As a society, we don’t always give adequate attention to long-term issues. That’s to be widely expected; we can’t always allocate resources now to problems that won’t affect us for many years to come. However, it is still important that we do as much as we can to prepare for these eventualities. It is for this reason that it’s so refreshing to hear that UConn researchers will be working with a number of other universities to design deep-space habitats.
The project in question is part of the new Space Technology Research Institute (STRI). STRI is aiming to meet NASA’s goal of creating a sustainable human presence on the moon and other celestial bodies. The UConn team is specifically working to design and operate deep-space habitats that can meet challenges from both expected and unexpected disruptions. The mission hopes to eventually create a prototype of an autonomous habitat that is capable of functioning with and without the presence of a human crew.
There are multiple reasons why this is such an important project. Space exploration and human habitation on other planets is no longer just science fiction. We cannot afford for them to be so, because they are necessary for the survival of humanity. We have a finite number of resources on Earth, and growing concerns regarding overpopulation and climate change threaten its habitability. While there may be ways to stave off the devastation of our planet, colonizing other worlds is one of the best alternatives available. We’re not at the breaking point yet, but it’s conceivable we could be in the next 100 to 200 years.
If this is the case, it is imperative we have a strategy in place to combat this as well as the technology available to implement this strategy. Waiting until it’s too late to solve such a problem is not an option. We are currently seeing the reality of this with climate change; we are so far along that many proposals to rectify it appear drastic. What STRI and the team at UConn are helping to accomplish is getting a head start. Not only will they be developing solutions to this problem, but this project will also impress upon a number of young engineers the importance of space habitation. Sometimes, the most important step in combating a dilemma is simply ensuring people are informed about it in the first place.