In the after-glow of holiday magic, we are reminded of our power - and responsibility - to create magic in the world. Suspending disbelief, we stretch our imaginations and, at least for a time, expand our view of what is possible.
Recently, my colleagues and I answered an invitation to consider how to expand our collective view of what is possible in the field of commercial space. In responding to DARPA’s One Hundred Year StarShip, we responded to a call to create an organization designed to spawn a century of innovation. What a refreshing request! In a time when short-term thinking rules even as long-term needs abound, being invited to structurally generate innovation over three to four generations is exciting in itself. What could be achieved in 100 years of commercial space innovation? Indeed, what could be achieved in 100 years of innovation in any field we set our focused collaborative attention to?
Commercial Space may not be the first field which comes to mind in a sustainability context. Yet, the marriage of business and space travel has the potential to re-generate our collective excitement in the sciences (biology, physics, chemistry and more), and to re-inspire business to take on both difficult challenges and accountable risk. Meanwhile, advanced earth observation systems will extend the information and motivation needed to creatively sustain the earth. Best of all, long-distance space travel and long-term space habitation will challenge and inform our understanding of living systems, and of life itself. Food, water, oxygen and even waste will stand out as the precious and regenerative elements that they are, and new systems for managing them creatively will emerge. Self-sustaining energy sources will be required to power these systems. Additionally, extended life in space will require new and conscious spaces to be created for human interaction - work, play, expression, contemplation, entertainment and relationship. Where nothing can be taken for granted, active practices of presence and vitality-creation will rule, and re-inspire these aspects of life on earth.
The innovation which is to come will invite record numbers to make space travel, space-informed research and space-life a part of their lives. Along the way, they will be personally enabled to behold, understand, imitate and revere the wonder that is Earth.