• Mayur Pawar

Do you know: Why space exploration is important?

As the world is dealing with plenty of problems including poverty, climate change, large scale conflicts, unemployment and even water and food security. How could be spending billions on planetary exploration, putting space telescopes to explore outreach planets, colonizing other planets justifiable? Shouldn't we deal with Earth's issues first before creating an extraterrestrial colony? Why space exploration is important?

In my opinion, Yes! Space exploration is important in many aspects of our lives. In fact, space exploration plays a crucial role in our day to day life. In this article, we will be discussing both scientifical and sociological benefits of space exploration. Here's how?

We are explorers!

The human being is undoubtedly explorer in nature and always goes beyond a limit to explore more. Who among us has not had the urge to know what’s over the next hill? History always had sophisticated proofs of mankind's exploration to new tools, knowledge, territory and curiosity about the origin. In the early 15th century Europeans began exploring the world by sea in search of new trading routes, wealth, and knowledge. Thorugh which world evolved vastly and speedily.

For centuries mankind is curious about the sky and beyond, many astronomers played role in understanding it and made a hypothesis. But as we march towards the modern era, technology drove us beyond boundaries. We enabled us with accessibility to space with space launch vehicles, undoubtedly space exploration started with a race, but today we as a human being have had at least one probe around every planet in our solar system, one beyond the solar system (Voyager 1), footprints of mankind on the Moon and functional towards Mars. Isn't it amazing?

In a 2007 speech, former NASA administrator Michael Griffin differentiated between "acceptable reasons" and "real reasons" for space exploration. Acceptable reasons would be issues like the economic benefit and national security. But real reasons include concepts like curiosity, competitiveness and monument-building. "Who among us does not know the wonder and mystery and awe and magic of seeing something, even on television, never seen before, and experience brought back to us by a robotic space mission?" Griffin added that "when we do things for real reasons as opposed to acceptable reasons, we produce our highest achievements."

New technological advancements

Humans did not evolve to go into space, but we go there anyway. That has led to the development of various technologies that feedback into the economy and improve our lives on Earth. Without space programs, we wouldn’t have GPS, accurate weather prediction, solar cells, or the ultraviolet filters in sunglasses and cameras. There’s also medical research happening in space right now that could cure diseases and prolong human lives, and these experiments can’t be done on Earth. Technology developed for use in space has also found uses in detecting Alzheimer'srevolutionizing solar power and even fighting bank fraud. Talking on cellular phones long distance and overseas calls would be impossible without satellites.

Space exploration certainly helped in national security. Countries need to detect and prevent a hostile nation or terrorist group from deploying space-based weapons or attacking its navigational, communications and surveillance satellites.

Countless innovations in sectors ranging from metals and alloys to biology and medicine have been possible thanks to space exploration. Materials developed and tested in space, under unique conditions that are difficult to replicate on earth, can give rise to stronger, lighter, higher-performance products. One of the experiments conducted by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet onboard the International Space Station (ISS), for example, involved testing innovative materials designed to prevent bacterial contamination. These materials offer considerable potential for use in a range of public health and hygiene applications, such as in hospitals, on public transport and in the food industry. Periods spent in space by astronauts, and the associated consequences for the body in terms of loss of muscle mass and bone density, as well as accelerated wear and tear on the circulatory system, also provide an opportunity to study the effects of ageing, thereby helping to progress research into conditions such as osteoporosis. 

The International Space Station alone has generated scores of medical innovations with uses on Earth, such as a method for delivering cancer-fighting medication directly to tumours; gadgetry that a nurse can hold to perform ultrasounds and transmit the results to a doctor thousands of miles away; and a robotic arm that can perform delicate surgery inside an MRI machine. In an effort to protect astronauts from losing bone and muscle in the microgravity environment of space, also helped a pharmaceutical company to test Prolia, a drug that today helps protect elderly people from osteoporosis. It was easier to test this drug in space as astronauts lose around 1.5 per cent of their bones each month in microgravity, whereas an elderly woman on Earth would lose 1.5 per cent per year to osteoporosis [source: Kiger].

Prevention from Asteroids & Comets

If we don't want to go the way of the dinosaurs someday, we need to protect ourselves against the threat of being hit by a big asteroid. According to NASA, typically about once every 10,000 years, a rocky or iron asteroid the size of a football field could smash into our planet's surface and possibly cause tidal waves big enough to inundate coastal areas.

But it's the real monsters -- asteroids about 100 meters (109 yards) across or bigger-- that we really have to fear. Such a collision would unleash a firestorm of heated debris and fill the atmosphere with sun-blocking dust, which would wipe out forests and farm fields and starve the human and animal life that it didn't immediately kill. A wisely funded space program enables us to spot a dangerous object long before it strikes Earth, and send a spacecraft to plant and detonate a nuclear explosion that could nudge it off its collision course.

Recently, an MoU between the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) for cooperation in the field of Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and Astrophysics was signed. MoU will pave the way for future collaborations between ISRO and IIA in establishing optical telescope facilities under NETRA Project for space object tracking, studies related to space weather, Asteroids, and other Near Earth Objects (NEO). Collaboration between ISRO and IIA will help in progressing various fields of Astrophysics and Astronomy as well. [Source: TOI]

Enables new avenues to businesses and partnerships!

In recent decade space exploration has changed drastically, besides well-based government organisation many commercial players have established groundbreaking capabilities in space exploration. From cost reduction in per capita launch to various advanced algorithms for various systems, sub-systems and data synthesis. Hundreds of startups are benefiting from the savings involved in the new nanosatellite constellations. Nanosatellite revolution requires a new spatial ecosystem suitable for its constellations: a brand new productive environment that includes stations, satellite control and monitoring software, specialized subsystems, solar panels, batteries and rockets, etc.

Side-by-side it is also upon space tourism and colonisation on another planet as a backup plan for humanity. There are currently more than 7 billion humans, which is a lot. However, we’re all crammed together on this one planet. If something happened to Earth, our species could be wiped out. For example, the aforementioned asteroid impact. Colonizing other bodies in the solar system is a way to create a “backup” of humanity that will survive no matter what happens to Earth. Maybe future humans will be Martians who will never set foot on Earth. Many big and small firms are functional towards various domains in establishing a colony on Mars, from transportation to life support to habitat on Mars.

Though it is a new venture proceeding to work jointly with government space organization and commercial companies. As much as many governments are supporting many start-ups to being a part of their projects in various developments and ventures.

The international space station [ISS] is a huge success of the joint effort in the space domain. ISS is a modular space station (habitable artificial satellite) in low Earth orbit. It is a multinational collaborative project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos