“Each Voyager is a message in itself. In their exploratory intent, in the lofty ambition of their goals, in their complete lack of intent to do harm, and in the brilliance of their design and performance, these robots speak eloquently for us.”
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: a vision of the human future in space
Space exploration has numerous benefits that extend beyond the realm of scientific discovery. Space exploration gives us a new perspective to study the Earth and the solar system. We advance new technologies that improve our daily lives and inspire a new generation of artists, thinkers, engineers and scientists. Space exploration unites the world to inspire the next generation, make groundbreaking discoveries and create new opportunities. The Future of Geography: How Power and Politics in Space Will Change Our World, Tim Marshall analyzes the geopolitical dynamics and consequences of space exploration. Marshall says space is rapidly becoming an extension of Earth, representing the latest scenario of intense human competition. It would not be rhetorical to say that the next 50 years of space exploration will change the face of global politics. Soon, what happens in space will shape human history as much as mountains, rivers and seas have on Earth.
The technologies and missions we develop for human spaceflight have thousands of applications on Earth, boosting the economy, creating new career paths, and advancing the everyday technologies around us. Space exploration allows scientists to learn more about our universe, including the origins of celestial bodies, the nature of space, and the potential for life beyond Earth. This knowledge contributes to our understanding of fundamental scientific principles.
Space exploration drives the development of new technologies. Many of the technological advances made for space missions find applications on Earth, leading to innovations in various fields such as medicine, telecommunications, materials science and computing. Innovative technology attracts investments not only from governments but also from private companies that can stimulate economic growth. It creates jobs in diverse sectors, from aerospace engineering to manufacturing and research, contributing to a skilled workforce and fostering technological advances that can be applied in other industries. Many technologies initially developed for space exploration have practical applications on Earth. Examples include advances in water purification, medical imaging, and lightweight materials.
By exploring and potentially colonizing other celestial bodies, humanity can increase its chances of long-term survival. This is especially important considering potential threats to Earth, such as asteroid impacts or other catastrophic events. Laurence van Cott Niven, an American science fiction writer, wrote that “dinosaurs became extinct because they did not have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don’t have a space program, we deserve it!”
The new space race
It is true that the world has realized the importance of space exploration and its potential to make our Earth a better place to live. This realization has unleashed not only international cooperation but also another round of unhealthy competition. The Cold War space race was about getting up and out; Now we are reclaiming what is there. Space has already changed a lot in our daily lives. It is fundamental for communication, economics and military strategy, and increasingly important for international relations. That will inevitably mean “spheres of influence” and even territorial claims as rivalries, alliances and conflicts on Earth extend into space. But what we have failed to establish so far is a set of universally agreed upon rules to regulate this situation. competence; Without laws governing human activity in space, the stage is set for disagreements on an astronomical level. The new space race is characterized by a more diverse set of participants, greater collaboration, a prominent role for the private sector, and a focus on practical applications such as lunar exploration, resource utilization, and space tourism. The costs of space travel have gone down.
Expenses associated with space travel have decreased, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its reusable rockets playing a major role, along with the miniaturization of satellites. This cost reduction facilitates more economical launches, allowing the deployment of multiple satellites simultaneously.
Recent discoveries of rare metals and water on the Moon, substantial cost reductions by private companies to penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere, and major powers conducting missile tests by deliberately destroying their own satellites are integral elements that contribute to a more narrative. broad that develops in the realm of space. exploration.
Asia leads the race to the Moon
Curiously, Asian countries are taking the lead in the new Space Race. Recently, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) achieved a notable milestone with its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) spacecraft executing a soft landing on the Moon. However, a problem arose as their solar panels were not generating power, forcing them to rely on their batteries. With this achievement, Japan became the fifth country to soft-land a robotic spacecraft on the lunar surface. Like India’s Chandrayaan-3, SLIM was designed for soft landing on the moon and rover deployment (including two small rovers), but its primary goal was to pioneer the wild. The United States, Russia, China, Japan and India are the five nations that have successfully achieved a soft landing on the moon. The United States has committed to establishing lunar laboratories in the near future, and both Europe and Russia have revealed plans to launch complex missions. China, for its part, has set the ambitious goal of landing astronauts on the Moon by 2030.
Other space missions
The sky is the limit only for those who are not afraid to fly! Space scientists have sent missions to every corner of our solar system, from our neighbor Moon to Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury. NASA and other international space agencies monitor the Sun 24/7 with a fleet of solar observatories, studying everything from the Sun’s atmosphere to its surface. Aditya-L1, India’s first solar observation mission, reached its final destination on January 6, 2024. Posting in of our scientists in carrying out one of the most complex and intricate space missions.
However, the new space race is causing new pollution problems. The process of launching rockets into space involves the combustion of large amounts of rocket propellant, releasing various pollutants into the atmosphere. Solid rocket propellants, in particular, can produce chlorine-based compounds that may have ozone depletion potential. The growing amount of space debris, made up of decommissioned satellites, spent rocket stages and collision fragments, represents a threat to both operational satellites and future space missions. While not air pollution, space debris can affect the long-term sustainability of space activities.
Space missions often involve the use of hazardous materials, including fuels, propellants, and spacecraft components that may contain toxic substances. Accidental releases or failures during launches could result in chemical contamination of the environment. Communication signals from satellites and space probes can interfere with Earth’s radio frequencies, affecting radio astronomy and communication systems. While it is not a form of pollution in the traditional sense, it can have environmental and social implications. As interest in asteroid mining or resource extraction from celestial bodies grows, the environmental impact of these activities must be considered. The extraction and processing of resources in space could have environmental consequences.
Efforts are underway to mitigate these impacts through the development of greener propulsion technologies, responsible management of space debris, and international agreements to minimize space-related pollution. Organizations such as the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and the Outer Space Treaty aim to establish guidelines for responsible and sustainable space exploration. It is worth noting that the pollution generated by space exploration is relatively small compared to other human activities on Earth. However, as space activities increase, it is crucial to address these environmental concerns and develop sustainable practices to ensure responsible use of space.
In Hindu mythology, the cosmic dance of Natraj (Shiva) symbolizes the interplay of dynamic and static divine energy flow, containing the five principles of eternal energy: creation, preservation, destruction, illusion and emancipation. In the vast expanse of our cosmic ambitions, each space mission propels humanity into the unknown, turning the mysteries of the cosmos into triumphs of human ingenuity. As we continue our journey among the stars, the final frontier beckons us with the promise of discovery, inspiring us to reach new heights and redefine the limits of what is possible. In the cosmic dance of exploration, our steps forward resonate throughout the cosmos, leaving an indelible mark on the tapestry of the universe.”
(The author is a student of JPIS, Jaipur)
The human future in space