If you could reboot the space program…

If you could reboot the space program, no strings attached, what would it look like?

It’s kind of a crazy idea isn’t it?

It would be an interesting exercise to remove the boundaries that we unconsciously place on ourselves because we feel like we have to operate within the current environment. It seems too often that we focus on job retention or job creation and not enough about what it looks like long-term to operate a space faring civilization.

We end up with no direction at all, and it’s too easy without direction to end up with empty rhetoric.  The empty rhetoric hall of shame is where movements go to be stripped of their ability to inspire people to do great things.

How do we move from empty rhetoric to execution?

What happens when you move from a focus on job creation and short-term thinking to a focus on broad scope and long-term thinking? How do you do this while navigating the present?

When looking for what will happen in the future, visionary Tim O’Reilly often says:

Watch the alpha geeks on the edges. Who are those people and what are they up to?

In space exploration who are the alpha geeks? Who are the people on the fringes? What are they doing and how can we help them?

As an exercise I want to start talking about what our space program looks like if you remove our current boundaries. Just think free-form without the constraints. What does it look like in 150 years?

150 years is long-term vision.

150 years is thinking big.

Most of you will say thinking for 150 years is impossible, but this is exactly what the alpha geeks are doing.

Just try it.  Fit your entire thinking about space exploration into this:

Exploration -> Discovery -> Inspiration

Now tell us about it.

8 thoughts on “If you could reboot the space program…

  1. Settlements on multiple planets, starting with Mars which will be terra-formed. After an initial expedition of 6 astronauts and several robotic missions to start up building on Mars and agriculture, several missions consisting of 3 couples each will go. 100 years from now the first baby will born on a different celestial body – Mars.Transportation will be done using technology we don't yet have, turning the voyage to Mars comparable to going by ship from Europe to North America – a 2 week ordeal. People will flock to “The new world” like they did hundreds of years ago.

  2. You got me. I haven't been thinking more than 120 years out. :)Seriously, though: to think about what the solar system will be like in 150 years, think about what Earth was like 150 years ago. The Pony Express. Sailing ships. Kingdoms and empires. Nursing (as a discipline) was new. Helium was unknown. The universe was flat. There was no place for math in chemistry.On the other hand, orbital calculations were already robust. A turing-complete computer had been invented (on paper, at least). The first railroads and telegraphs branched out across the world. Atomic theory was spreading its wings. There were inklings there of the future that would come.There were also all those things that haven't changed: Guinness. Tomato ketchup. Popcorn. Dancing at parties. Fighting over trade disputes. Exploring. Learning.150 years from now, our civilization will span the solar system. Not fill it; it'll take hundreds more years to inhabit more than a fraction. It won't be just Earth, Moon, and Mars, though; our great-grandchildren will chuckle at the provincial attitudes that caused us to ignore 90% of the usable space and resources of our solar home. We'll have made our way through several revolutions, empires rising and breaking apart, and world-altering technological leaps. In some cases we'll have just made it through, courting extinction each time. Still, we'll learn. More than we thought. (We'll wonder how we ever got along without… well, you'll find out.)We'll be arguing about the next step in exploration: nearby star systems. We'll know a lot about them by then, and everyone will have their favorite destination; but exploration is more difficult than we expect and there will be few who are willing to expend the enormous effort required to mount an expedition. Some will have the courage to point out that it's not about a destination or a plan; it's about pushing forward. Those people (and bots, and sqoids) will ask, “What will 2310 be like?”

  3. Excellent thoughts Chris. After reading your thoughts, I wish we had co-written this and added your thoughts into it. You have a standing invitation to write for Evadot anytime.

