What Are The Next Giant Leaps In Space?

Photo courtesy of Cyril Rana via Flickr

Historic moments in space come once in a blue moon, though literally they occur less often.

Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969. In July of 2015, the US accomplished another historic first: arriving at Pluto, the furthest celestial body in the solar system to be visited by spacecraft.

New Horizon’s Pluto flyby marks 50 years of planetary exploration by NASA and the United States.

So, what comes next? It’s been 46 years to the day since we walked on the moon, and 50 since NASA’s interstellar origin. But though mankind’s small steps are aplenty, giant leaps are few and far between.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t historic firsts in the works — whether or not it’s the US government doing the moonwalking. Here are 5 accomplishments that would make history, if the plans and funding pan out.

1. Men and women on Mars

It seems like many players have their eyes on the prize when it comes to sending humans to Mars. A private flyby Inspiration Mars will happen in 2018; Mars One plans to begin its colonizations stunt by 2023; NASA hopes to send men to Mars in the 2030s.

2. Building on the Moon

No human has graced the moon since 1972, let alone built it. NASA has proposed manned missions by the 2020s, while Russia and China have similar ambitions.

But what would be a fresher first? Building on the moon. Director of the ESA (European Space Agency) Johann-Dietrich Woerner wants to build a multinational settlement on the far side of the moon, while Japan wants begin constructing a solar belt across its entirety by 2035.

3. Venetian cloud float

NASA scientists have proposed sending humans to Venus. Not it’s surface, obviously — that would be instant death — but the clouds. Experts say the atmosphere would be more hospitable than Mars for human life, plus, limited fuel would be required: the right spacecraft could simply float.

4. Planetary Waters

[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”4zqVkVeerqd0BrB4hAfjQc8CX78BF4ch”]Celestial bodies have more to be explored than surface and skies; some have seas of ice or liquid, especially moons.

Jupiter’s moons in particular are a subject of interest. Individuals from NASA and the European Planetary Science Congress have proposed sending actual boats to the seas of Titan, which experiences weather similar to Earth’s.

NASA also has designed a “cryobot” called Valkyrie which could power through miles of ice on Europa to reach warmer waters beneath, which could host alien life.

5. Interstellar Travel

Lastly, it may seem farfetched, but today’s youngsters could live to see a manned trip to another star in their lifetime. The 100 Year Starship is a joint venture between NASA and DARPA that aims to create a framework that will allow interstellar travel in the next hundred years.

Now that would be a giant leap for mankind — it could be one that determines its survival. But hey, Pluto is a pretty good start.

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Jennifer Markert