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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, April 12, 2024

Human race too attached to terrestrial life, lacks curiosity

Do you realize that we're floating in space? It's something I found myself saying over and over again this summer, while being bombarded with coverage of Apollo 11's 40th anniversary as well as the Parseids meteor shower in July. I also found myself asking, why aren't we out there in space? Why aren't we exploring like we used to? Have we run out of curiosity? I supplemented my cosmic ruminations with countless episodes of the BBC sci-fi series ""Doctor Who,"" watching as David Tennant's terribly clever Doctor guided mankind safely through the perils of the galaxy in his spaceship cloaked as a police call-box. ""Brilliant,"" the Doctor would exclaim upon finding humans somewhere out amongst the stars. ""So far from Earth, out here only to explore.""

These humans were discontented with staying on the boring old Earth, and every time he said that, I felt chills. The chills came because of our potential as human beings. I was filled with this joy knowing that we have humans in orbit, that we have rovers on Mars and that we have played golf on the moon. But then the reality would sink in, my optimism waning like the shape of the moon as the Cheshire cat grin disappears from the night sky. Though Armstrong and Aldrin have touched down on the moon, the rest of us have unfortunately gone nowhere.

The reasons for our stay-at-home tendencies are understandable. Space travel is expensive, with moon trips estimated at a cost of $150 billion. Not even the price of our unnecessary war could pay for an undertaking that big. And remember, $150 billion wouldn't pay for a colony or a ritzy tourist-ready space station; it would only pay for a visit to the moon. We still have bills to pay here on Earth; it's tough to be thinking about space when there are so many problems here. The unfortunate truth is that our initial race into space was fueled mostly by Cold War competition rather than human curiosity. The U.S. government laundered money from the military's accounts and it was approved by the American population's patriotic dedication to the Cold War. Today, this is not possible. Apollo 11 left the rest of us thoroughly tethered to the economic weight of space exploration. Behind all this galactic pessimism lies the benefit of having a progressive space program.

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Since landing on the moon the second time, the most important space project has been the wildly popular Hubble Telescope. Hubble entered the Earth's orbit in 1990 and recently had its tour of duty extended because of its benefit to astronomy. It has given us an intimate look into our galaxy and helped us better understand our origins as well as our future. Its benefits are beyond measurable economic signals. As we look out into the universe we begin to see what we need to continue exploring.

The fact that we are still grounded points to how we need to encourage progress on Earth the most. We need to start here, funding science education and dedicating ourselves to technology and innovation for the benefit of mankind. In time, these investments will pay off and make way for bigger and more efficient investments. $150 billion buys a lot more technology today than it did in 1969, and this trend will continue. It won't matter, though, if we don't achieve critical mass.

Beyond that, space gives us something to aspire to, a place where we can be recognized as a species rather than separate demographics. It's a campy thought, but it is still important. In an interview years after his moonwalk, Buzz Aldrin confessed to praying aboard Apollo 11. He kept the prayer a secret because he didn't want to divide the Eagle's accomplishment along religious lines. It was the human race that went to the moon, hundreds of engineers and physicists working around the clock to make sure that the Eagle landed successfully. After all that, look where we are today.

According to the Big Bang theory, a singular point of mass and energy exploded at some point in time, creating our universe. Following that logic, our universe is still expanding, light hurtling itself out into the cold expanse of the universe. And here we sit, comfortable and content with our identity as a pale blue dot in that cold expanse. All it takes, though, to move beyond our complacency is a few small steps, and one giant leap.

Anthony Cefali is a senior majoring in biology. Please send responses to   



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