Posted January 26, 2021
By Ray Blanco
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 Hawaiis Haleakal? Observatory by the worlds most powerful telescope, Oumuamua is the first documented interstellar object detected passing through our solar system.
(Interstellar space begins where the suns constant flow of material and magnetic field stops affecting its surroundings, according to NASA.)
Although Loebs 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 Loebs full study, and he makes a fascinating case that Oumuamua isnt 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 wont 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-ONeill 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 weve 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!