The History Of Space Exploration Essay Example
3...2...1...0....All engines running. We have liftoff!
These surmounting words, spoken on July 16, 1969, etched the marking of one of humanity's greatest achievements. Apollo 11, carrying Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, was the first successful moon landing that not only helped scientists understand Earth’s natural satellite, but it instilled victory for America in the space race.
However, after 50 years, we haven’t made much progress. While the International Space Station was a remarkable achievement, its intentions weren’t being utilized by scientists to the extent of which it was made for: to enable humans to travel farther than the moon. The US federal budget dropped drastically after the Apollo missions since the motivation for space exploration died, and the government felt it was simply wasting money. Space exploration was becoming obsolete — that is, until recently.
Elon Musk, a business magnate and engineer, made the bold decision to start a company called SpaceX. His goal was to reach Mars by 2024 and colonize it by 2028. Musk’s plan, effectuated by the first reusable rocket (Falcon 9) in 2015, sparked interest and motivation into other agencies such as NASA, MBRSC (Dubai’s government space program), JAXA (Japan’s space program), etc. However, Musk’s bodacious ambition was met with immediate speculation. Fatalistic comments about its plausibility with scientists, researchers, and even Buzz Aldrin himself, argued it was science fiction. But that’s where they are wrong. As smartphones were science fiction to us only 10 years ago, the mission to Mars is a realistic, predestined idea that will bring advancements to our species, technological breakthroughs, and improvements to our economy.
To start, going to Mars is no easy task. Sticking a flag on Mars’ desolate ground is not what space exploration represents. Instead, what matters is the human capability that leads us to that accomplishment, as well as creating a foundation for future generations to follow. Lance Bush, the president and CEO of Challenger Center, advises, “The next generation is looking for that inspiration, dreaming about how they will change the world and what they will do to benefit mankind.”
Furthermore, when we do decide to colonize Mars, it is up to the next generation to support and fulfill the expectations that were left today. But how can we expect future generations to do a task that was neglected by the people of today? The answer is we can’t. That is why it is so important to start this mission now. A report of math and science assessments show that more than one-third of U.S. students in the 21st century lose interest in STEM subjects after middle school. By the time they enter 9th grade, almost 50 percent noted that there was no motivation to pursue STEM-based careers (Explore Mars). While we can’t directly attribute this to space exploration, it is without question the decisions made today are affecting upcoming generations.
Undoubtedly, the benefits of space exploration for technology cannot be ignored. It has helped support much of 21st century America, assisting in U.S. national security, health, transportation, commerce, and defense. Implantable pacemakers, reliable LASIK surgery, GPS, digital imaging, water-purification, and infrared cameras are just some of the powerful tools that have emerged from space exploration. This is largely due to the cross-pollination of various disciplines. Essentially, by providing a budget towards space-related companies, the breadth of contributions stretches farther than space and into aspects of daily life. The point is, money spent on accelerating the study of Mars (or space exploration in general) will not go waste; whether or not we end up on Mars, the facilitation of technological advancement is apparent.
Recently, NASA released a report that quantified the economic impact of space exploration. In the fiscal year of 2019, with just 0.5% of the total US federal budget, the agency generated more than 64 billion USD and supported more than 300,000 jobs nationwide (NASA). Similarly, SpaceX (a privately-funded company), has made strides in reducing the cost of constructing the rockets. By using less harmful chemicals to the environment and reusing rockets, SpaceX saves hundreds of millions of dollars that can be invested in additional research and other important aspects.
On the contrary, opposers of interplanetary exploration often state that we should just focus on fixing the issues on Earth. How can we move to Mars when we’re still trying to fix climate change and pollution? As it turns out, Mars’ climate is in our favor. A huge difference between Mars and Earth has to do with the atmosphere. Unlike Earth, Mars does not have an ozone layer and its thickness is nearly ⅓ of that on Earth. Fortunately, greenhouses gases are a solution. Yes, that’s right. The same gases that haunt scientists due to their effects on Earth, can help situate Mars’ atmosphere to that of ours while also trapping gases that can be beneficial to grow plants and carbon-based life. While there are other aspects to consider, this by itself is a valid reason to go to Mars.
Additionally, Mars can help us learn a lot more about our home planet. The current climate will help scientists understand and effectively model its seasonal cycle along with detailed weather maps of the planet. Since Mars was thought to be like Earth millions of years ago, understanding its dry, barren desert can be monumental in our current understanding of how planets, like ours, function.
Ultimately, it is up to us to determine whether or not we go to Mars. Brave individuals and companies can only do so much. After President Kennedy, the government’s scornful attitude towards space exploration has shown in its available budget; with only 0.5% (roughly 22 billion USD) of the U.S. budget, our Mars expedition is only slowed down. By vastly increasing our budget, we can accelerate our timeline and perpetuate not only ourselves but our children’s children — for human civilization itself.