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What Is Next in Space Exploration?

Future Is Here speaker Adam Steltzner is an Engineering Fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and is leading the development of the Sampling System for the Mars2020 project. Here he describes different types of space travel and why staying on Earth might just be our most challenging task of all.


Conversation Club

  1. Did you already know of the rover, named Curiosity, that landed on Mars in August 2012? If so, how did you hear about it? If not, what are your reactions to it now?
  2. Adam Steltzner claims that exploration and “the curiosity that motivates exploration” are fundamentally human traits. What do you think he means? What do you think of this claim?
  3. In his talk, Steltzner shares the statement that Astronaut Neil Armstrong gave when he first stepped onto the surface of the moon in 1969. Steltzner uses this as an example for how exploration by one man can be exploration for all humankind. What do you think of the idea that one person’s advancement can also advance us all collectively? Can you give an example either for, or against, this view?
  4. Steltzner describes challenges that need to be considered when sending humans into space. For instance, to travel to another, distant planet, one challenge would be maintaining a stable crew on the spaceship for a long length of time. Steltzner says he can’t think of a country that has been stable for a thousand years so he is pessimistic about a crew remaining stable for that length of time. What do you think of this view? What do you think it says about the role of civic values?
  5. Steltzner provides a list of risks to our planet’s continued existence, in the context of why humans would even consider establishing a colony beyond Earth. What were some of those risks? Which of these risks do you think is most discussed in popular media, and why do you think that is?
  6. Were there any stories you heard or read growing up that described humans living beyond Earth? What were they?
  7. Steltzner describes a paradox: the skills, care and engineering necessary to make another planet suitable for humans to live there are the same skills, care and engineering needed to keep Earth suitable for humans to live here. What do you think about this idea?
  8. In groups, discuss what part of this video was most surprising or most unexpected. If you were to meet Adam Steltzner what question would you ask him, based on this video?

Video Series

This video exists as part of a series gathered around the theme of Civil Society. Other videos in this series are listed below.

How to Grow a Human Arm in a Lab
How to Grow a Human Arm in a Lab
Saving the Coral Reef One Stitch at a Time
Saving the Coral Reef One Stitch at a Time
Teaching Coding, Empowering Girls
Teaching Coding, Empowering Girls
Space Shuttle Discovery's Biggest Accomplishments
Space Shuttle Discovery's Biggest Accomplishments
The Legal Crusader
The Legal Crusader
Music’s Melting Pot
Music’s Melting Pot
Big Data to Big History
Big Data to Big History
What Is Next in Space Exploration?
What Is Next in Space Exploration?