Space exploration involves large economic investments, massive risks and seemingly unattainable goals. So why should we engage in it? Because it can bring us, as individuals and as a species, unexpected benefits. Here are 10 reasons to encourage space exploration
It protects us from asteroids
The threat of asteroids must be taken into consideration: a serious and well-funded space program must have the capacity to monitor the large asteroids that could potentially destroy our planet. Small asteroids are disintegrating in the atmosphere at the rate of one every two weeks, but some are over 100 meters in diameter and which we must watch out for. Fortunately, we already have instruments that allow us (in most cases) to predict and study the transit of asteroids.
It protects our health
From the robotic arm that can operate directly using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to methods of delivering anti-cancer drugs directly targeting diseased cells, microgravity research has brought important innovations to the field of medicine. One of the most promising areas today is research into osteoporosis - a disease that results in loss of bone mass, which means bones become weak and more likely to break. This disease not only affects the elderly (especially women), but also astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). After a month of exposure to microgravity, an astronaut loses about 1,5% of their bone mass, the same percentage that an elderly person lost over the course of a year. So not only are there many opportunities to try new osteoporosis drugs and treatments in space, but it's also much easier to do so than on Earth.
It is at the origin of great discoveries
From the thermal space blanket, used today by marathon runners at the end of races, to the portable vacuum cleaners we now have in our homes, space research has bequeathed some surprising and enjoyable innovations that we non-astronauts all use. days.
She inspires the younger generations
You can ask a child, "Would you like to become an aeronautical engineer and design an airplane 20% more efficient than the previous model?" Or you can ask a child, "Would you like to become an aeronautical engineer and design a spacecraft that could go to Mars?" Guess which question is most likely to prompt her to study and dream of achieving great things?
We need new raw materials
Much has been said about private companies, eager to extract raw materials from asteroids, to turn space material into cash. But you don't have to go as far as the asteroids in finding the raw materials we need on Earth. The moon, for example, is rich in helium-3, a very rare isotope on Earth that is used primarily for nuclear fusion research. On the moon, we also find europium and tantalum, elements always needed in the field of electronics and in the construction of solar panels.
It guarantees us greater global security
The political role of surveillance satellites in studying the military movements of countries is well known. By securing a place at the forefront of space research, military superpowers like the United States, Russia and China can monitor the movements of rival countries and prevent, for example, the race to own a " slice ”of the space and resources it offers (think of the moon, for example). The United States, the Soviet Union and China signed an international agreement in 1967, which prevents any claim of sovereignty over part of outer space and prohibits the placement of nuclear weapons in Earth orbit, on the moon or on other celestial bodies.
It is an example of peaceful collaboration
Many positive collaborations between nations spring from space exploration, from subdividing costs to sharing technological resources that keep astronauts safe (think of the Russian shuttles that took even Americans into space). Of course, international political events may have an impact on the long-term plans of individual space agencies, but, so far, they have failed to undermine the friendship and group spirit aboard the ISS.
She could answer this eternal question… are we alone in the universe?
So far, the Kepler Space Telescope has unveiled a long list of other "Earths" beyond our solar system, located in habitable belts around their respective stars. They are all potentially hospitable for life. In 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope discovered a new planet that could possibly become an Earth twin capable of accommodating alien life forms.
It responds to a secular desire
There are indeed practical and economic reasons to explore space, as we have pointed out above. But there are also other reasons, less overtly rational. First of all, there is a motive behind people's willingness to risk their lives by exploring space: it is the thirst for exploration that has characterized humanity since time immemorial. Without this thirst, our ancestors would never have left Africa, let alone set foot on the moon. And we would never have gone on a comet, like the Rosetta mission did last year, to research the origins of life.
We must colonize the space
There has been enough damage on this planet. Very soon, if we want the human race to survive, we will have to colonize another planet. According to a 2012 report from the United Nations Environment Program, the Earth can support a population of at most eight to sixteen billion people. Since we are already past seven billion, we may soon have to consider new worlds to establish ourselves on. This is research that has already started.