In the 1960s, the space race consumed our collective psyche and consciousness. The prospect of travelling to the stars and beyond, once relegated to the realms of pulp magazines and science fiction, now seemed like a burgeoning reality. It was thought that, by the turn of the century, humanity would be a spacefaring race, exploring the furthest reaches of the galaxy and beyond – the final frontier.
It is now 2022, and the idea of mankind finding its place among the stars still remains a distant dream. The problems that our planet faces have grown too large to ignore. Humanity’s sights have turned away from the heavens, and back towards the planet that we call home.
As our species faces ever-growing troubles on our homefront, including the real possibility of extinction in the not-too-distant future, it begs the question: is space travel as important today as it was in 1969, when we put a man on the moon for the first time? Why is space travel important in the first place? We will take a look at these answers below, so let’s launch right into it!
Extinction Comes in Many Forms
Many of the problems that we face here on earth are the byproducts of years of exploitation, and the careless disregard for the safety of our planet. We are the architects of our own destruction.
Though the damage has already been done, we still have a chance to mitigate some of its effects. It will take years to restore Earth to her former glory, but it is possible – if improbable.
But the dangers posed to our planet do not come solely from within. The dinosaurs were the first to learn that lesson, and we, in turn, have learned from them.
It is estimated that once every 10,000 years (give or take), Earth stands in the course of an asteroid the size of a football field. If such a body were to strike our planet, the impact would create tidal waves large enough to completely inundate coastal areas.
However, these small asteroids are not the only outside danger we face. Meteors measuring 100 yards across have the potential to completely decimate life on Earth as we know it. The collision would unleash a firestorm of biblical proportions; heated debris and dust would fill the atmosphere and blot out the sun, destroying any chance of survival for those not immediately killed.
Though these dangers may seem distant, a well-funded space program is important to safeguard our planet from these threats.
The Next Gold Rush
The struggle for resources makes our world go ‘round. Planet Earth has nearly been stripped clean of its bounty, and its beauty. That being said, the need for sustenance – in whatever form it takes – will never go away.
Our primary focus should be on restoring our planet and finding a sustainable source of energy to fuel our many proclivities. Already, the private sector has envisioned a future in which asteroids and other planets can be mined for the resources we are steadily depleting here on Earth.
The next gold-rush may be spacebound. The moon is believed to be a rich source of helium-3, a necessary component for MRIs and nuclear power plants, and that is in short supply and high demand on Earth. The moon may also be rich in other elements as well, most notably europium and tantalum, both of which can be used in solar panels and other advanced technologies.
Survival on Earth is Not Guaranteed
However desperately we may try, the survival of our planet – inexorably linked to the survival of thousands of species, including our own – hangs precariously in the balance. The time may come when our beloved Earth is beyond salvation, and we will have no one but ourselves to blame.
Overpopulation, carelessness, basic human greed – these are the components that make up our inability to survive on earth in the near future. Our will to create, admirable though it may be, often feeds our innate capacity to destroy.
Fortunately, thanks to our desire to innovate, we may yet have a place among the stars. Satellites already serve to protect us from danger; they alert us to forest fires and oil spills, and have led to the creation of GPS technology.
Satellites are only one step towards our future on the final frontier. With a population currently sitting at 7 billion souls and counting, we will need to colonize other planets if our species is to survive. With a focused and well-funded space program, we may just be able to secure our future.
The Truth is Out There
For better or for worse, the human condition is plagued by questions regarding the nature of our existence and of the creation of the cosmos. Unfortunately, few of these questions have answers, yet. Our collective curiosity will never dissipate, and our thirst for knowledge cannot be quenched so long as we remain earthbound.
The answers we seek may never be found in our lifetime, but future generations could unlock the secrets of the universe. We know frighteningly little about our own system, and the planets within, and each star we see in the sky is another mystery waiting to be solved, if we could only reach them.
Our planet really is beautiful. It has sustained life for millions of years, and might yet sustain it for many more. But we are still discovering its secrets every day, and it will be a long time before we uncover them all. Still, our future, whether near or distant, lies among the stars. We may not be the spacefaring species we thought we would be in 1969, but slowly and surely, we are making the necessary steps towards that frontier.
The allure of space may have dissolved somewhat from our collective consciousness, but look up at the stars on a clear night sky, and those bright, glimmering lights – all full of hope and possibility – may just be enough to rekindle that sense of wonder and awe-inspiring motivation.