To Infinity and Beyond

Take a look up at the sky. Have you ever wondered how vast the galaxy is? The huge planet we call Earth, that can accommodate all 7 billion of us is only a tiny part of our galaxy, coexisting with many other galaxies. And so much of it is still unexplored. Recently, scientists discovered the possibility of life on other planets, decades after humanity ventured into the galaxy. In 1957, the Soviet Union made history as the first country to launch an orbital rocket into space – the Sputnik. Since then, many countries have launched their own in the race to explore the galaxies far and wide.

The galaxy Photo credits: Lumina Obscura on Pixabay

Hello friends! Welcome back! 😊 I will be discussing the impacts of space exploration on the environment.

The space industry today is worth approximately SGD$575 billion. With so many resources invested in space exploration, some question if it is worth it. Especially considering pressing issues on Earth still unresolved, such as poverty and climate change, should large amounts of resources be devoted to exploring space?

Let us evaluate this from an environmental perspective.

As mentioned in one of my posts, terrestrial mining has detrimental consequences on the environment. Furthermore, this practice is unsustainable, considering that the resources extracted are non-renewable. Other ways of mining, for example, deep-sea mining, unfortunately, also has its own set of environmental issues.

Through space exploration, scientists may have found a way to tap onto new resources to meet the growing demands – through asteroid mining. Asteroids are found to contain resources like precious metals and water that can be extracted and transported back to Earth. While this method of mining is still in its development stage, scientist suggests that asteroid mining possibly contributes less to climate change than mining on Earth.

Additionally, in the process to help astronauts adapt and survive in the space environment, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has innovated many technologies that coincidentally benefits humanity. Artificial limbs, firefighting equipment and memory foam might not have been possible without the help of NASA.

More importantly, some of those technologies now play a part in making the Earth greener. For instance – solar cells. The lack of an energy source in space forced NASA to devise ways to harness the energy from the sun, in the process making solar cells more cost-effective. Currently, photovoltaic panels are widely used in many countries, including Singapore, to harness renewable solar energy.

Despite that, space exploration has its downsides on the environment too.

In the race to explore the galaxy, many countries are sending more and more technologies into space. The result? The Low Earth Orbit is now filled with millions of pieces of space debris, posing as a danger to spacecrafts and satellites. Not only are they difficult to clean up, when pieces of debris collide, they may produce thousands of fragments, worsening the space environment.

Not to mention, spacecraft launches have a large carbon footprint and contribute to the thinning of the ozone layer.

European Space Agency Rocket GIF
Rocket launch Photo credits: European Space Agency – ESA on Giphy

So, is space exploration worth it? Personally, I believe that space exploration has the potential to create a more environmentally friendly future if done sustainably. Especially considering that the Earth’s resources are finite, being able to obtain resources from asteroids at a lower cost to the environment is a good thing!


Alicia 😊

4 thoughts on “To Infinity and Beyond

  1. Hi Alicia!

    Really cool blog post! I have never considered that space exploration would harm Earth’s environment. Do you think that the carbon footprint of spacecraft launches will be worth the resources obtained from space? Furthermore do you think that it will be offset by the reduction of mining on earth?

    1. Hi Chloe! Thank you for reading my post! A few scientists suggest that if asteroid mining is done on a large enough scale i.e transport large amounts of resources back per trip, it can have a smaller carbon footprint than mining on Earth. Hence, if more people find asteroid mining to be more attractive and thus invest in R&D , it might be possible that spacecrafts in the future can transport large amounts of resources back to Earth per trip, making this method of obtaining new resources more “worth it”.

  2. Hi Alicia,

    This was quite the interesting read, I’ve never ever thought of space as a source for resources before. Although, when you mentioned that asteroid mining could have less of an impact on climate change on Earth then our current methods, my first thought was that “that’s one extreme outsourcing method”.

    We humans on Earth have already beaten nature into submission, and in doing so we have knowingly and unknowingly created the environmental crisis. With outer space being a far far more unknown area, there’s no way of telling what the impact of human activity on space would be (both to earth and other planets). For example, we created all that space debris with the mad rush make use of outer space for our needs, and then just are now finding out that it could have been a bad move.

    Hence, to me it seems just a tad presumptuous to look to space for the answer for our never ending needs. After all, what right do we have to ‘harvest’ another environment, much less one we barely know anything about. What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Rachel! Thank you for reading my post!

      I guess your question ties in with what we learnt recently in class about environmental ethics. If you ask what rights do we have to harvest resources from another environment, then what right did we have in the first place to harvest resources from Earth, in the process causing all these environmental problems like pollution and overharvesting. My personal take on this would be if asteroid mining can successfully reduce the environmental impacts of mining on Earth and lead to a more sustainable future, then maybe it is an option that can be considered.

      But your question got me thinking of another issue mentioned in class. If asteroid mining becomes more viable in the future, will this actually help the environment or further extrapolate the problem; will there really be a reduction of mining/ usage of such resources on Earth? If people realise there are large sources of resources that we can tap on, they might start to use such resources more recklessly and wastefully, knowing there are ‘back-up’ sources available to us now. So, in the end, being able to obtain resources from other environments will not be able to solve the problem of humanity’s insatiable appetite for resources. I guess the way to really overcome the limited resources available to us is to reduce our demand.

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