23 May 2012
“Perspectives on Exploration” Panel
GLEX’s second plenary discussion was entitled “Perspectives on Exploration” and brought together: Michael Menking, Senior Vice President, Orbital Systems and Space Exploration EADS Astrium; Alexey Krasnov, Head of Manned Spaceflight Department, Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos); John Elbon, Vice President and General Manager, Space Exploration, The Boeing Company; John Karas, Vice President and General Manager, Human Space Flight, Lockheed Martin Corporation; Simon “Pete” Worden, Center Director, NASA Ames Research Center. The panel was moderated by Kathy Laurini, Senior Advisor, Exploration and Space Operations, NASA, discussing what exploration is now, and what it might be in the future. Subjects in the panel included: What drives exploration – capability or destination? Can exploration costs be more efficiently controlled through cooperation and streamlining mission protocols? What must be done to convince the public that space exploration missions are worth their costs? How can we effectively convince lawmakers that science matters, to the degree that our exploration budgets are insulated against the tendency to deplete them for other purposes? What role will government play in a space exploration business model that looks to be more privatized going forward? Will private space entities eventually turn to a settlement and colonisation model going forward, and will this open up space settlement and colonisations in ways that were not thought of in previous decades? And lastly, should we be pessimistic or optimistic about the future of exploration, given ongoing questions about financing such missions?
ISS has helped us learn a lot more about humans in space but we still have more to learn. A key example of this is how ISS can help us with exploration.
Regardless of destination, there are a number of capabilities we must build and demonstrate in order to take humans beyond LEO. Affordable programs are necessary for the future but we have a good deal of experience with building hardware and know what the cost drivers are. We have produced and flown more hardware over the last 30 years than we will need for Mars, although the necessary technologies aren’t necessarily the same. The key to success is austere programs that are properly led and focused.
Competition as well as collaboration are important to realizing affordable systems. The connection between benefits on Earth and space capabilities is not well understood. We need to make better linkages to tangible benefits (scientific, economic, etc.) and communicate them more effectively.
Progress is being made on making connections between human and robotic missions, but there is still much work to be done. How private funding factors into scientific missions and human “settlement” beyond Earth is an interesting subject which warrants further consideration and discussion.