Technology Drives Exploration: America's Sustained Presence on the...

Technology Drives Exploration: America's Sustained Presence on the Moon and Beyond

Douglas Terrier, Chief Technologist, NASA

Douglas Terrier, Chief Technologist, NASA

President Donald Trump has directed NASA to land American astronauts on the Moon’s South Pole within the next five years. NASA will meet this challenge. We will move forward to the Moon, this time to stay. What we learn from living on the Moon we will then use to send American’s to Mars. The Moon lights the way to Mars.

To help accomplish this bold vision for exploration, NASA will need to engage commercial partners from all aspects of our new, high-tech economy. Building on our successes in low-Earth orbit, we are combining the expertise of the NASA workforce with our commercial and international partners to develop the exploration capabilities needed for our sustainable presence on the Moon, starting in 2024.

NASA will take full advantage of the extraordinary intellectual capital of America’s technology workforce – everyone from open source coders and systems engineers making better technologies for machine operations, to the cybersecurity experts who will ensure systems that humans depend upon will be safe and secure during our exploration of the cosmos.

NASA technologies advance capabilities for space exploration, promote America’s global leadership in innovation and transform the world around us. But these technologies are only as successful as the people behind them, the people who have the creativity and vision to picture what cyber-technologies will be needed as humans venture out and become a multi-planet species. 

The future of artificial intelligence and automation, combined with digital transformation and how humans live and work with intelligent systems and machines, will enable America’s lunar outpost and our eventual habitation of Mars. Indeed, our sustained presence on the Moon will require robust machines and systems that can assure that we arrive, survive, thrive and return safely to our home planet.

There’s more, however, to the new space economy than NASA’s lunar plans. The high frontier represents an opportunity for economic boom – an extraordinary new market domain that may bring profound economic success to our economy, right here on Earth.

"The future of artificial intelligence and automation, combined with digital transformation and how humans live and work with intelligent systems and machines, will enable America’s lunar outpost and our eventual habitation of Mars"

The economic argument for space exploration is proven. Every dollar spent on space is actually spent right here on Earth. The revenues space exploration offers to businesses in technology fields, including cybertechnology and IT, is already in the billions of dollars.

The space domain is now a very real marketplace. Just as the “ocean domain” and “air domain” of the world represented economic marketplaces of prosperity in the 19th and 20th century, so the space domain offers in the 21st century.

The economic benefits of space capabilities and services have become indispensable in modern society. Including revenue from private industry and expenditures from government budgets, the global space economy was $348B in 2017. That figure is expected to exceed $1 trillion within the next decade.

Just as early aviation investments seeded a multi-trillion dollar market today, it’s expected that the business of space will follow along those same lines, offering business and economic prosperity, in addition to American leadership in the high frontier.

This developing marketplace holds great opportunity for those who have the creativity to think big – as big as the universe.

In addition to supporting the high tech jobs that will enable our return to and sustainable presence on the Moon, the adventure of space offers inspiration to those who wish to contribute to a truly great human endeavor. Exploration of the solar system allows us to discover the secrets of the universe and inspire the next generation of explorers to boldly go farther than ever before.

President Trump has issued a number of space policy directives to the government. The first one states “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system.”

To create this sustainable program of exploration, NASA and the nation will rely on industry, especially information systems and information technology professionals, to come up with tools we need to accomplish this mission. We’re counting on technologists from all fields to step up and help lead this charge.

Our challenges are great. We’re relying on experts in industry and academia to help us revolutionize nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and machine learning, autonomous systems, synthetic biology, and quantum sciences to provide the new knowledge and capabilities needed to accomplish our goals.

Our science, technology, and human exploration activities touch every aspect of our lives here on Earth. America will continue to lead the world in exploration with commercial, international and academic partners playing a critical role as we seek to bring new knowledge and opportunities back to Earth. To do so, we will need your help. Please join us, as together we shape the future of exploration. 

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