Why are space exploration and research important to humanity

by John Anderson 6 days ago in space

Human space exploration helps to address fundamental questions about our place in the Universe and the history of our solar system

Why are space exploration and research important to humanity
Space exploration

If you are connected in science and technology and follow all the space missions that are carried out both by NASA and by private initiative, you may have already asked a classic question: after all, what is the use of sending equipment and people to space?

These endeavors spend millions and millions of dollars to send people where they have been to repeatedly study the Moon or Mars, for example, where we are tired of being either in physical presence or with the most diverse data collection equipment. You can even say: "the money spent on this could be better spent, even to starve the needy in many parts of the world".

This discussion - already an old one, since the time of the space race - was rekindled after the launch of Falcon Heavy, the Space X super rocket

If you ever wondered about this - including the hunger cure part - know that you are not the only one and congratulations, it shows that you care about people in need. However, this is not the way it works: there are very important reasons for these missions to happen and they are much more beneficial to humanity than you can imagine. We will deal here with the importance of expeditions for science to our planet as a whole.

The Spaceman's Journey

This discussion - already an old one, since the time of the space race - was rekindled after the launch of Falcon Heavy, the super rocket of Space X, Elon Musk's company. In addition to the greatness of the takeoff and the impressive ability of the propellers to return to use again, something caught the attention of the spectators: the Tesla electric car (another Musk company) that was looped by the Solar System.

All of this can seem completely useless to people - and rightly so since it sounds like the eccentric banter of an irresponsible billionaire. But make no mistake: all of this can be considered one of the most brilliant marketing moves in history because, in addition to exposing products from Musk companies, the action brought back much of people's interest in space exploration at a crucial time when starts to plan launches for tourism purposes and the possible exploration of the planet Mars.

The Spaceman aboard the Tesla Roadster sent by Elon Musk's SpaceX on Falcon Heavy

Still, what can all this do for humanity as a whole? The answer is not just one, but a series of explanations and reasons that somehow justify the money spent taking people and things out of our atmosphere.

The study of space and even all the efforts made to escape the gravity of the Earth generated products that we use in our daily lives until the development of scientific theories that changed the way we see space and how we understand the origin of life on the planet, including, of course, the emergence of the human being.

Crucial to communications

It is notable that the majority of people support space exploration projects even though there are these questions that we have already talked about. After all, it's exciting to see rockets being launched, people floating in space, and man-made structures orbiting the Earth working to make our lives more practical.

Climate studies using extremely detailed satellite images are used to better understand the environment and the impact of climate change

Perhaps this is the most obvious benefit of space missions: the activation of satellites that have a multitude of functions, from making our GPSs work to providing us with a television signal, in addition to the internet, telephone, and many other things. After all, how do you think the beautiful images from Google Maps reach our computers and cell phones?

In addition, climate studies that use extremely detailed images made with satellites are used to better understand the environment and the impact caused by climate change. Changes in vegetation, deserts and polar ice caps can help scientists better understand what can be done to make nature suffer less from human abuse.

Satellites provide us with the ability to communicate over long distances

Science from another world

In addition to the use of satellites, probes, and other structures that orbit the Earth, we have benefited greatly from studies carried out on board ships and the International Space Station (ISS). The analysis of the behavior of animals and plants onboard the ISS, an environment completely different from Earth and with no gravity can help biologists to better understand their structures and physiologies in a unique way.

In search of developing protein crystals in space, it was discovered that this material could generate atomic components of albumin

Medicine benefited from the development of digital image processing done so that scientists could observe the surface of the Moon in more detail at the time of the space race, in the 1960s. This same technology came to be used by doctors to better visualize organs of patients and eventually became MRI and CT systems.

If you still think little, another case has also had very important results. In search of developing protein crystals in space, it was discovered that this material could generate atomic components of albumin, an essential human protein. What came of this was the production of cancer medicine and the creation of cosmetic products for the skin to be commercialized normally.

Space experiments could even help cure cancer

From space to your pocket

Several other materials exist thanks to space exploration. Much of the technology designed to safely take people and equipment out and back into our atmosphere ends up being applied to other devices on Earth. An example is a parachute that helped land Viking 1 and 2 probes safely on Martian soil. This same material is used here in automotive tires created by Goodyear, being much more durable and resistant than ordinary ones.

Enriched baby food, too, is the fruit of NASA research to nourish its astronauts in space well. Who developed the product was a laboratory called Marietta thinking about how to create a food source that was rich in nutrients and easy to be packaged, transported, and ingested by men in space. NASA disapproved of the project and the laboratory provided the technology for making enriched baby food.

The sensor called CMOS, which you know best as your smartphone's camera, is also the work of NASA. It was developed by the space agency's Jet Propulsion Lab in search of tiny cameras to be taken on space travel. It ended up in the pockets of almost everyone who carries a cell phone around to record the most beautiful images of gourmet meals and cats of all kinds.

Small CMOS sensors were made for space, but now they are in your pocket

Truths and lies

One of the things that cause the most doubt in people is the “NASA pillow”, which nobody really knows if it was even developed for the comfort of astronauts in space

There are, of course, some myths about products that are supposed to have been invented by NASA, like powdered Tang juice and Velcro. In reality, Tang was used in some space travel for the consumption of astronauts and ended up gaining immense popularity because of that, but it was not developed and nor would it have anything else to do with NASA. With Velcro it is the same thing: it was used (and still is) in several missions, but it was created by the Swiss engineer George de Mestral, who had no connection with the space agency.

One of the things that cause the most doubts in people is the “NASA pillow”, which nobody really knows if it was even developed for the comfort of astronauts in space.

Was it really made by NASA?

It seems worth it

Ultimately, space exploration missions are of far greater importance than they appear. The entire study of the development of materials and methods ends up generating very useful technologies for man and making it possible to create products such as solar energy panels, artificial limbs, infrared thermometers, smoke detectors, and even shoe insoles, in addition, of course, that has already been mentioned in that text.

So, it is good for us to think twice before complaining about the money spent by governments on space exploration: it may be that you depend a lot on some technology that was only possible to reach us because of the adventures that were made in space.

John Anderson
John Anderson
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John Anderson

Writer, Editor, Teacher, tinkerer, always looking to make something from nothing

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