If human spaceflight doesn’t take an inspiring new direction,
such as pressing ahead to go to Mars, if made face in
popularity to robotic exploration. (credit: NASA)

Ten years back, ten years forward

by Louis Friedman
Monday, February 11, 2013

Congratulations and kudos to Jeff Foust, who has provided a valuable weekly collection of high quality essays, commentary, and news about space program activities and issues. A decadal anniversary provides an impetus to think ahead 10 years: not to predict it, but to try to influence it.

I am concerned about space exploration, a uniquely government activity that rises to the highest level of public interest out of a sea of many other diverse activities in space. The diverse activities of technology development, environmental and weather monitoring, communications, defense, tourism, commercial entrepreneurship, education, and training involve much more than NASA, but the course of space exploration will be set strictly by NASA.

NASA’s human program will continue, and it will continue to be the big budget item of NASA. No president is going to say that America’s time in space has come and gone and now it is the turn of other nations (at least not in the next ten years). NASA and the industry need not be concerned about government support for aerospace spending on human space exploration: they will get it with or without a mission. The only question is for what? Will human spaceflight be mundane (confined to Earth orbit with high activity but no overriding purpose) or will it be inspiring, extending the human reach further to new worlds with new accomplishments for a new generation? We are on the cusp of making that decision.

Read more: The Space Review: Ten years back, ten years forward.

Home           Top of page