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Published on July 26th, 2009 | by Daniel Hohler


Top 5 Reasons why Space Exploration is Important for the World


July 20th, 2009 was the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11′s historic flight to the moon, where astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to walk on the moon. 40 years ago, space flight inspired such awe that astronauts were hailed as heroes and celebrities by men, women, and children alike. 40 years later none of us, besides the most avid space fanatic, would likely to be able to name one astronaut in service today.

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Despite the tragedies of Space Shuttle Challenger, and later Columbia, where the world is shocked into being reminded of the inherit dangers of sitting on 1 million gallons of rocket fuel, or re-entering the earth’s atmosphere at 1,870 miles per hour. We all see space flight as mundane because the vast majority of space flights since Apollo 11, have been mostly conducting seemingly routine scientific experiments. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in the importance of science in space, but these experiments don’t exactly inspire awe in the general population like, oh say, a manned mission to Mars would. We also don’t have the fever of beating those damned Ruskies because they might go to space and blow us all up, which we had during the height of the cold war when Apollo 11 touched down on the lunar Sea of Tranquility.

Watching some fantastic documentaries (such as Discovery’s When We Left Earth) celebrating the 40th anniversary this week, I got to thinking about the importance of continuing space exploration. I hear many people decry the importance of NASA and space flight. Most saying that it is a waste of time, and more importantly money. I disagree with such assessments. I often wonder if people threw out the same criticisms of our European ancestors, who dared to explore on wooden ships to discover “the new world.”

In my humble opinion, space exploration is important not only to humanity’s curiosity of the great beyond, but it is also important for the future of the earth and all of us living on it. So here I will count down “Houston style,” my top 5 reasons why space exploration is important for the world.

5. Promote Science Education – The Apollo missions inspired a whole generation of kids who wanted to grow up to be astronauts, rocket scientists, and engineers. We all know that science education has been slightly lacking in the United States as of late. Don’t you think that NASA’s return to the moon, or more importantly the much anticipated manned mission to Mars will again inspire a whole new generation to reach for the stars so to speak? I do.

4. NASA’s Environmental Research – You would think that the guys who burn a million pounds of rocket fuel wouldn’t be the most environmentally minded people in the world, or out of the world as it may be. However, most people don’t know that NASA does a lot of good environmental research while they are up there looking down at all of us. NASA has done a lot of work in studying air quality, climate change, alternative energy, and near earth objects; which as we all know from the movies can destroy the earth any day now without warning, unless we have a group of oil drillers, a nuke, and Bruce Willis.

3. Eliminate Earth Over Population – The current earth population is almost 6.8 BILLION people. Arguably beyond the carrying capacity of the earth already. The big dream is space colonization. We need somewhere to put all these people, or we all might end up living in skyscrapers, see all animal’s habitats destroyed, and smog up the air beyond what is breathable (see: China).

2. Natural Resources – Related to over population, we are burning through the earth’s natural resources pretty quickly. Out in space there is virtually unlimited resources. It is all just a matter of collecting it and bringing it back, which granted will not be an easy task. Still… it is virtually unlimited natural resources! There will be no more excuses for hiking up prices on barrels of oil. (Although hopefully we will have moved far beyond oil by then).

1. Put Ourselves into Perspective – From space earth is really small. From space earth is really fragile. Sometimes I think it would be a good thing to put our place in the universe into perspective.  I don’t go into your house light up a stogy, start pulling up your carpet, kick down your door, and then kill your cat. Yet, we as the human species have been doing that to our own home the earth for quite a while now. If we start seeing how small and fragile we are out there floating in space, maybe, just maybe we will not be so prone to abusing our one true home.

Blast Off! Here’s to the men and women who gave their lives to explore the great unknown. We cannot ignore the importance of space exploration, nor be complacent in it’s meaning to all of us. I hope space exploration can continue to inspire, educate, and provide for us in the next 40 years as it has the last 40 years.

Image Credit: TopTechWriter.US on Flickr

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About the Author

Daniel is a graduate of University of Southern California with a degree in Biology and Anthropology. He attended Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies located on Catalina Island where he did environmental research and marine biology. Daniel has also spent time studying primate social behavior. He currently attends medical school at PCOM-GA. You may contact Daniel on his website or on twitter @danielhohler.

  • park jihye

    these comments helped me a lot in writing an essay on space exploration.. thanks everyone !!!

