Space exploration has been increasing greatly in the last 50 years. It has allowed us to understand the greatness of the universe and the endless possibilities it offers us. Our planet, Earth, is inhabited by approximately 6 billion humans. This is well over our natural carrying capacity (the amount of resources there are to sustain our population) but with techniques such as farming, we have manipulated our resources to provide us with enough food, but alternate solutions are needed. The Cold War was when the space exploration significantly advanced, with the political competition between U.S.A and the U.S.S.R., where the two nations invested highly on technologies to see who could win the space-race. Artificial satellites, a man made device that orbits around Earth or other planets, came along at about 1951, when the Russians launched “Sputnik 1” into orbit around Earth. Since then, satellites have developed technologically and now they are so widely used, that almost everyone’s benefiting from them in everyday life.
Through space exploration, a lot has been learnt about Earth and space. When the Hubble Space Telescope was fully operational in 1993, it allowed us to observe our galaxy in ways that were impossible from Earth. Orbiting observatories such as the Advanced X-Ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) and the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) also contributed to the study of the stars, galaxies and the structure of the universe. These have all brought back images of previously unknown galaxies and stars, and also have increased our awareness of black holes. Several probes have been sent out from Earth, and collected information about the atmospheres of the planets in our solar system. Scientist and environmentalists have learnt a great deal about our planet. With the help of satellites, they can now easily find facts about deforestation, pollution, global warming and climates, giving mankind a broader understanding of our own planet.
Space exploration has brought countless benefits to the people. Through the research of NASA , space exploration has indirectly provided us with Compact discs, special UV protection suits for people who can not be exposed to the sun and metal alloys which are now used for aeroplanes, sports equipment and trains. I believe that satellites have been the greatest compensation from the money invested in space exploration. There are currently over 2,200 operational satellites orbiting the Earth, most of them, profiting the people. There are three types of satellites; GPSs, Reconnaissance and Telecommunication satellites. Reconnaissance satellites are the ones that orbit most closely to the Earth, and are equipped with high resolution cameras. More sophisticated Reconnaissance satellites are the “spy cameras”, which can capture full motion pictures of the Earth.
These types of satellites are also sometimes integrated with special sensors for heat, infra-red and ultra-violet; these have very beneficial utilities such as for meteorology. Meteorological satellites have given us the ability to predict weather like never before. Not only is it used for people to know the future temperatures, it’s also very useful for navigational purposes for ships and aeroplanes, who’s pilots can now travel through a safer routes. Another fantastic technology that satellites have given us is the GPS (Global Positioning System). The GPS provides the user with accurate information of their latitude, longitude and velocity, and it was initially designed for military use, but the commerce has found various new applications for the GPS.
If a car fitted with the GPS was to be stolen, the company can constantly monitor the location of the vehicle. Some police cars now have GPSs, so in future emergencies, the station would be able to contact the closest police vehicle via radio. Telecommunication satellites communicate by sending each other communicational signals, and therefore being able to send them to any part of the world. Mobile phones, modern television and the internet all depend on telecommunication satellites.
Third world countries very probably will oppose space exploration. The rich, who can invest, will only make more money exploring space, increasing the bridge between the poor; while the money could be invested on the development of our own Earth. Other who oppose space exploration could argue that the possible dangers that the unexplored space holds for us, could lead to deaths and losses if not approached with caution.
The U.S. government’s spends billions of Dollars annually on space exploration. While some of it is a true necessity (i.e. satellites’ maintenance), I believe that it is mostly avoidable. The money spent on research of other planets could be redirected the problems in our world. Why go searching for more space, when there is plenty to do here? However, I believe that just the possible future advantages outweigh the drawbacks. Space exploration is a promising solution to the upcoming threat of over population. With the estimated figure of 9 billion humans on earth by the next three decades, mankind needs to find additional resources elsewhere. On the other hand, people may believe that controlling the population is a more viable solution than trying to support its increasing numbers. Space exploration has also provided us with technologies that save lives, such as the prediction of natural hazards such as hurricanes and typhoons.
Space exploration has already modified our life styles, simplifying complicated tasks and automating long tedious work. I believe that space exploration should definitely continue. Space holds danger, asteroids have hit earth before, and they will again. Without the ability to reach out across space, the chance to save ourselves might not exist. Space allows us to expand and succeed.
That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.