The first humans who will step on Mars are walking the Earth today.
Our national ambition put astronauts on the moon, cured diseases that were once thought incurable, and revolutionized our society and economy. But that was in the last century. We are in the second decade of the twenty-first century, and we have a lot more work to do.
For the first time since the Apollo Moon landings, NASA will be sending humans beyond Earth’s orbit. Our journey to Mars is already underway.
To carry out this journey, it will require a great deal of effort, patience, and investment.
How does this impact lawyers in the twenty-first century? The technology that is being developed to get astronauts and rovers to Mars will have an impact on industries in the United States and around the world. Some of us may be drafting the legislation that will govern new industries. Others may be litigating against the emerging industries. International agreements between spacefaring nations may increase. And the commercialization of space flight and exploration can have all sorts of legal implications.
Our nation’s Journey to Mars isn’t some distant dream for another generation, it is our generation’s journey. For the first time, in most of our lifetimes, humanity will be taking another major leap. This journey is already improving the human condition right here on Earth. And I’d imagine that the best is yet to come.
From improved 3-D navigation to new weather forecasting technology, the leaps being made in preparation for our journey to Mars continues to make significant contributions to human activities on Earth. We’re growing food in space (space salad!) and advancing our botany skills, learning more about how to slow the growth of cancer cells, how to prevent significant muscle deterioration, and creating new fabrics that are bullet-proof and even self-repairing.
The recent discovery of signs of flowing water on Mars is promising, and considering we only have a small percentage of the surface mapped out via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the possibilities can be amazing.
We are a nation that values scientific truth – even when it upsets the orthodoxy. Our society continues to evolve enabling tremendous leaps in human thought and innovation. I’ll end with this adage:
Progress doesn’t come overnight.
Long before we achieve our dream,
we’ll have to make the decision to start the journey.
We’ll take a step.
Each day our journey will bring us closer to our dream.
It will be difficult.
But we must carry on.
And one day, we’ll be there.
If you enjoy learning more about space travel, consider seeing the movie “The Martian”.
This summer, I had the privilege of working as a law clerk at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. This experience was transformative to me as a law student and a person, and I want to share some of it with you. This is the second of a series of posts on my summer at NASA and a lawyer’s role in enabling innovation.