May 22, 2016

Slice of PIE: The Asteroids in Fiction…AND FACT! the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #4078. The link is provided below…

Dawn of the Asteroid Belt: Exploring Vesta and Ceres

Asteroids are relics of the ancient Solar System. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbited Vesta for a year. Now its ion thrusters have propelled it across the Asteroid Belt to Ceres, the largest asteroid, where Dawn has again entered orbit. Join Bill Higgins to explore Dawn’s findings at Vesta and its plans for doing science at Ceres.

Bill Higgins, Guy Consolmagno

As to expertise: “William S. Higgins is a radiation safety physicist at Fermilab involved with the transport of high-energy particle beams. He frequently writes and speaks about spaceflight, astronomy, and the history of science. A graduate of Notre Dame, he lives in Aurora, Illinois.” and “Brother Guy J. Consolmagno, SJ is an American research astronomer and Director of the Vatican Observatory.”

OK…then. Unassailable credentials!

The Asteroid Belt of the Solar system seems to be the setting for an increasing number of SF stories; most notably, THE EXPANSE series which started off as a simple “book” by SA Corey (which, to add complexity an already complex series, is actually TWO people, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) and became a hit TV series for SyFy.

What I want to comment on however doesn’t really have anything to do with SF – but with science fact.

For some time I’ve been following a company called Planetary Resources, Inc. both on Facebook ( and on Twitter ( The company is not only deadly serious about mining the asteroids, they’re moving ahead.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with an former student/old friend of mine. Military and incredibly intelligent, he’s looking to move into new areas. We started talking about space exploration – and while he wasn’t interested in humans going there, he was intrigued with the idea of mining the asteroids.

Not only was he interested, I’ve had several students who, when I introduced the concept found themselves drawn to it.

I point this out only for this reason: the exploration and exploitation of space and the materials there is an exercise for the young.

Spectacular space operas are wonderful and in my opinion will only help to draw MORE people into the field. The novels (I’ve only read one, accidentally thinking CALIBAN’S WAR was the first, I’ll go back and read them in order one of these days) and the TV show may very well serve as a catalyst the way the original STAR TREK did for technology like cell phones, tablet computers, and a host of other “things” (

We don’t know yet what the impact will be, but this speculative fiction Convention played host here to some people who are members of a wave that might very well become a tsunami in the future. Maybe not in the precise way the authors of THE EXPANSE (and other asteroid SF – I’ve even gotten into the game with my series, HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES. The ship is made from the hollowed out asteroid 4179 Toutatis and the material that was mined was used to manufacture the “things” inside.)

At any rate, I have believed and will continue to believe that the Human future is in space. Whether we meet aliens or find evidence of alien civilizations is something I cautiously hope for.

If nothing else, I recommend that you follow Planetary Resources; and if you got the big bucks, think about investing in the company!

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