In our Burnet News Club session this week we discussed the question ‘why do we go to space in the first place.’ As a class, we came up with lots of reasons: to discover new things; new holiday destinations; simple curiosity of the university; to make a profit from mining new or rare materials; and to investigate life on other planets. We discussed each reason before ordering them from the most important to the least important. This is what I came up with:
1. To investigate life on other planets.
I put this as the most important for two main reasons. Firstly, discovering life on other planets may give us ideas about how to live our lives differently. If life is fully established, we might be able to learn things from them, such as how to look after our environment or even how to solve the problem of world hunger! On another level, it might simply show us other planets on which habitation would be possible. This would provide humans with a possible home in case our planet becomes impossible to live on, for example in the case of a meteor hitting it, in the case of a nuclear explosion blocking out the sun or in the case of pollution becoming irreversibly bad.
2. To discover new things
I think this is also a very important reason. In our BNC session, we looked at a range of discoveries that have only been made possible because of space exploration, such as wireless headphones (which help us on Earth as much as in space) and water purification systems, which have become essential for humans. If these things have already been discovered, just think about how many more things are out there, especially as space exploration becomes more popular. There might be things that could help cure disease or that we might be able to use to power the Earth, such as solar wind.
Although it’s important to be curious and to want to learn everything we can about the universe around us, there are more important reasons that can actually benefit the human race at the present time. The importance of curiosity can’t be disregarded, but I also don’t think it’s the most important thing.
4. To make a profit
This is a tricky one, as I feel that there are some countries or some individuals who would put this as the most important reason (there were some people in my BNC who put this as reason number 1!). I feel like it’s less important to make money for your country than it is to make new discoveries that could benefit humans. Besides, space exploration is so expensive that I think it would be difficult to make back more profit than you’re losing.
5. New holiday destinations
As exciting as this may be, I don’t think it’s massively important. The cost of holidaying in space would be far too expensive for the majority of people to afford anyway. Surely space exploration is more beneficial when it can affect a large proportion of the Earth’s population.
What do you think? Did you come up with any more reasons for space travel? Which reason do you think is the most important?