Space Exploration: The Next 100 Years

author: Dava Newman, Engineering Systems Division, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Andrew Chaikin
author: Supriya Chakrabarti, Institute for Astrophysical Research, Boston University
author: Richard P. Binzel, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: July 21, 2010,   recorded: October 2003,   views: 3300

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High hopes meet high frustration in this panel, whose participants collectively yearn for a new vision to guide our space program. Andrew Chaikin recommends a three-step self-help regimen to move the program forward: lowering the cost of access to space (the going rate is 10 thousand dollars per pound!); embracing “outside-the-box” ideas; and engaging in a national conversation about space. Supriya Chakrabarti predicts that in around 30 years, NASA will be deploying robotic terrestrial planet finders and using the moon for both tourism and commercial development like mining. This will be possible if in the short term space scientists look for low-cost launch options, which might include exploiting existing missile technology. Richard Binzel puts the odds of a civilization-threatening asteroid impact in the next 100 years at one in a million, but believes the odds are a whole lot better that human beings will be exploring asteroids in space. We’ve got a leg up since we’ve already sent robot reconnaissance to the moons of Jupiter. If we’re worried about catastrophic asteroid strikes, Binzel says, we should start taking incremental steps, such as putting nuclear reactors in space to power vehicles for long inter-planetary journeys.

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