Innovation will make living out of this world a reality

July 17 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Space   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

The immense popularity of Star Trek suggests that “to boldly go where no man has gone before” could become humanity’s mandate for the future.

Satellite Industry Association President Richard Dalbello sees the space industry as the jewel of our economy. It drives innovation, creates jobs, and positions us to begin mankind’s greatest dream – to explore other worlds.

But many believe our progress is too slow. Past explorations produced huge benefits much faster. 25 years after the Lewis & Clark exploration, wagons rolled west to Oregon and clipper ships landed pioneers in California. 25 years after the Wright Brothers, citizens could fly around the country. By contrast, landing on the moon – our “giant step for mankind” – has only produced 40 to 50+ years of earth orbits and a few unmanned flights.

Space enthusiasts say this slow progress shows we are misdirected. They would like to see faster development of moon and Mars settlements and strong incentives created for private businesses to design and build space colonies and other facilities in space.

Space flights are expensive today, but once travel to and from orbit become cheap; profit-driven entrepreneurs will head for the high frontier to build hotels, permanent housing, and entertainment and sports facilities.

Exploring space will also push genetic research. Better Humans author Simon Smith claims environments such as Mars extreme cold temperatures and toxic atmosphere will require biological changes. Sending humans into space without genetic modification would be impractical. (cont.)

US, EU and China all plan major space projects in the next 20 to 30 years. Spin-off benefits and military goals help drive this global enthusiasm. Non-stick cookware, cable TV, the Internet, and cell phones all owe their existence to space exploration. Future spin-off benefits could include improved driverless cars, advanced robots, and scramjet flights to anywhere on earth in an hour or less.

But we need breakthroughs to achieve this glowing future. Gene therapies to make space travelers comfortable in hostile environments are 15 to 20 years away, and faster propulsion systems are needed to bridge huge space distances in a timelier manner.

Will this future happen? Experts believe technologies will develop at lightning speeds in the 21st century. Between now and 2030, we could see more breakthroughs than in the last 200 years. From 2030 to 2050, advances might outpace all of human history. And from 2050 to 2100, massive discoveries beyond the wildest imaginings of science fiction could appear.

Anthropologist Ben Finney says “the space revolution is leading humanity into an uncharted social realm that will change humankind irreversibly.”

As we trek into this future aided by technologies we cannot even imagine today, it’s easy for this writer to believe that more humans could live in space than on earth by 2150. And we will always keep in touch with these hearty space pioneers, because sharing experiences of life in a strange new world will enrich us all. Comments welcome.

What do you see as the greatest benefit from space exploration?

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Comment Thread (7 Responses)

  1. Isn’t it more likely that the process will drag out? Prices for materials keep skyrocketing, no one has developed a new energy source yet that could be used as propulsion for rockets, and progress is slow. In reality, I see the planned Moon mission of 2018 or whatever date they picked being delayed even longer. Even if they get there, they still need to put forth the trillions of dollars it will take to build a permanent structure on the Moon. 2030? More like 2130 for me.

    Posted by: John Heylin   July 18, 2008
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  2. I also think that space travel has been delayed by the cost of resources to do it and the questionable economic pay-off. It seems we proved we could do it and found it was kinda desolate out there. So far. But with improvements in rocket technology who knows? If I could afford to go for a romp on the moon, you’d better believe I would jump at it. I will also be eager to apply for a job at a space tourism company. Who hasn’t dreamed of being an astronaut?

    Posted by: Mielle Sullivan   July 18, 2008
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  3. The current US administration has tentatively set a goal for astronauts to revisit the moon by 2020 with a crew of scientists aboard who could establish a self-sustaining moon colony by 2024; then on to Mars with live astronauts landing on the red planet by 2030 and creating a permanent colony a few years later.

    Of course funding has not been approved for these bold missions and a lot will depend on the next administration, which will probably be headed by Barack Obama and whoever he chooses for Vice President. Should he select someone like General Wes Clark as his running mate; a person with great science and technology knowledge (he once declared that he thought humanity will one day develop faster-than-light travel), then our space future could look bright; if someone with less science interest becomes part of the team, then things might get pretty frustrating.

    I think that the next administration will determine how fast we advance towards our “magical future.” I only hope that science and technologies are given the highest priorities. Comments welcome.

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 18, 2008
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  4. The spin-off benefits of space exploration are hugely exaggerated. Space program often used technologies developed elsewhere, but later they were described as “space” products for marketing purposes. And, by the way, inventions of non-stick cookware, cable TV, the Internet, and cell phones do not seem to have much to do with space program. For example, teflon coated non-stick frying pan was created by some french guy in 1954. TV, internet and phones do benefit from satellites, but were not spin-offs of space program.

    Posted by: johnfrink   July 18, 2008
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  5. Johnfrink, please check out the following site:

    http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 18, 2008
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  6. Dick,

    Even though I said that benefits of spin-offs are exaggerated, I do not question that many great things came out of space program.

    I do think it is kinda lame though when people try to justify space program by all these spin-offs. Did we really have to go to space to make a better golf ball? Space program gave us satellite communications, GPS, weather monitoring, etc – you know, things we actually do in space.

    Posted by: johnfrink   July 18, 2008
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  7. I think that space exploration whether manned, robotic or telescopic/sensing is essential to expanding our economy, increasing knowledge and boosting our collective odds of survival. Sure it can seem silly when comparing it to more directly beneficial programs like fighting cancer, etc, but it seems that a certain % of human/bio/life resources must go to getting into space. Space exploration could/will lead to theoretical breakthroughs that advance general science, the discovery of new efficient processes that boost our quality of life, the mining of increasingly scare resources, the harnessing of a great deal of additional solar energy, and perhaps even more newfound value. It’s right to question how many resources we devote to that – it’s like balancing essential corporate processes with R&D. R&D happens to become more essential in the acceleration era, especially if cosmomimicry and knowledge mining can help us deal with the increasingly complex environment we must negotiate.

    Posted by: Alvis Brigis   July 18, 2008
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