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Asimov Live Stream: Mark Your Calendar for 3/19 at 7:30 EDT

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Mark your calendars for this Wednesday evening, March 19, at 7:30 pm EDT. That's the start of the live stream of the 2014 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate. Hosted and moderated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planeterium, the live event is sold out, so the only way to see it is at amnh.org/live.

2014 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate

The topic this year is Selling Space, and the panel's entrepreneurs and space scholars will cover topics from the prospect of mining asteroids to the future of private citizens—often called space tourists—traveling to Earth orbit and beyond.

Below, a few facts to get you ready for the debate. 

MINING THE SKY? 

Some asteroids are known to be made virtually only of metals, including platinum-group metals such as iridium, which are scarce on Earth. (They also have many commercial uses, from precious jewelry to flat-panel screens and other electronics.) 
Could we ever mine asteroids? Maybe. If engineers can devise a way to build and launch more inexpensive spacecraft, it could one day become economically feasible to mine metals from asteroids. 

Astounding Science Fiction (for non-commercial use only) 1944

"Catch That Rabbit," by Isaac Asimov, first appeared in the February 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story revolves around an attempt by humans to mine asteroids. 


Science-fiction writers and filmmakers have long been inspired by the notion of mining the "sky." In 1944, author Isaac Asimov, for whom the debate is named, published a story on the theme. Called “Catch That Rabbit,” the light-hearted but evocative tale featured Earthlings who live on an asteroid and work for a corporation called United States Robots. The men are assigned to make sure the mining work of a “seven-unit robot team” goes as planned—which it doesn’t. 

SPACE TOURISM

Since October 2000, not a day has gone by without a person in space, thanks to the launch of the International Space Station (ISS), which has been home to more than 200 men and women over the years. In that time, seven private citizens have trained for months, and paid millions of dollars each, to spend time aboard the ISS. 

ISS as seen from Space Shuttle

The International Space Station as photographed from the Space Shuttle in 2010

STS-130 Crew, NASA


Tom Shelley, president of Space Adventures, Ltd., which helped those private citizens get to space, is a panelist at this year's Asimov Debate.

LIVING IN SPACE

When and if humans return to space for a lengthy stay, an expansive home-base would be extremely useful. In a spacecraft like the fabric-covered, expandable ones made by private space company Bigelow Aerospace, people would have room to eat, sleep, bathe, and work.

Made with walls of reinforced fabric, these spacecraft have not yet housed humans in space. But Bigelow Aerospace has successfully put two craft into Earth orbit, where they remain today. (The fabric spacecraft would be carried into space aboard another craft and then expand once in space to create a living habitat.)

Read more about Bigelow spacecraft in Beyond Planet Earth, a Museum exhibition on display in 2011 and 2012. 

Bigelow Test Case

Bigelow Aerospace/Photo Researchers


Michael Gold, Director of DC Operations and Business Growth, Bigelow Aerospace, is a panelist at this year's Asimov Debate.

Watch the live stream of the Debate at amnh.org/live on Wednesday, March 19, starting at 7:30 pm EDT.

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