Space Travel: Mankind’s Next Frontier

On October 4th, 1957, the Soviet satellite, Sputnik, was launched into space and became the first manmade object in space. At that moment, the space age was born. Both the United States, and the Soviet Union, engaged in a race to push the boundaries of mankind’s potential to reach for the stars. With advancements in rocketry, engineering, and aeronautical sciences, both nations achieved great wonders to make a mark on history. The pinnacle of this space race came to a pivotal moment during the Apollo 11 mission when American Astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first people to step foot on the moon. At that moment, mankind broke free of the chains that bound us to our planet. Fast forward to 1988, both the United States, and other partners, created the International Space Station with the goal of developing new technologies to explore our solar system. However, since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has lost its momentum in pushing for the next great space mission. For the United States to take its place as the leader in space exploration, drastic changes need to be made to alter this course.

Fortunately for us, President Trump has taken major steps toward achieving this goal of expanding space exploration. Earlier this year, President Trump signed White House Space Policy Directive 1 to refocus NASA’s efforts to put astronauts back on the moon. Not only would this reinvigorate space exploration, but could serve as the first step towards long term efforts for space travel beyond our planet. In the past few years, NASA have been working towards building a long term deep space program to help make these goals a reality. The first major project is known as the Space Launch System, or SLS, which is the successor of the Saturn V rocket. For those who remember the days of human space flight, Saturn V was the to go to rocket that made human space flight a reality.  However, with the retirement of Saturn V, the SLS is poised to surpass the Saturn V in both capabilities, and reliability, as a rocket that can send large cargo into space. Another important project is the development of a lunar habitat module, called the Deep Space Gateway, which would serve as a transit point for deep space travel. Designed to act as a bridge between Earth, and other celestial bodies, the Deep Space Gateway would serve as a pitstop for space travelers to shuttle supplies, refuel rockets, and allow astronauts to prepare for the long journey towards Mars. In addition, the Deep Space Gateway could serve as a vital staging ground for a lunar base to prosper. Not only would this represent a major engineering feat, it would inspire millions of America’s who dreamed of the days when we reached for the stars and broke the earthly bonds that held us to our beloved planet.

To reignite this dream, it will take more than NASA to make this dream a reality. To do this, we will need the full might of our private sector to find creative solutions to solve these problems. One notable entrepreneur Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and owner of Tesla, has taken up this challenge by creating a rocket company poised to put the United States back on track towards space exploration. The company, called SpaceX,  has revolutionized the private space sector with the concept of reusable rockets. Before SpaceX, rocket launches were conducted with one time launches that resulted in the boosters falling back to Earth. The costs of building these rockets made long term prospects of space exploration an unattainable adventure. However, with the brilliant idea of reusable rockets drives down the costs of production and could save millions of dollars for governments, and private companies, alike in launching equipment into space. The most recent success of SpaceX was showcased this past week with the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, with a payload of a Roadster car that is currently flying amongst the stars.

The success of SpaceX is not the only notable space company seeking to make its name in rocket design. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has also created a rocket company to rival SpaceX.  The company, Blue Origin, also uses the idea of reusable rocketry and offers a competitive alternative to SpaceX. With the New Glenn, Blue Origin could also provide services to resupply the International Space Station and possibly the Deep Space Gateway. However, unlike SpaceX, Blue Origin showcases how they could make low orbit launches a reality for the masses with the New Shepard program. Not only would this unlock the potential to allow thousands of people to experience space but it could be the catalyst for a new era in space tourism.

Finally, companies, like Virgin Orbit, are making a name in rocketry by offering an alternate launch system from an aircraft, rather than a ground-based launch. This innovative launch system could provide organizations, with relatively small satellites, to be able to launch satellites into orbit at a fraction of the cost. In addition to rocket companies, private foundations, like Mars One, are boldly proposing visions to colonize other planets. The concept involves utilizing current systems to send astronauts to Mars; but the catch is that these astronauts would never return to home to Earth. They will serve as the first pioneers to establishing a long-term settlement on Mars. The possibility of living out a life on Mars has not only inspired people around the world but garnered a vigorous response to be a part of their astronaut program.

Mankind is poised to take the next steps toward’s our desire to be explorers. We have sailed the oceans, taken flight with machines, blasted off into orbit, and have sent men to walk on the moon, it is time for us to take the next step in exploration. Our civilization is poised to enter the next phase in our development to build a space program. The desire to explore, and push the boundary of our potential, is a vital part of our genetic make up and is part of what makes us strive for bigger, and bolder, dreams. Let us take that next step, you and I, to making these dreams a reality. I urge you to get involved, read up on the latest space literature, contact your elected representatives to push for continued investments in NASA, and get involved with space foundations, like the Planetary Society. One day, our descendants will look back and mark this as the moment when mankind decided to dare the unthinkable and build a home throughout the cosmos.

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