Building a future in space


Artwork shows space habitats known as “O’Neill cylinders,” named after Gerard O’Neill, founder of the Space Studies Institute.

The “Space Manufacturing” conference taking place this weekend in Silicon Valley might sound like the ultimate in blue-sky science fiction: Why would anyone want to manufacture anything in outer space? Well, if we’re ever going to get off this rock, we’re going to have to figure out what things of value we can bring back to Earth, and what resources we’ll need to sustain life beyond Earth.

It’s no surprise that the conference is sponsored by the Space Studies Institute, which was founded by the late physicist Gerard O’Neill to further his campaign to settle “The High Frontier.” It might be slightly more surprising, however, to see how many high-powered speakers are on the agenda.

There’s Pete Worden, the director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, who stirred up something of a fuss with his talk about a billionaire-backed “Hundred Year Starship” mission. And then there’s Craig Venter, the genomics pioneer who is hacking into the code of life. Is it such a stretch to suppose that humans could someday be genetically modified to become more suited for spaceflight? (If that ever happens, let’s call this new race the “Astrans,” OK?)

Other speakers include XCOR Aerospace Jeff Greason, a member of the panel that helped revise NASA’s space vision; the Lunar and Planetary Institute’s Paul Spudis, an expert on moon science; and John Lewis, a planetary scientist who has championed the idea of “mining the sky.”

To keep tabs on the weekend conference, check in with Clark Lindsey’s RLV and Space Transport News and Rand Simberg’s Transterrestrial Musings as well as The Space Review, edited by Jeff Foust. You can follow Jeff’s tweets (@jeff_foust) as well.

**Two more perspectives on our future in space:**

* Robin Snelson, executive director of the Space Studies Institute, joined me on Thursday night to discuss space issues ranging from UFOs to NASA’s future on “Virtually Speaking” with Jay Ackroyd. Click here to listen to the full 83-minute podcast on BlogTalkRadio. * Speaking of NASA’s future, we’re starting to hear some doubts about whether the space agency will get the chance to fly an extra space shuttle mission next summer, even though the White House and Congress currently support the idea. Get the latest from The Orlando Sentinel and Space Politics.

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_To learn more about the workings of the brain, check out our interactive “road map to the mind.” Connect with the Cosmic Log community by “liking” the log’s Facebook page or following __@b0yle on Twitter__. You can also check out __”The Case for Pluto,”__ Alan’s book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds._


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