Chris Impey, University of Arizona
The Space Age is half a century old. Its early successes were driven by a fierce superpower rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States, which tended to obscure the fact that exploration and risk‐taking is built into human DNA. Decades after we last set foot on the Moon, and several years after the Space Shuttle was retired, the space activity is finally leaving the doldrums. A vibrant private sector led by SpaceX and Virgin Galactic plans to launch supplies cheaply into Earth orbit and give anyone the chance of a sub‐orbital joy ride. New materials are being developed that could lead to space elevators and transform the economics of space travel. Fighting gravity will always be difficult but engineers are rethinking rockets and developing new propulsion technologies. Permanent bases on the Moon and Mars are now within reach, and a new space Race is brewing, with the Asian countries ascendant. Medical advances might even allow us to reach for the stars. The talk will review the history and landmarks of the international space program, give a snapshot of the current dynamic situation, and plot the trajectory of the future of space travel. The time has come to envision our future off‐Earth.
Chris Impey is a University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Associate Dean of the College of Science at the University of Arizona. He has over 180 refereed publications on observational cosmology, galaxies, and quasars, and his research has been supported by $20 million in NASA and NSF grants. He has won eleven teaching awards, and has taught two online classes with over 70,000 enrolled. Impey is a past Vice President of the American Astronomical Society and he has been an NSF Distinguished Teaching Scholar, the Carnegie Council’s Arizona Professor of the Year, and most recently a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. He’s written over 40 popular articles on cosmology and astrobiology, two introductory textbooks, a novel called Shadow World, and 7 popular science books: The Living Cosmos, How It Ends, Talking About Life, How It Began, Dreams of Other Worlds, Humble Before the Void, and Beyond: The Future of Space Travel.