When the very first frontiersmen began exploring the new territories of the United States, it didn't take them long to realize the abundance and opportunity in front of them. Of course, with great opportunity comes great responsibility and danger. The sheer effort it took for someone like Daniel Boone just to stay alive is almost unbelievable. And even if we don't all agree on how this happened, we can agree that men like Daniel Boone changed the course of history for humans, forever.
Fast forward to today. The new frontiersmen and women will be going into outer space, to risk everything, to explore these new lands, and forever change the future, and life as we know it. We are enamored each time Elon Musk does something nobody has been able to achieve yet, because space is fascinating, and we are hungry to see what the future holds. But SpaceX isn't the only player in the game, so let's look at a different approach to the space game.
Conquering Space or Saving Earth?
Much of what we hear about space now is about venturing to Mars, 3d printing pizza in space, and how we might conquer the final frontier. Which is why I loved the perspective from David Goldsmith at nonprofit Project Moon Hut, as they try to identify ways to save Earth, from space.
Project Moon Hut is a collaborative effort with NASA to achieve sustainable life (as compared to self-sustaining life) on the Moon through the accelerated development of a space based economy. It is the marriage of humankind's desire to "reach for the stars" and its practical aim to improve life on Earth through space exploration and development.
Shifting Our Localized Thinking for Innovation
While we are here on Earth, we are looking outward, eyes to the sky, trying to figure out our place in the opportunity of these new, unexplored lands just out of sight. But, what if we stood on those lands, lovingly look back at our own home, to solve the manmade problems of our century, and to save this amazing planet? Goldsmith gave an example of a businessman in India who was attempting to solve the issue of water on Mars, when India is currently suffering from a water crisis with 63 million citizens without access to clean water. Entrepreneurs, especially those with billionaire means, are quick to create food sources or water options for outer space, but what if we flipped the lens and took our social impact seriously? What if we used our access to space innovation to save Earth?
Space Can Change the Way We Think
When I watch a video from space, I squint and lean closer to get the absolute best view of our planet from afar. The experience, even from a video or VR, is captivating. Imagine the effect this might have from space. Imagine how differently you might think if, once in space, you realized the limitedness of our resources, the similarities in the land masses, and the need for truly sustainable products and business options. Imagine how you might design differently when all preconceived notions are off the table. Imagine how you might approach your supplies, manufacturing, and the recyclability of anything you create, if you could see Earth as a whole, rather than from the one piece you are standing on right now.
A Truly Socially Conscious Business is Bull, Sometimes
Over the last decade, social impact has taken the center stage in business, product design, and entrepreneurship. With socially conscious brands like Tom's Shoes, Aketta, and Puritii, we see that, on a whole level, our priorities and values are shifting. But, even with the rise in awareness, businesses hoping to conquer space are forgetting a massive piece of the puzzle, Earth. Even if millions of people go to Mars, as Musk hopes, or easy colonization, as Branson dreams, what about the billions left behind?
Being socially conscious means maintaining the ability to understand what best serves the whole. To do this, we, as engineers and designers; entrepreneurs and inventors, need to shift from this global mindset to a universal mindset. The future truly is now, so how will we build it?