Hsin Yen Huang

Since the Space Race began in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik 1, many have viewed the cosmos as an opportunity for exploration and discovery. The recent development of national issues such as the destruction resulting from natural disasters, however, has led some to believe that space exploration should be put to a halt in order to resolve these internal problems. Regardless, the U.S. should seek a solution to ensure that both space exploration and solving domestic crises can occur simultaneously because of the numerous advantages to launching more missions.

Space missions inspire students across the country and fuel their interests in the sciences. Success in a daunting challenge like space exploration encourage students all over the world to challenge other problems and come up with innovative solutions. An example of this is NASA’s High School Student United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH), a program in which high school students build hardware for NASA engineers. Additionally, space exploration can heavily influence a country’s self-confidence, as seen in the heightened levels of American nationalism during the Space Race. This is extremely crucial for the U.S. in maintaining its global standing in an increasingly high tech world.

Although space missions can draw from resources needed for monitoring dilemmas on Earth, they actually play a key role in the success of ecological projects. In fact, a majority of launches are dedicated to earth-observing projects that monitor conditions on Earth, helping scientists better comprehend environmental problems. Launched in late 2016, the GOES-R satellite provides high resolution images of weather patterns at faster speeds, revolutionizing weather predictions. NASA has also backed the COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) project, which is aimed at understanding the effect of rising temperatures on coral reefs. Space exploration often indirectly results in inventions that would be hard to imagine life without, such LED lighting, freeze drying technology, solar energy and advancements in water purification. As aerospace engineers face increasingly difficult problems to solve, they will likely continue churning out inventions to better everyday life.

A key concern of those who oppose space exploration is its cost and feasibility. NASA, however, already has the support of industry partners like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The public’s interest in space and congressional support also increase space exploration’s practicality. According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of surveyed Americans believe that it is essential for the U.S. to remain a leader in space exploration, while another survey stated that 74 percent of Americans felt that space exploration does more good than harm. Legislation such as the SPACE Act and the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 has recently increased monetary support for the commercial space sector as well as deep-space and planetary exploration.

Space exploration also strengthens America’s ties with other countries through international collaboration. Large space missions are almost always the product of collaborations between multiple countries, which can also reduce their cost. One of the most famous examples of this is the International Space Station (ISS), a large earth-orbiting spacecraft that houses astronauts from multiple different countries. Russia routinely launches American astronauts to the ISS, displaying strong ties that can continue to be developed when nations work toward a common goal. Another example of successful collaboration between countries in the realm of space exploration is the European Space Agency, which is comprised of 23 member nations that share resources and facilities with each other for the common goal of advancing human knowledge regarding space.

Whether or not space exploration is necessary, given the issues with the current global situation, it is important to note that exploring space and tackling earthbound problems are not mutually exclusive events. Resources can be set aside for endeavors on Earth while astronauts investigate the cosmos, but the advantages of space exploration should be an important factor to keep in mind when making such conclusions.