We are collecting comments on why space exploration is important, and have listed what’s been submitted so far below. This is a work in progress and we’ll continue to update this article as new submissions come in (if you are passionate about space exploration and would like to write about why it’s important, please make a submission).
Featured submission (1):
Generally there can be either long term or short term investments. Some people think that space exploration is neither short term nor long term investment (or waste of money). And they are wrong. Most of the other people think that space is a long term investment only. But they are wrong too.
Space exploration is actually both long term and short term investment. And its spendings is actually a drop in the sea in comparison with other government and private spendings.
Let me start with a more intuitive one - why space is a long term investment.
LONG TERM INVESTMENT
We must become an interplanetary civilization as soon as possible. Currently all eggs are in the same basket - we all live on one single planet. And this is the biggest problem since our planet is in danger from both outside and inside. From inside we're already facing the existential threat of proliferation of the weapon of mass destruction. There are more and more unstable political regimes like North Korea or Iran with nuclear weapon capabilities. And there are enough nuclear weapons combined to destroy our civilization.
We used to believe in fundamental stability of the current world order but in reality reckless and incompetent dictators and politicians put our very existence in danger every day. The world is not stable, there is no magic that keeps us safe. Actually we have a high probability of nuclear war. And there is no technology to protect us from nuclear devastation and we cannot take nukes out of this world. But we can take ourselves from the world overwhelmed with nukes. And space exploration with colonization of other planets is the only solution in the long term.
We also have long term threats of collision with asteroids and other interplanetary objects. And currently have no viable solution to protect ourselves from them. And space exploration is also a key for increasing our capabilities in space to protect from outside threats. Many people think that these problems are not as real as low wage or poor healthcare. Perhaps they have a lower probability of short term occurring for each person than facing aforementioned social economic problems. But they also have far graver existential consequences for all humankind.
And more long term nature of existential problems than short term nature of social economic problems should not make existential problems less critical. Because solutions to these long term problems are also long term and require long technological progress that should start now so we can buy time to come up with solutions.
And an excellent example to prove this point is the current COVID-19 crisis. Almost no one believed in the seriousness of occurring of such an event. And no one has prepared to combat it. And now we have hundreds of thousands of dead with millions infected. And this is not the first such event. Virus outbreaks in the past already left millions dead. And we are still unable to protect ourselves. The reason is not the technological complexity of the problem. The reason is wrong priorities. We have fundamentally wrong priorities in spending. And space exploration is another example that can one day prove that, like with COVID-19, we're not ready to face new challenges. But unlike COVID-19, consequences can be much worse.
SHORT TERM INVESTMENT
I have good news for those who continue to worry that space exploration is still the waste of money until we face some existential threat on our planet. NASA research has brought many inventions and technologies to this world that help us and improve the quality of our lives already today. Inventions that were developed by NASA or NASA have contributed to: artificial limbs, modern firefighting equipment, laser eye surgery, solar cells, water filtration, wireless headsets, freeze-dried foods, cell phone cameras, CAT scans, air purifiers, infrared ear thermometers, LEDs, portable computers. Without space exploration research we would live in a more dangerous and less comfort world.
SPACE EXPLORATIONS SPENDINGS IS A DROP IN THE SEA
Finally, I'd like to remind that space exploration spendings is a drop in the sea. And they are actually not the thing to cut to save some money. For example, US healthcare spending amounts to $3.6 trillion or 18% of US GDP. NASA's budget for comparison is just $22.6 billion or 0.6% of healthcare spending. It would make much more sense to review healthcare spending than cut space exploration spending. And actually increase space exploration spending if we care about future generations.
--Kirill Rebrov, Demografy
Featured submission (2):
There are many reasons for countries to invest in space exploration but the key word to focus on is invest. Space exploration is a long-term investment in the future of all mankind, not a short-term purchase for some market demand with payoffs in a year or two. To understand the importance of space exploration one must take a long-term view with an understanding that the only way our species will survive far into the future is if it becomes space-faring. The simple truth is that catastrophes happen. Although we all know about the dinosaurs, fewer know that that particular extinction is just one of many extinction events that have happened over the course of the Earth's history. Now we may not be able to predict when the next one will happen, but we have enough information to know that it is not a question of IF, but a question of WHEN. It could happen in a million years or 5 years. We just don't know, we can't know. But knowing it will happen again means that the responsible thing to do, if you care about the survival of the human species, is to try to have a backup plan - to have colonies of human life not just on Earth. In other words, we shouldn't have all our eggs in one basket.
