As I write this, NASAâ€™s space shuttle Atlantis is sitting on the runway at Kennedy Space Center, still venting steam after landing the final shuttle mission ever.Â The space shuttle program has concluded. Â The budget and personnel in the aerospace industry is now directed towards new endeavors and projects.Â Currently America does not have any other manned space vehicles that can take us out of Earthâ€™s atmosphere and into space.
Iâ€™m a bit of a â€œspace geekâ€ and with my professional career in web marketing (aka â€œweb geekâ€), I have participated in a number of NASA tweetups and my friends consider me the person who knows the latest news in space exploration and technology.Â With the conclusion of the space shuttle program while we still have Americans in space, living on the space station – people are asking me: â€œWhatâ€™s Next?Â Whatâ€™s next for NASA and for space exploration? What’s next for the astronauts on the station? Â What’s next in commercial aerospace with the new government mandates and funding?â€
Interestingly, Iâ€™m asked the same question from clients and prospects around web marketing, mobile and cloud applications and social media: â€œWhatâ€™s Next? Whatâ€™s the next social networking site our business should be using?Â Whatâ€™s the next big smartphone or mobile platform to get?Â Whatâ€™s the next big online tool that I should be learning to use?â€
Although I’m asked â€œWhatâ€™s Next?â€ almost daily – I rarely answer the question directly.Â Predicting whatâ€™s next in web is a bit like fortune telling. Â Who would have guessed twitter would even exist a few years ago?Â 5 years later â€“ twitter celebrated its 5 year birthday with an estimated value of about $7.8 billion and an estimated 175 million registered accounts. Â I didn’t predict this 5 years ago.
I did manage to avoid having a Myspace account, Iâ€™m a strong promoter of LinkedIn, and I’ve used Match.com (probably the oldest social networking site around after Listservs) off and on for years.Â So I guessed a few correctly too.
This morning while I am feeling optimistic and a bit awe-struck watching the â€œfinal fourâ€ astronauts walking away from the landing strip – I’m going to “peer into my crystal ball” and try to answer “What’s Next?” for you.
For space exploration, my top 3 predictions are:
1. U.S. commercial contractors in partnership with NASA will have a manned space vehicle ready within the next year.
2. Americans will realize that we need to establish a better off-planet â€œbaseâ€ (moon maybe, or larger space station) before we are truly able to accomplish deeper space missions like trips to Mars.
3. There will be some amazing new technologies and products that result from Americanâ€™s resurgence in space exploration and I predict biosciences and medical will be the recipient of a large majority of these.
My predictions for web technology:
1. Augmented reality integration with our social networking sites will become mainstream in the next 1-2 years. The things Iâ€™m seeing and hearing about with augmented reality is scary â€“ cool.
2. Mobile will be how we access everything. Anyone who doesnâ€™t have mobile web access will pretty much have no friends. Businesses that donâ€™t have mobile will lose to their web-friendly competition.
3. Local search will integrate social search and people will search based on whatâ€™s nearby AND where their friends are going.
I am probably wrong about most of these, and that’s ok with me.Â I have always been more interested in how people are able to find surprising and innovative ways to use technology and to accomplish things that we initially say is impossible.Â Like going into space â€“ initially we said that was never going to happen.Â And now we have American men and women living in space on the International Space Station. Â Instead of asking simplyÂ “Whatâ€™s Next” – I find myself asking the question: “What will We accomplish next?”