How Can Space Contribute to a Possible Socio-technical Future on Earth?

By G. A. Boy, O. Doule

Traditional ergonomics fits into the continuity of the relationship between people, artifacts, which they build, their environment and societies. The current unprecedented technological development is breaking this continuity. We must think of human evolution and its relationship to work in new ways that space exploration has already begun to shape. This article outlines elementary strategies that explain how and why space exploration is essential for humankind’s growth, evolution and sustainable development, not only at the individual ergonmic level but also at the societal level. Prospective ergonomics needs to take into account these strategies. We claim that if we place any living entity out of its natural environment –where it is adapted to live in–, this entity reacts to the new environment – where it is not adapted to live in– in a specific way to defend, adapt and survive. Not only such survival boundaries and new adaptation capabilities should be discovered, but also life requirements in nominal environments can be better understood. During the NASA Apollo program, humans already extended their living environment to the Moon. We do adapt to a new environment by using a “technological bridge” that facilitates and extends our “adaptation” capabilities much more rapidly than what natural evolution would require whenever possible. In space for example, it is mandatory to extend our living and working environment, but how far can we do this? Can we live everywhere? What are the fundamental limitations and possibilities that needed to be identified? For example, are we limited to habitable zones and regions in our solar system and galaxy? Are we able to fully adapt to microgravity? What are the technological possibilities needed to develop to have sustainable oxygen and water supply? Ultimately, what does it mean to be a human being in the Universe and on Earth in particular? We consider that these questions are crucial in the beginning of the 21st century because our planet Earth is changing rapidly when we consider several parameters such as our global demography, constantly degraded ecology and uncontrollable economy. We are facing a blank slate exactly in the same way as when we analyze a possible life on Mars. We need to better understand human limitations and capabilities in both natural and artificial worlds that we have generated, and nature provides either nominally or by reaction to our expanding socio-technical ways of living.


  • adaptation
  • human-centered design
  • prospective ergonomics
  • ecology
  • artificial living environments
  • human space flights
  • extraterrestrial life
  • society evolution
  • space settlements
  • technology transfe
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