24 May 2012
Plenary Panel 3: Capabilities for Human Exploration
The third plenary session brought together several distinguished experts in the field of space exploration, to participate on a panel discussion which grappled with the capabilities for human exploration. Moderated by Space News’ Brian Berger, the panel debated several topics relative to the ability of humans to explore the cosmos.
• Joy Bryant, Vice President and Program Manager, ISS, The Boeing Company, United States
• Alexander Derechin, Deputy General Designer (Strategy, Business Development, International Cooperation), S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation “Energia”, Russia
• Clayton Mowry, President, Arianspace Inc., United States
• Dan Dumbacher, Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, NASA, United States
• Mark Sirangelo, Executive Vice President and Chairman, Sierra Nevada Corporation, United States
Topics of discussion during the sessions ranged from debating if Mars or a Near Earth Object (NEO) should be the immediate focus of exploration efforts; the types of rockets necessary to propel explorers to Mars and beyond; the importance of the ISS to future exploration efforts – both as a test-bed for better understanding the effects of the space environment on the human body, and a staging area for future exploratory expeditions; and the need for international coordination in all phases of the exploration enterprise.
The panel was in total agreement on several discussion points: That Mars should be the focus of international exploration efforts for the present, and then the international community can take those lessons learned from mars and apply them to exploring asteroids and other NEOs. That a rocket of over 100 metric tons will be needed to get to Mars, or any other spot beyond the moon, thus nations need to continue to work to develop their heavy lift capabilities; and that all exploration missions must be international in scope due to extensive program costs. Interesting side-points of discussion included Mark Sirangelo’s discussion of Sierra Nevada’s “Blue Horizon” and what it will offer in terms of capabilities and its ability to be used for more than one mission, and Derechin’s call for more standardized equipment across the exploration system as a means of reducing program expense.
The last point of agreement between the panelists was that the ISS has played, and will continue to play, a key role in advancing the future of exploration. Each panelist took time to discuss the key contributions that ISS has made to understanding the physiological and psychological demands that space habitation and operations put on the human body and mind, and each panelist was adamant that we must use those lessons to continue to evolve safer, more reliant, and more responsive technology to keep human life in space safe.