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Human Space Exploration

The Future of Human Space Exploration

Muroyama: What do you think will be the next human space exploration milestone after the ISS?

Neal: With the international collaboration developed through the ISS program and the experience of constructing a building in space, I think the next step will be the establishment of an international lunar base. There is an idea for a manned asteroid mission, but even a near-Earth asteroid is quite far away, so this would be difficult to accomplish. So, in order to minimize risk, we should first aim for a robotic asteroid mission. Considering this, I expect that the next target after the ISS will be the Moon. Leaving human space exploration in low-Earth orbit to the private sector, international power should shift to the establishment of a Moon base, and then aim for Mars from there. In that case, learning the lessons from the ISS program, a solid long-term plan for the next few decades has to be made among the international partners before starting the project. As long as long-term goals and expected outcomes can be clearly explained, I believe that a budget will be granted.

Logsdon: I agree. It is very important to make a long-term plan that also covers applications. In the case of the U.S., too much of the budget was spent on the construction of the ISS, and now there isn’t enough money left to make good use of it. I think that this applies, more or less, to the other participating countries as well. This is a lesson learned with the ISS program, and it can’t be repeated.

Contant: The next time there is an international project like the ISS, I think we also need to take into account the participation of developing nations in space technology. In the last few years, some countries have established space agencies for the first time, and there are now 40 space agencies in the world. At the moment, 16 countries are participating in the ISS program. To further increase participation, I think it is important to make efforts such as holding workshops on each continent, to explain to them about possible investments and returns.

Dupas: In Europe, many nations have gathered to form the European Space Agency (ESA) and plan Europe’s space missions. If such organizations are established in other regions, it may encourage the participation of smaller nations. I am very interested in an international Moon base, too, and would also like to continue working on the next step: a flight from the Moon to Mars.

Shiroyama: Listening to the discussion so far, I feel there are two important criteria for deciding on an international project. The first is to be able to be flexible enough to accommodate new technologies or possibilities, although it is important to make a long-term plan and carry it out step by step. And the second is to speculate about how collaboration with China might go in the future, in the future, and keep it as an option. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union worked independently on space exploration to advance their national pride. But once their dignity was satisfied to a certain extent, momentum to work together began to build. The same thing may happen with China, so I think that it is important to look ahead to such a possible future when planning future international projects.

The Significance of Human Space Exploration

Muroyama: You say that the next goal of human space exploration after the ISS program is to send humans to the Moon and Mars. What are the merits of this endeavor?

Neal: For example, one of the merits of sending people to the Moon will be about natural resources there. Past investigations have revealed that there is a substantial amount of a resource called helium-3, which can be used as fuel for nuclear fusion power generation. If the technology that uses the resource becomes available, great benefits can be expected.

Tsukio: I think a settlement on the Moon would have both positive and negative aspects. A positive aspect is that there would be a good chance to create a new culture or civilization that differs from what we have on Earth now. On the other hand, a downside is that, as the population on the Moon grows, people there may start wanting independence from Earth and plan a war against the people on our planet. I think that we need to think about the colonization of the Moon with the assumption that a totally different society will be created, rather than one based on the same lifestyle as on Earth.

Sasaki: I believe that accomplishments are something that you have to work for, not simply something that’s handed to you. But the problem today is that human space exploration is done exclusively by specialists – engineers and scientists. I think we need to make an effort to involve ordinary people. They may come up with new ideas that the experts would never imagine. I think it’s time to introduce different perspectives and values to human space exploration.


Sasaki: The word ”space” no longer holds the same attraction as before, and human spaceflight is no longer treated as big news. Going to space is becoming commonplace, and therefore, all the more, I hope to see campaigns promoting the idea that, manned or unmanned, space exploration is exciting. I also hope that space exploration will become a project that involves many people.

Inagaki: Human space exploration is the stuff of dreams, and I don’t deny its significance. However, we shouldn’t forget the fact that it requires a very big budget. Unfortunately, Japan’s space industry is not as independent as that of the United States and Europe. On behalf of Japan’s space industry, I would like to say that we need our nation to invest in the industry in order for it to grow and become self-sustainable. To achieve this goal, it is important to work on reaching a public consensus, through symposiums such as this.

Shiroyama: What is the purpose of humans’ going to space? I think the answer is, after all, to expand the scope of human activity. If it is only about obtaining knowledge, probes are sometimes enough. But when it comes to expanding the scope of our activity, there is meaning in human space travel. Probably the question before us today is about how we should assess the expansion of the sphere of human activity, rather than looking at it purely from an economic standpoint.

Tsukio: Most likely, Japan’s current level of economic and technological strength will not allow the country to conduct human space exploration on its own. As for the post-ISS program, my assumption is that Japan will set its goals within the framework of international collaboration. However, even if that’s the case, it will be important for Japan to be proactive and come up with its own original ideas.

Neal: I think that the ultimate goal is a manned Mars mission. In order to reach Mars, however, it is first necessary to go to the Moon and establish a foothold there. Japan has a wonderful technological base, so I think that it would be able to build an international lunar base. I hope that Japan will aim for going to the Moon and lead the world.

Contant: I am with everyone so far. If I could add one more thing, I hope that manned lunar exploration will inspire the younger generation and get them interested in space. I would love to have a big impact on youth, with people reporting about the Moon from its surface. I think Japan has gained enough experience through the ISS program to play a leading role in new international collaborations. I really hope Japan will show leadership in lunar missions, too.

Dupas: At this symposium, it looks like Japan’s roadmap has been set – to implement future human space exploration based on the model of international collaboration developed through the ISS program. So I think the rest is just to do it. I hope that Japan will move on to manned lunar exploration based on the ISS partnership.

Logsdon: On July 16, 1969, I was watching Apollo 11 taking off from the Kennedy Space Center. I’ll never forget the scene. If a rocket is launched for the Moon again in the future, I hope that one of the crew members will be Japanese. What does Japan need to do now? I think that is what Japan has to decide for itself.

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