Despite terrorist attacks and other dramatic day-today events, both life and the business of public policy go on. Zelekha suggested we talk about the future of space exploration, with an emphasis on one of its more intriguing (if highly speculative) aspects: The potential for human colonization of space. With any luck, we will have a very knowledgeable guest speaker on the topic.
NASA has been busy exploring Mars and other parts of our solar system in the past few years, and other nations plan to start doing so. A NASA manned mission to Mars is planned for the 2030s as part of a comprehensive plan for future space exploration that the agency issued just last month. A private sector consortium wants to send an
80-person 80,000 [tomato, tomahto] colony to Mars within a few decades, although its plans have been widely panned.
We may have a guest speaker for Monday who is very knowledgeable on space exploration. Robert Lock, Carl’s son and my old friend from high school, is an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. Robert has worked on various deep space probe missions at JPL for decades. He will be able to fill us in on NASA’s future plans for exploring the solar system, as well as give us a basic tutorial on what makes colonizing space so difficult and expensive a proposition.
Carl and I are still trying to secure Rob’s presence on Monday. In the meantime, here are some basic articles on the space program and the promise and peril of colonization.
Discussion Questions –
- WHAT: What is planned in space exploration in the coming decades? By NASA? By the U.S. private sector? By other countries?
- Is anybody seriously studying colonizing space in our lifetimes?
- What has the research concluded?
- WHY: Why try to colonize space, anyway? Pros and cons.
- HOW: What are the big technical barriers to colonization? The biggest cost and political barriers?
- NASA’s future in general.
SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –
- Our 2011 mtg on space exploration focused on Obama space plan, especially privatizing parts of it.
- General articles on colonizing space: Recommended.
- Why colonize space at all?
- NASA’s Mars plan of 10/15:
- Private sector plans to go to/colonize Mars.
Next Week: Is the United Nations Worth Having?