By Adam Jamieson
Students at American University can sometimes find themselves caught up in their own little worlds, but the campus is also host to individuals who would rather spend their time getting caught up in other worlds.
“In High School I didn’t have very many good science teachers,” Blaine Rivas said, “I just really needed that mentor figure, that inspiration, and when I went to the Air and Space Museum it really inspired me again. I started learning about all these new scientific concepts that I hadn’t even thought of before.”
Rivas, a Sophomore from Sugar Grove, Illinois, works at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and will be interning at the NASA Langley Research Center this summer. He also serves as the Treasurer of the organization AU Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.
“What we try do is just raise awareness of what’s going on in the space community,” Rivas said, “We watch launches all the time.”
“With the Scientists’ March on Washington that’s coming up on Earth Day, we’re definitely going to that. We’re trying to urge some politicians to do the right thing. Obviously the right thing is objective.”
Rivas did not always know that he wanted to turn space into his central focus.
“Freshman year I went to a job fair, I met my current employer now,” he said, “It really inspired me about science. Things I didn’t even know existed.”
At the moment, Rivas’ main interest in the future is working with space policy, with the goal of helping regulate the eventual colonization of space.
“I’d love to colonize space, it’s like the next greatest adventure in human history, you know?” he said, “By the time I’m in my 30’s and 40’s people should be walking on Mars, hopefully, and I definitely want to be a part of that. It’ll be probably the first thing in history chapters is kids 50 years from now open up their books and see that humans walked on Mars and settled there.”
Rivas later clarified that when he said he would love to colonize space, he meant purely from a policy standpoint. “Honestly I’m a little bit afraid of heights. So I think that being up in a rocket ship would not be best for me.”
“Also, other countries are looking to settle space as well,” he continued, “They’re looking at that angle too. The International Space Station is set to expire in 2024 and after that who knows what’ll happen? Hopefully all our countries will keep working to build maybe another space station… I know China’s planning on landing on the moon in the early 2020’s, like actually set people on the moon. And then, I’m not exactly sure what Russia has planned, but it’ll be interesting to watch.”
According to Rivas, however, future space policy will have to overcome some speedbumps caused by present day diplomatic regulations.
“We’ll be headed more towards international cooperation, especially with the Chinese,” he said, “We don’t currently work with them now because Congress has passed a law stating that we cannot work with the Chinese due to National Security reasons, they might be trying to steal our technologies.”
“But I think that’ll change soon,” he said, “As people start to head towards space, and if we actually start to colonize it, we’ll have to work together in order to get out there safely and operate to the best of our potential.”
In the future that Rivas and the AU SEDS are working toward, governments will not be the only entities seeking to stake a claim to the undiscovered frontier of space.
“Obviously in the private sector there’s a much different story. There’s Elon Musk with SpaceX who wants to get to Mars as quickly as possible.” Rivas said, “The Government, the main plans they have are to land on Mars and then bring those people back, and that would be a lot harder than a one-way trip, which is what a lot of the private companies are proposing.”
Rivas also named Mars One as another private company with immediate plans to venture into the rocky terrain of interplanetary colonization.