Two things come to my mind when considering space exploration: Neil Armstrong triumphantly taking man’s first steps on the moon and the mars rover cruising over the planet’s red earth. While the former has probably left a greater cultural impact on society, robots such as the mars rover have done the majority of exploration in space. The farthest humans have gone is to the moon, yet robots have made it beyond pluto. Obviously, this is due to the extreme dangers associated with sending human beings into space. Not only is the actual travel extraordinarily dangerous, but just being in space can cause physiological harm. Robots, on the other hand, can withstand these stressors much better. And if a robot breaks out in space, it may be disappointing, but it is not nearly as serious as when a person dies due to space exploration, which has tragically occurred a number of times. Space debris also poses a huge risk for astronauts in space, as even the smallest piece of debris, such as a chip of paint, can rip right through an astronaut’s suit. Ultimately, it just seems that it is not worth it to send humans into space when the risk is so high. As Van Allen put it, “risk is high, cost is enormous, science is insignificant.” I would argue in favor of this quotation, as it does not seem that we have discovered all too much in space, especially when compared to the costs that go along with such research (both monetary and human). There are plenty of problems that need to be solved on this planet, so why should we spend the time, resources, and effort to try to explore an area that is so expansive beyond our comprehension? I understand that some scientists believe that we may be able to find things in space that will help us solve problems here on earth, but it does not seem that there has been much to show so far.
Yet, I can certainly understand the drive to explore space. Some may have the fear of the unknown, but it seems to me that those who are drawn to space are more curious and excited about the unknown than they are afraid of it. So while we may not find anything in space, there is a chance that we might. I have heard before that the universe expands infinitely. When I consider this, it almost seems that there is a 100% chance of finding something of importance in space. Of course, there is really no way of knowing how far or close this may be. In other words, there is no way of knowing how much time, resources, and effort it would take to find whatever it may be.
Space presents a vast and untouched mystery. It almost seems to spur the same kind of curiosity as the American west once did for settlers. Traveling westward back then was also dangerous, and many died in the pursuit of exploration of a land filled with potential. Westward travel was definitely less dangerous than space travel, though. The potential for finding something of value in space is certainly high, but in the end, it just does not seem to be worth the risk.