Space Exploration - the desire to chart the unknown Essay

The Cold War surprisingly started the beginning of something that would some would argue should be stepped up and others believe it is not needed - Space Exploration - the desire to chart the unknown Essay introduction. Space exploration is a topic of discussion, expensive but needed to solve our curiosity of other planets, life and space in general. It has given us new technology but of which could possibly have been made from other projects on Earth, but is needed to find new resources as the Earths own runs out. The cost involved in space exploration is the main argument against its need.

During the Cold War space exploration was at its peak. The Russian launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, and the first human in space, Yuri Gargarin. Led to the USA making the first moon landing and both superpowers investing massive amounts of money in order to compete in what was called the ‘space race’. The money thrown at the space programs by the governments of both countries at the time was not questioned, as they were at war. The ‘space race’ allowed both countries to challenge each other in a different way.

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Not to go to war fighting each other in space, but to use space exploration as a way of fighting each other through space, by trying to develop the knowledge to build inter-continental ballistic missiles. The first to do this would have a serious deterrent or threatening way of attacking. The ‘space race’ was also a way of showing off each other’s scientific achievements and capabilities. However the Cold War has finished and the money given to space agencies has lowered. Almost completely diminished in Russia’s case.

It remains though that the American space agency, NASA still spends millions of dollars each year on development, as with other space agencies around the world. This has led to the question, should we still plough money into space exploration or is it so unpractical that the money would be better spent on things concerning our own planet. A clear point against space exploration is how the money involved in sending a probe for example to another planet could be used to save lives on Earth. Billions of people on our planet live in poverty or famine and are surrounded by life threatening diseases.

Many people would say the space exploration is a luxury that is not needed, wasting valuable money on something which is just to sustain our curiosity. Believing our desire for knowledge is blinding the fundamental problems with our own race that could be solved with the money from space programs. Some would prefer to see that money being used to create a world free from disease and starvation. Certainly the human instinct to explore and push the boundaries of our understanding is a reason as to why we explore space in different ways.

If we did land and walk on the moon surely this is something we should be proud of as a race, possibly the greatest achievement we’ve ever made in some peoples eyes. However it seems a world free from disease and starvation and war is possibly the biggest dream compared to wanting to travel the stars. The chances are if space exploration did not exist the money would still not be used to completely free the world of its problems. For example no amount of money would completely stop the recent terrorist attacks, if someone wants to be destructive they will be.

Space exploration has also helped communications on Earth with the development of better technology to create satellites. This has given way to instantaneous communication with people all over the world via email, telephone or text messaging. It has allowed for radio and television broadcasts to be heard or seen by anyone all over the world. Surely this is a major contribution which we now could not live without, and could not maintain a world free from war, disease and famine without.

Weather satellites are increasingly becoming harder to live without as they can predict when major weather patterns such as, tornadoes and hurricanes or floods due to heavy rain might occur. Providing vital information which saves property and lives. Weather satellites are helping to show us what the climate in the future will be like and why it is changing, helping us to understand our world better. However people sceptical of space exploration would argue that satellites are not space exploration anyway, that they are commercial tools used by companies to make profit.

We only believe they are objects of good for the world because companies allow us to use them in this way, assuming there is money paid to the companies who own them. Space exploration in terms of finding new planets or life could not be commercial; it simply takes money without giving anything back in return. The Voyager missions for example cost just under one billion dollars. This criticism is not fully justified however as other technological advances have come about by the need for smaller and lighter components. Planning a space mission has led to miniaturisation, to lower the weight of rockets.

This has also created smaller onboard computers, leading to today’s modern home computers which in some cases can be put away in a drawer, such as a laptop computer. Efficiency being needed for a space exploration, many various different ways of propulsion have been created. Some of which in the future could be used to power our cars and vehicles. Something which would benefit our planet, slowing down the hole in the ozone layer. Our knowledge of the human body too has been greatly improved, finding out more about how it operates having put it through extreme G-forces, weightlessness and small doses of radiation from solar flares.

It has found that through weightlessness the muscles in the body can seem completely paralysed when back in the atmosphere with gravity, after not having to work as hard in space. These advantages however could all have been found at less an expense back on Earth. It is possible that through projects on our planet that one-day the same findings would have been found, without using millions of dollars. However it is questionable which projects on the Earth in the last fifty years could have found this information without using technology developed through space exploration.

Through space exploration we do know for certain that there will be a time when the Earth is not suitable for life, as it will become too hot. The Earth will move out of the safe zone or ‘green zone’, a distance from the sun. This safe zone will move to Mars. Therefore plans are already ongoing to develop an atmosphere on Mars suitable for human life. This has many possibilities, if an atmosphere could be created on Mars, and Earth is still habitable this would help solve over population as well as create more natural resources, which could be found on Mars.

This may be far off in the future but space exploration must be an investment in our future. If we fail to continue to develop in as many areas as we can we will fail to take advantage of these possibilities. On balance of the points raised I believe resources should continue to be used for space exploration. There are many people who look upon space exploration as an unnecessary expense incurred trying to satisfy dreamers, while leaving real problems like human suffering unresolved. But it has many practical benefits to offer. I believe it would be ludicrously impossible to stop space exploration.

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