Ever since the USSR launched Sputnik in the 50’s, it seemed like space really was going to be the next frontier to be aggressively colonized, or at least to the extent that humans could get there.
What started off as a few satellites over earth, quickly became a race to the moon, and ever since then, people have been clamoring for a trip to Mars. While humans have been busy sending probes to outer space, and building an international space station, it seems as if the future of space exploration is in some doubt.
The doubt doesn’t come in whether or not we will continue to explore space, humans will always be willing to send probes to far off worlds in order to gain more knowledge of them. There is enough scientific value in this knowledge that we will always spend the money on these missions. Personally, I am excited to see what the New Horizons mission will find on Pluto, and beyond. It is always interesting and fascinating to see what is beyond our own planet, and humanity by its nature is an explorer.
The doubt comes in what direction this scientific endeavor will take. Sure, we send satellites into space all the time, for communications and for military purposes, and we wouldn’t have these capabilities if it wasn’t for the space program. However, it seems that when it comes to spending money simply for the prospect of exploration, it seems that we never can get the necessary parts all on board.
The biggest argument against space exploration is that we have so many problems that spending government money on space travel is silly. And sure we do have plenty of problems on our own planet, but would throwing more money at them solve those problems? The US government has just spent 700 billion dollars on banks, but are they lending again? Sure it will take time for these actions to show long term results, but has even that short term goal been accomplished? Would throwing more money into food stamps, or for subsidies on fuel and other goods always money better spent? I’m not trying to come up with a conclusion on that, just something to think about when someone claims the money could be better spent solving problems here first with that money.
Space exploration in the future is going to have to come from the private sector, and it will have to come with the cooperation of the entire world. Unfortunately, all that has been agreed upon is that if we get to the moon, that we can’t colonize it, that no one country owns space. Of course you would never really notice that, seeing as how India, Japan and China are all sending up their own missions into space, and to the moon. While a space program is a rare event, and brings respect to a country, to really continue to send humans into space, and to keep progressing, it will take all the nations of the world working together.
Sure, there will be tons of other challenges too, such as the harshness of space, and even if there is life on Europa, could we get there without killng ourselves, or even a probe at this point? Again, this is where the innovation of private companies, and the cooperation of the world on technical issues will play a big part in not only solving the issues that we face scientifically, but also in keeping the prices affordable for whoever decides to go out and make the process of space travel a feasible objective.
In short, mankind does have a future in space, but it will take all of us helping out to see that dream accomplished.