Defying the Dark

Engineering for Human Life in Space

Spaceflight has always seen an aspect of human exploration. Yuri Gagarin soared as the very first human outside of our atmosphere in the year 1961, and has since then been followed by many brave pioneers who kept going higher, further, and faster in the first space race. But despite the boundless optimism for the future of spaceflight that marked this era, humans have not left low earth orbit since 1972. With the coming of the New Space Age, there is once again a push for human presence in the deeper regions of space. NASA aims to put humans back on the Moon within the coming decade, and with the development of the Deep Space Gateway, the road is being paved for humans to travel further away from Earth than ever before.

The technological progress we have made since Gagarin is almost incomprehensible, but the challenge that comes with designing an environment fit for human presence in outer space is still stretching the limits of our technology. In what way has the experience we gained with space stations like Skylab, Mir, and the ISS, and vehicles like Apollo, Soyuz, and the Space shuttle given us new insights and how will we be implementing them for the new generation of environments?

Together with the technical challenges we will take a look at the societal impact that human presence in space has had. The sight of astronauts in the ISS has inspired millions and has provided a lot of scientific insight through all the studies that can be done in this unique environment. The new space age will surely increase this, but will also bring with it a whole new load of challenges. Combining the views and interests of many international parties into regulations or a set of laws might be difficult to accomplish, let alone enforcing them far outside of the reach of our usual governmental structures.

Together with the students, we want to explore the technical difficulty of engineering an environment to inhabit the uninhabitable, take a look at the work that is done under these incredible circumstances, and finally we want to think about what it is that pulls us there. Why do we wish to go to the cold and unwelcome vacuum of space? What do we hope to conquer in the vast nothingness outside of our atmosphere? What is it that drives us to defy the dark?