Why Space Travel Isn't All That's Cranked Out to Be
Lately there has been a lot of interest in space, especially the possibility of travelling through it, both for exploration and colonization purposes. And if you'd ask me about this a couple of decades earlier I'd be all excited about it as I've always been a big fan of space, particularly Astronomy and the practical applications of Astrophysics. However, the way it is marketed today is not only misleading but also worrisome.
First of all, let's make one thing clear. I'm not saying that space travel is bad or that it shouldn't be pursued at all. I'd like to roam the stars just like any other sci-fi fan out there! However, I believe there are other more urgent matters for our species to prioritize, matters that could be problematic if left unaddressed.
For starters, there is the issue of climate change (or global warming as it is sometimes referred to). Whether this is something natural or not, I don't know. I tried looking for any information-rich data on the matter once but hit a brick wall. So, unless I can examine this matter in a methodical manner, I cannot ascertain the extent to which this issue is due to our own actions or not. Whatever the case, the issue remains an important one because regardless of what causes it, climate change is happening and even if it's not as evident at times, by looking at the macro-scale of this phenomenon, it is clear that there is something the matter, something that is affecting our lives. Perhaps fleeing to another celestial body would be a solution to some people (those with enough money to afford such a voyage), but this solution doesn't scale very well, no matter how optimistic some sci-fi films are about it. Yes, maybe in a few centuries everyone will be able (in theory) to jump aboard a space ship, but at that time Earth may be already uninhabitable.
In addition, there is the socio-political situation that seems to be more and more wide-spread. I'm not talking about just the economic recession which appears to be more global than economists make it out to be, but also the social and political disturbances that are linked to it. Whether there is a cause-effect relationship, I don't know. Perhaps a social scientist would be better at answering this question. However, the fact remains that society in general is quite unstable and fragmented, while politicians don't seem to have any long-term solutions to the issues they are opting to solve (at least in theory). Will space travel provide a solution to any of this? Probably not.
What's more, the matter of uncertain circumstances in the ecosystems the space travellers are pursuing for colonization is something that doesn't receive nearly enough attention. Sci-fi films make it out to be a straight-forward process, while the technological advents we are experiencing make us think of ourselves as invincible, but how much do we really know about other celestial bodies? After all, we are still discovering things about our own planet while we have failed to colonize it in its entirety still. What makes the colonization of other planets so much more feasible? What about in the next few centuries? How certain are we that there won't be a catastrophic quake, for example, in the planet we choose to colonize?
Finally, there is the matter of logistics. Space travel is expensive and even if Elon Musk and other future-minded entrepreneurs make strides in lowering the cost of launching a rocket, it's still not going to be an economic solution to the vast majority of the population. Also, even if you somehow manage to get this golden ticket to another planet, how will you manage your assets here on Earth? And what if you get homesick? Will you be able to pop into a space shuttle and take a trip back home to visit the folks? Somehow I doubt it. A space trip is bound to be one-way for the foreseeable future, with no guarantees about it at all. And no amount of resources to your avail is going to change that.
Perhaps space travel is one of those things that deserves more long-term planning and careful consideration, much like the powerful technologies of our time (e.g. Artificial Intelligence). Just because we could do it, it doesn't mean we should, at least for now. We can still send unmanned probes in space to gather more data and broaden our understanding of the cosmos, but perhaps it's better to keep our feet on the ground, both figuratively and literally. After all, there are other great scientific fields to pursue here on Earth, some of which can help better everyone's lives instead of aiding the escapist fantasies of the few.
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