By Aarna Tyagi
The universe is huge. We have all heard that before but exactly how big is it?
To bring the size of the universe to scale, there are about 200 billion galaxies just in the observable universe. Yes, observable. Whatever we know about the outer space only accounts for about 4% of the entire universe. Surprising, right? But what’s even more surprising is that an antipathy to exploring this gigantic universe exists. Would someone really want to live in oblivion about their existence? Such short-sighted adversaries argue that the money and resources being put into space exploration should be used to solve problems like poverty and global warming on earth first. But these people don’t acknowledge that the enormity of these problems was only brought into notice when the first picture of earth was sent from space.
The earth, with its circumference of 40,075 km, is a minuscule part of the universe which wouldn’t even be visible if we were to look at a map of the universe. We are such a tiny part of this enormous universe and it is in our best interests to explore this vast space which lies between us and the cosmos.
Investing in space exploration is investing in humankind. As we all know, a plausible explanation for the extinction of dinosaurs is that the earth got hit by a massive comet or asteroid. To prevent history from repeating itself, we have to know what’s out there. Gaining knowledge about our surroundings will give us a better chance at surviving in this mysterious universe. As Elon Musk once said in an interview, “[we need to invest in space exploration because] in the event that something catastrophic were to happen, in which case being poor or having a disease would be irrelevant, because humanity would be extinct. It would be like, “Good news, the problems of poverty and disease have been solved, but the bad news is there aren’t any humans left.”’
Furthermore, the technology developed for space missions can be used to improve the quality of life on earth. Think of all the times you travel. You probably use Google Maps each time. I cannot even reach the school without checking Maps once. These technologies exist only because we took the initiative to invest in space exploration. If we didn’t send satellites to orbit the earth, we wouldn’t even know what the earth looks like. Not knowing your home. That’s what it would’ve been like.
Curiosity has led humans to evolve into what we are today. We are constantly striving to appease to our unquenchable desire for knowing what lies beyond us. Universe is such a thing. We should keep trying to find answers to questions which may seem inexplicable and in the process learn more about our own planet.
Additionally, reflecting on the universe promotes a finer sense of diplomacy between countries and encourages us to think of all humans as one race. During the misadventure of NASA’s Apollo 13, in which the landing on the moon had to be aborted because of an accident, all the Russian communications being transmitted on the frequency bands of the mission were terminated and Russian ships were positioned such that if an emergency were to occur, they could reach in time. If the tragedy happened the other way around, Americans would have done the same.
If you are still in denial and think space exploration is unfavorable for the economy, this will convince you. Every dollar invested in space exploration returns 7 dollars to the economy in employment and technology. 7 dollars for each dollar invested. That is a lot considering the millions invested each year in space exploration. Newer technologies also make air travel cheaper, easier and more readily available. Bigger problems demand long-term investments and the most meticulous approaches to work and investigations. Even so, they are often unraveled years after the initial effort is made. If we stop now, years of efforts and investments will dissipate. What we are aiming for is huge and we will only be able to achieve it if we invest little by little.
As Carl Sagan said, “All civilizations either become spacefaring or extinct.”
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