Physicist and noted science fiction author Gregory Benford will be giving a free public lecture “Our Next Century in Space” on Thursday, Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. in Stevenson Center 4327 on campus.
His thesis is that this century may well see the opening of the solar system to the productive use of near-Earth space and far beyond.
Manufacturing using existing mass in Earth orbit, plus 3D printing, can greatly lower the costs of operating in space. Already companies are prospecting for asteroid mining. Ability to move large masses will come from nuclear thermal rockets, already developed. Some beam-powered sails and high-specific-impulse ion rockets may be useful for fast, light loads. Asteroids are rich in volatiles and thus propellants, making transport cheaper. Platinum group metals and rare earths seem prominent assets to be gained, especially when Earthside supplies begin to run out. Other efficiencies in solar system economics will doubtless appear as the frontier expands.
The lecture will be preceded by a reception at 2:30 p.m. in Stevenson Center 6333.