BiPiSci: Space Rocks! 11-24-2018

Playlist for Show: Big Picture Science

Hosts: Seth Shostak and Molly Bentley

It’s not a bird or a plane, and probably not an alien spaceship, although the jury’s still deliberating that one.  Some astronomers have proposed that an oddly-shaped object that recently passed through our Solar System could be an alien artifact. We consider the E.T. explanation for ‘Oumuamua, but also other reasons asteroids are invigorating our imagination.  Are these orbiting rocks key to our future as a spacefaring species?

Find out why traditional incentives for human exploration of space – such as political rivalry –aren’t igniting our rockets the way they once did, but why the potentially trillions of dollars to be made mining asteroids might.

These small bodies may also hold the key to our ancient past: the New Horizons flyby of Thule in early 2019 will provide an historic look at a distant Kuiper belt object, and provide clues about the formation of the Solar System.


  • Roger Launius – Former associate director of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian and chief historian for NASA
  • J. L.Galache – Asteroid astronomer and co-founder and CTO of Aten Engineering
  • Mark Showalter – Planetary scientist and Senior Research Scientist at the SETI Institute and a member of the New Horizons team
  • Avi Loeb – Professor of Science at Harvard and chair of the Department of Astronomy
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