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Economics and Exploration: More Historical Perspective on the New Age of Exploration

Author: 
Daniel Britt
Topic: 
Human Exploration & Destination Drivers
Delivered As: 
Oral
Abstract Text: 

At the 2015 Exploration Science Forum I spoke about the analogies between our current stage of planetary exploration and the Golden Age of Discovery started by Columbus. What I found is that the age exploration has a number of interesting lessons for our current situation that can provide insight into a range of exploration issues including planetary protection, the development of In-Situ Resource Utilization, and the growth of new launch providers. Feedback on the talk challenged me to look at other eras of exploration including the Asian and Polynesian explorers as well as the pre-historic settlement of new lands by humans. It turns out that non-Western exploration was characterized by similar factors and consequences that we see from the western voyages. This includes major megafaunal extinctions, serious dislocations of existing societies, and the importance of transportation costs. The lessons from these other explorations supplement and reinforce the insights from the Western Golden Age of Exploration. The major points include:
• Externalities (unintended consequences) are VERY IMPORTANT and often very poorly understood.
• Unintended consequences are the RULE, NOT THE EXCEPTION in exploration and new settlement.
• Institutional and legal frameworks are very important.
• Development of local resources (i.e. ISRU) are critical
• Lowering transportation costs are key to widespread and sustained exploration

Co-Authors: 
Jorn Rittweger (DLR, German Space Agency)
SSERVI Identifier: 
NESF2016-015

About SSERVI
Recognizing that science and human exploration are mutually enabling, NASA created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to address basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies. As a virtual institute, SSERVI funds investigators at a broad range of domestic institutions, bringing them together along with international partners via virtual technology to enable new scientific efforts."