Should we focus on fixing our planet or move to a new one?
It is only by preparing for life on another planet that we may save our own. We must stop lying to ourselves about the fate of our planet. Humans have already caused major climate change, and global warming will continue to happen for at least several more decades, if not centuries. We must preemptively prepare for the possibility that Earth may become uninhabitable, which can only be achieved by space exploration. The benefits of focusing on moving to a new planet (the most feasible option being Mars) not only provide a potential alternative to living on Earth, but moreover the scientific research and global cooperation required to prepare for human colonisation of one may contribute to solving the climate crisis on Earth.
Improved solar panels, implantable heart monitors, light‐based anti‐cancer therapy, and compact water‐ purification systems - all technological advancements that resulted directly from space-related research. Such research not only widens human understanding of the universe, but leads also to the catalysis of scientific and technological development, which can be utilised to tackle the climate crisis back on Earth. The challenge of space exploration requires the development of more capable, reliable, and efficient technologies, in order to ensure the safe operation of crew and machinery in the harsh environment of space. Moreover, space exploration missions require the intertwining of human cognitive skills and the precision and reliability of robots - this demand for an effective partnership between humans and machines drives progress in domains such as human health care, robotics, and automation. These innovations can be used to increase the efficiency and resilience of societies, and to tackle the wide range of issues caused by climate change - one example being pressure upon the healthcare system.
Climate change results in altered patterns of infection (specifically regarding diseases such as malaria), increased cases of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases due to extreme heat, and compromised cleanliness of water supplies increasing the risk of diarrhoeal disease. Moreover, the increased frequency of extreme weather events - demonstrated by the current raging wildfires in Australia - results in immense pressure upon doctors and medical infrastructure. Space exploration leads to the development of ground-breaking technologies that can be used to tackle these problems. For example, the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity (ADUM), developed by NASA for use on the ISS, may also be particularly useful for emergency medical personnel on Earth - it can diagnose a variety of ailments, including abdominal conditions and collapsed lungs, and promises to save lives while lowering health care costs. Technologies such as the ADUM can be used to combat the impacts of a changing climate.
However, the benefits of such exploration lie also in the impact it has upon the cooperation between countries across the globe.
The rate of acceleration of climate change requires coordination among countries and governments with different short term priorities. The collective goal of space exploration and settlement, especially when contrasted with the undercurrent of existential pessimism that pollutes our generation, can act as a motivating and cohesive force for countries to cooperate with each other towards a shared aim. Moreover, it acts as an economic stimulant, allowing for continued economic growth, and is a far more viable option than waiting upon what would need to be an implausible speed of change in government policy, corporate incentives, and human habits to solve the crisis.
Of course, while space exploration and research may address issues of climate change on Earth, it’s ultimate purpose would be to enable the settlement of a different planet should Earth become uninhabitable.
Mars is close enough for the journey there not to prove an insurmountable obstacle, and with the development of artificial intelligence, biotech and nanotech, and proposed ideas such as terraforming (the process of manipulating the atmosphere or environment on Mars) the possibility of colonisation has become genuine. My generation has been forced to do something that no previous generation has done - address the challenge that our very existence on Earth may become unviable. The probability of my ever living on Mars is extremely low, but if governments and the private sector increase their focus and investment in space exploration and research, I may yet see my grandchildren among the first humans to colonise the Red Planet.
Joseph Schull L8