Milestones to Space Settlement: An NSS Roadmap

This is the 2nd Edition (2012) of the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement, for which there is now a 3rd Edition (2018).


Part I: Introduction

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The National Space Society (“NSS”) is a nonprofit educational organization whose Vision is: “People living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.”

This Vision embraces both space as a future second home for humanity and the resources of space (such as the Sun’s energy for space-based solar power, extra-terrestrial minerals for raw materials, and low-gravity for manufacturing) being used for the benefit of all of us on the Earth. These two elements of the Vision are intertwined: development of space products and services for the people of Earth will both require human presence in space and will enable and motivate expansion of our species away from the home planet.

This Roadmap has been prepared to lay out for the public the major Milestones that will likely have to be passed and the major Barriers that will have to be surmounted in order for humankind to achieve that Vision.

While the Roadmap to some extent highlights what can, should and will be done by the United States, which to date has been the leader in off-Earth space exploration and development, it is equally applicable to all countries of the world. Eventually the entire world will participate in achieving the Vision and reaping its fruits.

NSS has identified 20 major Milestones, based on our current knowledge and perspective. These can be achieved with incremental advances in current technologies. However, researchers around the world are pushing the frontiers of science in many fields, and at any time breakthroughs may enable us to shatter Barriers and leapfrog Milestones.

Of the Milestones currently identified, the first six must be passed en route to the settlement of all destinations — the Moon, Mars, asteroids, orbital space settlements, and, eventually, the stars. Specific Milestones then follow for each of these destinations. These Milestones are presented here, with commentary on their current status, along with changes and developments necessary to reach them.

These Milestones will be reached by a combination of governmental and nongovernmental efforts.  Having their people in space and utilizing the resources of space will be goals pursued by many governments on behalf of their people. A major function of government is to do what is societally important that cannot be done by individual citizens or cannot be done by them economically or, in some governments’ view, what should not be done by them individually. Accordingly, steps toward these Milestones will be made to the extent (i) that various governments actually commit to achieving them and (ii) that governments permit and encourage nongovernmental space activities.

July, 2012


Originally published in 2001, this 2012 updated and revised version of the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement was developed over a two year period and adopted by the NSS Board of Directors.

The Roadmap has two major goals: First, to inspire — and having the entire sweep of our future in space in an easily readable form in one’s hands is inspiring. Second, by delineating and discussing specific Milestones, to make it easier for you to formulate and advocate policies that are most likely to advance the day when the NSS Vision becomes a reality.

There are many possible paths to achieving each Milestone, and steps toward one are likely also to be steps toward others. The NSS Roadmap does not predict which exact paths will be selected or in what order.

What the Roadmap does do, as you read the full text, is enable you to see (a) that there are discrete and individual steps that need to be taken, (b) that for most of the Milestones, the first steps can be taken now, and (c) that those steps are reasonably achievable. To paraphrase the old maxim, journeys of millions of miles begin with simple steps.

What steps can, and should, YOU take with this Roadmap?

  • Distribute copies of the NSS Roadmap to others who already care about our space future, and to those who do not but who might get inspired.
  • Understand what steps are immediately doable, and then whenever appropriate, contact your local political leaders to encourage them to create the budgets and legal structures that will more quickly achieve the various Milestones.
  • Write responses, short or long, to space articles in your local or national media. Write rebuttals whenever our space goals are challenged as being either not desirable or not reasonably achievable. Write praises both for commentaries that support our goals and for news items reporting achievements that bring us closer to those goals. The media welcome such submissions.

Delve into the Roadmap, and then do what you can to push us further along the road to space!

Proceed to Part II: Milestones to All Destinations