Tom is an active participant
in the current debate over America's future direction in
space. He lectures and writes about his conviction that
the U.S. should move aggressively to ensure U.S. astronaut
access to low Earth orbit, and plan for human exploration beyond
the Space Station once its assembly is complete.
As a member of the NASA Advisory Council since 2006,
Tom contributes his counsel to NASA Administrator Mike Griffin through regular
sessions of that body. Tom supports moving astronauts beyond the Space Station.
The next destination should be--if vital resources are found there--
the Moon. A lunar outpost should be established only if water ice can be tapped near
the lunar poles. An equally attractive destination would be the near Earth asteroids,
especially those that possess surface minerals bearing water (clays). Asteroid
resources are the key to industrializing near-Earth space, and will provide
materials and experience vital to our exploration of Mars.
In 2004, Tom participated in
two studies that laid out possible courses for the U.S.
and its international partners in exploring the solar system.
The first, released in July 2004 by the International Academy
of Astronautics, recommends that after the completion of
the International Space Station, astronauts voyage not only
to the Moon, but to the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point. Investigations
on the Moon and the construction of advanced astronomical
observatories at L2 will address compelling scientific questions
that drive the exploration effort. Developing a capability
to reach these initial destinations will in turn yield the
propulsion, life support, and operations experience required
for visits to the near-Earth asteroids and Mars. The report,
titled "The Next Steps in Exploring Deep Space,"
can be viewed here
at the International Academy of Astronautics' web site.
As a member of the Planetary
Society's Advisory Council, Tom participated in the Society's
study recommending that humans explore the solar system
in three stages. The first phase would complete the International
Space Station and retire the space shuttle in favor of a
new, safer and less expensive spacecraft, NASA's proposed
Crew Exploration Vehicle. Stage Two would send the CEV on
journeys beyond Earth orbit, perhaps to lunar orbit or to
the near-Earth asteroids. Eventually, astronauts would voyage
to Mars orbit to explore the Martian satellites or operate
telerobotic rovers on the surface. Finally, in Stage Three,
humans and their machines would embark on the in-depth surface
exploration of the Moon or Mars, depending on where scientific,
commercial, and international interests direct us. The full
report can be read at the Planetary
Society's web site.
In 2003, Tom served as a panelist
in a workshop sponsored by the Space Studies Board of the
National Academy of Sciences, discussing where the nation
should focus its space exploration efforts. Published in
early 2004, the final report of the Board, "Issues
and Opportunities Regarding the U.S. Space Program"
can be accessed
Based on his extensive experience
in assembly and operations at the International Space Station,
Tom views that outpost as one of the key stepping stones
to the eventual exploration of the Moon and Mars. But the
Moon may not harbor the resources we need to establish ourselves
permanently in space, and Mars is too ambitious a destination
to proceed to without gaining more experience in deep space.
An alternative destination for astronauts is that group
of small, ancient bodies, fragments from the main asteroid
belt, known as Near Earth Asteroids. Read Tom's essay, "Astronauts
to Asteroids", on why these intriguing objects should
be on our "must see" list when we travel beyond
the Space Station and low Earth orbit.
to Asteroids, Why We Explore
Updated Aug. 28, 2008
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