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Why Space?

by Taro Porschke

Photo by Aldebaran S on Unsplash

We've certainly come a long way since 1969, in many aspects - too many to count. But, as time has progressed, the launching of rocket ships into outer space - something someone only 100 years ago would have told you would be impossible - is a normal, daily occurrence (around 8 satellites are launched per day). This begs the question, though: why should we care about further space exploration at all?

There actually hasn't been anyone on the moon since 1972. Just on Jan. 9, 2024, a private company by the name of Astrobotic Technology attempted to land one of their rockets on the moon - their plan fell short when a catastrophic fuel leak destroyed any hopes of success. NASA had also planned to send astronauts around the moon this year, but that was pushed to next year, to September 2025. Similarly, plans to land people on the moon were also pushed back a year, even though it's been over 50 years since any successful mission of the sort was carried out.

One of the simpler answers as to why space is important, is, well, space. Yes, space as in "a continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied," as defined by Google's English Dictionary. A big reason advocating for why space exploration is worth it is the fact that, eventually, even if it's in a billion years (although the more accurate estimate is 250 million), the Earth will be completely uninhabitable for humans. This is a big reason why space exploration is necessary since being able to identify, travel to and maintain life in other planets is key for whenever it is the Earth becomes uninhabitable.

An example of one of these possibly habitable planets. Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter

The more current and warrantable answer, though, is for science. As NASA will tell you on their very directly named "Why Go to Space" page, we are able to gain a new perspective of Earth, make scientific advancements not possible or much more difficult to do on Earth, and inspire future innovation. Scientific advancements made on the ISS (International Space Station) include valuable disease research, improved water purification systems, steps forward in the field of fluid physics, and improved natural disaster response, to name a few.

With greater commercial presence in the space industry now than ever, the economic aspect also has to be considered. The commercial space industry sits at around a $500 billion valuation right now - McKinsey and Co. project the market size to possibly hit 1 trillion by 2030, though. Most of the current market value is due to the launching of satellites, but with the advent of commercial space flights and things like space tourism, the scene could be changing right now, As well as that, space itself is incredibly abundant in natural, precious resources like gold. Take, for example, the asteroid Psyche - if balled up into a perfect sphere, its diameter would stretch the state of Massachusetts. Aside from its dimensions, though, the asteroid is worth approximately 10 quintillion dollars - which would be around 1.25 billion dollars for every person on Earth, if it was split evenly. So, it's probably safe to say that, in the future, when we have the right technologies, space mining will be a lucrative industry.

The asteroid, Psyche. Credit: NASA

As for the American populous' opinion on it, studies conducted by the Pew Research Center found that, of the participants, an overwhelming majority believed that it is essential that America continues to be a world leader in space exploration and that the ISS has been a worthwhile investment for the country (72% and 80%, respectively). Two-thirds of the participants also said they believe it is essential to have NASA continually involved in space exploration, while the other third believed the private companies will ensure progress ensues, even without NASA.

NASA is estimated to receive around $27 billion in budget, in the fiscal year of 2024. It will be exciting to see what the future of space exploration will look like, and what more we discover. And no, it turns out it's not that big of a deal your phone is thousands of times stronger than the computers that first sent humans to the moon in July 16, 1969.

Would you travel to another inhabitable planet?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Only if necessary

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