The Space & Beyond Blog
The benefits of space exploration
Though only a lucky few have experienced space for themselves, all of humanity has prospered thanks to space travel.
In 2006, the international Cassini spacecraft this image titled In Saturn’s Shadow – The Pale Blue Dot. The bright blue dot just below Saturn’s rings is Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
For more than 50 years humanity has been active in space and though the number of people to visit space for themselves are few, the entire world has reaped the benefits of space exploration. From our modern telecommunications system to modern computers to solar cells, the innovations made to rise to the challenges of exploring our solar system have tangible effects on Earth as well.
Now humanity is at the edge of a new frontier with countries around the world reaffirming their dedication to space exploration. A trio of Mars-bound missions reached the Red Planet in early Feb. The United Arab Emirates’ al-Amal (Hope) orbiter — the first interplanetary mission undertaken by an Arab nation — arrived first. Hope was followed by China’s Tianwen-1 mission which will deliver the country’s first martian rover sometime in May. And last, but not least, NASA’s Perseverance rover which successfully touched down Feb. 18.
MOUSE OVER TO INTERACT WITH THE PANORAMA: Perseverance captures its first 360-degree panorama of its new home. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS
But the new era of space travel is only the beginning, NASA has reaffirmed their dedication to returning humans, and the first woman, to the Moon by 20XX. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently announced the country will launch a lunar rover in 2023 as part of a new 10-year plan to develop their own space program. The next decade is proving to be an excited and groundbreaking time for space exploration. So, what can those of us on Earth expect to see?
More space travel means more challenges. But space agencies have proven themselves more than capable, developing knowledge and new technologies every step of the way. Past space exploration has given rise to a number of innovations that we take for granted today, including solar panels, implantable heart monitors, cancer therapy, and water-purification systems.
More space exploration promises to bring new and serendipitous benefits to a variety of areas, such as power generation and energy storage, recycling and waste management, advanced robotics, health and medicine, transportation, computing, and engineering. It’s hard to predict exactly what new technology may arise, but if history is any indication it will be life altering for many of us.
Taken from Apollo 11 spacecraft, this image shows Earth rising over the Moon’s horizon. Credit: NASA
Cultures around the world have long looked up at the night sky and dreamed. When NASA astronauts first landed on the Moon in 1969, they captured an image of Earth prior to landing. It changed humanity’s understanding of our place in the Universe.
On Feb. 14, 1990, Voyager 1 captured this photograph of Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Then in 1990, the Voyager 1 craft captured an image of our pale blue dot at a distance of 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometers). The image inspired the title of Carl Sagan’s book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. He wrote, “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”
Those first five decades of space activity have expanded humanity’s views on the limits of exploration and inspired new thinking as to how life may exist beyond Earth. In 2013, NASA’s Curiosity rover detected preliminary signs of Mars previously hosting an environment capable of supporting life. Their most recent rover, Perseverance, will soon begin collecting promising samples to return to Earth one day with the hopes of seeing direct evidence of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet. To find past or present life either in the solar system or even beyond would forever changes our understanding of our pale blue dot’s place in the cosmos.
The International Space Station photographed by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli. Credit: ESA/NASA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Combining innovation with a new appreciation for our world lays a foundation for international cooperation. Space exploration may have started as a race, but now it is the bedrock for partnerships and diplomacy around the globe.
The International Space Station (ISS), at nearly 30 years old, is the prime example of continuous and successful international cooperation. Originally 15 nations signed the international agreement for the ISS, but that has expanded over the years to include participation from 68 nations.
The ISS proves what humanity can accomplish when we agree to work together towards and single goal. As missions become more complex and ambitious more extensive international cooperation will be required, providing opportunities for peaceful, global-coordinated activities in space and on Earth. At home, international corporation is needed to tackle global threats such as Near-Earth Objects, solar storms, and global warming.