Intentions of space exploration

With companies like NASA and SpaceX making fascinating discoveries and pushing the bounds of our knowledge as a species, it can be easy to become enamored with the idea of space exploration. After all, who wouldn’t want to feel weightlessness? It’s only natural to have a curiosity of the unknown, even if it’s accompanied with a bit of fear. The possibility of finding life somewhere else in the universe, the chance of finding some other sentient beings can be reason enough for some to devote their life to this entity. We can hardly even begin to conceive the vastness of space, so surely there must be something out there worth finding.

That being said, there are some hard truths we have to face. We are destroying Earth. We are leeching it of its resources and destabilizing that which has been stable for millions of years at a rate that can only be caused by us. There are many people that recognize this, which can lead them to turn to space for an alternative place to live. The question of morality must then be assessed.

What’s to stop us from becoming the antagonist straight out of any generic sci-fi movie? Just because we have failed to maintain our home doesn’t justify taking what may be the home of others. In light of human history, it seems to be in our nature to conquer. Our drive for self-preservation generally seems to outweigh our care for others. Even our greedy want of convenience seems to trump the well-being of that which is perceived as subordinate. If we did happen upon intelligent life that was more primitive than ourselves in an us-or-them situation, we would likely do anything in our power to survive. Unfortunately, that would effectively mean the end of the newly discovered life forms. Even if we didn’t kill them, it would mean the end of the way of life they had instated. As progressive as we try to be, humans still encounter difficulty when trying to acknowledge and respect the differences in culture. 

Traveling through space is undoubtedly expensive. A mass move from our planet to elsewhere would likely leave the impoverished out of luck. A social divide like none other could arise, furthering inequality to a quite possibly life-threatening level. Only the relatively rich would be able to afford to survive. There are people that can hardly afford to survive on earth, let alone afford a trip to another planet. Even if some great philanthropic event pooled the world’s wealth in an attempt to save everyone, there’s the chance that it still wouldn’t be enough to save everyone. The world has a limited amount of resources, and overcoming the force of gravity in a highly-specialized spacecraft requires quite a few. Would we then leave behind the poor simply because they couldn’t afford it? How does material wealth justify survivorship?

None of the questions of morality would be easy to answer, nor would they all necessarily have a correct answer. Space is a curious place that should be explored, not depended upon. We simply must be conscious of the immediate problems we face with earth and look for ways to solve them instead of looking for ways around them. The richness and diversity of life that has come to be here is seeming to be more and more unique the further we look into space, so why not try and preserve it?

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