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Why continue space exploration?

It seems to be a simple question but when you start to


really look at what drives humanity to the stars it becomes less clear. While humans have been
explorers throughout history, it may not be easy to understand why given our seemingly
competing self-importance. Nevertheless, humans have been exploring the stars for centuries.
First while firmly attached to the ground, and eventually by sending manmade machines and
finally people beyond the confines of our little blue marble in the sky. As much knowledge as we
have gained over the past two millennia, we have also realized that there is exponentially more
that we do not know or do not understand. Our eyes have been opened to the sheer massive
scope of the universe and humanity has discovered just how little of it we can ever hope to
understand in the foreseeable future. This has pushed scientists to explore further and delve
deeper into the mysteries of our universe, but they face many challenges, both technical, and
societal.
Many experts agree that the next necessary step towards human deep space flight is to
get people to Mars. However, this presents a host of problems. First there is the problem of
developing a spacecraft that can sustain a crew for the approximately 150 day flight at minimum.
However, Curiosity actually took 253 days to reach the planet. Scientists could attempt to design
better engines and better fuels that could get a rocket to Mars in less time, but a leap in
technology sufficient to eliminate the problem of humans surviving in space for a lengthy period
of time is unlikely. In order to send humans on long trips into space they need to bring enough
food and water, which means better water recycling technology is needed for long sojourns into

space. As of now, that journey is possible, but not very practical as it brings with it a host of
other problems related to the limits of the human body. Besides simply the journey itself, it
doesnt make sense to send astronauts on a six month journey to Mars only to have them stay
for a few days. The means that a sustainable habitat must also be developed so that the
astronauts can actually live and work on the surface of Mars for up to the two years it takes for
Mars and Earth to be aligned at the closest points in their orbits. All that equipment means more
weight, which requires more fuel to leave Earth orbit, which means more money. Technology
currently limits our space travel capabilities to liquid rocket fuel and solid rocket boosters. Which
we have been using successfully for years. If we were to develop a new method for propelling a
rocket in space, possibly by using nuclear technology or another method yet to be discovered,
we might be able to significantly reduce the travel time to Mars, and extend our reach even
further.
Funding for space exploration, while abundant during the Cold War and the Space Race,
has dwindled ever since, not just in the United States, which does not currently have a working
rocket to continue supporting research on the International Space Station, but around the globe.
Many people have argued that we have enough problems here on Earth and we should deal
with those first before attempting to move further out into our solar system and simply spreading
our problems out instead of solving them. While that is a valid point, if we continue to explore
outside of our own planet, we may be able to understand how the universe was formed, and use
that knowledge to better understand our own planet. Yes we do have a lot of problems to deal

with here on the ground, but that is exactly why we must continue our exploration of our galaxy.
So many technological advances have come out of the space program to date, and even more
are being developed now that we can use here at home. There are infinite possibilities to use
space technology here on Earth. NASA has developed a plane that can be folded up and sent to
Mars to study its atmosphere. This could lead to a breakthrough in scientists understanding of
the early history of the Earth. The drive to explore inspires people and can lead to great
innovation, and the discoveries we make in our solar system and beyond can be brought bake
home and used to make Planet Earth a better place.
I grew up learning about science and NASAs history and the moon landings from my
dad, so I have always known that there is so much more to explore than simply our little corner
of the universe. The limits of human technology have been growing by leaps and bounds, and
we have a responsibility to do something meaningful with that knowledge for the future of
humanity.

References

[1 D. W. Mittlefehldt, "Mittlefehldt, D. W. "PLANETARY SCIENCE: The Latest News from Mars,"


]
Science, vol. 287, no. 5458, pp. 1601-1602, 2000.
[2 M. Griffin, "The Real Reasos We Explore Space," Air & Space Magazine, 2007.
]
[3 S. Von Hoerner, "The General Limits of Space Travel: We may never visit our neighbors in
]
space, but we should start listening and talking to them," Science, vol. 137, no. 3523, pp. 1823, 1962.
[4 Why We Need to go Back to Mars. [Film]. USA: TEDxNASA, 2009.
]