Only a few weeks ago NASA’s Perseverance Rover touched down on Mars, 203 days after launch in Florida. The Rover is exploring the geology and history of Mars and looking for signs of ancient life on this red planet, we know little about. Billions have been spent on this new project, with costs expected to exceed $2.7 billion. Scientists hope to learn more about Mars and its history from this mission to Mars.
Rich lead the space race
Space exploration is by no means a new thing, in fact a handful of the world’s richest people are leading the space race. All with entirely different motives, Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme is looking into colonising Mars. Jeff Bezos (Amazon) with the Blue Origin programme and Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic taking on suborbital tourism. Although many of these projects haven’t been hugely successful, it does highlight the huge private interest which is shaping the future of space exploration. This future is in the hands of a small number of people, the technology they develop and the parts of space they explore could be used for great benefit to the planet.
Projects such as that being run by SpaceX, Amazon and other rich companies are working on networks of relatively small satellites that beam internet access to the ground. These networks orbit at lower levels than conventional satellites and are cheaper to make and launch. Proponents say that these networks can expand internet service, particularly in remote areas, to ships at sea and in other hard-to-reach areas. Similar small satellites are being used for other projects such as monitoring wildfires. There are drawbacks, but we should be excited about the possibilities.
Looking further ahead another space opportunity for the world is asteroid mining which could provide an alternative to mining scarce minerals on earth. Some asteroids could supply an almost unlimited supply of certain raw materials. Demand for particular metals used in electronics, such as mobile phones and computers cannot be met by the earth’s resources, at least not without causing further significant damage to the environment. This sort of technology seems like a long way off, currently mining materials from asteroids is just too expensive, but as with almost everything with advancements in technology and further research over time, such ideas can quickly become reality. There are even already a number of organisations that look set to become pioneers in the field of asteroid mining.
Mankind or billionaires
While space exploration could have great benefits to the world in the future, this should not be done at the expense of the planet we currently inhabit. We need ideas that protect the Earth, but also help us explore the opportunities that space could bring to the world. What was once confined to science fiction films could be our future. The current small group of space billionaires will be looking into space to make profit, but they should be looking at the bigger picture. Any future opportunities must be used to benefit the whole of mankind.
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