  • Pman

    All of the 5 points related to how space exploration can be achieved HERE ON PLANET EARTH. Lets try ocean exploration for the biological reasons to benefit mankind. We know less about ocean exploration then we do space .

  • Globetrotter

    Manned space exploration must be one of the least productive publicity stunts we engage in. We burn 100,000 kg of fuel so that a rich guy can go weightless and say WOW.

    Maybe, we should be exploring ways to live on this planet without destroying it, instead of looking to colonize the moon or mars. Both places make Antarctica appear outright hospitable. At least it has air and water, both of which are lacking in space.

    The space race seems to be fueled by greedy scientists with misguided motives who want their pet projects funded by playing on people’s Star Trek inspired imagination. If scientists can’t do any better than fantasize about space, then maybe we don;t suffer from the lack of scientists, but from having too many already. It seems that most science graduates end up working in shady business areas like Defense, Pharma, Agro, Bio Tech, where they plot with their capitalist backers on how to invent something that will eventually threaten the world. For every scientist doing worthy work, there are probably 100 who do what greed asks them to.

    How about we train more people in organic farming, or sustainable life style and shut down a few science departments.

    • Zachary Shahan

      I can’t say I disagree.

  • Zachary Shahan


  • Micak47

    Eagary you are an idiot. Only YOUR mind goes blank when pondering the wonders of our universe. One day when we do travel the speed of light and know much more about ourselves and the wonderful place we live in, we will look back and say, “The primitive thoughts and views of our ancestors were so depthless and simple saying god is the answer to anything they didnt understand.” and YOU Eargary are the fool they will be talking about. Just because you have a low I.Q. and naive mind, doesnt mean the rest of us do. Go stuff your face in a copy of a copy of an ancient bible that was retold and rewritten by simple people like yourself while the rest of us explore space and create new incredible technologies and discover amazing new planets and species and progress and strive to be the awesome humans we want to be. People, DO NOT let us sink back into the middle ages with the illogical reasoning of idiots like Eagary. Let us explore!

  • Eagary

    Any money spent on space exploration is a total waste. Man will never be able to move at the speed of light to cover those vast distances and therefore knowing that a star is so much light years away is like stories we hear as a child from grandmas. They say, we want to know the BIG BANG or how it all began. They should look up in a clear night-sky, their own vision will come back to them but will fail to find any flaw in God’s creation. It is Him who BEGAN it or BANGED it. We humans are is His best of creations and we are provided with a limited knowledge beyond which if you try to think will go blank. For example try to think What is the limit of the universe ; Why are we created; Where do we go after death etc. Therefore, do not spend any more money in space exploration. Read the latest holy books came from God, where you may find the answers to your questionnaire.

  • Tanaya Babtiwale

    this has really helped for my english debate. you can also put in that by our efforts the fututre generation may get more ideas upon this stuff to carry it on. If the wright brothers hadnt fractured their body parts making that aeroplane model, we would be still wasting our time in going by ships. Think about the marine traffic it would have caused. Same way aviation may later turn to mode of transport, you never know!! but guys i leart so much more from this article and the comments than i would have learnt on wikipedia!! so A BIG THANK YOU!

  • Dilfuza Yuldasheva

    So true about illegal

  • Rusv

    i really hate your commets. i think space is awsome and if you really want to say those really. get a life you jerks

  • Josh

    I was about to put Bruce Willis in my paper lol

  • http://Web mary

    its awesome

  • Jc

    The debate about this topic is really good, both sides show a pretty good argument.

  • ian brooks

    ok i have no idea who made this web site but what i do know thet it helped a crap load on my history notes, so thank you so much to the auther of the site!!!

  • Jerry McDuckey

    I am actually writing a speech for school about Space Exploration. I can put it up later. :)

  • Ali darwish

    wow you guys have great ideas i got cared away reading all of these comments and hell i learnd alot the best comments were by:Chris Hyman ,Melty and Jean Vincent of corse and Daniel Hohler thank you for these incridible ideas and info

  • Dessou guiemeu delmas

    space exploration isn’t it costly?

    • Sam

      No. American tax money goes to more “worthwhile” things like killing people in illegal wars…

      NASA is painfully under-funded.
      Maybe some people would be a little more satisfied with what they think is going nowhere if it were getting a little more slack on the budget.

      • derrik bria

        o yeah ..
        i see ..

