SpaceX is expected to make history tonight with the first all-civilian crew launched into orbit.
Mason Peck is a professor of astronautical engineering at Cornell University and previously served as NASA Chief Technologist. Peck says the future of sustainable space exploration is upon us.
“Civilians in space will become the norm, and this is the first step toward that inevitable future. NASA has established a firm foundation for us and will continue to tackle new challenges, but it is ultimately commercial practices that will take us to space affordably and sustainably.
“We’ve come full circle. Many of us remember the tragic events of January 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch, killing all seven astronauts on board. It was a time when we thought a self-sustaining, commercial-space future was just around the corner. Now, more than 35 years later, we’ve passed that baton to the all-civilian crew of today’s SpaceX launch. And that future of sustainable space exploration is upon us.
“As we get better at bringing people and hardware to space safely, and doing so more frequently, we’ll see more science, new commerce, better national security. This launch doesn’t represent 'either/or' -- not scientific discovery vs. human exploration. Instead, it’s the rising tide that lifts all boats. I don’t expect science will run aground but will also benefit in unexpected ways.”