The head of Microsoft’s Space Division says it is time for the US government to embrace a new technology called “Astral Projector” which aims to send spacecraft into the solar system and “make a difference”.
Microsoft Project Astra, as the project is known, is a multi-million dollar effort to send people into space in the near future.
The US Space Agency has also been looking into “Astronauts in Space”, but the idea has been seen as too expensive for NASA to pursue, with the agency planning to use private companies to build the infrastructure for a commercial crew project in 2021.
Speaking on The Australian Financial Review Radio this morning, Dr Andrew Smith said that NASA and other agencies were trying to get a handle on the technology, with “Astra” being the first step in that process.
“I think that’s really important for people to understand that there are a lot of people out there trying to build a lot more systems for space, and we need to make sure that they have a way to make use of the technologies that we’re developing to bring people back to Earth, and they are able to make those decisions about where they are going to go,” he said.
“That’s why we need an international agreement, because I think that the best way to deal with this is through international agreements.”
Dr Smith said it was important to understand the technology before proceeding with a launch, and he suggested the technology was only coming to the public’s attention because of the efforts of SpaceX and Blue Origin.
“SpaceX is doing this because they know it’s going to be the most cost-effective way to get to Mars, and if it’s the most efficient, the best route to Mars,” he explained.
“But the reason why we’re going to do this is because it’s a way of bringing people back, it’s an innovative way of getting people to Mars and then we want to see it happen and hopefully, hopefully, it will happen.”
Microsoft is currently working on a “Mars LaunchPad” that will allow astronauts to travel to Mars with a reusable launch vehicle, with more details on the project expected to be revealed this year.
“The idea is that there will be a capsule that can go up to the surface of Mars and take astronauts to the planet Mars and the Mars LaunchPad,” Dr Smith said.
He said it would be the first time that astronauts would be able to “fly to the ground” on a spacecraft, and said it needed to be built in an “autonomous way”.
“This would be a lot different from how it’s done now, where you’re flying a rocket or a capsule up into the atmosphere, you’ve got to be an astronaut first, then you’re going down to the base station, and then you’ve then got to have the spacecraft on the ground,” he added.
Dr Smith’s comments come after he spoke to The Australian on the air this morning about the upcoming launch of a satellite for a satellite company, and the fact that NASA is also looking into the concept.
“We have to be a place that we can get into a place of trust and confidence, because it takes a lot to make things happen in the world,” he told The Australian’s Steve Jones.
“It takes a long time for things to happen, and it takes money, and you can’t have a lot going on and people don’t trust you, and I think we have to work with people to make it happen.”
Dr Jones is joined by a panel of experts in a special programme called ‘What the Future Looks Like’, to discuss the technology behind the Space LaunchPad, and Nasa’s future plans for manned spaceflight.