The Next 50 Years
Technically speaking, it is easy to get to space. It is staying there that’s the challenge. This not only in terms of manoeuvring the spacecraft in a way that it remains in orbit, but also sustaining crews in long term missions. The International Space Station (ISS) was deployed 20 years ago and hosts crews from NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), ESA (Europe), JAXA (Japan) and CSA (Canada). This is truly one of our closest attempts to starting a human presence outside of Earth, but there are challenges that remain. These are mainly regarding the challenges of living in a self-sustainable way, maximising and recycling resources. And above all, it is about being able to be healthy and maintain a high spirit during long missions.
When we think about going beyond the ISS and beyond the Moon, we need to have solutions to these challenges, mainly to successfully establish a human presence on other planets. For about 20 years, attention has been on Mars, the terrestrial planet with the closest characteristics to Earth, despite being 225 million kilometres away. Unmanned missions to Mars, most notably that of the Curiosity Rover, have given us more information about the Red Planet, and have curved our interests in accepting it as the next place to start a civilisation. Missions to the Moon haven’t been as popularised in recent years as they were 50 years ago, but with the mindset of building future cities on other planets, the interest in Moon landings have just begun to start again for all global space agencies.
With more public interest and private companies such as Blue Origin, which aim to implement better ways for human spaceflight, the venture into space is, for the most part, no longer a political statement of nations. It ventures now more to the curiosity of the space flight enthusiast. It is about billion-dollar companies pumping billions of dollars into new markets, namely space tourism, and thus creating new possibilities in science and technology, many of which were still quite simply written as fantasies 50 years ago. It will continue to depend on the collaboration of private companies and governments to push these capabilities even further.