Exploring Space at AAAS
Pilots get used to waking up early. At 0800 Saturday in Hilton Continental Ballroom 8 former astronauts Rusty Schweickhart and Edward Lu led a symposium on predicting asteroid impacts. If the gravity tractor intercepted Apophis by 2027, just 12 days of "towing" would move the asteroid to a safer orbit. This week Schweickhart is addressing a UN committee in Vienna concerning asteroid impacts.
Saturday afternoon in Continental Ballroom 6 was a symposium on "Destination Moon," including astronaut Harrison Schmitt of Apollo 17. A huge amount of useful science can be accomplished from our nearest neighbour. The lunar far side is the perfect quiet place for a radio telescope. The lunar surface provides a stable base for space-based interferometers. A lunar base could be the location of a large optical telescope. As we saw in Corals and Cosmology, the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment from 1969 provides one more proof that the speed of light has been slowing.
Saturday night Dr. Steven Chu of LBL gave his invited talk about energy. After reviewing well-known alternatives like ethanol and solar power, he launched into a proud defence of "dark energy." He placed the 1998 discovery of an accelerating universe alongside Smoot and Mather's work on the CMB, implying that DE researchers belong in the Nobel Prize club. Don't buy your ticket to Stockholm too soon, boys.
The remainder of the evening was spent atop San Francisco's Bank of America building, a meeting that stretched late into the night. I wish more could be said, but this technology will make human spaceflight safer, more comfortable and less expensive by many millions of dollars. Already we can save NASA about a billion by not wasting a mission on "dark energy." RemeMber that, even if it existed, DE would have zero practical use. As Larry Page said, scientists should focus on improving the lives of others.