One of the tenets of the Outbound project is that Humanity already lives and works in space. We are surrounded by the environment that is keyed to our biology and allows us to live with at least a fighting chance for survival, but it is still only one environment, on one body in outer space. There are many more environments out there, and many more bodies in space. Through technology, we have already dipped our toes in, as Sagan said, and we know that adaptation is possible. If we survive ourselves, or terrestrial natural events, or even the vagaries of space threats that exist, we can get ourselves spread about the cosmos. Time, resources, and human industry are the only real design factors, and we have those.
Of course, the above is a philosophical argument. Not logically untrue at all, but vague. As an engineer, however, you can look at our species’ life in the universe as a systems engineering problem. Essentially, we are an imperfectly closed-loop system that is performance-limited by its nominally-closed nature. Said less-esoterically – Humans only live on Earth, and while it takes care of the bulk of our needs, staying home limits our potential. The definitions of our potential can be represented in many ways, of course. Many systems would have to come together to break out of our closed-loop construct, and those systems must be defined before our potentials can even be really hinted at.
With that in mind, I think it is high time to treat human Space Exploration and Exploitation (SE2) as a System of Systems puzzle. I am now looking at the high-level view of the system, and will progressively break it down into more and more subsystems, until there is a real framework to build upon to create a viable and understandable space-faring society. The work will not be easy, I have no illusions about that, and I will need to form a team of co-researchers and supporters to pull together what I expect will be a huge body of work. I think that’s all worth it, though. Let me elevate that: It is necessary.