“There is an infinity of unexplored things here on earth” Robin Hanbury-tenison
NASA’S cumulative funding a few years ago totalled $850 billion (€745 billion), and the annual budget now is around $20 billion — an obscenely large sum of money linked to fairly abstruse research. I disagree with people like Stephen Hawking, who was passionate about the future of the human race and civilization depending on going into outer space. It is a kind of despair. It means that we have given up on this planet, handled things so badly that we have to find another planet to live on. That seems like a nihilistic approach to life, because this planet is quite extraordinary, possibly unique in the universe.
There is a greater infinity of small things here on earth than there is in the vastness of outer space. A cubic centimetre of soil contains a virtual infinity of life. These are real things that are not just interesting in themselves but also have a significant effect on our own lives. Microbes in your large intestine affect your mood, and we know very little about how that happens. There is an infinity of unexplored things here on earth. Yet the amount of money spent on that sort of research is insignificant compared to the $850 billion spent on exploring the universe.
Scientific advances and products can’t justify the costs of space exploration. Velcro, the non-stick frying pan, rocket fuel? Helpful, but hardly the be-all and end-all of life. Sending a body into outer space to test the limits of human endurance is interesting, but it’s hard to believe the future of mankind depends on it. Whereas finding out how to stop this planet falling apart and to live more sustainably certainly is. Understanding the symbiotic relationships that hold the planet together is a whole universe of studies that we’re only scraping the surface of.
There’s a lot of concern about the amount of junk flying around in outer space, but it’s of much less importance than the immense amount of junk we’re polluting this planet with. Would we be any poorer if we didn’t know what was happening on Mars? It would be more exciting to spend that money on cleaning up the oceans and on developing the science of weather management. Instead, we are seeing investment in space travel and tourism. Who wants to go and sit in a capsule out in space? It’s like being on a fairground. It’s a pretty disgraceful example of humanity’s misguided priorities.