  4. Hi Mike and Chris.Good thoughts, forward thinking. I don't have the luxury of a regular tank of future thinkers immediately around me, but some ideas are drummed up from the bottom of the mindpan. I think the next 50 years will involve more and more solution-finding on environmental problems and issues. If GWBush can publicly say that we might see a “space umbrella” allowing us to control the amounts of sun that hits the earth then there must be something wrong with the idea. However I do think that the ISS and similar forms of near earth orbit stations and structures will play a big role in solving the major atmospheric problems we now face (ozone depletion, CO2 bloom, pollution in general). Just observing from space we gain such great vantage point on problems and shut out some of the noise of the “politburo”, perhaps can think clearly. I don't know if a CO2 “chimney” will be developed or some genius plancto-synthesis rendering the excess CO2 magically inert…? But the forefront of space exploration and eco-solution seems to me along the same line of advanced thinking and action. The goal must be maintained of restoring habitability of Earth rather than colonizing Mars as a back-up planet plan. I think that before we travel to Mars we should focus on the restoration of Earth as our central goal and use space as the laboratory as we have been. The next 50 years are absolutely essential as far as human longevity is concerned, not to mention our brother and sister earth species. There is no ark metaphor to help us, only the story of cleaning up home. Human wisdom gets in balance with the technology we spawned.Years 51 to 100 could be amazing, once we have pushed back the eco-doomstable, with great leaps of reach possible. A proliferation of space laboratories by then, and an active moonbase, might let us experiment with longer excursions towards deep space, one step at a time, perhaps designed around Lagrangian locations and displaying a sense of human design in the space we choose to inhabit. We will have abundant fuel cell knowledge and will have abandoned risky RTGs to power our space moves.From years 101 to 150 I will have to assume that technology has plateaued and we are freed to grow as spiritual seekers. Human life is melded more symbiotically to the earth it is a part of and perhaps the earth structure is built out to embrace or enter space while at the same time remaining footed on Earth. This may take the form of a space station of fairly vast proportions. What the current biotech balloon will provide the future is unclear, be it lifesuits that mediate environments for the body or rapid healing factors, like multiple second chances at life after injury. Will microships that surround just 1 or 2 travelers make space travel suddenly viable at some point? More like hang gliding? Experiencing drift in the cosmos as a floater may be realized more important than further geological chipping and sampling.I realize I'm a sophomore future gazer compared to some fulltime gonzos out there, but appreciate the opportunity to flex the small mind muscles…best,owen o'toole

  5. Hi Mike and Chris.Good thoughts, forward thinking. I don't have the luxury of a regular tank of future thinkers immediately around me, but some ideas are drummed up from the bottom of the mindpan. I think the next 50 years will involve more and more solution-finding on environmental problems and issues. If GWBush can publicly say that we might see a “space umbrella” allowing us to control the amounts of sun that hits the earth then there must be something wrong with the idea. However I do think that the ISS and similar forms of near earth orbit stations and structures will play a big role in solving the major atmospheric problems we now face (ozone depletion, CO2 bloom, pollution in general). Just observing from space we gain such great vantage point on problems and shut out some of the noise of the “politburo”, perhaps can think clearly. I don't know if a CO2 “chimney” will be developed or some genius plancto-synthesis rendering the excess CO2 magically inert…? But the forefront of space exploration and eco-solution seems to me along the same line of advanced thinking and action. The goal must be maintained of restoring habitability of Earth rather than colonizing Mars as a back-up planet plan. I think that before we travel to Mars we should focus on the restoration of Earth as our central goal and use space as the laboratory as we have been. The next 50 years are absolutely essential as far as human longevity is concerned, not to mention our brother and sister earth species. There is no ark metaphor to help us, only the story of cleaning up home. Human wisdom gets in balance with the technology we spawned.Years 51 to 100 could be amazing, once we have pushed back the eco-doomstable, with great leaps of reach possible. A proliferation of space laboratories by then, and an active moonbase, might let us experiment with longer excursions towards deep space, one step at a time, perhaps designed around Lagrangian locations and displaying a sense of human design in the space we choose to inhabit. We will have abundant fuel cell knowledge and will have abandoned risky RTGs to power our space moves.From years 101 to 150 I will have to assume that technology has plateaued and we are freed to grow as spiritual seekers. Human life is melded more symbiotically to the earth it is a part of and perhaps the earth structure is built out to embrace or enter space while at the same time remaining footed on Earth. This may take the form of a space station of fairly vast proportions. What the current biotech balloon will provide the future is unclear, be it lifesuits that mediate environments for the body or rapid healing factors, like multiple second chances at life after injury. Will microships that surround just 1 or 2 travelers make space travel suddenly viable at some point? More like hang gliding? Experiencing drift in the cosmos as a floater may be realized more important than further geological chipping and sampling.I realize I'm a sophomore future gazer compared to some fulltime gonzos out there, but appreciate the opportunity to flex the small mind muscles…best,owen o'toole

  6. The best hope for displaced aerospace engineers (short of world war 3) would be if a major power bloc, e.g. USA, ESA, China or an international consortium started to invest in space based solar power.The greenest of all green energy sources. Unlimited safe clean energy 24/7 daily delivered anywhere. The best hope for displaced aerospace workers (short of world war 3).

  7. Reboot: ONE WORD: colonization.In the short term though the those who advocate colonization over exploration are in a desperate state of lacking a unified voice.

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