A Q&A with Alvin Drew, director of NASA’s advanced exploration systems habitat demonstration unit.
When will we live in space?
Our goal is to explore Mars within 25 to 30 years. To reach that goal, we’ll start by exploring asteroids, and keep exploring the moon. And to do so, we need human habitats on the Moon and these asteroids.
What will habitats look like?
Very different from the International Space Station. They won’t look different on the outside, but the difference is that the ISS is in lower orbit, within Earth’s magnetic field, which protects us from radiation. A habitat farther away from Earth needs huge radiation protection. And farther away from Earth there’s never a sunset, so your body doesn’t know what time of the day it is.
Then there are speed delays: Even if you’re communicating at the speed of light, a signal takes 20 minutes to reach Earth.
That’s very different from the ISS, where we have cameras that literally look over the astronauts’ shoulders and we can communicate immediately.