Is space exploration a waste of money?
Space has always been fascinating to humans. For many thousands of years, people have been looking to the skies for answers, although it wasn’t until the 20th century that man was able to develop the technology to explore space. Through these technologies, we have learned much more about our universe and expanded humankind’s reaches into the unknown. However, it is not cheap to explore space; it is estimated that NASA’s budget for 2016 was 19.3 billion dollars (USD). Some people are concerned that governments are spending money on space which could be spent on other causes and achieve more for the world and humanity. This raises the question: is space exploration a waste of money?
Firstly, one of the most beneficial outcomes of space exploration is the new technologies that are developed, and used worldwide, because of it. It is crucial for the equipment used in space travel to be as lightweight and efficient as possible. Scientists need to think outside the box in order to create new technologies that are suitable for going to space. The systems that are created during this process can then be adapted to be used in other ways and to create new mechanisms. It is this kind of innovative thinking that has led to technological advancements that help people every day. NASA has developed important technologies that help save people such as fire-fighting equipment, improved robotics, and even helped in making medical advancements such as artificial limbs. NASA has also helped develop simpler devices that most of us take for granted such as smartphone cameras and computer mice. Other technologies such as GPS and satellite television which use satellites to function would simply not be possible without space exploration. These are systems that have benefitted the world greatly and are used by people every day.
On the other hand, the money that is spent on space exploration could be put towards other causes. Governments are putting billions of dollars into space exploration every year when our planet is currently faced with many issues such as famine, disease, poverty and climate change. The money spent on space exploration could be put towards helping solve these issues. In 2016 the US government spent $25.6 billion USD on humanitarian aid and $19.3 billion USD on space exploration. If this money was also put toward humanitarian aid, it would almost double the budget and would have a big impact on the world. According to “Save the Children”, it only costs $40 USD to feed a child living in a developing country who is suffering from severe malnutrition for 10 weeks. Comparing this to the $19.3 billion USD that the US government spent on NASA in 2016 we can see that if the money was put towards other causes that affect our planet, it could definitely make a difference.
Another reason why space exploration could be valuable to us is that it has been estimated that humans do not have long left on our planet. Earth has more problems than ever affecting it, such as climate change and pollution, making it an increasingly less habitable place. It is predicted that despite humanity’s best efforts to save the planet, the chance of a catastrophic disaster that will wipe out the human race occurring within the next 1000 years is almost certain. Leading physicists, such as Stephen Hawking, have estimated that if we do not start moving to other planets then the human race might not survive. Missions to send humans to Mars within the next 50 years are already being planned, but without funding, these missions will not take place and we could be endangering humanity in the long run. Hawking has said that we have “run out of space”, and that “the only places left to go are other worlds.” These figures give us a very short time to act and therefore increases the need for space exploration.
Finally, space exploration helps create political and diplomatic bonds between nations. Getting into space is a very expensive and difficult process. It is almost impossible for a nation to have a working space program without the help or input from other nations. Countries help each other by providing equipment or by helping with funding. This forces nations to co-operate and helps form bonds between countries. An example of nations working together in space is the international space station (ISS). Astronauts from all over the world live and work together in the space station for up to 6 months at a time. This collaboration of astronauts in space means that nations work together on the ground and can build strong relationships. One example of countries working together on the ISS is the USA and Russia. Even since before the ‘cold war’, Russia and the USA have been portrayed as enemies. However, Russians and Americans have been working together on the international space station since the first astronauts arrived at it in 2000 and are still doing so to this day. At the time of writing this, there is one Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut on the station. Co-operation in this way helps to ease tension on the ground. This, in turn, leads to a safer world for everyone.
In conclusion, there are many benefits to space exploration, such as new technologies being developed, and political relationships being created. However, many believe that this money should be spent on other causes such as climate change or world hunger. I personally believe that space exploration has an overall positive impact on our world and that the positives outweigh the negatives.