In place of my usual “Gateway to the Stars” show, this Saturday will feature a special presentation to help celebrate the Clark Planetarium’s 10th anniversary. “Ten Years of Space Exploration” not only looks at the accomplishments of the last decade, but also the dilemmas, challenges, and opportunities of the next ten years!
We’ll examine a fundamental question – what constitutes “space exploration” anyway? Ask that question 10 years ago and most people would probably think of the Space Shuttle. And now that the Shuttle program is officially retired, does that mean we’re not “exploring” anymore? Does that mean NASA isn’t doing anything? Absolutely not!
Some of the most amazing discoveries of the last 10 years have come from robotic pioneers. These space probes have become extensions of our human senses. They are still orbiting Saturn, Mercury, Mars, even asteroids. And they can examine details today we could only dream of at the dawn of the Space Age. We used to think of “explorers” as Captain Cook charting the Pacific Islands or astronauts setting up experiments on the Moon. But the amazing developments in robotics are allowing us to explore places that humans could never go themselves.
Does that mean that human exploration is dying? Not by a long shot. There will always be things that are best experienced first hand, with the real time reactions and analytical skills of an actual person. But now we can send robot emissaries ahead with the senses to see *where* the best uses of astronauts will be.
With these experiences in hand, we’ll take a look at what the next 10 years may bring in terms of both manned and robotic exploration. Come and join in the discussion! Show time is 6:45 pm Saturday, April 6 in the Hansen Dome Theatre. Reception with cookies and drink will follow the presentation in the 3rd floor exhibit area.