On the practical side, the truth is that an advanced technology development like this always pays significant economic dividends. Not solely relying on the developments of the Space Race in the 50's and 60's, but going further back to the colonization of the Americas by Europe, shows that whenever mass exploration efforts and the technology development tied to them occur, we consistently get the birth of brand new industries and technologies used in everyday life. This means high-paying jobs, greater comforts at home, and all the other positives that come from becoming a more advanced civilization. From velcro, to microwaves, to advanced composite materials and so much more, all of which we owe to exploration - the same will occur with our continued investment in space. Of particular note, is that the technology needed to explore space must be technology that is incredibly resource-efficient. The efficient use and reuse of materials, fuel, water, air, etc., will all be needed to go into space. Perhaps by fate, this is also the exact category of technology we need the most investment in, if we're going to save the Earth from its looming resource and pollution crisis. Space exploration and its technology isn't just for space, it's for Earth as well.
Finally, beyond the economic or survival argument, which I admit can seem a bit dark (but doesn't detract from it's point), there is also a hopeful and perhaps a bit idealistic reason for investing in space exploration. I believe space exploration gives humanity, or even just the country, something to be excited about again. I believe humankind is an innately curious and exploratory species - to reach for the unknown is part of our DNA. I believe that having something exciting, a great new frontier like space, is something that will inspire and catalyze positive change in society. In a way, it gives us something to root for. There's a reason that whenever a human launch occurs, the world watches, with everyone wishing for success and safety.. I think people love the stars and exploration and I hope that as space exploration becomes active and exciting again, thanks to NASA and SpaceX efforts, we will find something constructive and positive to unify us as a country and people; opposed to only coming together in times of war and conflict. I believe that making space exploration something we all support and love, can bring us together as people and inspire future generations to strive high, to do the hard things, to invest in the long-term prosperity of an entire people as opposed to just gunning for short-term gain.
--Jorge Perdomo, TheFluffyCloud.org
Our imagination is as endless as the universe, and within our universe there are things we have yet to find, but we know that are out there. Space exploration continues the spirit of the human explorer - to discover new lands and resources. The reason why we should continue to fund space exploration is because of the massive amount of resources that space holds. For example, a single asteroid of lithium or any other precious metal can have resources worth over trillions of dollars, which if harvested - can lead to huge leaps in the industries of science and the creation of thousands of jobs. Space exploration is not a waste of money - it is the best investment for the human race. If a separate Earth-like planet was found, would it be possible to travel towards it and make a new civilization? There are a multitude of reasons why we should continue space exploration, but for our curiosity as humans, shouldn’t we continue to push towards the last frontier we have? For the betterment of our country, our space program can help us learn valuable things about the universe, and how we can use the things we learn - to help our planet now.
--Eugene Romberg, We Buy Houses in Bay Area
Space exploration is much more than scientific experiments and discovering more about the space in which we live. In fact, it has proven to be a great motivator throughout history.
During times of uncertainty, such as during the Great Depression or the Cold War, looking to the stars produced a sort of hope that was felt through the American people. For just a moment, citizens could forget about the lack of work or the constant threat of enemies, and just marvel at a step on the moon, or a full orbit.
And the same proves to be true today. In moments of crisis, these are the pursuits that help people to see that the world is a much bigger place than their city with closed restaurants and long grocery-store lines. And in the end, isn't that the most important thing?
--Chris Gadek, AdQuick
Spending in space exploration today is investing in your national security. We all use Google Maps and know well how space research has made it possible to locate someone living thousands of miles away. Consequently, it has also alarmed the security concerns as you can understand better what kind of military equipment agencies would be using to get crucial information about each other. In a nutshell, I say a big yes to NASA funding.
--M. Ammar Shahid, SuperHeroCorp