Future of Space Technology
April 1, 2021
Cassini-Huygens Mission
April 1, 2021

My thoughts on past inventions, space race and future of space technology

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Throughout history, we have been fascinated by space. From the Babylonian astronomers to the ancient Inca and Aztecs of early astronomical observatories, to the launch of Sputnik 1 and the Moon landing, through today’s private space exploration, the journey to space has been long since the beginning. The ancients made some jaw-dropping discoveries without modern technology.

Thousands of years that humans have endeavored to understand the universe, the pioneering works of ancients of Greece, Rome, and China; the great astronomical discoveries of thinkers like Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler; the technological and mechanical breakthroughs.

Galileo pioneered telescopes for observing the night sky. His discoveries undermined traditional ideas and opened a new door. The big space missions of the past and the present have enabled us to start knowing about the unknown empty space.

The origin of the Space Race can be traced to Germany, beginning in the 1930s and continuing during World War II when Nazis researched and built ballistic missiles capable of sub-orbital spaceflight. It turned out as a 20th-century competition between two Cold War foes, the Soviet Union and the United States leading to revolutionary efforts to launch artificial satellites, space probes, and human spaceflight.

The competition began in early 1955 when the Soviet Union responded to the US to launch artificial satellites, by declaring they would also launch a satellite. They achieved the first success on October 4, 1957, orbiting Sputnik 1. From the 60s they concentrated efforts on satellites orbiting around the Earth, of the Vostok series. On 12 April 1961 the first astronaut, Yuri Alexievic Gagarin orbits the Earth. The Vostok series continued. On 16 June 1963, Vostok 6 was the first to carry a woman on board: Valentina Tereshkova. For America, it was a huge blow. As a chain to this, starting from 1 October 1958, the Americans created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that continued up to Apollo 11, Commander Neil Armstrong on board, with two other pilots. On July 21, Armstrong first set foot on the surface of the moon, and uttered, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

The Space Race has left a technology legacy of increased space-related development. But the Space exploration today is different from the US-USSR space race of the 1960s. Back then it was a battle of capitalism vs. communism of the USSR to send the first satellite and human into space; for the US to eventually send the first human to the Moon. Today the conversation is more centered on economic opportunities. It isn’t between a couple of countries but among several players, particularly the fast-growing economies of China, India, and Japan. The Chinese space agency is growing fast and is on its way to catch up to the United States and Russia in terms of space capability. By the launch of the Bangabandhu-1 satellite, after a SpaceX rocket carried the Bangabandhu-1 satellite across Florida’s sky on May 11, Bangladesh became the fourth South Asian nation with its own satellite.

 With the increasing population and climate changes, we are having a vision for establishing settlement and utilizing resources in outer space. Those in favor of space colonization agree with it is a means of ensuring the survival of human civilization given a planetary disaster. In order to support life, the candidate planet should be positioned within the habitable zone, i.e. an area around a star where the temperature allows the existence of water in the liquid state.

The next few decades in space are slated to look very different. For the falling costs, new technologies, and other nations entering the landscape, the pace of advancement is going to rise dramatically. There is also a whole generation of entrepreneurs and companies that have come about such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin that are promising to provide new tourism and advancements. Over the long term, it may include mineral exploitation and mass transportation to space travelers, to and from the moon, Mars, and beyond. Maybe 50 or a hundred years later, Mars could be home to million people.

NASA is looking forward to sending humans to the moon by sometime near 2024. In 2022, China aims to build its own space station that will also be the holding point for the Deep Space Transport vehicle, designed to take humans to and from Mars.  

Our future of exploration will potentially involve expeditions and settlements on the other planets and their moons as well as establishing mining and fueling outposts. Physical exploration outside the solar system will be robotic for the foreseeable future.  Leveraging these resources and moving high-polluting industries to space could reduce the emissions on earth and ultimately lead to finding cleaner energy sources. We will use autonomous technologies to perform beyond predetermined actions. Such technologies can reduce launch costs and ground involvement with an increase in performance. 

Hibernation research is still in its infancy but scientists believe that hibernation will be possible in near future. The coming future of space is assumed to be mostly based on AI and bots. 

Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are expected to fly passengers on suborbital excursions offering both the thrill of weightlessness and an unparalleled view of the earth from near heaven above. The space tourism industry is going to be a huge part of the economy.

While we are dealing with all these possibilities in the coming future, it also accompanies obstacles. Living in orbit around earth exposes humans to ten times more radiation than humans living on earth. The safety of space crews and vehicles is also a concern. We have polluted and are polluting our mother earth; in near future, outer space is also going to be a part of our debris.

Mankind has proved that nothing is impossible to achieve that we plan for. There will come a time when we are going to spend our summer vacation on the moon or some more interesting places in space, the hikers will likely be hiking in Saturn belt and so on, like now we get to watch in a science fiction movie.

Written By:

Jannatul Noboni

Feni Girls Cadet College

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