The biggest barrier to future space exploration is in our heads


With enough time, the technological challenges of sending humans to Mars and beyond are solvable. But psychologically, we’re not ready to leave our home.

In 1945 British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke—now best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey—correctly predicted the invention of satellites, the first of which launched into space in 1958. Then in 1963, Clarke predicted that a man would land on the moon and safely return to Earth sometime around the year 1970—which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did in the summer of 1969. In 1973, Clarke predicted a future where humans would be able to monitor outer-space threats such as asteroids and other near-earth objects—NASA established its Near-Earth Object Observations Program in 1998.

Much of what Clarke suggested about our future in outer space, however, has slipped further and further behind schedule in recent years. For example, he predicted commercial space flights by the year 2011 and a manned mission to Mars by 2021. He also spoke of a manned mission to Jupiter by 2099, which experts say looks pretty unlikely at this point.

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