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Is Space Exploration the ultimate panacea for all of humanity’s problems?

3, 2, 1.. Lift off……

It is November 26, 2011. The rocket carrying the Curiosity Mars Exploration Rover (CMER) soars over Cape Canaveral, Florida. The lift off is perfect and the control room reverberates with squeals of joy. Now, lets take a look halfway across the world in Mumbai, India, where hundreds mourn the death of 166 people at the third anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks. These contrasting scenes of joy and despair, hope and insecurity highlight an important question. The question is: Why do we spend tons of money on Space Exploration, when we have so many problems here on Earth?

It is true that humanity faces a plethora of problems, from population to lack of resources, from terrorism to lack of electricity. Many have criticised the funding of space research missions saying that the money will be better spent on solving day-to-day issues. Unfortunately, these people are highly uninformed about the benefits space exploration has bestowed upon humanity.

Space exploration impacts our day-to-day lives much more than it seems to.  During the past 50 years, we have frequently heard about many amazing spinoffs from the human space exploration program – everything from personal computers to solar energy, from memory foam to the vacuum cleaner .The contact lenses you wear were invented by NASA. Same can be said about the treadmill you use everyday (or once in a blue moon 🙂 ). Just imagine your life without these useful inventions…. Space exploration has significantly contributed to cancer research, one of the biggest problems plaguing human health.

The human population has reached a whopping 7.4 Billion, which is expected to increase and touch 8 Billion by 2024. On the other hand, the natural resources which are critical for humanity’s survival are dwindling.  Have you ever thought how will humanity manage to survive amidst the ever-increasing population and the ever-decreasing natural resources? We don’t have a magic wand to make these problems disappear. The only option for us is to fund space exploration. The amount of natural resources and minerals we can mine from space is infinite. As these resources become more abundant, they will get cheaper. As these resources get cheaper, more people will start to buy them. This will consequently help in raising the standard of life of the common citizen.

Today, in 2016, the thought of exploiting space for our needs may sound a far-fetched. However, it might not 10 years from now. On a closing note, Ken Olsen, the chairman of the Digital Equipment Corporation famously declared in 1977 that :

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”

Well we all know how true it is!

Author – Rajvir Batra


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