“We’ve been monitoring Didymos for five years, to understand the state of the system before we change it forever, so we can say. [the difference between] What we did with DART versus what is going to happen naturally, “Rivkin said. “Once we get the results and explain them, we can apply them as needed. Or, hopefully, not needed.”
While he’s not working on a potential life-on-earth-saving mission, Rivkin studies how that life came to be in the first place.
“There’s been a lot of talk here that the water and organic matter we have on Earth was brought in by the effects of asteroids and comets,” he said. “So the study of where the water is on the asteroid has a lot of influence on it.”
Rivkin uses astronomical spectral and spectral photometry to determine the structure of asteroids in our solar system. This means that he measures the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation emitted from asteroids and comets where such substances may be present.
This heavenly diving can help extend human life further into the cosmic realm. To that end, Rivkin worked with the Virtual Institute for Solar Systems Exploration Research, which asks the question: Can we use asteroid water as a rocket propeller in deep space missions? If so, which asteroids are the best pit-stop candidates?
But with great knowledge comes great responsibility, and Rivkin feels compelled to deal with the host of moral considerations that come with space travel.
“What does it mean if we are going to expand our economy into space? What is its morality? How can we bring out the best in humanity and not the worst? He asked.
Thinking about the evolution and fate of human life in the universe can be overwhelming, so Rivkin goes back to music when he needs a break. As a result of playing drums in grade school, he formed a band with some friends while at MIT. Thirty years later, he still enjoys writing and playing songs called “Andy Rivkin and his Gedankenband” and his songs are available on popular streaming platforms.
“It’s a good mental-health break to pick just one guitar,” he said. “Whenever I advise someone to go to college, I always tell them to do your hobbies. Maybe in junior year, you’re like, ‘I don’t have time for that.’ But if you do, you’re going to be much happier in 10 or 15 to 20 years. ”