Houston Matters

How Exploration Has Driven Technological Progress Throughout History

SpaceX mission manager Andrew Rader discusses his book, “Beyond the Known: How Exploration Created the Modern World and Will Take Us to the Stars.”

SpaceX Shipment Arrives at ISS
A SpaceX shipment arrives at the International Space Station in 2019.

SpaceX mission manager Andrew Rader says humankind’s love of exploration has done more for our progress than war or other forces.

Rader writes about it in his new book, Beyond the Known: How Exploration Created the Modern World and Will Take Us to the Stars.

In the audio above, he tells Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty why he believes humanity is naturally inclined to explore. He says just look at how spread out we are — humans occupy the entire planet.

How’d we do that? The technology we created to help us get to those places…well, it helped us get to the next place and beyond.

Andrew Rader
Andrew Rader is an aerospace engineer and mission manager at SpaceX.

“Expanding has always throughout history created the incentives to generate better technology and also enabled us to travel farther,” Rader said. “So, there’s this kind of coupling between travel and exploration and the development of technologies that enable transportation and a feedback then because the technology allows further exploration. So, I think that the key takeaway is that exploration has been one of the primary drivers of technological progress throughout history.”

He says the whole moral is technology follows purpose.

“You have to do something first, and then the technology sort of catches up with what you’re trying to do,” he said. “You have to constantly challenge what you can do with your current technology and then your technology’s going to improve as the need for it arises.”

In the conversation above, Rader discusses some unexpected developments in civilization that have resulted from human exploration, how public-private partnerships (like the one between NASA and companies like his) have often spurred exploration, and why he thinks one-way missions to Mars are the best approach to deep space exploration.