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.
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.
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!