Is Space Exploration Necessary Essay, Research Paper
Is space exploration necessary?
… but the stars are not for man. Or are they?
Bitter as it might sound, mankind have been given the opportunity to explore their planet to the fullest, and to spend a golden age living in harmony and splendor. But, as you will find out, the stars are not for man. Supervisor Karellen sighed. I m sorry to tell you this, but it has not been mine to decide. Is this quote, taken from Arthur C. Clarke s Childhood s End , and therein spoken by the Supervisor to Earth, reasonable? Are the stars not for man? And, more importantly, why on Earth should mankind even wish to explore the darkness that waits beyond the horizon? Is space exploration necessary?
From a cynical viewpoint, the fear of space that from time to time seems to grip the human race, might be one of the major factors making space exploration feasible. Horror tales of asteroids falling onto Earth and causing anything from another ice age to the total destruction of the planet itself have been a recurring topic in tabloid papers all over the world. Exploring our solar system, analyzing and cataloging all major asteroids that might pose a potential thread to Earth in the future might help to diminish that fear and to remove the danger posed by a stray asteroid. Orbits would be known, and possible impacts could be predicted well before the situation ever becomes critical, leaving enough time for preventive measures to be taken while the asteroid is still well away from Earth, accelerating slowly and ice-cold, and therefore, presumably, easier to handle . Whatever that handling might consist of. In order to successfully destroy an asteroid, technology will have to advance quite a bit but the same goes for the technology to catalogue every single asteroid.
A far less hysterical and, say, more immediate reason are possible gains and benefits that space exploration might yield for the human race. Teflon and liquid nourishment (now used with patients suffering from a variety of diseases) have both been invented in the course of the space program, and are now being used in a variety of fields and to the benefit of a great number of people. At a larger scale and in the future, crystals needed for telecommunications and in medical laboratories could be grown to a greater size and of far better quality in a zero G environment than is currently possible on Earth; solar panels could catch the energy of the sun (unhindered by Earth s atmosphere, and therefor much more efficiently) and transfer the so gained solar energy to earth by using microwaves or a similar technology; once Earth s raw materials have been exhausted asteroids could be mined for them.
Also, the solar system and the universe are a part of reality as we know it and of the world that we live in , understanding the laws that govern the universe and trying to understand the forces at work there will lead us to a greater understanding of how live on Earth works, as well. Just how do atoms behave in a zero G, infinitely cold environment? What forces exactly shaped the big bang, just what was the universe like when but three minutes old? Answers to these questions might be found in the course of exploring space, and be of benefit to the sciences.
What might be considered a rather pragmatic reason, but nevertheless an important one, is the human need for goals. An aim to work forward to, something to be achieved… . What mysteries that a non-scientist can grasp are there left on Earth? When Kennedy promised the American public that in ten years men would walk on the moon, he gave them more than an estimate he d like to reach, and he did more than tell NASA what they were up to. He gave people a goal. Something that united them, something everyone could feel a part of, something everyone could be proud of. Mankind needs these things. Something to work towards. The Challenger was more than just a spacecraft that had an accident, just like the Mir was more than just a Russian space station. Both were symbols of a dream greater than what any one person can achieve on his or her own, but of what is possible when people work together. That is why the space station Freedom is a step in the right direction. A symbol, too, but this time one that spans nations and continents, and that includes former enemies in reaching a common goal. Space exploration at a large scale will only be possible if the different nations of Earth work on it jointly and it might help them to forget about their differences and to emphasize their similarities. Nothing helps to unite people better than obstacles surmounted together.
Space, with its infinite mysteries might also provide the answer and well neigh only solution to one of the problems the population of Earth will be facing at some point in the not too distant future. Which is the problem of population. Or, over-population, to be precise. The growth of the human population inhabiting Earth is ever-escalating, with no end in sight. Blue eyed as it might sound today, if we do not destroy each other and our world first (also a solution, of sorts) at some point in the future mankind might have the technical possibilities to build large space stations, a settlement on the moon or even to terraform the Mars, thereby providing space for the vast number of inhabitants of Earth.
It is unlikely that anyone alive on Earth today will still be alive when any of these ideas have been developed and are truly in operation, but even if the space age is still centuries away or might never come at all, that s still no reason not to work towards it. Even if it doesn t work out, it might still pay off in side benefits (like Teflon), and help to increase communications between the people of Earth. Besides how are we to find out whether the stars are for man, if not by trying?