Since the space industry’s inception over 50 years ago, government agencies across the globe have funded and managed space exploration. Government resources enabled industry access to the professionals in the field like engineers, scientists, and astronauts, but access was limited for most citizens. Only in the past few years have private companies like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX focused on making space accessible for those who have the resources to pay.
More recently, however, space exploration has started to consider the inclusion of everyday citizens as a vital part of the exploratory process. Countries across the globe including the United States, Russia, Japan, India, and the United Arab Emirates seek to broaden the conversation and include more voices that speak for citizens and future generations at the state level and beyond. This approach is more likely to ensure that the populace both understands space exploration’s aims, but also feels like they are participating in shaping its future.
Inviting and Uniting New Disciplines into the Sector
Everyone benefits from space innovations and we can pull from the full-rounded mindset of diverse individuals to ensure we have the best possible skills and tools needed in space. It’s a pivotal time to make improved strategies and innovations to protect our species from catastrophes or slow-occurring changes on Earth. To ensure our society endures, we will ultimately have to develop society into a spacefaring one.
A few programs are utilizing the power of experimentation and diverse thought through multidisciplinary communities together to develop better space projects. The University of Michigan Space Institute’s purpose is to do just that and facilitate entirely new types of collaborations that might not have otherwise emerged organically within scholarly communities. Together, they are tackling projects like building the space workforce, tracking and reducing space junk and health in space.
Other projects like MIT’s Space Exploration Initiative combines artists, scientists, and engineers to “co-create a human and robotic lived experience of space.” The idea behind it is that it creates a community of experts, including students and staff, across scales and disciplines to democratize teams and build profound experiences beyond Earth. While most labs focus on engineering or scientific challenges, this lab is unique in prototyping and testing proactive and futuristic projects that help everyone.
The Design of Space Tools, Products and Experiences for Everyone
Space technologies have offered humans on Earth opportunities for better lives. From satellites that offer us high-speed connectivity to improving healthcare devices, the design of space tools and products have trickled down into mainstream society. Research remains underway to create improved space habitats with innovations like self-assembling space architecture, space food, and space healthcare. MIT’s Space Exploration Initiative is committed to designing space for everyone. Currently, 40+ projects are underway in the Lab and every project they create must show its technology, framing and other learnings could sustain or serve the immediate needs of life on the surface.
Open-Source Projects and Innovations
Real-life and online communities also offer open access projects that solicit submissions and innovations from users across the globe. NASA has created an open-source development project that allows technologists, developers, entrepreneurs, and citizen scientists and many others to collaborate and directly contribute to space exploration. It helps the organization address project and mission needs to speed up software development and harness public awareness and impact of their research.
In the future, people will be able to rent time on the CubeSat constellation, like buying time on a cloud computing cluster and more actively use open science communities for libraries of information and makerspaces, where you can engage with a research portfolio. MIT’s Space Exploration Initiative even offers a STEM outreach program with curriculum and DIY hacker/maker guidelines for climate-sensing CubeSats. Democratizing space brings together hackers and makers together into a more engaging community that should be a cornerstone of all space research. The future of low Earth orbit to the moon will be introduced to everyday citizens through GPS satellites that power our apps space tourism that will allow us to experience the overview effects. Citizens should play a role in creating and influencing these technologies.
Shaping New Narratives on Space Exploration
Together, those in the NewSpace sector have the opportunity to improve widespread participation in space. Democratization is ultimately about creating and contributing to self-sustaining environments and helping ensure a broader voice shapes our future. One institution alone can’t harness all the power on Earth to explore the cosmos deeper; it must be a collaborative effort. In so doing, we ensure that space represents a canvas by which we can imagine an enhanced version of what humanity and civilization can potentially be.