“It’s always a good thing to inspire people” Massimiliano Vasile
There’s a philosophical argument not just for space exploration but for every single thing we do that has no obvious economic return. You cannot measure everything that humans do in terms of economics. What’s the money value, for example, of classifying insects or studying history? It’s how human beings improve themselves. We explore space to understand more about the origins of life on earth, for example through the study of asteroids and comets. Increasing human understanding of how the universe works changes our mindset, our culture; it changes our understanding of our world in our lifetime.
The cost of space exploration appears to be expensive, but compared to other activities, it is not. To hear that a mission costs €400 million sounds prohibitive. But it is nothing compared to what we spend on watching live Champions League football on TV! We spend billions and billions each year on arms deals and weapons to support wars around the world. So let’s look at the return on investment not in terms of money, but in terms of what we learn from it. You see immediately that space exploration represents good value.
There are bigger priorities than the science-fiction aspects of colonizing Mars or going to other galaxies. For example, if you know more about the sun, you can perhaps mitigate the effect of solar storms, which can be very disruptive for a lot of electronics on earth. Many of the essential services for life today, from telecommunications, to navigation systems, to weather forecasts, are affected by the activity of the sun.
Of course we should spend time and money saving our planet. But spending on renewable energies already dwarfs spending on space exploration. Space technology leads to progress in many other fields. Power generation and storage systems in space need to be very light, efficient and long-lasting. Many technological developments for space are very useful on earth, and vice versa. To stop space exploration would mean missing a piece of the overall advancement of science and technology. We have lots of examples from space programmes of increasing our knowledge — and of people deciding to research scientific side subjects. It’s always a good thing to inspire people.