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Is Space Exploration Worth It?

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The 12th of April, 1961, Yuri Gagarin completed his first orbit around Earth in the Vostok spacecraft taking the title of the first person to journey in outer space. Some 7 years later, Neil Armstrong touches down on the moon. Nearly 600 million people watched the Apollo 11 moon landing and its historic achievement. These were the two main events that birthed not only the set path of future missions, but an opportunity for a new genre known as sci-fi to arise within our culture in the form of entertainment and toys. Now James Knox, a former launch engineer at SpaceX believes “It is the only viable investment we can make to ensure the long-term survival of our species”. Now whether or not that is fact we do not know, but at most discuss a common question partnering an unbalanced opinion: Is space exploration worth it?

The most obvious con is money. For every one kilogram sent into Earth’s orbit, nearly fifteen grand will have been spent to make that happen. Thinking logically, a space shuttle could range to the hundred thousand’s in kilograms meaning an absurd amount of money just to send a shuttle to/past orbit. Then of course you’ve got the fuel, the food, the crew and all the equipment necessary for the men and women onboard. And on top of that, the equipment required for the actual mission itself. Add that all up and you’ve got a hefty amount to fund. Now according to sources, NASA has gone spending nearly two-hundred billion dollars within the last four decades at an estimated average of one and a half billion dollars per flight of each US shuttle. However it is not all bad as the US economy benefits to the tune of 8 dollars. Meanwhile, the space industry is booming in the United Kingdom as it currently supports over one-hundred thousand jobs nationwide due to the amount of maintenance the space shuttles are required, such as cleaning out dirt and debris, making sure all the controls are in fully working order and so on. One would ask themselves if it’s actually worth it to go through blood, sweat and tears with hundreds of hours of work and billions of dollars spent for one mission. I personally think the outcome could outweigh the effort.

Now unfortunately, even the tiniest errors can lead to the most extreme cases of accidents. The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster is a perfect example of this. During the takeoff in January 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart just seventy-three seconds into its flight. Because of this, all seven crew members died tragically. This ended in a near three year hiatus in the shuttle program and the formation of the Rogers Commission, a report to investigate the disaster. This is not the first time an accident has occurred as there has been approximately eighteen astronaut and cosmonaut deaths during spaceflight. Understandably however, the toll stays low as most companies keep safety checks and the such at tight supervision. If, most of the time, the astronauts do make it past Earth’s orbit (depending on the mission obviously) then scientists can study the physical capabilities as well as the mental reactions of the human body to zero gravity, exposure to radiation using scientific tests and such. This concludes this part with my opinion drifting once again towards the potential scientists could find through discoveries and studies, I think the risk is worth it.

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With many of the problems arising on our planet, it’s no wonder that space exploration is becoming more and more of a spoken topic. Global warming has motivated companies towards a new goal finding new, more habitable planets in the case that we do have to evacuate our own. Or, we could discover more suitable solutions on how to solve a problem at this large a magnitude. As companies perfect and discover new techniques, imperfections in future missions could hint at a redux of the safety checks and procedures developing a safer and better protocol and ensuring the astronauts/cosmonauts won’t get injured or killed in their missions. As we delve deeper into space and the manned exploration of space, it is extremely likely areas of science and technology will advance offering new opportunities in the far or even near future. There are those who will question whether advancing technology a little bit faster is more important than a couple lives which may or may not be killed off in the process and I agree with them.

But some missions could be completely worthless if even succeeded at all. For example, in November 2014 there was a mission to send the Rosetta probe to a comet. The mission costed an estimated one billion pounds. It was created to discover how the water that sustained life on Earth got there. It took approximately two decades to finish and was partially funded by the taxes of citizens of all countries that back the European Space Agency. That’s about fifteen pence per year of the mission for each European citizen. So, visually looking at the numbers, fifteen pence per percent isn’t a lot, but in its entirety it’s actually quite a lot which is a good positive outcome for the project, the people of the countries and the government which yet again shows how space exploration is a required staple in our the world, for the present and the future.

In conclusion and my opinion, I am almost one-hundred percent positive that space exploration is worth it. Why? The almost endless amount of positive’s that completely out balance any negative’s that are tied with the question. Obviously things happen here and there but slowing down or stopping manned exploration will do nothing but bring less income for the government to improve on things that could also lose the chance to find new medicines, materials and even extra-terrestrial life. It is necessary, and without it our future may be at stake.

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