Space exploration in the future will be built upon the discovery of today. With a map of territorial space drawn by mankind’s robotic explorers that have been working diligently in the form of space probes and planetary rovers, humanity will follow with confidence in knowing what waits. With baby steps leading to eventual scientific breakthroughs, humanity’s exploration of space and neighboring planets is something that will have to coincide with both politics and economics until it becomes its own separate entity.
Although it is easy to get lost in the excitement of science fiction and the exploration drives of great explorers who made discoveries in the past, it is equally easy to forget that science fiction is such because it doesn’t exist in the present, and the explorers of the past made all their journeys on Earth. One could argue that the mission to the Moon was an off-planet exploration, but that was merely to go there, grab a few rocks, and leave. Is a destination an exploration, when the true study of said destination is over a limited area?
Regardless of the Moon and the question of its exploration, not everything related to space exploration need be conducted in space itself. S.E.T.I. (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) conducts most of its research here on Earth by monitoring large sections of space from planet-bound receivers and telescopes. Their scan for radio waves and abnormalities in space carry hopes to uncover a message or presence of a form of intelligent alien life. Also, their efforts in detecting solar wobbles in distant stars have revealed large numbers of other planets in numerous solar systems throughout space.
With the study of distant solar systems, it is possible to learn more about our own system as well as to provide an incentive for moving forward with the exploration of neighboring planets. Other hobbyists and professionals alike keep their own telescopes trained to the skies, occasionally picking up a new asteroid or astrological phenomena. Because the expanse of space is so large and many unknowns remain a certainty, everything helps to learn more about its past, present, and future, especially when its future could have dire consequences to our own.
Recent talks regarding the need to return to the Moon and the prospects of landing a man on Mars has rekindled the flames of hope for active space exploration. With a future that certainly rests in terrestrial habitats on the Moon, Mars, and potentially even asteroids, as well as orbital stations for research purposes similar to the stations in Antarctica, it will be a slow process. It is almost with certainty that the dreams of space and its exploration will only rest in the knowledgeable hands of the scientists that go there, but nothing is written for sure.
Perhaps the future of space and its exploration by normal citizens and scientists alike is only a matter of time.