We are living in an unprecedented era of development in science and technology, and the expansion of our society beyond this planet is within reach. Human settlement of the Moon and Mars in the coming decades is increasingly realistic.
At the same time, the industry required for this development is having an impact on our planet’s climate, and unprecedented and extreme weather conditions are predicted to increase. The future survival of humanity, whether living off-world or battling the elements on Earth, will depend on technology. But most importantly, survival will depend on society itself, and how successful communities are at working together in extreme and resource-constrained environments.
There are range of current activities by the world’s leading space agencies towards achieving human settlement of the Moon and Mars in the coming decades. In 2019 alone: SpaceX and the US have plans to launch crew from the US to the International Space Station and beyond for the first time in a decade; China landed on the far side of the Moon demonstrating crop growth among other investigative activities; Japan extracted samples from an asteroid- a milestone towards space mining; the UAE announced plans to build a large-scale Mars Science City in the Emirati desert towards their goal of a city on Mars in 2117, and Israel’s Beresheet became the first privately-funded mission to (crash) land on the Moon.
We are in the midst of the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution, characterised by emerging technology breakthroughs in a range of fields. Space exploration has played a fundamental role in many of these. Studies show how the inspirational power of the Apollo era led to the commercialisation of the personal computer, the mobile phone and the internet late last century, particularly in the US. On a practical level, the ground-based and remote exploration of space has led to massive progress in robotics, nanotechnology, automation, artificial intelligence, computing and big data. Developments in space exploration including human settlement of the Moon and Mars in the coming decades promise to further revolutionise our capabilities.
On the other hand, the developments in science and technology and associated industry that have enabled the modern world are having an impact on our planet’s climate, already resulting in unpredictable and extreme weather events. Global warming coupled with rapid urbanisation and continued population growth means that providing access to clean air and water, nutritious food as well as power, connectivity and services for all people on Earth is one of the biggest challenges we have ever faced.
During and beyond Industry 4.0, space will play an increasingly important role in the global economy, and development of the necessary technology and human skills capacity will determine the extent to which public and private players are able to participate competitively. Youth in so-called developing countries aspiring towards careers in space do not typically have access to a thriving space industry nor to any astronaut training program. A challenge in such regions is balancing investment in cutting edge industries like space, while simultaneously uplifting communities and encouraging a rapidly growing population of youth to study STEAM.
Towards off-world settlement as well as sustainability on Earth, we plan to demonstrate successful community living in some of the harshest environments on our planet. The Off-World Tech Hub and associated experiments will promote companies developing technology for sustainability, facilitate skills development, boost research, innovation and technology towards off-grid functionality, as well as provide a vision for young people of achieving successful communities in extreme and resource-constrained environments through grit, imagination, science and technology towards a #ProudlyHuman future, whatever planet we are on. Off-World is an initiative of Proudly Human.