  • troy

    nothings impossible exp the sun…millions of miles wide been buringing for billions of years people that claim space exploration is a waste are a waste. If getting a degree means giving up than you can keep it! p.s great story Daniel.

  • Daniel Hohler

    Yes, I agree Chris. Very well written. I was going to include all the technology that the space program has given us, but I couldn’t really write about it as an environmental angle. Of course, I could probably find one if I looked a little harder.

  • Chris Hyman

    It’s interesting how much of what the space program has been a part of is taken for granted. Does anyone who thinks it’s worthless use cell-phones? computers? watch (or listen to) weather reports? watch TV? see or hear anything broadcast by satellite? wear clothes made of synthetic materials? take airplanes, use cars, or any vehicle that makes use of navigation and/or miniature electronics?
    The space program has had an impact on(and continues to impact) the development and improvement in these an many other areas. Coming up, water and waste recycling that when applied outside the program will provide safe drinking water and recycling in areas that have never really had it, better materials for every form of travel, environment and resource tracking, and a host of others life improvements, some of which we haven’t thought of yet (and few of which it will receive any credit for).

    One of the things that got Europe and the US back into action was China’s announcement that of the 104,000 physicicsts, chemists, biolists, etc. who were working on their space program, 80% were under 40 . . . guess who’ll make all the real technological advances in a decade or so if the rest of us don’t get our butts in gear.

    Are outside Earth resources really too expensive once we get going? To mention just ONE – Helium-3 (abundant on the moon) is a valuable future fuel. As safe, clean fusion electric is developed, the equivalent of a shuttle-load could provide all the U.S. power needs for more than a year . . . that’s many times the annual cost of the Space program here. Does the one writer really believe that kind of cost can somehow be recovered through recycling? (I’m all for recycling, by the way . . . but I can’t believe it will reclaim that huge an amount of energy while relieving pressure on Earth’s resources.)

    Is it any wonder that China, India, Japan, Russia, and Europe have all announced manned lunar programs (and Germany, the U.K., and Italy are all looking at working independtly in this area in addition to their joint work with ESA). (Some of them have said specifically that they will colonize and mine for Helium 3. Some countries will probably also seek platinum from outside earth . . . which may be more cost effective for future fuels. Do you know what is spent now on mining, drilling, and searching for resources?

    Have those of you who feel the program is worthless really researched it’s current and historical impact on humanity and the planet, both directly and indirectly? Why do you think over 60 countries developed satellites at this point, and more and more are developing launch vehicles and starting their own manned programs? Are all of these countries terribly misled? Are all of the side discoveries and improvements things that would have happened somehow anyway without the space program? I simply can’t believe that. I could be wrong, but I think it’s much more likely that those of you who think the program is worthless are unaware of it’s historical and ongoing positive impact . . . and should perhaps research things a bit and re-evaluate that stance.

  • Daniel Hohler

    Thank you for you slightly angered comments. I am well aware of the points you bring up.

    Jean… From NASAs own website: “Saturn’s orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth”

    This is what I was speaking of when referring to oil. So no. It is not a joke.

    Melty… I have taken a few physics courses. It seems like you have a personal agenda here. I agree it is important to explore other areas. Most importantly our oceans. Space should not be excluded. I don’t believe it is a delusion at all.

    Rebecca… That is a good recommendation. I am a fan of Sagan’s ideas.

    Of course space colonization wont happen tomorrow, but if we just give up on exploration now what message does that send to future generations?

    I leave you with a quote from Jim Lovell. “Human’s have shown through the space program, by working together, anything is possible”

  • Rebecca


    If you believe no one could ever travel “to the stars,” (e.g. the Gliese system) I suggest you check out Carl Sagan’s Documentary Cosmos, specifically Episode 8: “Journeys in Space and Time.” This particular episode shows plans made for interstellar space vehicles.

    Nearly anything is possible with enough time and money. However, if we are never given the money and confidence to develop new technologies and shoot for lofty goals (Mars, for one), we will never go anywhere.


