This week on the Unsupervised Learning podcast Razib turns his gaze to space with Eric Berger, Senior Space Editor at Ars Technica and author of Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days that Launched SpaceX.
They ask who is Elon Musk anyway, and how did SpaceX come to win the early race to dominate private spaceflight? What does the privatization of the space fleet mean for the prospects and goals of NASA? How has NASA’s mission evolved, and how does the privatization of spaceflight complement NASA’s competencies? Eric shares his in-depth research and direct experience interviewing pivotal early members of SpaceX’s team to answer these questions. He also outlines Musk’s vision for the future of space travel and the prospects of a human colony on Mars.
As the conversation rocks on, Razib and Eric go beyond the Kuiper belt and straight into a “science fiction” world that may be on an accelerated path to becoming “science fact” thanks to SpaceX’s early efforts pushing the envelope. They discuss why Jupiter’s moon Europa is so interesting to space-nuts, and when asteroid mining might become economically feasible. Eric talks about how long we might have to wait for orbital power-generating stations and Dyson spheres.
Finally, the discussion comes back to earth as they take a look at some of the problems and limitations that the space industry is currently trying to overcome in its efforts to make the “final frontier” something more than a television catchphrase. Eric talks about how the complementary strategies of competing billionaires, Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, are setting the stage for what may be the next exciting chapter in the human epoch.