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How Love, Fear, and Greed Will Determine Our Future in Space

Martin Elvis

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A unique, wide-ranging examination of asteroid exploration and our future in space
Human travel into space is an enormously expensive and unforgiving endeavor. So why go? In this accessible and authoritative book, astrophysicist Martin Elvis argues that the answer is asteroid exploration, for the strong motives of love, fear, and greed.
Elvis’s personal motivation is one of scientific love—asteroid investigations may teach us about the composition of the solar system and the origins of life. A more compelling reason may be fear—of a dinosaur killer–sized asteroid hitting our planet.
Finally, Elvis maintains, we should consider greed: asteroids likely hold vast riches, such as large platinum deposits, and mining them could provide both a new industry and a funding source for bolder space exploration. Elvis explains how each motive can be satisfied, and how they help one another. From the origins of life to “space billiards” and space sports, Elvis looks at how asteroids may be used in the not-so-distant future.

Martin Elvis is an astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. Previously he was a postdoctoral fellow with the UK Science Research Council. He has researched X-ray astronomy, black holes, and quasars—and now asteroids. In 2007, he won the Pirelli INTERNETional Award for multimedia science communication. Asteroid 9283 Martinelvis is named after him. He lives in Cambridge, MA.

“Elvis . . . discusses three possible motives for studying asteroids: love (of knowledge), fear (that they can strike the Earth), and greed (for the valuable raw materials that could potentially be mined). Each motive is discussed in authoritative detail in a text that includes an explanation of the author’s original research and calculations. The discussion is up-to-date and is supported by 34 pages of endnotes. Yet, the writing style is breezy, clear, and at times humorous. . . . Should appeal to a wide audience, including not only astronomers but also engineers, entrepreneurs, and even lawyers (as space law is still quite literally a wide-open field). It is a strong candidate for acquisition by all libraries.”—T. Barker, Choice

“A valuable . . . well-written read. . . . Martin Elvis has provided an important framework for assessing how humankind should look at the vast riches likely available via asteroids.” —Leonard David, Inside Outer Space

“Martin Elvis gives a fascinating survey of all the reasons why asteroids are interesting. He’s not only an expert, but a fluent and entertaining writer.”—Martin Rees, author of On the Future and Just Six Numbers

“A lively and engaging writer, Martin Elvis shows us why it will take much more than drilling equipment and spaceships to mine asteroids—and to do it the right way.”—Frank White, author of The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution

“A delightful trip around the solar system’s most dangerous and useful objects, leftovers from the beginning, causes of mass extinctions, and a chance for space trillionaires. Well done!”—John Mather, author of The Very First Light; Nobel Prize laureate (physics), 2006

“A lively, comprehensive vision of future knowledge, technologies and wealth creation in our solar system. A great read for lovers of astronomy and astronautics, long-term investors, and venture capitalists with nerves of steel.”—Sir Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief, Springer Nature

Asteroids is a unique and compelling read, exploring the science of asteroids, space travel, and astronomy, and providing a fascinating study of the practical and financial benefits of asteroid research.”—Gregory J. Gbur, author of Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics

“An accessible and surprisingly comprehensive survey of the questions we will confront in tackling the monumental task of asteroid mining. Martin Elvis hints at the long term thinking that will be critical for taking humanity to the stars.”—Jessy Kate Schingler, Open Lunar Foundation

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title 2022
ISBN: 9780300231922
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
312 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
12 b/w illus.