All around the Internet, NASA’s recent budget cut stirred up heated debates between those who say we should explore space and those who say that we could spend that money on something "more useful." Up until now, I had only observed these debates from afar, not wanting to get caught in the argument. But I recently had come to a point where I felt compelled to share my views on the topic, views that might not be the most convincing—maybe downright flawed—but they are mine and I stand by them.
Reading people’s arguments about space exploration always made me think, think about why I think space exploration is important. And when I take away the emotional factor—the wonder and awe that, in many of us, is deeply embedded when we think about space—the answer is always just one word: knowledge!
Forget science fiction! We know so little about the universe we live in it is staggering. Yet, when someone proposes we should pursue at least some of the answers (which is precisely what most NASA missions are designed for), people object. This saddens me because I would much rather find out how the universe works through the processes of observation and exploration—the process of reason—than flawed, man-made dogmas, remaining from an age of ignorance. We now have the technology to find some of the answers, so why not pursue it? It is like living in a dark room all our lives; yet, when someone offers us to open the door we refuse because we became too comfortable in the darkness. I say kick that door open and go see what is out there!
Skeptics also need to take into consideration technological progress. Countless innovations that govern almost every aspect of our daily lives comes directly or indirectly from space exploration. But we could not see these discoveries beforehand. You actually have to do the science and exploration to find them! Columbus did not know he will discover America, he actually had to cross the Atlantic first. It is the same with space exploration! Pursuing the unknown holds tremendous amount of knowledge and progress we cannot yet foresee, but only those who spend time and effort pursuing this knowledge will benefit from it. If it is not America, then it will be someone else. China, India, and even Iran are stretching toward the heavens. Perhaps it is them who should succeed.
My last point is self-preservation, which may sound like science fiction to some—it sound like that to me too—but space exploration can, on the long run, be the answer for humanity’s survival. Even if we manage not to obliterate ourselves, there are plenty of stuff out there than can do that for us. Someone—I cannot remember who—once said, “the universe is filled with the ruins of societies who thought going to space was a waste of time,” which is kind of funny until you really start thinking about it. Being a multi-planet society does sound science fiction, maybe even impossible. We do not know, but we cannot know if we do not even try!
NASA’s budget is less than half a penny on a dollar. Is that really that high a price? I do not think so…