Space exploration has an innovative future ahead of it

Apr 17, 2017

Members of Carnegie Mellon Student Pugwash attended the Student Pugwash Conference 2017 at Purdue University. The conference focused on space exploration and policy, ranging from topics like “Repeat Mars Missions” to the “Future of International Space Exploration”. Each of these talks had interesting angles on how the world could approach space exploration. This article focuses on the talk on international progress on space ight given by Dr. Daniel Dumbacher.

Dumbacher framed the entire presentation in the form of the past, present, and future. For the past, he focused on the progress of the United States in space exploration, starting with the last lunar mission and ending with the closing of the space shuttle program. He also noted that, at the moment, space exploration has ventured to every planet in the solar system. Dumbacher drew parallels between space exploration and the Lewis and
Clark expeditions, suggesting that expeditions in unknown territory result in the eventual expansion.

He moved on to the current state of space exploration. At the moment, the International Space Station (ISS) remains one of the few international projects still in operation. There are also robotic exploration missions on Mars. Currently, the biggest movement in space exploration is commercial space ight. Companies are driving new and innovative technologies like reusable spacecraft.

The current plan for space exploration follows ve phases. Phase zero, the current phase, focuses on continued experimentation on the challenges of space- ight on the International Space Station. Phase one will include missions in cislunar space with emphasis on deep space transportation. After this, we must face phase two’s emphasis on deep space transport, which includes continued missions to the moon. Phase three will start testing the viability of manned Mars missions. From there, in two more phases, humanity could potentially accomplish the goal of manned missions to Mars.

First, we must tackle the question, “How can this all be done?” The solution to this would be a focus on a space- centered economy. Such focus would spur the development of technologies that bene t terrestrial and space society. At the moment, one example of a block to such international cooperation is the status of China in space. China was blocked from access to the ISS, so it produced its own space program and station.

Another issue is time. Dumbacher suggested that space exploration may follow the rise of commercial aircraft. Aircraft arose through many years of development and growth, with gradual growth in adoption. Similar development processes occurred with the prevalence of computers and cell phones. Dumbacher suggested that, although space exploration and travel is pricey, with time it may become some- thing attainable to the public. Maybe, even space tourism could be on the table.