Field of Science

Visions of space flight

We won't be getting out of the hood anytime soon.

It's the planetary neighborhood I am talking about here. The stars may beckon but it's an interplanetary, rather than interstellar culture that we will likely inhabit for hundreds if not thousands of years in the future. Baring the miracle of a "warp drive," the stars are simply too far away in space and time (via the theory of relativity) for a true interstellar culture to develop. The solar system with its 8 planets, 166 moons and countless asteroids and comets is likely to be our home -- our only home -- for a long, long time.

We should consider the implications of these limitations on coherent human cultures in space because today the president unveils his new plans for NASA.

The Obama administration made headlines recently when it reversed direction on NASA's Bush-era push to return to the Moon. The new plan turns to hungry young private space ventures to give us access to Near Earth Orbit. Stepping back on any present space mission the plan calls for development of the next generation of space technologies for the next generation of space exploration. But critics fault the Obama plan for its lack of any clear goals for these new technologies. Without a bold choice of destination -- Mars is the obvious choice) -- critics say the human space program will simply drift.
more by Adam Frank here. Also President Obama will announce plans for the future of Nasa at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today.
NASA Ares res I-X rocket