Perplexities, theories, and quandries of the mind and universe

Archive for December, 2013

On Space Exploration

On a summer night in 1969, for the first time in human history, a group of men left the Earth and set foot on a heavenly body. Humans landed on the moon. We didn’t just step over the line that marked what was possible and impossible. We flew over that line, and the next line too.

But what has happened since then? Just stop and think about it.

Done thinking? Good. Let me throw some facts at you. NASA was first established in 1958, (although it was more or less made to absorb the NACA, which was founded in 1915) to conduct non-military actions in space. NASA wasn’t the first to send something into space, but they were the first to land a human on the moon, which happened in 1969. It took them only 11 years to accomplish this ungodly feat. We didn’t stay there long though. In 1972 NASA sent their last Apollo mission to the moon, and no one has walked on a heavenly body since.

It’s been 41 years now. Just imagine what NASA, or any other space agency for that matter, could have achieved if they had stuck to a vigorous program of space exploration. Today we have a handful of rovers exploring Mars, and many other probes and orbiters flying around the solar system. They are all un-maned however. It just begs the question as to why. If it took only a decades worth of testing, training, and planning to get to the moon, we could have certainly placed a man on Mars, or maybe even some other body in the solar system. By all means, just having rovers on Mars seems to be a bit of a let down. We have amazing technology roaming the red planet. Why can’t we have those same robots running around on the Europa, a moon of Jupiter, where we believe a liquid ocean is present beneath the surface, or Enceladus, a moon of Saturn with similar properties to Europa. What about Triton, another moon of Saturn. Sure it my have liquid methane, but who is to say some form of life isn’t living in it (perhaps even a silicon based life-form, not a carbon-based one like all of Earth’s creatures).

Then there are the Voyager probes. The first one is just now leaving the Solar System. The second isn’t there yet, but give it time. The first was launched in 1977. With the technology and power we have now we could have explored far beyond Pluto, which I still consider a planet.

So why explore space? Well for one there is an abundance of raw, natural resources out there that we could tap. Just imagine if we pulled in an asteroid, just one out of the thousands out there in orbit. These things are massive, some are the size of modern cities. They contain iron, nickel, and many other metals. One asteroid could supply building material for years to come.

Titan, which I mentioned earlier, has an absurd amount of lakes full of liquid methane and ethane. The moon is much colder than Earth, so those fuels are dense. On top of that, Cassini found evidence in June of 2012 that there may be subsurface oceans of liquid water. Cases for liquid water also exist on Saturn’s other moon Enceladus, which I mentioned above.

As for Jupiter’s moon Europa, liquid water is almost a guarantee, but it lies below hundreds or thousands of feet of ice. The case with Europa is unique though. Jupiter causes immense tidal forces to occur to Europa. These forces heat the core of the moon, and create a stable supply of heat and energy. With that in mind, the recipe for life is there, it’s just a matter of if it has been blended into a soup of microorganisms.

And what is space exploration without mentioning aliens? Think about this. If you were on Pluto, listening to the radio, you would be hearing songs that were popular not too long ago. You could catch the World Series of the early 2000’s. Maybe someone out there, farther away, is listening to the first broadcast of the World Series or the famous speeches from King George. But what if they misinterpret our logical form of communication for some kind of odd space interference.

And what if we have misinterpreted their signals? Or worse; what if we have missed them all together. Sure we have dishes and towers trying to find signals from ET. But what if we put more effort into it. I forget the technical term, but consider this. When you are using your computer, chances are you aren’t using 100% of its computing power. Just imagine what could be done if everyone put their unused computer processing power to use sifting through data that could contain an alien language. Maybe they have taken steps we have not to try to explore space.

Ah, the power of “what its” and the “what could have been”. In any case, I hope this compels someone to take a deeper look at things. Their own life. Their own “what ifs”. And maybe, just maybe, this will fall on the eyes of a future space explorer.


Sources include: NASA, Astronomy Magazine