Over 48 years ago, astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first human ever to set foot on another celestial body by landing on the moon. That morning, I was able to watch that landing on a small black and white television in my living room. Little did I know that easier access to space would be so possible in my lifetime. Eleven other astronauts have walked on the moon since then, among the growing number of over 500 astronauts that have been to space.
The opportunities for space travel are dramatically changing with the help of entrepreneurs, investors, and strategic companies that are focused on innovations in rocket launches and support systems. Reusability is a major factor in cost reduction, which historically has been a great challenge in securing budgets for space exploration. We are in a new era of commercial space flight opportunities, no longer requiring governments to fund the exploration. The private sector is now fueling access to space and fostering innovation. Space flight is no longer restricted to space professionals, as several space tourists have already flown, as companies are creating lower cost opportunities for the more casual tourist, who is attracted to the quest for human exploration. Companies such as Worldview, Blue Origin, and SpaceX plan to provide tourist access to space within this decade.
The International Space Station, a cooperative working research environment created by 15 countries, allows for experiments to take place in never before possible conditions. Experiments with health and medical technologies, as well as astrobiological experiments, such as with small rodents and insects, all have the potential of addressing diseases on Earth.
Advancements in upmass launch technologies are on the verge of drastically reducing costs in accessing space for entrepreneurs to further develop their businesses. Autonomous systems are being developed to allow for deeper space exploration and for scalabilty and safety. Even terrestrial autonomous vehicles will all be coordinated on Earth through growing satellite constellations.
Connectivity amongst the inhabitants on Earth is greatly enhanced using satellite-based communications, accessible even through our everyday mobile phone. Earth observation of weather and climate change related issues are now collected by constellations of mini, micro and cube satellites. Higher and safer food production through on-orbit survey and assessment is being made possible by new data networks. Space big data is now a market and is creating innovative business models. These are a few of many examples of how access to space will positively impact life on Earth.
Each year, hundreds of technical innovations generated by space programs make their way into our earthly technology such as: better home appliances, advancements in farming equipment, faster communications, more precise maritime and aerospace technologies, safety through dangerous weather warnings, improved medical instruments, and other innovations in everyday life. For example, IBM has a platform that can help farmers improve efficiencies and maximize crop yields. Sensors and drones can collect data across the farm in the fields and give farmers critical information about their crops, livestock, soil, and even their equipment. They can analyze the data on the spot to improve planning, increase yield, and prevent the waste of resources. More in-depth discussions as well as demonstrations by NASA and other industry suppliers of these market-ready technologies and applications will take place at SpaceCom – Space Commerce Conference and Exposition, in November in Houston.
The progress that is made while solving the technical challenges of space is a catalyst for the chain reaction of innovation. While a deep space exploratory mission won’t directly address poverty and hunger on the Earth, that development process will create many spin-offs that might do so, providing a significant return of investment on the efforts. In addition to the need for mankind’s technological advancement, these developments are required if we want to continue to improve human life conditions on our ever-crowding Earth. To help fuel these advancements, Google Cloud for Startups will offer funding of $100,000 in services to a winning startup who is developing innovative technology for and from space initiatives and who will compete in the SpaceCom Entrepreneur Summit Challenge.
Space development and innovation will stimulate the creation of a continuing workforce of diverse young men and women who will develop a career in science. Grand space challenge objectives must be made available, and funding for such efforts must be provided. Budgets allocated for space programs among existing governments and new sovereign nation programs are essential to fuel this aspect of innovation.
Some may consider space programs towards the moon, the sun, the planets, and the stars to be a distraction away from our Earth, but it is becoming clearer that those programs help us discover more about the planet that we live on. The sky is no longer the limit of our knowledge and opportunity.
More insights about the use of Smart technologies and space applications for Earth industries as well as investment opportunities, will be discussed among NASA, aerospace, and commercial industry professionals at SpaceCom 2018 and the Smart Energy and Smart Advanced Manufacturing Conferences, November 27-28, in Houston, TX.
By: Stephan Reckie
Stephan Reckie is the executive director of GEN Space. He is a resilient, pragmatic, energetic, self-motivated, service-oriented, field experienced executive with 20+ successful years of OEM and…About The Author