NASA astronaut explains humanity’s trajectory to Mars | Robert Curbeam

NASA astronaut explains humanity’s trajectory to Mars | Robert Curbeam

An astronaut explains our new era of space travel.

Subscribe to Big Think on YouTube ►
Up Next ► Michio Kaku: The laws of physics doom Planet Earth

The last time humans stepped foot on the Moon was 1972. We plan to go back, but with one huge difference: This time, we plan to stay.

If we establish several permanent outposts on the Moon, we can more deeply explore the secrets of the lunar surface as well as learn how to utilize the Moon’s resources.

This is important because we can’t take everything we need with us when we leave Earth. Learning how to be self-sufficient is crucial for establishing a colony not only on the Moon but also on Mars. 

About Robert Curbeam:
Robert Curbeam is a former astronaut and naval officer, and a graduate of the US Navy Test Pilot School and Topgun. He has flown in space 3 times, logging over 900 hours, 45 of which were spent doing 7 spacewalks to build the ISS. He’s currently SVP of Space Capture at Maxar, where he leads business development for the company’s civil, national security, and commercial space portfolios.

– People want to know:
‘When are we going back to the moon?’
‘When are we gonna go to Mars?’
And I always tell ’em, ‘When we’re ready.’
Humans have been thinking about space travel
in one form or another for a long time.
I mean, you can look back
at Jules Verne way back in the 1800s.
You know, we’ve always been thinking
about traveling off this planet.
Once we started realizing that this was a possibility,
people started seriously considering what kinds
of things we needed to learn how to do to make it happen.
– ‘We choose to go to the Moon in this decade,
and do the other things
not because they are easy, but because they are hard.’
– ‘That’s one small step for man,
one giant leap for mankind.’
– The difference between what we did then and what we plan
on doing this time is we plan on returning to stay.
I’m Robert Curbeam, former astronaut.
I’m currently the senior vice president
for Space Capture for Maxar.
And I just can’t wait
until somebody puts a bootprint on Mars.
I was with NASA for 13 years.
I did three space flights, seven space walks.
I am extremely excited now
about helping other people accomplish things in space,
and more importantly, come back
so that they could tell us what they experienced.
The last time people were on the Moon
was in 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission.
Now, we’re in the Artemis Era-
where we’re going back to the Moon,
and even further to Mars.
And so, we’re gonna actually establish a presence
in lunar orbit with NASA’s Gateway,
the Gateway not only to allow people to visit
the lunar surface,
but also travel further into deep space.
Whenever you’re designing aerospace vehicles,
mass is everything.
It is the most important consideration
in every decision you make.
You’re worried about:
‘How much is it gonna weigh?’
Maxar is building the power
and propulsion element for this space station.
We’ve made it so that it runs off of solar power.
Another project that uses our SEP technology
is our Psyche spacecraft-
and it’s a mission to go investigate
an asteroid that’s well past Mars.
I think solar electric propulsion is gonna be very
very important to the sustainability of our exploration
because it allows us to get there using less propellant.
That means that’s less mass that you have to get
off Earth to push yourself deep into space.
Gateway is gonna be the most powerful solar
electric propulsion vehicle ever built.
I think that there are strong parallels between our age
of space exploration that we’re starting on now,
and all the other great ages of exploration
throughout human history.
There’s a strong curiosity, a desire, to know what’s
over the next hill beyond the next ocean.
Exploring space is no different.
I think that we can learn a lot by looking
at the exploration to find the Northwest Passage.
The Franklin expedition:
they tried to carry everything with them,
then they failed miserably.
But you look at what Roald Amundsen did:
he went there, and he lived off the land.
A lot of what we would now call
‘In-situ Resource Utilization.’
He went there and he actually watched
and observed the people who lived there,
and understood how to survive using the resources
that he had in that environment.
We’re gonna have to do the same thing.
We’re not gonna be able to take everything we need,
if we’re gonna stay forever. We’re gonna have to learn,
to the greatest extent possible, to live off of the land;
become one with that environment.
And once we do that, then we will have succeeded.
When I was younger, my dream was to design a rocket
to put a person on Mars.
That’s what I wanted to do.
And now we’re finally at the point to make that happen.
For all we know, life on Mars may be better
than the existence of humans on Earth.
I look forward to that day where we have
the first human that is not an Earthling.
The first human that is born on another heavenly body.
I feel like we have the technology.
We have the desire to become an interplanetary species.
Deep inside us, the need to explore
and the desire to explore is there.
And so then it’s a question of:
‘Do we have the will?’
‘Are we willing to make the sacrifices,
and take the risks involved with doing it?’
‘Will we do it?’
We don’t know what’s gonna happen
to this planet in the future.
So we have to be ready, when that time comes,
to push out to the next planet.


Leave a Reply