    I suggest you check out more articles or books comparative planetology, specifically on Venus and Mars. Venus’ runaway greenhouse gases have taught us much about the greenhouse gases on Earth. Mars, in its early years, is thought to have had lakes of liquid water, but that water is gone now. Astronomers study these planets to find out what their current and past conditions can teach us about our own planets. Sending robotic spacecraft to study these planets is incredibly valuable. Sending humans to other planets is valuable as well, because by doing so we create jobs on OUR planet, add volumes of knowledge to the fields of rocket science, computer science, and astronomy, and learn more about human survival outside of our planet. If the funding is cut off entirely, the chances of us picking it up again and continuing on are very, very slim. NASA will continue to receive funding but never enough.

    Again: Nearly anything is possible with enough time and money. However, if we are never given the money and confidence to develop new technologies and shoot for lofty goals (Mars, for one), we will never go anywhere.

    • tasha

      i think you are so right rebecca!!!!!!!!!

      • derrik bria

        yes .. rebecca is right

  • Melty


    The entire concept of “space exploration” is a costly delusion. Did you never take physics 101 at USC? Can you draw the solar system to scale on a piece of paper of any size? Of course not. So: let’s say we go to Mars over the next 50 years. That will keep us busy for a while — but where next? You tell me. Even our best engine technology could not get us to Gliese 581 with 100 years of space travel. So can we please stop using “space exploration” to mean “human spaceflight”? Real space exploration is done using telescopes. The rest is just marketing.

    I was absolutely shocked to read “3. Eliminate Earth Over Population – The current earth population is almost 6.8 BILLION people. Arguably beyond the carrying capacity of the earth already. The big dream is space colonization. We need somewhere to put all these people, or we all might end up living in skyscrapers…”. You were apparently educated to graduate level: can you really be so simplistic to think that we could shift millions of people to another habitable planet? What does this say about US higher education?

    Here’s the rub: Manned spaceflight sucks mega$ from NASA’s science programs (of course, it’s loved by Northrup Grumman, Raytheon, and the other defence/space contractors). The most important thing we have learned from space science is just how important it is to explore this planet (see this article by Tony Haymet, Mark Abbott and Jim Luyten in the Washington Post).

    I would stick with Biology and Anthropology, or make sure you’ve acquired a range of opinion from the relevant experts, before launching a piece like this into cyberspace.

    • Sam

      The man obviously is smarter than to think people could magically be transported from the Earth to another planet. He means eventually, after a lot of research and advancement.
      You have to be a bit more analytical than this.

  • Jean Vincent

    Is this a joke?

    > There will be no more excuses for hiking up prices on barrels of oil.

    Don’t you know that oil is a byproduct of life and that we know for sure that there is no significant biomass on the Moon or Mars?

    Space exploration is, at this time, a waste of time and money while we have much more important business here on earth.

    We have much more to learn about our oceans for example, and going back to the Moon or to Mars will not help no anything about these. And please do not confuse low-earth orbit satellites with Moon or Mars exploration.

    There is no such thing as “almost unlimited resources” on the moon or even mars and the cost to get those resources back on earth is far greater than the cost of recycling. Just do the math, what is the cost of digging and bringing back 1kg of anything back from the Moon? Don’t even bother making the math for Mars, priceless.

    We need a 10 year goal, not for going back to the Moon but to become sustainable. A science-inspiring goal that is the only way mankind may still dream of going back to space exploration someday.

    With the aftermath of the financial crisis you can be sure that Mars will be scrapped for good unless the government wants to see the US go down with its massive debt, or unless they blindly believe that the US can survive this.

    Space exploration is one of the things I admire the most and would truly love to see it progressing, but this is just not the right time.

    • http://Web Sheryl

      i want more idea’s about space exploration….

    • AlphaThinker

      I don’t agree. Space exploration is very important indeed, space programs develop new technologies and to create highly qualified jobs. Spending money on space programs is far more useful than wasting money on unemployment benefits. Also the exploration of planets and other celestial bodies can give important scientific results as understanding the origin of life or of the Solar system. We can’t whine about the debt, the political problems and other stuff. The public debt will always be huge, even in 1000 years. Let’s move on.

      • Guest

        Is understanding all of this REALLY relevant for today? And how many qualified jobs are you talking about? People have to fund what is relevant for today, and space is really not relevant to the public. Only a select few. Let’s focus on what’s really important to the people, instead of nebulous desires that are not feasible.

        • Zachary Shahan

          I agree.

        • AlphaThinker

          Sadly, you are unaware of NASA spin-off technologies. Sadly, you are not interested in basic research.
          Good for you, I can’t wait to see Rosetta and New Horizons at work…

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