Anticipating Future Opportunities in Space

Emergent behaviors in space, driven by reduced barriers to entry, an influx of private capital and new players, and increasing geopolitical competition, are creating cross-cutting challenges in the space enterprise fundamentally different in nature and complexity than ever before.

The Space Futures Map, aka The Pathfinder’s Guide to the Space Enterprise, illustrates seven core themes in present day and proposed future developments, and the potential scenarios arising between them.

What exactly does it mean to be a futurist? What does the job entail?

My job is to ensure that the space enterprise is ready for the future, exploring ideas for new possibilities that can create abundance for the nation and humankind. While my job title as lead futurist may give the impression that I’m always thinking 50 years ahead, I spend a lot of my time figuring out how that long view ties back to present day.

The Inspiration4 capsule prior to launch. Strategic Foresighting considers factors such as space tourism in developing future scenarios. Photo courtesy SpaceX.

What does strategic foresighting work involve, and why is it important?

Foresight is the term for using better decision frameworks to manage uncertainty. My team continuously searches for signals of change and synthesizes the insights and impacts from those changes.

How do you approach predicting the future of space?

The interactive version of the Pathfinder’s Guide allows users to explore various scenarios with video commentary from space forecasters.

How do you measure the success of strategic foresighting? Is there any science or calculation behind this to determine how well the projections are working?

Success in foresighting is hard to measure because under some circumstances it can take lifetimes. One way to assess is how well are your signposts aligning with reality over time; also, how well is your organization using the signals to pivot what it’s doing for maximum effectiveness and achieving its vision. These can provide confirmation of certain pathways over others.

Give us an example of a recent signal most of us might have missed. What are some of the interesting thought threads and considerations for the future of space that emerged for your team as a result?

Interestingly enough, we had global pandemic on the first version of our Futures Map released prior to COVID-19. We categorized it as a “space shock” since we recognized it would systemically disrupt a range of connective tissues from workforce, to supply chain, to economics, etc.

Artist’s concept of the Advanced Composites Solar Sail System unfurling in space. Credit: NANOAVIONICS/NASA

Space is quickly becoming increasingly present in all of our everyday lives. What are some areas where space enthusiasts might want to pay closer attention?

There are a lot of exciting things happening right now in the space and technology sectors. The recent set of launches of private citizens and the implications for a potential boom in space tourism.



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The Aerospace Corporation

We operate the only federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) committed exclusively to the space enterprise.