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NASA researcher explores idea of space colonization

James Coller/Daily
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By Amabel Karoub, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 3, 2014

Space: the final frontier? Well, that’s what Al Globus, a NASA researcher, thinks, anyway.

Globus is a strong advocate of space colonization. At a lecture Thursday night hosted by Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, he told students why living in space is the next step for humanity.

At the beginning of the lecture, Globus pulled up space residence designs from the 1970s. The plans looked like they were taken directly from the science-fiction film “Elysium” – fully equipped with mansions and a peaceful river. Globus said, technology wise, such proposals are not ridiculous, but a matter of cost.

“This is the place to live,” Globus said, referring to the renderings. “There’s a baseball field and a golf course!”

Globus gave three main reasons why space settlement would be worth the high cost: survival, growth and wealth. In terms of survival, Globus said it is only a matter of time until an asteroid or some other fatal event wipes out humans on Earth.

“Someday, something really bad is going to happen to the Earth and we’re all going to die,” Globus said. “Before then, we’d like to have space settlements so that not all of humanity is exterminated.”

Discussing the possibility for growth, Globus referenced how the land on Earth is virtually all owned by someone, but the area available for orbital settlements is practically limitless.

“Somewhere between 100 and 1,000 times the surface area of the Earth — that’s how much living area you’d get,” Globus said. “The solar system could easily support trillions of people this way.”

As for power and wealth, Globus said there were great possibilities to generate energy and materials. In space, solar energy is equal to 625 million times the amount available on Earth. Thousands of small asteroids in our solar system, contain materials worth tens of millions of dollars each, Globus said.

Having articulated the reasons space colonization should be a priority, Globus proposed funding opportunities that would also advance technology, tourism, solar power and planetary defense.

“The basic idea is to do things that make sense in and of themselves and to use those to develop the technology and the capabilities that we need for space settlement,” he said.

Globus focused much of his lecture on sub-orbital tourism. Citing a survey, he said many Americans would pay around $100,000 to go to space. There are currently a number of American companies working to pioneer space tourism. Virgin Galactic, founded in 2004, already has 600 customers and $80 million in deposits. Although a commercial spaceflight has yet to take off, a seat on the spaceship is currently $250,000.

Engineering senior Derek Napierala, SEDS president, said he hopes he lives to see space settlement.

“I think space is where everyone should want to go,” Napierala said. “It gives us a lot of opportunity to develop new technologies. It’s such a cool place and there’s so much out there that we can discover that if we can we should try.”

Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Al Globus as a NSA researcher. Globus is a NASA researcher.