From the Program Chair

Ken Levy, Program Chair

Many thanks to Dr. Mark Trodden for our March lecture “Modern Cosmology and the Building Blocks of the Universe”.

Dr. Mark Trodden, Photo credit: Ken Levy

Dr. Mark Trodden
Photo credit: Ken Levy

Our April speaker heralds from my home base of Brooklyn, NY. Dr. Greg Matloff is a leading expert in interstellar propulsion, especially near-Sun solar-sail trajectories that might ultimately enable interstellar travel. He is an emeritus and adjunct associate astronomy professor with the physics department of New York City College of Technology, CUNY; a consultant with NASA Marshal Space Flight Center; a Hayden Associate of the American Museum of Natural History and a Corresponding Member of the International Academy of Astronautics.

Professor Matloff’s presentation is “Biosphere Extension”. The early 21st century is a pivotal time for human civilization. The developing world is advancing quickly. Billions aspire to live at the level of Americans and Western Europeans. The human population of Planet Earth currently exceeds 7 billion and may reach 10 billion late in this century. How can we plan for a peaceful increase in human living standards without degrading the environment of our planet beyond repair? One way, perhaps the only option, is to alter our definition of the “biosphere.” To protect the Earth, it may be necessary for some component of the human population to leave it. It may be necessary to use the desolate wastes of the solar system both as a resource source and an effluent sink.

Dr. Greg Matloff

Dr. Greg Matloff

Perhaps the most evident justification for this extraterrestrial expansion is protecting the Earth from impacts by near-Earth objects (NEOs) of asteroidal or cometary origin. By 2025, many of the world’s space powers will be capable of supporting human expeditions to nearby NEOs to experiment with deflection techniques. If we have to divert some of these celestial rocks and icebergs, why not mine them? One product would be the construction of orbital solar-power plants that could beam copious amounts of energy to space and release waste heat well above the stratosphere. We could also deconstruct NEOs to build sunshades at the Earth-Sun Lagrange-1 point to reduce the amount of sunlight striking the Earth and partially compensate for global warming.

This presentation is an outgrowth of collaborations with Les Johnson of NASA Marshal Spaceflight Center and the artist C. Bangs. Much of it is based upon a book with Johnson and C. Bangs entitled Paradise Regained: The Regreening of Earth, (2010) and an artist-scientist’s self-published book with Bangs entitled: Biosphere Extension: Solar System Resources for Earth (2011).

Dr. Matloff’s other books include Paradise Regained, Living Off the Land in Space, The Starflight Handbook, Deep-Space Probes, Telescope Power, More Telescope Power and The Urban Astronomer. His papers on interstellar travel, the search for extraterrestrial artifacts, and methods of protecting Earth from asteroid impacts have been published in JBIS, Acta Astronautica, Spaceflight, Space Technology, Journal of Astronautical Sciences, and Mercury. His popular articles have appeared in many publications, including Analog. Dr. Matloff served on a November 2007 panel organized by Seed magazine to brief congressional staff on the possibilities of a sustainable, meaningful space program. In 2011, he co-authored with C. Bangs an artist’s book entitled Biosphere Extension: Solar System Resources for the Earth. Recently collected by the Brooklyn Museum for their artist book collection, some copies will be available for purchase after the presentation. Professor Matloff’s website is www.gregmatloff.com.

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