Martin Rees is a Fellow of Trinity College and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. He holds the honorary title of Astronomer Royal and also Visiting Professor at Imperial College London and at Leicester University. In 2005 he was appointed to the House of Lords, and he was President of the Royal Society for 2005-10. He is the author or co-author of more than 500 research papers, mainly on astrophysics and cosmology, as well as eight books (six for general readership), and numerous magazine and newspaper articles on scientific and general subjects.
In this chat Lord Rees tells presenter Sarah Cruddas that although there is a regular chance of impact, it is not a big risk and that it doesn’t keep him away overnight. Drawing an analogy to the insurance business where premiums are calculated by multiplying the probability of the event by the cost of the consequences, he suggests that it would be prudent for the word to spend a few hundred million dollars a year on asteroid defence. He also explains how asteroids can tell us about the formation of the solar system and that this will allow us to place our system of planets in context with the others that we are discovering around other stars. When it comes to the future, he sees that the natural resources found on asteroids could be extracted and used for building things in space that will help us further explore the solar system.