Big Questions, Complex Answers

Rich sources of innovation and engineering in different domains and industries, such as deep sea exploration, genetic engineering, etc., might open valuable R&D avenues for space.

Sally K. Ride handprints (memorial) at American Space Museum in Titusville, FL. September 2022.
“Honoring Sally’s trail for the Artemis generation” by Monica Hernandez. September 2022.

Information overload makes it difficult to assess the extent of our civilization’s progress to becoming multiplanetary. In fact, with an abundance of news, taking a step back is valuable, especially as we’re speeding up. There have been significant trends in my space writing in 2022 for MONI-07B and across the Internet. The first trend recognizes the efforts pushing the technological frontiers in space science and engineering relating to but not limited to, rocket propulsion, quantum sensors, autonomous technologies, software interoperability, and novel CubeSats, among many others. In addition, I make a special effort to seek new stakeholders and players in the industry that are innovating on the sidelines of all the major buzz, such as in Latin America and India. For example, Hacker Noon, a popular news site for millions of technologists worldwide, nominated me for the Contributor of the Year Award – India for my in-depth coverage. The second trend in my writing examines practical voids for our sustainability in space, especially relating to the human dimensions and implications of long-term space travel.

A retrospective analysis provides rich insights about how we’re doing and what’s coming ahead — essentially, the proverbial looking back to move forward. Since we often get drowned with details, here’s the recap of some of the 2022 highlights:

Space propulsion

Reliable transportation for space’s exorbitant distances is currently the Achilles heel of our civilization. Chemical and small-scale electric propulsion have achieved significant advances, with the frequency of rocket launches increasing weekly and carrying payloads of important new experiments. But large-scale advanced in-space propulsion systems require a robust pipeline of R&D, which is not being met at the same speed. Some countries are already forming alliances for experimental demonstrations.

Space robotics

Machine autonomy and robotics are essential for space missions. Startups and small-to-medium-sized businesses in Mexico and Poland are stepping up their service portfolio in robotics and machine autonomy for LEO, Lunar, and deep space missions. Likewise, robotics will increasingly play a critical role in managing space debris.

Quantum Applications

The laws of quantum mechanics —physics at the tiniest of scales—- are being used to fabricate breakthrough technologies and devices, such as atomic clocks and quantum sensors, with far-reaching applications because they can process information about gravitational waves and exotic matter at exquisite sensitivities. The field of quantum information science and technology is still very nascent and fast-evolving, so there are more exciting developments to come, especially relating to material sciences, chemistry, and quantum computing and their implications for space research and exploration.

Space issues

Sustainability in space will be determined by the research that advances our knowledge about health, wellness, and sexual reproduction. These broad issues don’t have easy answers, but it’s essential to keep asking the fundamental questions.  

Space economy

The workforce needed to realize the space industry’s gains and harness the growing global space economy remains a critical challenge. Young generations will need to be prepared for the jobs required in space, which we still don’t know about, but career and educational opportunities need to be increasingly available worldwide. The greater attention to the space economy, the greater the likelihood young students will consider space exploration and associated industries as their specialization.

Space history

Science fiction and artistic works are critical exploratory thinker’s labs for scientists, engineers, futurists, and visionaries. Significant developments in the history of space science and engineering can be traced to fundamental ideas articulated through artistic mediums.

Space startups

Startups and small to medium-sized business-led innovations across the globe share a delicate balancing act between bootstrapping and external funding. Space missions remain very expensive, so many impressive ideas and sound research often never see the limelight in a cluttered landscape and financial vacuum.

Overlooking the Indian River, Titusville, FL. July 2022.
“Farewell to 2022 from the Space Coast’s Indian River Lagoon” by Monica Hernandez. July 2022. ‌ ‌

Farewell to 2022 and looking ahead

As 2022 ends, I want to continue looking for advances in research and development in space propulsion, robotics, and adaptability to space environments. Advanced in-space rocket propulsion is one of the many variables needed to become a sustainable spacefaring civilization beyond Earth’s orbit. Rich sources of innovation and engineering in different domains and industries, such as deep sea exploration, genetic engineering, etc., might open valuable R&D avenues for space.