Fraser Cain over at Universe Today sent out a question to the Astronomy/Astrophysics/Space communication community today. And he asks:
Why should we spend our time/money/resources on exploring space when there are so many problems here on Earth?
This is something that, for better or worse, I had a knee-jerk reaction to. Here’s what I wrote back to him:
This is like asking why we should spend money on making our city better when there are so many problems here in our own homes. Or why we should spend money on understanding our whole world when there are so many problems here in our own country. Space is something that we are not only a part of, but that encompasses and affects all of us. Learning about the grandest scales of our lives — about the things that are larger than us and will go on relatively unaffected by whatever we do — that has value! And it might not have a value that I can put a price tag on, but in terms of unifying everyone, from people in my city to people in a foreign country to people or intelligences on other planets or in other galaxies, space exploration is something that is the great equalizer. And the knowledge, beauty, and understanding that we get from it is something that one person, group, or nation doesn’t get to keep to itself; what we learn about the Universe can be, should be, and if we do our jobs right, will be equally available to everyone, everywhere. This is where our entire world came from, and this is the abyss our entire world will eventually return to. And learning about that, exploring that, and gaining even a small understanding of that, has the ability to give us a perspective that we can never gain just by looking insularly around our little blue rock.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Is this valuable, or am I just being completely naive and idealistic in my views of the value that understanding the world and Universe around us can bring? Whatever you think, you can read what the other responders had to say here.