An Interview with B612 Supporter Bob Trembley

Adam Bader
adam@b612foundation.org

February 6, 2015

Each month we introduce you to a citizen-supporter of the Sentinel Mission. This month, it’s our pleasure to introduce you to Bob Trembley.

Bob Trembley’s Bio:

Bob-with-scopes-by-Scott-kennedy-Penguicon-May-3-2014-1024x682

I have been an amateur astronomer my entire life. I graduated from Michigan Technological University in 1983 with a BSEE, and live in Chesterfield Michigan. I am a board member of the Warren Astronomical Society  – I create their monthly newsletter. I have been doing quite a bit of Astronomy Outreach in recent years – both solo and with the WAS. In 2013, I became a volunteer NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador (obligatory disclaimer: any comments here are mine), and started lecturing about Astronomy and Space Science. One of my favorite lecture topics is Asteroids.

My wife, Connie, is an award-winning middle school science teacher; she has been a great inspiration  to me, and often helps me during my lectures. While I was researching my Asteroids lecture, I got to know several planetary astronomers; I had a hand in getting a main-belt asteroid named for Connie: (117852) Constance. Connie has just started her first year as a volunteer NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador too!

I have recently created and am webmastering a WordPress website for the Vatican Observatory Foundation. I am also writing Astronomy and Space Science articles for this website, along with other amateur and professional astronomers, and some students. I guess this means I’m now a “Professional” Astronomy blogger!

The Interview:

Hi Bob. Thank you for talking with us.

You’re kidding, right‽ I was floored to be asked by you! This ranks right up there with “You’ve just won a free trip to the International Space Station!”

First of all, how did you learn about the Sentinel Mission?

In early 2011, I was doing research for my first lecture: Meteorites – for my wife’s 8th grade science class. About that time, I saw Scott Manley’s video: Asteroid Discovery: 1980-2010, and was gobsmacked!  I also saw a video of Rusty Schweickart talking about asteroid deflection, and thought “I really wish someone would do something about asteroids…”

In 2012, my meteorite lecture was evolving into a lecture about Asteroids – it was that summer that the B612 Foundation was formed. I can’t remember exactly when I heard about the B612 Foundation, but when I did, I was on their mailing list within seconds!

What inspired you to support the Sentinel Mission?

I saw the original COSMOS in 1980; in the episode titled “Heaven and Hell,” Carl Sagan talked about the Tunguska Impact Event – I had never heard of it before, and was astounded! When I present my Asteroids lecture, few if any of the audience have heard of Tunguska; the pictures of flattened trees always gets gasps! I occasionally encounter someone who has not heard about Chelyabinsk…

I have an astounding wife, and two wonderful daughters. I have grand-birds, and grand-dogs. I’m quite attached to the food-chain, and the biosphere. Human civilization has its ups and downs, but I would really rather all of these things continue to exist, without the threat of being erased in a blink of an eye… I’d like to see us go to the stars.

I look out the window on a winter’s morning, and on the rare occasions the Michigan sky is clear and blue, I think “It’s a beautiful morning… exactly the same as the day the asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk!”

My only regret is that I am unable to donate a fortune to the Sentinel mission.

What aspect(s) of the Sentinel Mission do you find the most exciting?

I’m beyond thrilled that someone has finally thrown their hands up in the air and said: “FINE! We’ll do it, then!” I LOVE that Sentinel is the first privately-funded asteroid-hunting space telescope. I’m hoping that when Sentinel returns concrete data on the multitude of asteroids it will undoubtedly find, it will jump-start Planetary Defense.

Oddly, I’ve never seen a launch; I intend on being at the launch of Sentinel.

You’re a passionate advocate of science education – you teach, run conferences and blog. Tell us about some of your extracurricular science and science fiction activities.

I have been a fan of Fantasy and Science Fiction as long as I have been an amateur astronomer; I was a child when Jonny Quest, The Thunderbirds, and Star Trek were airing. I was 9 when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. My first SF was Larry Niven’s Ringworld, and my first fantasy was “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” My nickname is “Balrog.”

I started attending Midwest SF conventions in 1978 – during my freshman year at Michigan Tech. It was at one of these conventions in the 1980’s that I met Brother Guy Consolmagno – he was lecturing about the “Science of Meteorites.” I’d been collecting meteorites for years beforehand, Br. Guy gave me a completely new appreciation for them. I started lecturing and setting up my telescopes at SF conventions in 2013 – and I have been loving it!

In January of 2014, I was asked to be the Science-area lead for Detcon1 – the North American Science Convention, to be held in July 2014 in Detroit. My task was to find lecturers and panelists to talk about Science-related topics. I was able to arrange to have Dr. Marc Buie of the B612 Foundation Skype-in and talk about the Potentially Hazardous Asteroids, and the Sentinel Mission. I also arranged to have Br. Guy Skype-in and give a tour of the Vatican Meteorite Laboratory. A couple other Solar System Ambassadors were were in attendance as panelists, and I drew heavily on the members of the Warren Astronomical Society.

My experiences doing Astronomy Outreach over the last few years has left me with the inescapable conclusion the the general public’s grasp of Astronomy is practically non-existent, and that very few people have looked through a telescope. At Detcon1, the “Anti-Science Sentiment in the US” panel left a lasting impression on me – one of the things discussed was that “teachers need to be taught the Science behind what they are teaching, so that they understand it and can teach it better,” and “we need more science-literate persons in government.”

To address this, I am creating an Astronomy Education Special Interest Group within the Warren Astronomical Society – with the goal of improving Astronomy education in Michigan, and throughout the US. To accomplish these tasks, I’ll be doing a LOT of research—and you know what Wernher von Braun said about research!

I would really like to discover an asteroid, someday…

Adam Bader
adam@b612foundation.org