The Future of Space Exploration: Relevance, Return and Relationships
Hubbard, G. Scott
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In this talk I will present my view of the future of space exploration. My premise is that there will be three driving forces that shape the future beyond the current commitment to the Constellation Program. The first force is the relevance of NASA's investment to the American taxpayer. Of all NASA's programs only earth science observations and aeronautics have demonstrable applications of obvious benefit to the public. As a nation, we will invest heavily in stewardship of this planet as climate changes. Both in situ and space-borne assets will allow us to think globally, predict regionally, and act locally. Next, both government and commercial space ventures will be seeking a return on investment. The world community has sunk perhaps $100B in the International Space Station. I will examine the prospects for "Sutter's Gold" in the form of new research using gravity as a variable that will draw researchers into space. In parallel, the commercial space sector will continue to grow as entrepreneurs seek to provide citizens, NASA and other entities with routine access to suborbital flights and low earth orbit. Finally it will be international relationships that define the challenging and costly next generation of planetary missions. Mars Sample Return and Outer Planets missions will be used to describe the possible future collaborations.