The question posed was "What do you want to see next in space exploration?"
What I want to see next in space exploration is a lunar base/facility. Robotics certainly can do a lot of advance work but mankind’s curiosity is responsible for pushing limits hence manned exploration will continue. Robotics as they exist today cannot perform prolonged operations in the environment of the Moon and asteroids are likely to mirror that environment. I want to see the United States of America retain leadership in manned exploration. I want the benefits from this exploration to be global. My vision for the future of our planet is not one based on corporations futures as depicted in “Alien”, “Blade Runner” and the like but more along the lines of “Babylon 5” and “Star Trek”. We are stuck in old technology of chemically powered rockets to get into the outer space environment. Our anti-radiation technology in outer space is not sufficient to protect human life for extended periods. Our existing and drawing board science is not sufficient to assure us that we can safely land on a low mass asteroid much less mine it. We need a true infrastructure…one that doesn’t require a massive Earth surface launched rocket to take us to the Moon, Mars or beyond. We need to expand on current - and develop new - anti-radiation technology. We need to continue developing and build new space propulsion systems. The Moon would be the perfect platform for developing and refining these technologies. A lunar “base” would be an excellent platform for detection and tracking of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs). A lunar “base” would be an excellent R&D platform to learn how to mine…so let’s work towards mining some Helium-3 before someone else does. Helium-3 should be present in NEOs (inclusive of asteroids) particularly those that share Earth’s orbital characteristics. Why can’t robotics do all the work? There is no evidence on the internet that indicates robotic systems have been developed that can mitigate electrostatic charging and having their integrity impacted by dust. These are two hurdles that must be overcome in the lunar environment…and overcoming them will aid in the development of robotic and manned systems to the asteroids and beyond. Much discussion has been made about using the Lagrangian points L1 and L2 positions. On the surface of the discussions these positions sound great…until you consider their actual distance from the Earth or the Moon. A practical mid-station for an infrastructure would be the mid-point between the Earth and Moon – but would still require a reaction control system to maintain that mid-point.
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