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Beyond flags and footprints: the next 50 years of space exploration

The first panel of WCSJ2019 brings together experts on space travel to discuss what the next fifty years hold for humanity’s endeavour to conquer the stars.

“Sustainability” That’s the word that the attendees at the first panel of the WCSJ2019 heard more than any other during that — all too brief — session, held on the morning of Tuesday 2 July in the SwissTech Convention Center.

The speakers — Thomas Zurbuchen, Anatoly Petrukovich, Wu Ji, David Parker and Lori Garver, corralled by the moderator Sarah Cruddas — were clear: the future of space exploration is about more than sending humans into space. It’s about keeping us there. It’s about building infrastructure.

Humanity should be looking, agree the panel, not just to visit the moon, Mars and beyond, but to find a way to live and work there. Perhaps the first challenge that needs to be overcome in order to attain these goals on the moon   is the fact that operations can only be carried out half of a day.

As the moon falls into complete darkness, human endeavours have to cease. Vehicles and machinery that rely on solar power can’t operate full days without significant improvements to battery efficiency, for example.

Steps towards overcoming this challenge will be taken by the Chandrayaan-2 mission this month (July). That project will journey to the far side of the moon and will provide practical information about how operations can be conducted with little solar power.

It’s Sarah Cruddas’ words that resonate with me the most as I leave this first session; when it comes to this next era of space exploration: “It’s about more than footprints and flags”.

Opinions expressed in the blog posts are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of WCSJ2019

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