If there’s one name associated with ʻOumuamua, the cigar-shaped first known interstellar object detected passing through our Solar System, it’s Harvard astronomy professor Avi Loeb, who from the day its discovery hit the news has promoted the idea that it’s not a space rock but quite possibly an alien-made object like a light sail that is being propelled through space by photons. Professor Loeb has stuck to this story despite fellow scientists insisting it’s just a new kind of comet whose unusual acceleration is due to a natural mechanism we just don’t understand yet. In a recent interview, Loeb came up with a new twist on his theory.
“’Oumuamua could be a ‘technological relic’ that’s billions of years old and that just as we would study the Mayans or other civilizations from Earth’s past, we should do the same for whoever or whatever sent ‘Oumuamua through our solar system.”
On the University of Chicago’s Big Brains podcast, Loeb says we missed an opportunity to land our own spacecraft on ’Oumuamua and study this ancient technology much as we study past advanced technology on Earth – the difference is that ‘Oumuamua may be old but it’s still better than anything we have today. What do we do when we land on the next one?
“The other thing that could happen is if you find technologies that are far more advanced than ours, we can import them to Earth. If we see an unusual object, we can in principle land on it, read off the label, ‘‘Made on planet X,’’ so we will know its origin, but also perhaps, copy that technology to Earth.”
Never let it be said that Professor Loeb doesn’t have a sense of humor (read off the label!), but he’s right – what he’s discussing is reverse-engineering – a technique long suspected of occurring at Area 51, Wright-Patterson Air Force base and other locations where alleged alien ships are rumored to have been taken. Many people wonder why the US Navy ships that have encountered UFOs haven’t attempted to apprehend them for the same reason. Loeb then reveals the real benefit to doing this:
“And, it might be a way of short-cutting into our future because it would take us many years to develop the same technology, so there are lots of benefits that I can imagine for humanity from just finding technological relics in space.”
Again, this is what many people have argued happened with the alleged UFO debris from Roswell – giving the military a jump on technology that may have resulted in stealth planes, computerized controls and other advances. While the true identify of what was actually found at Roswell may never be known – and probably wasn’t alien or even foreign – the reasoning is still valid. Space archeology has been suspected to be one of the purposes of China’s interest in the Moon and may have played a part in the location of its Chang'e 4 lunar lander on the far side of the Moon.
“So it could be a lesson in history for us, it would keep us modest and better equipped for the future.”
Professor Loeb also lays out a ‘noble cause’ for space archeology – to possibly learn why a long-ago intelligent civilization no longer exists and what could have caused its demise … thus preventing our own. A noble cause – unless you agree with the theory that the same technology used in space travel is also used in weaponry – and the second choice is probably the one we’d pick first.
Professor Loeb is smart enough to make his theories plausible, yet creative enough to makes us consider far-out-of-the-box possibilities. Perhaps we need more like him.