A Discussion with Professor Sara Seager and then listen to “The End of Astronauts”, Robotic Space Exploration and Our Future on Earth and Beyond with Professor Martin Rees”

By |April 16th, 2023|Cosmology, Future, Physics|

“A Traveller’s Guide to the Stars” with Physicist, Author and Nasa Technologist Les Johnson

Reviewed on Bridging the Gaps

The ancient ambition of exploring the cosmos and possibly even inhabiting other planets may one day come true, as we discover more and more exoplanets and intend to develop innovative propulsion techniques suitable for interstellar travel. Projects like 100 Year Starship and Breakthrough Starshot enable us to study the challenges involved with a view to develop solutions, furthering the idea of interstellar travel. In his new book “A Traveller’s Guide to the Stars” physicist and Nasa Technologist Les Johnson takes the readers on an exciting journey through the science and innovations that could help us get to the stars.The book gives a thorough account of the next great frontier of human exploration, outlining exclusive inside look at the amazing advances in science and technology that will aid today’s astronauts in setting out for the stars.

Les Johnson is a physicist, author, and NASA technologist. He leads the development of advanced, in-space spacecraft propulsion technologies at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. During his career at NASA, Les served as the Manager for the Space Science Programs and Projects Office, the In-Space Propulsion Technology Project, and the Interstellar Propulsion Research Project.

We begin by reviewing the impact of discovery of exoplanets on the ambition of travelling to and inhibiting these distant alien worlds. Next we look at the precursors that we must take into consideration before building the ships and embarking on interstellar journeys. We discuss in detail the presently used propulsion technologies and evaluate their shortcomings for interstellar journeys. While discussing the future, we first discuss in detail two rocket technologies of the future: nuclear fusion and antimatter. Then we discuss in detail the innovative and promising propulsion approaches such as solar sails and laser-beamed energy. We discuss in detail how these technologies may one day enable us to embark on interstellar journeys. Les Johnson has written a number of science fiction books; I ask him to expand on his view that science fiction is an effective tool to imagine future technologies. No discussion on the topic of space exploration is complete without discussing the possibility of life out there; we discuss this as I ask Les to give us his views on the possibility of life out there and on the question “are we alone”. This has been a fantastic discussion.

Complement this discussion with “The Next 500 Years: Engineering Life to Reach New Worlds” with Professor Christopher Mason and then listen to “The End of Astronauts”, Robotic Space Exploration and Our Future on Earth and Beyond with Professor Martin Rees”

By |March 13th, 2023|Future, Physics, Podcasts, Technology|