To Explore or Not to Explore?
They say space is the final frontier. I disagree. Time travel and parallel universes are the true final frontiers (assuming they exist). We have reached space. We landed on the Moon and we finally reached Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
The questions cynics constantly ask are:
- What did we gain?
- Was it worth it?
Two quick answers: we gained plenty of knowledge and scientific advances; and yes.
President Bush said back in 2004 that space exploration was a matter of scientific discovery, economic benefit, and national security. Those seem to be pressing issues. The kind we can all get behind, right? Then why there are people who oppose space exploration?
For millennia, mankind has always looked to the stars with fascination and wonder. The stars above caused reflection and pondering. They were mythology and omens; navigation and calendar; legends and philosophical contemplations.
Hence, the real question should not be, do we need space exploration? Should we go out there and explore? I am a science fiction fan, reader, and writer. You probably know my answers.
Nonetheless, here are my arguments.
Exploration is Part of Our DNA
Our ancestors left Africa (Homo erectus) centuries ago. Homo sapiens not only left Africa but ventured even further, reaching the furthermost areas of the Pacific and the Americas despite the long distances and immense oceans.
Furthermore, we reached both poles (great job, Amundsen!). When we reached the South Pole, we thought we reached the most remote place on our planet and the age of exploration ended.
However, space exploration opened new frontiers.
Humans are a curious species. You draw a border and they want to cross it. The desire for exploration is part of our DNA.
We reached the Moon. Why not Mars? Why not the Galilean moons? Why not Titan? Why stop there? Why not keep reaching beyond? Alpha Centauri is fairly close and it does have possibly habitable planets.
Going out there also gives us a lesson in perspective. About our place in the Universe. Moreover, just like Homo erectus became Homo sapiens, who is to say how we will not evolve and which new species supersede humanity?
A Matter of Survival
Readers of this blog know I love NASA. I am a firm believer in space exploration.
Space exploration does not need to be the final frontier but a beginning. A starting point.
Indeed, a matter of discovery, education, profit (never underestimate the power of potential profit to be made in space as a motivator), and survival.
Survival? Yes, survival.
Even if we survive climate change and another asteroid strike, even if we find a solution to overpopulation and pollution, we will eventually need to spread out into the solar system.
And what if we are not alone in the universe? That is a topic for another blog post. But wouldn’t it be exciting (and terrifying)?
Our continuous survival as a species may well depend on colonizing other planets and star systems.
The sooner we get started, the better. Our own legacy as a species is at risk. The stars are our destination.
Finally, the greatest argument against space exploration is that the money spends on it could be better used for solving problems here on Earth, like world hunger and cancer.
I fervently disagree. Those are noble goals but space exploration is not a zero-sum game. No!
You can invest all of NASA‘s budget and still not eliminate hunger or cure cancer. On the other hand, we may discover and develop new technologies in space which may alleviate both.
In conclusion, we should not be asking ourselves if we should explore space or if we need to. The questions to ask ourselves should be: Could we go out there? How soon?
What are your feelings about space exploration? Let’s debate respectfully.