BBC Young Reporter @ LCS
To Infinity and Beyond?
Space exploration is centred around finding out answers about the universe and discovering information on our own planet. However, with an annual average of $10.85 billion spent every year for space exploration, is it really worth the money? Or, should we spend the money on something else?
Some may argue that the money should be spent on seemingly ‘more important’ causes as soon as that large price is mentioned. However, does everyone know the benefits and the outcomes of space exploration? Does everyone know that the discoveries are not always to do with space…? It can also be beneficial for every-day life and especially health care. As advancements in space technology are made, these are then often used in our hospitals.
Did you know that the NHS spends £122.5 billion each year? That is roughly more than 15 times than that spent from space exploration. So much money is put into the NHS and healthcare – this proves that saving lives is important. If saving lives is important, then certainly investigating and designing new technology that will significantly reduce the death rate and risk is also extremely important as well. Inventions such as CAT scanners can be used to produce detailed image structures inside the body. If someone has cancer or a heart disease, the scanner can identify and monitor any changes so doctors can act quickly and efficiently. CAT scanners were first used in 1971 – millions, if not billions, of lives had been transformed since then as a result. CAT scanners were created because of the technology designed through space exploration. Is it still a waste of time and money? Saving lives?
I am sure we all know that the water is vital for daily life, and that it has to be clean if one were to drink it. Purifying water is very important. In the 1960s, NASA created an electrolytic silver iodizer to purify the astronaut’s drinking water. This technology is now widely used to kill harmful bacteria in water. There are so many things that one would not expect to associate or relate to space exploration – such as camera phones for example – but it is important to realise that many things do.
Moreover, space exploration helps to fight against climate change. The Earth is so precious and at risk. We need to have technology that allows us to be eco-friendly. We need to be sustainable. We need to know when there is going to be a natural disaster occurring. These are ‘needs’ not ‘wants’, because our very lives and the lives of generations after depend on it. Everyone has a right to enjoy the world in the way we can do so now. Unfortunately, we cannot depend on guesswork when we can see in space exactly what is going on. We have the technology and we can continue to develop it at a fast rate, but only if space exploration continues. Unless space exploration stops, technology will continue to develop.
Those arguments, however, are all to do with the positives of space exploration, as there are a lot of negatives as well. Some people may argue that space exploration is a waste of resources, and that our planet is more important. There are lots of problems on Earth at the moment, such as climate change and global warming, therefore, many believe that we should focus on helping our own planet. Furthermore, the money could be used to end world hunger, homelessness and improve LIDCs. With the money used for space exploration, it would be sufficient for ending homelessness in the UK, as it would cost £10 billion, according to the national charity ‘Crisis’.
Furthermore, several consistent medical problems have been encountered by astronauts during space flights. This proves how unsafe it is to go into space, and how that may not be worth the time and money, because it damages peoples’ health permanently. Above the Earth’s natural protection, radiation exposure… increases cancer risk by 3 percent, damages the central nervous system, can alter cognitive function, prompt behavioural changes and so much more according to NASA studies. This means that it would negatively impact people if they chose to go into space.
Despite the technology created from space exploration that would benefit the Earth, space travel is damaging for the environment immensely. This is because whenever a space launch occurs, it can have a substantial carbon footprint due to the burning of the fuels needed for the launch. On the other hand, many rockets are now are launched by a fuel called ‘liquid hydrogen fuel’, which produces clean water vapour as a by-product. However, there can still be significant carbon emissions in the production of the hydrogen itself needed for the hydrogen fuel cells. Other effects include ozone depletion and the release of soot particles into the atmosphere.
What’s happening now?
Here is some recent space news:
- On Saturday 30th May 2020, two NASA astronauts made history and boarded the International Space Station (ISS). It was the first time that NASA astronauts have been sent to space on a rocket owned by the private company SpaceX.
- On 26th October 2020, a NASA statement promises "an exciting new discovery about the moon" and a hope of landing astronauts at the Moon’s south pole in 2024 with the Artemis program.
- A very recent launch was the ‘Starlink Mission’, launched by Space X. On Thursday 4th February 2021, 1:19 a.m. EST, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40).
- In late 2021, on a Crew Dragon spacecraft, SpaceX will launch billionaire Jared Isaacman on a private spaceflight this year. It will be "the first-ever all-private crewed orbital mission".
- 2021 is set to have two supermoons in April and May 2021.
- There will also be two lunar eclipses – one in May and another in November. May's eclipse will be a total eclipse and will happen on the same night as the supermoon, 26th May, but will only be visible in the east Asia, Australia, Pacific, and Americas regions.
- … and more!
What do you think? Do you believe that the benefits of space exploration are really worth the money?