An Astronomer’s Thoughts on Elon Musk, NASA, and Humanity’s Fundamental Questions

An Astronomer’s Thoughts on Elon Musk, NASA, and Humanity’s Fundamental Questions

Dr. Kevin Luhman is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University and a renowned astronomer for having discovered both the third closest stellar system, now called Luhman 16, and the coldest brown dwarf star ever found, which too will soon bear his name.

Top 3 Takeaways

  1. Astronomy addresses the most fundamental questions of humanity such as the origins of life, the origin of Earth, the fate of life on Earth and whether or not we are alone in the universe.
  2. Sending humans to Mars won’t be as easy as Elon Musk makes it out to be. Elon is aiming for a 2024 arrival while NASA is expecting around 2034. There are many challenges, most notably deadly cosmic rays, that need to be solved before humans can safely travel to and spend time on the Red Planet.
  3. Earth is an oasis of life in the universe. Astronomy can help us appreciate the odds of a place like Earth existing and can provide a unique perspective on the importance of protecting it.

Show Notes

  • [0:58] Defining astronomy.
  • [1:30] The early influences that led Dr. Luhman to dedicate his life to the study of the universe.
  • [3:25] Why should the average person care about astronomy?
  • [3:55] Practical examples of how astronomy is used in our everyday lives.
  • [5:31] The past, present and future of satellites.
  • [8:26] Dr. Luhman describes the events that transpired to now have a stellar system bear his name.
  • [10:02] The status of NASA.
  • [11:40] What astronomers talk about after work.
  • [12:20] When are humans going back to the Moon?
  • [14:32] The challenges of sending humans to Mars.
  • [18:50] Is Elon Musk’s 2024 target of sending humans to Mars realistic?
  • [20:02] Dr. Luhman’s thoughts on SpaceX.
  • [20:43] One question Dr. Luhman would ask Elon Musk.
  • [20:57] Fun rapid-fire questions to conclude

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