Updated: Aug 21, 2021
In pop culture, space exploration and research are often connected with aliens and the exciting possibility of life on extraterrestrial bodies. This, however, is a tiny fraction of the entire picture. Space science involves a gamut of fields like biology, physics, physiology, astronomy, etc. Not to mention the equipment, infrastructure, and labour required for exploration and to effectively study findings. Like everything in life, these come with a price, and it is not cheap.
It is not surprising that certain governments in the past and the present have tried to widen their space research, most notable being under President John F Kennedy (USA) and President APJ Abdul Kalam (India). In the modern era, a common conception is that the advancement, knowledge, and power of a nation are determined by how tech-savvy its space program is.
Many argue that the millions of dollars spent on space research and exploration would be better and more efficiently used if it were employed elsewhere. This goes to say that space research and exploration are extremely risky. Enormous capital investment is required for every launch and research programme, and it all comes down to a crucial one-hour take-off. About 1 in 20 rocket launches fail and satellites may get destroyed in orbit. In this succes
s-fail ratio, it only seems logical for some to want to invest in other major crises on our planet instead. Global warming and climate change, social discrimination and security, poverty, education, lack of essential resources (especially agriculture), pollution, unemployment and health to name a few. This can be observed most in third world countries. For example, the budget allocation in India has increased to about ₹13,500 crores, from about ₹12,500 crore which was the Budget for 2019-20 (8% increase) and could be used, for example, to produce more hospitals or schools.
Space was one of the first things that got me interested in science which is the same as many others. So naturally, I will be inclined in favour of uplifting space research. For me, asking the question "to spend or not to spend" is like asking why we should venture out into the seas for fishing and other resources when we already have so much to deal with on land? The common answer would be to expand our reach to possibly outsource new, better solutions and opportunities. If we do not try, we will never find out.
Humanity means creating a better future for tomorrow; the cost of every solution is time, money, effort, and failed
attempts. The cosmos has infinite uncovered secrets, and if we don’t start digging for them now or give up after minimal tries, we are sacrificing what could be a new scientific discovery. Besides the obvious reason of life improvement, space research is the only way we will be able to defend ourselves from the threats space poses.
Some of the most important discoveries of the last century are by-products of space research; which include kidney-dialysis machines, global-positioning satellites, collision avoidance systems on aircraft, cordless power tools, athletic shoes, and virtual reality. This field has so much potential; it seems like we haven’t even scratched the surface.
For example, hunger is a substantial issue in developing countries. Two potential solutions to this issue could be:-
To create a shuttle that predicts rain patterns, drought and detects soil fertility on the surface of the Earth, empowering farmers to produce more efficiently on their own.
Instead of spending money on agriculture just for once, space research could be funded as it can transform the way we grow crops and save tons of money in the long run, making space funding is a long term solution.
This debate, however, will never cease. For some, funding for space exploration and research is ignoring problems we face and not finding real-time solutions, while for others, it is a provision of an opportunity to explore exciting new possibilities.
- Vanshika Sangla