The Urge And Necessity Of Space Exploration
Since the dawn of human civilisation, we’ve been explorers looking for food, shelter, and safety. We dared to walk past uncharted territories filled with imminent mortal threats and unfamiliar landscapes. But our urge to explore never diminished and hence we kept exploring our planet. We invented agriculture, made settlements, built civilizations and kept our quest for more alive.
A group of tribes in the Pacific islands dared to cross the ocean which was of great risk during that time. However, natural disasters like frequent volcanism, earthquake, shortage of food and overwhelming population forced them to take the risk. As their ship drifted towards uncertainty for weeks, they were expecting to see a new world, and to their surprise, they stumbled upon a remote island in the Pacific where they settled down. That baby step ushered in the newfound urge for exploration. Curiosity overtook fear and the explorers discovered new islands scattered all over the Pacific.
Fast forward to the present, we still have explorers looking at a different scenario, the cosmic ocean. During the Cold War which later culminated into the Space Race, Russia and the United States began to test launch vehicles. Russia took a lead by putting the first satellite Sputnik 1 in orbit around Earth and the US put an end to it by sending 12 astronauts on the moon during the Apollo missions. Neil Armstrong’s stepping on the moon was very significant, not only for human spaceflight but also for the overall vision of space exploration. The men on the Apollo program saw Earth like never before. Space race began as a battle of superiority but it gave rise to the dawn of space exploration.
Today researchers are developing theoretical concepts on interplanetary/interstellar space flight. However, our first stop is always the moon. Making a habitat on the moon will have a lot of challenges. Since there is no atmosphere, let alone greenhouse effect, the habitat housing future lunar astronauts will be vulnerable to the temperature fluctuations (ranging from -153 degrees Celsius at night to 107 degrees celsius during the day but not much to feel as there isn’t any atmosphere) as the moon goes through its own day-night cycles. The gravity on the lunar surface is one-sixth that of earth and this will also have an effect on astronauts planning to stay there. Astronauts might have to deal with the loss of bone density and muscle strength but scientists are optimistic about finding a solution. Micrometeoroids and radiation will also be a major issues. However, with proper precautions and preparation, hazards can be avoided.
The International Space Station, an orbital habitat, the size of a football stadium will allow us to understand more about how weightlessness will affect astronauts on a mission to Mars and beyond. However, in order to counter the effects of micro-gravity or weightlessness, an external force could be used. A Stanford torus, which is a proposed design by NASA might have a solution. A Stanford torus is an orbiting habitat consisting of a ring which will rotate once every minute so that the inmates have access to artificial gravity. The centrifugal force (outward pulling force) will make the inmates feel as if they’re feeling the surficial gravitational attraction. Space exploration has received a lot of criticism lately because of the problem it has with the financial perspective and also based on the necessity to do the same. But just like the tribes living in the Pacific islands did, oneday we will have to venture into the deep cosmic ocean. Till today we’ve only dampened our toes but oneday we might have to wade deeper. Either we become spacefaring or extinct.
Space exploration will have a greater risk and it might not be feasible but human spaceflight is a necessity to ensure the existence of humans. And considering the progress of science over the past few decades, we can hope for a better tomorrow, and for a better tomorrow we need to be the pioneers who can ensure a better tomorrow. Earth might just be the perfect home with a nourishing atmosphere, a protective magnetic field and an awesome interplanetary neighbourhood but permanence is not a rule of the cosmos and hence we have to continue being the pioneers.
“SHIPS ARE SAFE AT THE HARBOUR BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT SHIPS ARE BUILT FOR!”