Written by Tim Chrisman, founder and executive director of Foundation for The Future 

The spread of COVID-19 around the globe has changed how we live, work and travel this year. Now, the push for a vaccine has reached a fever pitch. As we focus on a vaccine solution and the global push to provide access to it as soon as possible, is there room to focus on innovation in other areas as well? 

With all attention turned to finding a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may seem strange to look to space as a solution to help solve future global health issues. These two ideas may be closer than you think, however. For instance, scientists have already been studying the effects of microbes in microgravity environments. While there is no direct correlation between research like this and our current COVID-19 vaccine research, microgravity offers a new way to research and manufacture treatments that would otherwise be impossible to make on Earth.

A recent CNET article highlights the long-term value of space discovery, including on the future of medical advancements. The author writes, “For more than six decades, space programs run by the US, other countries and now private companies have been developing technologies and making new discoveries in the service of solving hard problems.” 

For example, study on how microbes behave under microgravity is already helping increase our understanding of how diseases impact the body. In addition, from what we already know of our solar system, rare materials that are abundant in the vast expanses of space could be used in unimaginable ways here on earth. From solar power resources to rare metals and unimaginable new discoveries, an investment in space exploration is an investment in the future of the human race. 

Space is invigorating. It fills people with inspiration and challenges us to find innovative ways to use what we have and discover new ways of living, conserving and thinking about Earth. If we look to space as our next steppingstone in evolution, we vastly expand the horizons in all areas of study – including medicine. 

As we combat a deadly pandemic together around the world, it may be easy to dismiss the future of space exploration as an argument for another day. But, if science has taught us anything, its that dreaming big dreams gets us to big solutions. The solution to the next global health event may be spinning just out of our orbit. 

We must continue to invest in allowing ourselves to reach beyond the limits of our planet. It could very well be the key to solving many of the world’s current problems. 

Tim Chrisman is the founder and executive director of Foundation for The Future (climb2.space), author of Humanity in Space, a look at the future of the second century of human spaceflight, and former Army Special Operations officer. Foundation for The Future is focused on the creation of a secure, sustainable, and efficient gateway to outer space with the US Space Port Authority (USSPA).