Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One giant leap for Yuri, two steps back for mankind.

Science Vs Politics series.

April 12th, known as Yuri’s night, is a time when we celebrate the birth of manned spaceflight and exploration. And this one was a particularly special one, 50 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, the first man to orbit the Earth, and the first hero of many young kids who grew up wanting to be Astro/Cosmonauts.

Since Yuri’s triumph we have also dome some pretty spectacular things, we went to the moon…6 times, we have explored our solar system and the universe with satellites like Hubble and Cassini-Huygens, we have had an almost constant human presence in space with space stations like Mir, Skylab, International Space Station, Space Shuttle etc.

But why have we stopped there? The answer…money.

There is no scientific barrier, stopping us from returning to the Moon, or going to Mars. Money, therefore politics, is the thing holding us on this planet. Although not a new idea, in the absence of massive government support, you need cost-effectiveness. At the moment, space exploration is not cost-effective, so what we have to rely on is massive government support, which we don’t have.

As the deciders of where public money is spent, our political representatives should have a better appreciation for space exploration and what it can do for us, etc. I think the main problem is that a space program will take time, maybe 10-15 years to complete and that’s a too long in politics world. Any political decision has direct consequences in at most 4 years, so understandably, funding a 15 year manned space exploration program is simply out of the question.

We are really good at exploring, it’s what humans do. Throughout history, no matter what political or societal issues of the time have been, we still explore, I believe it is the greatest of all human and scientific endeavours. In fact I see it as our responsibility. We are the only living being that we know of with the intelligence to explore space, yet it is made impossible to do so by our governments.

My solution/suggestion is in principle fairly simple. Get off the planet! We need to send colonisers to Mars and in addition I suggest the Moon, Venus, and Titan and by the time we have been there, we will probably have found other places to go.

I can offer the following political incentives:
  • A space faring nation is a powerful and educated nation
  • With research into space exploration comes innovation
  • Space exploration is a multi-disciplinary effort
  • Political drive will push public interest, which in turn pushes funding
  • There are countless types and amounts of natural resources out there
And the following thoughts that I think are scary:
  • When we think of aliens, we think iof interplanetary beings possibly coming to our planet for some sort of exploitation. To them, we are the aliens.
  • What chance do we have if finding intelligent life on other worlds if we wont even venture off our own?
  • if we continue to mess up our planet like we are to the point where we make ourselves extinct...that is it, no more humanity.
Granted, sending people on a one way trip to Mars or back to the Moon would be a hard political move to make, risky for sure, but it worked for J.F.K.

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