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News | Oct. 25, 2022

USSPACECOM Deputy Commander Discusses Deep Space Exploration

By Staff Report U.S. Space Command

U.S. Space Force Lt. Gen. John Shaw, U.S. Space Command deputy commander, participated in the Accelerating Sustainable Deep Space Exploration panel, alongside Mr. Jim Free, NASA Exploration Development Systems Mission Directorate associate administrator at ASCEND’s 2022 Conference in Las Vegas, Oct. 24, 2022.
The session aimed to “outline the challenges of deep space, review similar historic challenges and solutions from other domains, and attempt to highlight possible opportunities for the United States and partners to accelerate deep space exploration in a safe, sustainable ecosystem,” according to ASCEND’s website.
Kicking off his remarks, Shaw provided context for the panel by defining deep space, referencing a former astronaut’s definition.
“When we talked about deep space, we talked about geosynchronous orbit.” Shaw said. “Now, when we think about it, I think the context for our panel is along the lines of what Pam Melroy laid out at the beginning and that it's probably as we ‘explore the solar system.’ I think that's kind of the context that we're talking about here.”
Security challenges remain prevalent to deep space exploration, and the threats posed transcend all sectors of space: civil, commercial, and military.
“I think there will always be national security needs,” Shaw said. “That automatically means that there is a security issue facing commercial companies that we need to be thinking through in the future as we enter a potential crisis or conflict.”
Though the space domain has grown more contested, Shaw noted that collaboration and cooperation efforts have been effective in addressing security concerns across other domains in the past.
“I’d like to point out that during the Cold War…you could still get on a commercial airliner and fly from New York to Moscow,” said Shaw. “There was still cooperation and norms on how we would do those things together as nations that allowed for relatively seamless travel.”
To promote a safer and more sustainable space domain, the United States Department of Defense has committed to acting responsibly in space with due regard for other nations. However, Shaw noted, to be beneficial for all space-faring nations, these guiding principles must be widely adopted. And, as the space domain grows increasingly crowded and accessible, so grows the need to implement a broader governance.
“I would like to see this idea of cooperative ‘norms of behavior’ that support all of the sectors, the commercial, the civil and the national security, again, to be something that we can share across the globe,” Shaw said, explaining the ongoing collaborative efforts.
Panel members took questions from the audience, among those posed to Shaw was what he saw as the tipping point to make deep space exploration truly sustainable.
“We’ll always engage in some level of civil and scientific exploration, but the true engine for what we're going to do in the future must be driven economically,” he said. “It's been that way in every other frontier that humans have explored. Some of it was for safety, some of it for exploration and curiosity, but in the end, the true engine of any kind of advancement on any frontier was economic. I think we really need the commercial sector to be the ones to take us all along for the ride.”
And, though Shaw credited the commercial sector’s innovations as a driving force for future space activities, he closed by emphasizing the intrinsic link of all sectors – civil, commercial, national security, and scientific – and its importance when looking to the next generation of space professionals.
“I would say, as I talked about the conjunction of space sectors, we need to realize that there's a role and something to be done in each of those sectors in the days to come,” said Shaw. “And finding the right inspiration and passionate motivation for the next generation, in whatever sector, is something we need to encourage.”