Sustainability in Space = Sustainability on Earth


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

33 thoughts on “Sustainability in Space = Sustainability on Earth”

  1. I think its great how NASA is using the technology they develop to help benefit people with everyday activities. My personal favorite happen to be visco elastic foam which is used to create the memory foam mattress I sleep on every single night. Without NASA I sure wouldn't sleep near as well. Here is a great page on the amazing visco foam created by NASA:

  2. I never thought about the products etc. which emerge from research and development done for space exploration

  3. Have just come across this site by accident, a subject that does not normally register on my radar – but glad to have found it. An interesting read. Thanks.

  4. When Kennedy challenged this nation to put a man on the moon, the country shared that vision. The success in space flight resulted in many new products and processes that permeate our lives today even though most people are unaware the onus of that product was created to solve a problem with manned space flight. Now that we have accomplished Kennedy's vision, the desire of a nation has waned tremendously. Yes we may get new products with continued space flight but at what cost? Space flight needs a new vision to inspire the country rather than lamenting a line from Star Trek as justification for continuing space flight. Thanks for sharing the information.

  5. This was an interesting read – I agree with the way you think this should be approached, as in for the purposes of “mankind”. Indeed NASA as a whole since its beginning is a fine example of what human potential can do!

  6. I am glad to see you saying that to “extend sustainable human presence in space should lead to the sustainable human presence on Earth” because that to me is the crux of scientific endeavour. Things are getting more and more fragile here and we don't really have anywhere else to go just yet!

  7. Although i have the most upmost respect for nasa, i think they have hidden agendas. My 2 cent.

  8. Inspiration is what is needed in all parts of this wonderful world and Innovation to put it all to work like I do at and producing results like we do in as the more results we have the more people begin to believe what is possible in space and here on earth. Keep up your great work.

  9. I agree, unless it will help us here on earth there are much more important things to be spending money on other than exploring space just because we can.

  10. Good thoughts. I am not sure the that “to boldly go” anyplace is a justification for the cost of the program, but I guess it is American to think so.

  11. I have always loved the fact that we consider space to be a frontier to be explored and conquered. More power to Ya.

  12. I agree with you that going after the vision and the possibility is cause enough for the work it will take to achieve the purpose. It is noble and the intention of benefiting mankind is in itself sustainable enough reason to pursue what others may not be committed to. Astronomy Astronomers NASA contribute to all of mankind.

  13. We (gov) spend enough on that which destroys, spending money on that which will support is well worth it.

  14. I totally agree, there are many other things the government could be spending money on to help others. Unless it is critical I believe the money should be spent else where.

  15. I'm totally with you on this… I believe that our efforts to extend sustainable human presence in space should lead to the sustainable human presence on Earth.

  16. I think that we should have a better purpose of exploring space than to “boldy go where no one has gone before”. Sometimes there’s a good reason no one has ever gone there. However, if it can benefit mankind in a significant way (for the amount of effort put in), then I believe that is a good reason.

  17. There is so musch to learn from our environment around and the god who created it. By bodly going where no one has gone before we have learned so much already. It's exciting to see the interest continue and to be tied to a nobl epurpose.

  18. Good post, interesting to hear the reasoning behind people not going by bike. I'm glad there is a

    documentary exploring this issue a bit more. I like the whole if you want to know how bike

    friendly a city is just count the number of girls on bikes

  19. The internet is the best example of what you are trying to say. Too often technology that was developed without any regard for general good of mankind, ends up making the biggest impact on our lives.

    Space research, because of its associated glory is able to attract some of the best talent and funding. I really hope that more innovations of NASA may be put to use for betterment of the human race.

  20. I agree with John regarding the memory foam mattress contribution. It is great that these new inventions are passed on to regular people who probably will never go into space. As a result of a back injury, I now sell beds at that incorporates talalay latex over memory foam to add additional comfort to the air mattresses. The latex disperses the heat that builds up on memory foam. Combined, we see the benefits of technology improving. Interesting article!

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