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Why explore space? Why explore space?
by Joseph Gatt
2020-02-11 09:28:05
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In the early 20th century, a mixture of a revolution in machines and mechanics and an ability to map space led to space exploration.

The pioneers of space exploration were over-excited. It kind of worked like this. When I was 18 and moved to Paris to live by myself, I was a little over-excited before moving to Paris. Over-excited in a naive way, as one minute I would daydream about group sex and the next I would daydream about finding the love of my life, then I would daydream about being the most popular guy in my circle. What really happened was I stayed single (and remained a virgin back then) until I left Paris, and pretty much worked, studied and reflected 16 hours a day.

spac01_400Now when space exploration became possible the pioneers had the same naive dreams. They thought they would find civilizations just like hours in all kinds of corners and planets, that they would find dozens of planets like ours, and that they would meet (perhaps even fight wars) with alien civilizations.

But let's reflect on this lack of realism for a minute. If we examine our own planet and destiny on the planet. Even though planet Earth has been around for 6 billion years, we have only had a civilization capable of complex communication, reflexion and exploration for about 5,000 years, and have only been able to explore space for about 70 years.

This means that on our planet, for 5 billion 999 million 999 thousand 930 years, we humans (or the dinosaurs) were statically living on Earth thinking about our next meal or plowing the land rather than trying to get in touch with some kind of distant civilization.

So if life were to be found on distant plants, and life were to evolve the same way it evolved on our planet, that is that you need 6 billion years for an intelligent species to emerge and try to conquer the universe, chances are really, really, really slim that we find a species outside our planet which also has its Newtons and Einsteins and Feynmans and Segans and others who reflect on the universe.

We humans have two other limitations when it comes to space exploration: optically, our telescopes can only observe the limits of our galaxy. Also in terms of optics the longer the vision, the more we get a vision of the distant past (for example, if we were to observe the Earth from Saturn right now, we would be observing the year 1790, not 2020). Second problem is our machines can only get as far as Mars, are expensive to build, break easily, and are of that 1980s made in China toys quality.

Right now three good things have come out of space exploration: information, communication and observation.

-Communication: we send artificial satellites over our planet to enable Internet and mobile phone communication.

-Information: we send telescopes in space to get a better view of our planet

-Observation and research: this is where it gets interesting. Let's say we have limited energy resources in this day and age. Imagine, after exploring space for a bit, that we find matter, let's call it “bazinga”, which is an energy source where an ounce can power the entire planet for decades when mixed with H2O or something.

So far, we have found no useful matter or substances in space. Some suggest that we should solve our pollution and trash problem by sending our trash to space, or setting up a landfill on Mars or something. Here's the problem: it costs about a billion dollars to send a 100 cubic meter space shuttle to Mars. 100 cubic meters is about the size of a house in Connecticut or Maryland, and that's not a lot of trash you can send out for a billion dollars.

In sum, the main benefits of space exploration so far are information and communication. The fabrics of the universe are worth studying because we could find useful chemical elements in space. The chances of finding life in space that has our rational mind are extremely slim, as we needed 6 billion years to get to the rational mind we have. But who knows, perhaps we could discover matter that would make the reproduction of H2O molecules infinite, thus solve the global water crisis, among other surprising discoveries we could get to. Or we could discover matter that after careful analysis turns out eradicating cancer or diabetes or something.

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