The Future of Space Exploration, Page 3

Our Future in Space: The Future of Space Exploration

Martin Tomasko

Cassini is really the last, big, flagship-class mission—there’s infrared spectrometers, there’s infrared cameras, there’s visible cameras, there’s ultraviolet spectrometers, ultraviolet cameras. Whatever part of the spectrum, there’s some physical phenomenon going on inside of the system. Even if you haven’t thought of it in advance, you’ve got everything there you could ask for to measure that phenomenon analytically and to understand it.

The trend now is no more big flagship missions; they’re too expensive. We can’t afford that. So we’re going to have now more focused missions. But if they’re all short and sweet and different, the effect is, you’re going to drive more and more of the groups that do this kind of work out of business.

There’s 300 scientists working on Cassini, and that’s wonderful. But when Cassini comes to an end that’s the last of those missions, and you’d better be interested in Mars, which cheaper to get to, and closer, and we’ve got sort of a continuing program. If you’re interested in the outer solar system, you’re in trouble. 

The fact that it was an international mission meant that it could do things that no single country can do by itself. It was really the best of both worlds. It was scientifically robust, and it was financially robust. It had good reasons for continuing, and it was very sophisticated and could do good science.

The best future for space science would be if the Japanese, the Chinese, the Americans, the Europeans all threw in together and flew joint missions. The joint missions would be really good ones, and everybody would want to keep it going because they’ve got all these international collaborations going.

Dale Cruikshank

The Europeans are doing more and more. There are collaborations with the Europeans in progress and some that are of course planned for the future. There are a lot of people coming into this field. A lot of young women are coming into space science, which is changing the demographics in a favorable way. There is no shortage of really exciting programs and projects and problems to work on. I think it’s an extremely exciting future. We’ve accomplished an immense amount, but we can certainly see the directions to further deepen exploration; more exciting science without end.