Space Week: Alien Tech Whizzes Past Earth?
In his brand-new book Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, Harvard physicist Avi Loeb makes a controversial decree…
Loeb asserts that a mysterious object that whizzed past Earth in October 2017 — dubbed “Oumuamua” (loosely translated as “scout” or “pathfinder” in Hawaiian) — was, in fact, a piece of alien technology.
Crack science or not…
Oumuamua is already a profoundly important discovery.
Observed for 11 days from Hawaii’s Haleakalā Observatory by the world’s most powerful telescope, Oumuamua is the first documented interstellar object detected passing through our solar system.
(Interstellar space begins where the sun’s constant flow of material and magnetic field stops affecting its surroundings, according to NASA.)
Although Loeb’s “alien” thesis has drawn the ire of his colleagues in the scientific community, some of whom teach at Harvard University, where Loeb serves as chair of the Astronomy Department…
I read Loeb’s full study, and he makes a fascinating case that Oumuamua isn’t just a strange rock hurling through space, but rather a “light sail” being pushed by the sun.
“This would account for the various anomalies of Oumuamua, such as the unusual geometry inferred from its light curve, its low thermal emission, suggesting high reflectivity, and its deviation from a Keplerian orbit without any sign of a cometary tail or spin-up torques,” says Loeb in his study.
Light sails, whose only fuel sources are the sun, will likely become the standard mode of travel through deep space… and the technology is already in development on Earth. In fact, one such light sail project was successfully funded via Kickstarter in 2015.
But we won’t have to wait to benefit (or profit) from light sail technology.
See, space innovation is exactly like military technologies — they may start as hyperspecific projects… but ultimately, the best science will find its way into practical applications. For example, duct tape, microwaves, GPS and computers were all initially developed for the U.S. military.
Likewise, every component of a light sail — from its lightweight materials… to its advanced solar panel technology… to its megapixel cameras… to its high-speed semiconductors and nanoprocessors — will serve to advance society here on Earth. I guarantee it.
And therein lies the true value in developing space technologies… as analyst Brittan Gibbons-O’Neill describes, real-life applications are already beginning to come online.
Her full story is below.
Onward and upward,
The Space Technology on Every Smartphone
Like many other space innovations, GPS started off as a military effort and was used to track U.S. submarines carrying nuclear missiles.
Satellite navigation brought this tech to life… and since then we’ve expanded on it greatly.
Now every smartphone comes with GPS location services at the tap of a finger.
You might know about the industries GPS has transformed… such as aviation and shipping. But what you might not think about are industries like agriculture and manufacturing that also have been able to use GPS services to progress their own fields.
To continue with this speed of innovation, the GPS satellites we rely on need to be up to date with current technology.
So the U.S. government has been funding a new GPS constellation called GPS III.
Equipped with new atomic clocks to improve accuracy, these new satellites also boast better reliability and stronger resistance to jamming.
But perhaps the most exciting expectation of GPS III is that it will also improve space navigation.
We already have accurate location tracking up to halfway to the moon. But many scientists think that the improved GPS constellation could be a key to unlocking services much further than that.
The role GPS plays goes far beyond showing you how to get to the store… but its benefits (and incoming upgrades) could affect all of our lives in exciting ways!