This year is the 50ttjh anniversary of humans landing on the moon, one of the most exciting television events that has ever happened! But how has space exploration actually progressed since then? Sure, there has been the Mars Rover, which has been able to drill into a Martian rock, take photographs of the planet’s surface and even identified an ancient Martian stream that made it seem ever more likely that there was once life on our neighbouring planet. There’s also the ISS, which basically serves as a space environment research laboratory in which experiments can be conducted. It is hoped that it will allow successful testing of the systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars! Space tourism has also sparked excitement, with tickets already being sold for $250,000 a piece, just for 90 minutes in space. Despite these ticket sales, space tourism is still yet to actually happen.
This all sounds really interesting, but what are the actual benefits to us as humans. How will it change our lives? How will it benefit our future? How will it improve living conditions? At a cost of $150 billion plus another $3 or 4 billion per year in maintenance, the International Space Station is pretty expressive for something that, in our opinion, seems to have had limited impact in the grand scheme of things.
Think about things that would actually provide almost immediate benefits to the people on Earth. Clean water and sanitation, for example, which is still lacking for a relatively large proportion of the population (an estimated 790 million people (11% of the world's population) don’t have access to clean water and an estimated 1.8 billion people (25% of the world's population) lack access to adequate sanitation!). Disease, such as malaria, are still huge killers in many areas of the world. Shouldn’t things like this be more of a focus rather than looking at ways to further improve the lives of the rich minority??
We did some research to compare the cost of space exploration with the cost of improved water supplies and sanitation in developing countries and were shocked by what we found. According to Water for Africa UK, for a £5000 donation, you can fully fund a water project for a community. Imagine how many communities could have water projects funded for the cost of, for instance, the Apollo programme (which cost taxpayers $25.4 billion at the time.) We know that this money made landing on the moon a possibility, but we’re talking about people’s lives here! Further research told us that $150 billion dollars a year would deliver universal safe water and sanitation- that means that everyone in the whole world would have access to clean water! That would reduce childhood disease and deaths (every day, 6000 children die of water related diseases) for the same cost at the ISS. Isn’t that a much more worthwhile use of our money??
Our research also found out that the world could be free of malaria - one of the oldest and deadliest diseases to affect humanity - within a generation, if we would only invest the money. According to a World Health Organisation report, each year there are still more than 200 million cases of the disease, which mostly kills young children. The report says eradicating malaria is no longer a distant dream, but wiping out the parasite will probably need an extra $2bn (£1.6bn) of annual funding. That’s only the amount it takes to maintain the international space station- again, a much more worth cause in our opinion!
So what do you think? We fully agree that there are benefits to space exploration, but in the grand scheme of things can we really afford to be investing so much money when there are other more pressing matters closer to home? We think not…