arbitrarily partitioning funding between robotic and human exploration, a systems study of the appropriate roles of both kinds of efforts should be performed and an optimum ratio between the two determined. Two panelists recalled how effective the combined robotic and human exploration effort had been in the Apollo program.

In discussing the various roles of industry and government in space exploration, several panelists agreed that government’s role is to invest in the high-risk areas—programs that would be impossible to achieve elsewhere—while industry must focus on what can be profitable. Gary Martin suggested that industry’s role was to provide innovation and creativity. One panelist, Donna Shirley, mentioned the emerging role of wealthy individuals as investors in space technology (e.g., participants in the X-PRIZE foundation) and suggested that more private enterprise be brought into the space exploration effort.

Panelists at various times mentioned several technology investments that would be needed to enable space exploration beyond low Earth orbit. This is not an exhaustive or prioritized list nor one developed through a systematic process, but is a set of top-level technologies and issues, as suggested by various panelists, which the government should investigate:

  • Smarter robotics,

  • Launch and vehicle costs,

  • Human factors (survival and effectiveness, unknown effects of long-duration spaceflight, etc.),

  • Nuclear propulsion,

  • Communications, and

  • In-space construction.

The role of the public in deciding the future of space exploration was also a topic of discussion. Several panelists believed that the public should be directly involved in the debate and included in the process. As echoed in the panel discussion on international cooperation, these panelists believed that NASA must improve its credibility before the public (or international partners) will become engaged.


NASA provided an overview of the new space exploration vision and a framework for technology development and systems analysis. Several previous architecture studies for lunar and Mars missions were also presented to the workshop participants. The new vision was described as a means to implement a sustained and systematic exploration of the solar system using an integration of humans and robotics to extend the human presence beyond Earth orbit. The development of technologies, systems, and processes to do this is part of the vision. Both the NASA speaker, Rear Admiral (Ret.) Craig Steidle, and other participants noted that possibly the biggest risk to the vision was the ability to sustain it through several administrations and Congresses.

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