It’s Space News Week!
Yep, lots of exciting announcements all throughout the week. First, we started with the XPrize Foundation‘s Visioneering. That’s where new X Prize concepts are researched to incent innovation and address market failures. Arguably the most well known was the was the Ansari X Prize, a $10M prize for the first privately funded spaceflight. And now you’re probably hearing that X Prize creator Peter Diamandis is now on to space more directly with a new venture: Planetary Resources.
Planetary Resources intends to mine asteroids for precious metals and even water, creating a resourceful “space station”, which could be used as a hub for more distant space exploration. Of course, the real issue with space based anything is that it’s super expensive to get things into space. Once in space however, they just need a gentle nudge to move along so a captured low-gravity asteroid could even serve as a replacement for a space station!
However, the first portion of this project will include a space telescope, set to look for suitable asteroid candidates. Of course, occasionally asteroids come crashing into Earth, like a large one recently did in California, so this could in theory also help with early detection. (Once on the ground, they’re referred to as ‘Meteorites’) And, as we learned in Visioneering, “deadly asteroid detection” is one heck of a source of natural disaster. Carbonaceous asteroids have a very low albedo (“low reflectivity”) so they are especially difficult to detect.
If it sounds like you have heard this story before, it’s because there is a similar one with Moon Express, which is working to mine the moon – and also win the $30M Google Lunar X Prize. But wait, there’s more! They’re also working to place a telescope on the moon as part of the International Lunar Observatory, which will allow anonymous internet users to queue up objects to be imaged by the telescope.
Later this week we’ll also have the the largest telescope show in the US, The Rockland Astronomy Club’s Imaging Conference, NEAIC. Oh, and don’t forget the ongoing Lyrids meteor shower.
So, are we really entering the age of the privatization of space? This week it will sure seem so! And expect more with an upcoming solar eclipse and the last transit of venus for another 243 years. Have you bought your solar telescope yet?