The conundrum of our constellations

Alessandro Espinosa, Contributing Writer

To put it directly, humanity is a species that thrives off curiosity. The ideas of exploration, discovery and innovation have been the driving factors that have pushed the collective think-tank of mankind forward from one technological/societal era into the next. As was the case with the advent of agriculture, the formation of different schools of philosophy and the exploration of The New World, outer space has been a subject that has seemingly garnered attention across generations and cultural boundaries. 

From the first time Galileo decided to angle a telescope upwards at the Italian night sky, to the present day where we find ourselves champions of the moon and administrators of the International Space Station and several planetary satellites — humans have pushed the boundaries of our knowledge and technological capabilities to a level that surpasses that of centuries prior. As a means to further push the boundaries of what we know and are capable of knowing, the journey into space is continuing past our solar system and into the depths of the universe light years away from Earth. While in theory, the exploration of the deep, enigmatic space between our home and the edge of existence sounds like the next logical step in our self-induced evolution as — mostly — sophisticated organisms, after further analysis, the idea of venturing into deep space prompts a significant question from a keen mind: Is it really necessary?

 The act of deep space exploration is definitely a species-wide endeavor that must be taken up and prioritized at some point in the future. However, it distracts us from more pressing matters that we face here on Earth in the present day. Up until this point in history, humanity’s curiosity has mostly been centered around what could be observed and examined in the confines of the big blue marble. Due to this limit of scope, people were able to better understand their immediate environment and properly utilize their natural, physical and mental resources as a means of ensuring their survival, increased quality of living and continued inquisition of anything and everything. With the exponential technological advancement following the Industrial Revolutions, humanity soon found itself in the Space Age and was entranced by the depths of our universe, and all that it held to learn and give. While deep space exploration surely allows for the three aforementioned results that are connected to the curiosity of the past, it would not be the most optimal use of humanity’s most scarce and valuable resource: time. 

The development of technology — along with the acquisition of required resources and logistical planning — that would be needed to send a person faster and farther than our possible 21-month Mars trip, or to create a spacecraft capable of mining interstellar metals, proves difficult in light of our current technological limitations and would require years, if not decades, to even come across feasible prototypes of things that would need to be mass produced. In the grand scheme of existence, a worst-case scenario of a few decades seems trivial to point out; but, in light of an increasing global population, rising sea levels, changing temperatures and increasing carbon emissions, every bit of time that we as a species can use to find solutions to extend the lifespan of our current-and-only home is time well spent. If our knowledge and abilities regarding space exploration were substantially farther along than they are, we could more or less ignore the issue of an Earth in jeopardy and jet off into the great beyond to the third planet to set up colonies that would ensure our existence, as if it were as easy as first-grade arithmetic; however, we are not afforded that luxury and must stand to face the problems of our reality. 

Instead of turning the focal point of our species’ priority to other parts of existence, we should alternatively stay curious about Earth and turn attention to the modern ecological state of the planet and strive to find solutions that would ensure sustainability. This would in turn lead to the creation of new technologies and methods of maintaining human existence that would be beneficial for humanity with or without Earth. The lessons learned through such exploration and innovation would prove crucial not only in making sure that our eventual expansion into the deep reaches of outer space would have a stable launchpad to fly from, but it would also teach humanity how to better maintain a new planet after initial colonization efforts had been made: ensuring efficiency and continued survival. 

Through viewing our innate curiosity and desire to advance ourselves as tools for our betterment, we can better use our limited time, both as individuals and as part of a collective, to create solutions to the most pressing of matters that would in turn see tremendous results. Those results could then be used by ourselves, or by those that come after to further explore a different subject of related interest in a perpetual chain of sparks, of wonder and inquisition that motivates humans to keep moving into what is truly unknown.