How ethical is space exploration?

Graphic design by Sidney Stablein.

Story by Meridian Pearson, Opinion Editor

Space travel is highlighted and romanticized in pop culture all over the globe. It’s an incredible feat of humankind: Millions of pounds of metal, technology and supplies getting propelled through space beyond Earth’s atmosphere. By all accounts, it’s impressive. Humankind seems to be obsessed with space. We don’t know everything that’s out there, but our human curiosity demands to find out. So we send out countless rocket ships, probes, satellites, and more in hopes of figuring it all out.

An exciting prospect of modern space exploration is finding a “New Earth.” Given the state of our planet, the discovery of a livable planet could be the godsend we need to guarantee the long posterity of the human race. Sounds awesome, right? Except, what if we never find one, or if the one we find is too far away to realistically inhabit? While we sink trillions of dollars into traveling the cosmos, our own planet is going quickly to waste. Imagine the difference that money could make if it were redistributed to environmental reconstruction and preservation, or a switch to renewable energy. Not only could that eliminate the need to search for a New Earth, but it could eliminate our need to use so many resources for space exploration.

So, is it ethical to fund space travel and exploration when human impact is almost single-handedly taking down our own planet? At times, I feel like we gloss over the fact that we are killing the planet by putting so much emphasis on our efforts to discover a new one. Wouldn’t it be simpler to work with what we have now? If we have that much money to put into exploring what we don’t know, why aren’t we putting more money into saving what we do know?

I am not denying the appeal of space. I would love to see Earth from the moon, or view the gaseous surface of Jupiter. Space is overwhelmingly beautiful and stupefying—the very definition of sublime—which is why I think it’s so appealing to us. How could you ask humankind not to explore it? 

In order to be ethical, we need to strike a balance. If we could decrease our amount of space exploration and increase our environmental preservation efforts, we might just be able to satisfy our desire to understand the unknown while ensuring that we can foster our known planet for generations to come.

Categories: Opinion, The Saint