Dr. Ed Lu thinks it is only a matter of time until humans live and work throughout the inner solar system.
Photo: B612 Foundation
Ahead of Asteroid Day, Delano asked former astronaut Dr. Ed Lu, executive director at the B612 Asteroid Institute and Asteroid Day expert panel member, about the event and the future of space exploration.
Dr. Ed Lu served as a Nasa astronaut for 12 years and has twice flown the space shuttle. In 2003, following the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Dr. Lu was called upon by Nasa to launch to the International Space Station in order to maintain operations on orbit with a two-person skeleton crew. He completed the training in just 9 weeks and became the first American to launch as the flight engineer aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Together with cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, Lu spent 6 months aboard the ISS, demonstrating that it could be maintained while carrying on productive scientific research with just 2 people.
Lu has since been an active research scientist working in the fields of solar physics, astrophysics, plasma physics and planetary science. He is now known for developing a number of new theoretical advances which have provided for the first time a basic understanding of the underlying physics of solar flares.
Lu is also the co-inventor of the Gravity Tractor, a practical and controllable means of deflecting asteroids. He has published articles in peer reviewed journals on a wide range of topics including cosmology and near-Earth asteroids. Indeed, his interest in asteroid deflection lead to the formation of the non-profit B612 Foundation for which he serves as chairman and CEO.
Duncan Roberts: How important is Asteroid Day in promoting public education about asteroids and is it difficult to convince people to take an interest in space exploration?
Ed Lu: Asteroid Day is a wonderful way for the general public to share in the excitement surrounding asteroids, and the possibilities of opening up the space frontier. For this reason, the United Nations has decreed Asteroid Day as the official day of awareness and education around the world.
EL: The Dart mission is currently on track to test the kinetic impactor method of deflecting an asteroid in 2022. It will target a small asteroid which orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos and will allow us to precisely measure the magnitude of deflection obtained.