The early successes of the Space Age were driven by a fierce superpower rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States, which obscured the fact that exploration and risk-taking is built into human DNA. Half a century after we last set foot on the Moon, space travel is finally leaving the doldrums. A vibrant private sector, led by SpaceX and Blue Origin, plans to launch supplies cheaply into Earth’s orbit and give anyone a joy ride into space. Three billionaires are competing to be kings of the new space frontier. Materials are being developed that could lead to space elevators and transform the economics of space travel. Fighting gravity will always be difficult, but engineers are rethinking rockets and developing new propulsion technologies. Permanent bases on the Moon and Mars are now within reach, and a new space race with China is brewing. Medical advances might allow us to one day reach for the stars. In this talk, astronomy professor Chris Impey will review the history of the space program, give a snapshot of the current situation, and lay out the likely trajectory of the future of space travel. It’s time to envision our future off-Earth.
The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility, by Robert Zubrin
Beyond: Our Future in Space, by Chris Impey
Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days that Launched SpaceX, by Eric Berger
- Will space travel ever be for the masses, or will it only be for the rich and the elite?
- How long will it take, and what will have to happen, for people to be able to travel to the stars?
- How important have superpower rivalries been in propelling the history of space exploration?
- Do humans have a future off-Earth, or are we better off focusing on the home planet?