Earlier this month the next generation of explorers weighed in on the recommendations made by the Augustine Committee. The Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) in Support of the United Nations Programme on Outer Space Applications offered the following observation when it came to the purpose of Human Spaceflight, “However, it also evidences that the concept of human spaceflight no longer fits the Kennedy paradigm in the minds of the incoming space generation. We, as humans, should not only go because it is hard and because “that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” In the view of many of our members, we go for clear, concrete benefits and programmes – for specifics, not purely for inspiration.” Yes, I am one of those that believe that “To boldly go where no one has gone before” is sufficient reason to invest in the human exploration of space and yet I also believe that the exploration of space should be tied to a noble purpose. It should not only inspire humanity but benefit “all mankind” (to paraphrase the plaque on the Lunar Lander, Eagle). I believe that our efforts to extend sustainable human presence in space should lead to the sustainable human presence on Earth. And there is precedence for this. For example the same technology developed by NASA to provide for refrigeration for the remote habitats in space has been used to provide refrigeration to remote areas on Earth where there they don’t have access to electrical power. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Last month at the AAS Imagine 2009 conference, Evan Thomas, shared how NASA engineers are volunteering and applying the experience that they gained in solving space exploration challenges to help provide solutions for communities that have limited natural resources available to them. Along with highlighting the valuable contribution made by this team of Engineers without Borders, Evan’s other goal in his presentation was to show how closely tied are the solutions for the challenges of the sustainability of life on Earth and in space. This was most clearly captured on slide 20 that he, along with a number of his colleagues, created to show the linkage between the United Nations Millenium goals and NASA’s technical needs.
For me to be able to simultaneously contribute to the ensuring our future both in space and on Earth is a noble purpose. So maybe we don’t do this because “it is hard.” Maybe we do this “for the benefit of all mankind.”
Sharing the Vision,
Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office