Space (2019 | Issue 1)

Download print version

We’ve been exploring space for many decades now. We’ve reached the moon, sent unmanned spacecrafts to all seven planets in our solar system and now plan to send astronauts to Mars. Have you ever wondered what we get from it? How does understanding the final frontier help us? After all, it is both expensive and dangerous. What’s Up, Germany? highlights the benefits of space exploration.

We humans are driven by an insatiable curiosity. It’s in our DNA! So naturally the unknown has a strong pull over us. We want to know more, discover new worlds and push the boundaries of our scientific and technical limits. This is how we progress and develop. It’s what keeps us going. As thinking beings, we want answers, especially to one predominant question: Are we alone? The answer lies out there.

Eyes in the Sky

Space exploration provides us insights into the world beyond. The knowledge we have gleaned from robotic and manned missions has unlocked many a secret about our universe. They have delivered precious scientific data and deepened our understanding of stars, planets, galaxies and cosmic phenomena. Satellites we have put in space send us information on the weather, security threats, forest fires, Earth’s resources and climate change. They enable us to use the internet, navigate with GPS on our smartphones and watch our favourite TV serials. Imagine life without some of our favourite things?!

Space Spin-offs

You’ll be surprised by the number of things we use on Earth that were initially made for space and adapted for our earthly use: memory foam, freeze-dried food, digital camera sensors, infrared ear thermometers, artificial limbs, to name a few! Even the first integrated circuit—the predecessor of the microchip—was developed for NASA. Apart from developing new technologies and products, space exploration creates jobs. It is said to generate more revenue than expenditure. The money spent on sending humans or robots into space is spent right here on Earth, benefitting the economy. It also inspires students to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers.

Here We Come!

Space exploration opens up the possibility of extracting minerals and metals from planets and asteroids. This would take the pressure off Earth. Plus, who knows? We may need to move to another planet some day! According to the late physicist Stephen Hawking, “I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars.” As of now, Mars is probably our best bet. Salty water on Mars could contain enough oxygen to support life!

Space Tourism

Currently, we are witnessing a new kind of space race, this time between private companies who are vying to send tourists up there! Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are the big guns in this race. SpaceX has the distinction of being the first private company to send supplies to astronauts on the International Space Station. Back in 2001, American businessman Dennis Tito became the world’s first space tourist. He paid the company Space Adventures $20 million to spend eight days in space! Talk about an out-of-this-world experience!