Space Mining, Space Settlement, and Space Science!

Building a Space Base, Universe Today

Elizabeth Howell at Universe Today did a 3-part interview with me on strategies to begin settling beyond Earth, right now.

Read here

NASA's Robotic Mining Competition

This is NASA's premier college-level competition where we learn how to robotically mine in space. Watch the video wrap-up of 2014's event!

Watch here

Landing on the Moon or Mars

For lunar or Martian landings, rocket exhaust will blow rocks and dust onto the outpost at damaging velocities. Our team has been developing technology to build landing pads out of native soil.

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3D Additive Construction in Space

We held Keck Institute workshop on printing structures on the Moon, Mars and asteroids. See the presentations here.

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How Big Is a Plan...

Vesta and several smaller asteroids

I’m sure this is not interesting to most people, but I wanted to get it onto the Internet for those who become interested in Pluto’s planethood during the flyby and want more details. Determining the definition of a planet is really a scientific question. The first step in science is not writing down a hypothesis […]

Icy Worlds and Stars with Long H...

Possible internal structure of Ganymede

When people say Pluto isn’t a planet, they often say it is an icy body and therefore it must be a comet, not a planet.  But are icy worlds simply comets?  Or can real planets be made of ice?  And what is the difference between ice and rock, anyway?  Let’s take a look! Stars with […]

Planet Tossing and the Kuiper B...

Planet Tossing and the Kuiper Belt

To get ready for the New Horizons flyby of Pluto (this July!), I’m writing a series on the science of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.  Here is the next installment. There are some very strong hints that the planets haven’t stayed in their original orbits and the giant planets tossed around the smaller ones.  These […]

The Challenge of Mars Min...

A Mars mining robot at the NASA Robotic Mining Competition

  We just completed the 6th annual NASA Robotics Mining Competition, and like always it was awesome! This year, 46 universities from around the United States brought robots to mine the simulated Martian soil and win the coveted Joe Kosmo Award. Every year it has been an amazing success. We have learned valuable lessons that […]

The Dance of the Kuiper B...

The Dance of the Kuiper Belt

The Pluto flyby is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so to get ready I’m writing a series on the Kuiper Belt. This time we’ll look at how solar system bodies are classified by the way they dance. Orbital Resonance The planets’ orbits are affected by something called resonance. When you were a child you learned how to swing […]

Time for a Sand Saf...

Collecting sand in Hawaii in 2010

I collect sand as a hobby and for science.  One of the things I love doing is going on a sand safari, a trip especially to collect sand. These trips helped my development as a scientist and they are fun. I haven’t been on a sand safari in a long time and I started realizing […]

Measuring Planets Like S...

Sand grains, like planets, tell us the dynamics of their environment

About 2300 years ago, a human being measured the world. It was Eratosthenes, the Greek scholar. Imagine how he felt when he first realized what he had done. “Wow, I am the only person who has ever known the size of the world.” It must have been amazing. And humbling. He had noticed that sunlight […]

The Kuiper Belt Awa...

Varda and Manwë in Valinor. Varda was the Vala who put the stars in the sky.

Note: this post (with the previous one) is intended to illustrate how BIG our solar system is by reviewing all the named bodies beyond Neptune. When Pluto was reclassified as ‘not-a-planet’ then people interpreted it to mean the important stuff ends at Neptune. Sadly, most people don’t know about all the worlds our own solar […]

Underworld Party in the Kuiper B...

Underworld Party in the Kuiper Belt

In July, New Horizons will become the first spacecraft to explore the third zone of the solar system.  It’s time we familiarize ourselves with this region of our home star! We know the classical planets’ names and their meanings, but what about the hundreds of newly discovered dwarf planets and thousands of smaller bodies out […]

Nine Reasons Why Pluto Is a Pla...

Comparing planet sizes. All are to scale.

As the New Horizons spacecraft approaches the amazing Pluto system for an historic flyby in July, 2015, it’s inevitable we should discuss whether Pluto is a proper planet or only a “dwarf planet” as the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted in 2006. The IAU’s definition of a planet says that it must (1) orbit the […]