The International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) is a world-wide committee made up of the many space agencies from Russia and China to NASA and the ESA, Brazil, India, Japan, Italy, France, Canada, Germany, Korea, UK, and the Ukraine,… This meeting brought about the discussion which started with a mention of the many values obtained through space exploration that have then been given to the Earth; innovations that might not have come about had they not been a cross over from the dollars put into researching something either for or from space – from this pint they delved into a long range strategy & goal for space exploration, covering the joint operations with commercial entities, and suggesting that internationally any discoveries were shared to benefit the Earth.
It is helpful here if I provide you with a short history lesson. Back in 1967 there was a space treaty. Plain and simple it stated that if the US (or Russia or China or any country) landed on the moon, when they planted their flag they were not claiming the moon for their country, but for mankind; hence Neil Armstrong’s words – “That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."
In 1979(?) It was realized that there was a loophole in the agreement and the countries who signed the original were asked to sign this new treaty, but China, Russia and the US refused. The loophole was that there was no mention of an entity other than a country going up in space. No Bigelow, DSI, Space Resources, Virgin Galactic and certainly no Elon Musk. Perhaps the US, Russia & China saw that one day commercial companies and the space agencies would be working side by side accomplishing big things.
Now fast forward a bit more to current day. The commercial agencies that NASA has partnered with have requested of NASA that they be allowed to make land claims in exchange for their work in space. Understand that no cash is exchanging hands. These missions and this work is very much for the betterment of mankind, but also understand that each company is investing millions and has to answer to a higher institution, the stock holder. Besides, if no one can claim the land anywhere in space, then it becomes more political than if companies can claim small parcels. Certainly the ISECG is covering all that space exploration encompasses but this is an issue that needs to be addressed as well and soon, to keep motivation alive.
HISTORY LESSON DONE – now back to the ISECG. They have prepared a roadmap showing to move into the galaxy. Starting point of course is the ISS. It is being suggested that the International Space Station is our first step into space. It is an example of international cooperation at its best where experiments for the betterment of mankind are done, robotics to aid in space and at home are tested and communication links are refined, medicine can gain a clearer understanding on how journeying on will affect us, and then in addition to so much more, it is of course an Earth observatory.
This roadmap goes on to show overall, regardless of country, the many robotic missions ongoing. Also shown is the expected year that these precursor missions will end and finally the results shall be reaped.
Next discussed were the common goals and objectives that hold potential for Earth as a whole. Yes listed was developing the infrastructure (knowledge & capabilities) required to live and work in space, but also were things such as enhancing Earth’s safety – providing a planetary defense whether it be from space debris or asteroids. In addition, it is a goal to extend mankind’s domain out into the universe – from its ability to remain at these destinations full-time to the level of self-sufficiency. Discussed was the science that would need to be developed to ensure these goals and how this had been an excellent goal all along as mankind had benefitted with many inventions that came about due to space innovation. And while discussed was the expansion of the commercial companies and development of jobs space would allow, besides stimulating the economy and offering quality of life benefits, a goal remained that has been there since perhaps the beginning of realization that there was a solar system, a galaxy, a universe; the search for intelligent life.
The mission scenario below offers a better understanding as to the partnership not only between different companies but between man and robot. The mission to the moon and also to an asteroid can only prepare all of mankind for a mission to Mars.
What was then arrived at was the following key understandings that would assist in this endeavor; the space agencies will collaborate not only with their commercial partners but with other space agencies. The obvious benefit of building on the ISS and lunar and asteroid missions being providing for a well-planned international mission to mars. Also it was decided that the advancement of human exploration relied somewhat on robotic explorers first which means that robotic missions returning science data should be shared for the advancement of science and to enable work to prepare the way for manned missions. One final thought was offered and that was that agencies should increase efforts and offer a coordinated approach to mitigating the medical risks realized in space to an acceptable level.
While all discussed was not Earth shattering, it was appropriate. If we are to accomplish the lofty goals that many of us are dreaming of, then this will be much more possible if we put aside petty differences and move forward.
And not to jinx anything, but congress needs to understand that if they are going to cut NASAs budget each and every year then they have no say about who NASA works with!