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Asteroid mining not so far off

Geology major Adam Simon ’15 says it’s not unreasonable to think that rare earth materials will be mined from asteroids in 20 years, and he wants to be part of that process.

“I took a geology course and we went out to a fun place to look at cool rocks and fossils,” he says. “I began to fall for it. The study of geology deepens your appreciation of the world. When you realize that humans are a split second at the end of a 60-minute movie, you gain a deeper perspective.”

Simon is excited by the developing technology that will allow geologists and other scientists to extract precious metals from capturing or intercepting asteroids in space.

“Collecting these metals on earth is difficult because they are not very well concentrated,” he explains and provides gold mining as an example. “They may process a ton of material and will end up with just a tiny bit of gold.

“In asteroids, precious metals are very heavily concentrated, and being able to collect these materials from the asteroid at some space outpost may yield significant cost savings.”

Importance of servant leadership

While he studies toward his eventual career in geology, residents at Friends Fellowship, a nursing home where Simon volunteers as a Bonner Scholar, are glad that Simon is the rare individual who has deeply enriched their lives. He acquired a Bonner grant and established a program where residents get newly released videos each week, and he provides one-on-one visits with some of the residents.

“One man there I grew extremely close to, and he told me that I was better than any medicine the doctors could give him,” Simon explained. After two years of volunteering at Friends Fellowship, Simon says he has gained a unique perspective.

“It has been a very interesting experience to see it from a third party perspective or a perspective from outside the family,” he says. “At some point in the United States, we stopped recognizing what happens at the end of life. Parents are no longer supposed to grow old with family, and there are no longer the regular interactions with family where grandparents are involved in the day-to-day lives of their children and grandchildren.

“Here in the U.S. there’s no longer a funeral wake in the parlors of our homes. It has become much easier to distance ourselves from death, and those final moments of life often are stuck in a filing cabinet in the form of a nursing home.”

Simon, who plans to continue volunteering after graduation, is quick to point out that just because someone lives in a nursing home, doesn’t necessarily mean the family becomes disengaged, but he has seen it happen far too often. While some families find the time to make it work, too many rely on cards and quick monthly visits.

“One man had lots of people stop in and spend 15 minutes or so,” he says. “I made it a point to spend half an hour or more with him. This was a conduit for a relationship to develop.”

Simon, who attended Culver Military Academy for high school, says that he felt at home as soon as he walked on the Earlham campus.

“Culver was a complementary experience to Earlham,” he explains. “Earlham has taught me a great deal about becoming a better person, while Culver taught me responsibility, leadership and getting things done. Each taught me something that has contributed to the person I am today.”

Adam Simon
Adam Simon 2015

Hometown: Fort Wayne, Ind.

Major at Earlham: Geology

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