In exciting news from NASA, the human race has finally developed faster than light travel! Oh wait… no that’s not right. Unfortunately we’re not quite there yet but I do have it from good sources that someone some where is working away on it very diligently in their moms basement. So only a few more years then and we’ll all have our own spaceships and to help us find new extra solar tourist destinations, NASA last week launched (MSNBC, Al Jazeera English) a brand new satellite designed specifically to locate Earth like planets orbiting distant stars.
Now a great many out there look at such developments surrounding extra solar (and intra solar) exploration as rather pointless and especially in times such as we are in now, a great waste of money. Hell, even such extreme liberals as Bill Maher have expressed their dissatisfaction with NASA and the space program on the whole. However, to an extent, I have to disagree with the likes of Maher and others who dismiss space exploration as pointless. I’ll be the first to admit that the return on investment hasn’t exactly been spectacular in purely monetary terms. Indeed, in most other metrics the whole NASA thing as been a bit of a bust, the International Space Station didn’t exactly pan out as intended. The medical revolution some touted with the advent of a permanent space station has been a long time in building momentum (though the potential for discoveries remains). As for new and amazing technology… well… NASA still uses a space truck from the 70’s (she is a fine old bird though and will finally be replaced soon).
Yes, in tough economic times, money is better spent on providing food for the masses than exploring Mars or trying to find the little green men on the second dot to the right. That being said, I strongly believe the exploration of space (and the oceanic depths) to be of the utmost importance to the long term future of not just the United States of America, but mankind as a whole. Do you remember when news hit that we had landed on Mars? The sense of euphoria and excitement was almost palpable especially among the school children of which I certainly was one. It was cool to see all the pictures from our little robot running around on that run planet. Granted it was no moon landing, but it was probably the next best thing. You see, what that little robot did, at least for me and probably a number of others, was to bring back a sense of wonderment and awe. Curiosity is a powerful thing and without it, we would not be here today. Think about it… what if Columbus had decided to just take the tried and true route to the Far East via the southern most tip of Africa as opposed to sailing west. Sure the Americas most definitely would have been discovered by other Europeans in time but whose to say if things would have ended up the same… I for one highly doubt it. How would our world have been different if settlers had never traveled West across the continent of North America to the Pacific shore or if we as a people had been content to keep our feet on the ground, never to reach for the sky?
From my standpoint, the exploration of space is about so much more than money or resources, its about making dreams, about solving the mysteries of the universe and most importantly its about the continuation of mankind. One day, whether it be tomorrow, one hundred years from now or a hundred thousand years, this world will be gone along with everything on it. Everything we have created, all the beauty, all the achievements, all the difficulties overcome will have been for naught. Exploring the vast cosmos will never be easy, there will be uncountable setbacks and many will lose their lives but for the future not merely of you and me, but for all the generations yet to come, we as a people must take the first steps to leave the cradle of humanity.