March 20, 2016 at 6:27 am by Frank White
In my view, the Academy in Space Initiative (AISI) should look at all the pertinent questions about space exploration and development that are not be asked---or answered---right now.
Let me provide an example: the Curiosity rover that is now exploring the surface of Mars is an amazing machine. It is allowing us to learn an enormous amount about the red planet without incurring the costs and risks of sending humans there. When we do send humans to Mars, they will know a great deal about it, more than some of the early explorers knew when they began exploring the Earth in the 16th and 17th centuries.
With high-resolution video and, soon, virtual reality, all of us will be able to "explore Mars," mentally at least.
However, did you know that Curiosity is powered by nuclear fuel? Did you hear any debates about that when it was launched? Do you care that we are now placing nuclear waste on other planets in the solar system? Considering all the problems we have with spent nuclear fuel on Earth, does it bother you that we now have the same situation on Mars?
Along the same lines, do you think we should use nuclear-powered spacecraft to explore the solar system? The Russians do, and they are planning to cut travel time to Mars by using nuclear power: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/science/science/180316/russia-plans-mars-nuclear-engine-in-2018.html
My personal opinion on these issues is less important than the fact that they are not being discussed in an open way, in the pro-space community or the wider public arena.
That is the purpose of the Academy in Space Initiative, which will launch at Framingham State University (near Boston) on 4/6/16.
(To be continued)