Space and Exploration. Survival of the Human Race

Essay, 2017

8 Pages, Grade: 89.0


In recent years of human history, the idea of travelling into space has become a routine
operation, no longer that of science fiction fantasies, with the missions being reserved mostly
for surveillance, data collection, and research aboard the International Space Station into the
effects of space on human growth. While deep exploration has invigorated young minds for
generations, there has been little progress in the formulation of a coherent plan to colonize
further into our galaxy. However, certain destructive events may have us thinking differently
on the idea of deep space exploration. Humans are constantly in danger from extraterrestrial
threats, such as explosions in 1871, 1908, and 1935, all contributed to surface-impact meteors,
almost in a clockwork pattern of 30 years. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, an extension of
NASA, has provided clues as to how exactly these impacts can affect human life, and as such,
their research will provide a foundation for the contingency plans discussed in this paper.
While impacts of severe damage and threat only occur in 1,000 year increments, we
are also at the mercy of shifting climate patterns due to intervention into the natural system by
humans. Our careless use of fossil fuels, combined with our need of life-sustaining resources
has advanced the damages of climate change, and stripped our planet of valuable elements.
Hurricane Katrina, a high-level natural disaster resulting in nearly 1200 dead and $100 billion
in damage, can effectively be linked to change in climate patterns. According to Andrea
Thompson, writer for Climate Central, Hurricane Katrina would have been significantly less
damaging in the climate conditions of 1900, a time that, while there was plenty of industrial
movement, had not experienced the mass production and technological revolution that would
come in the two major wars of the century (Thompson, 2015). The NASA Observatory (2016)
provides excellent research into pinpointing events caused directly by climate change, and
their work will be used to explain the threat of a future inundated by severe storms and crop
failure. In this paper, I will form the argument of leaving Earth behind, and beginning the
colonization of nearby planets, for the advancement of our species.
The first, and most obvious, reason to consider exploring deep space starts right here
on Earth. The speed at which our species goes through natural resources has begun to strain
our planet, to the point where it cannot continue to support us. According to an environmental
council report from the Sustainable Europe Research Institute (2000), our use of natural
resources around times of industrial progression, as well as global conflicts, sets a new level
of daily consumption after the conclusion of each event. For example, after World War II,
humans in North America and Europe began to consume over 35% more raw materials than
they were at the start of the war. This has led to the depletion of copper and lead, resources
that we use in our electrical appliances and batteries. The importance of these metals goes

beyond common household appliances. By running out of these rare metals, renewable energy
technology cannot be operated, as they require these materials to function. We also lose the
power of solar cells, cell phones, medical imaging, and jet turbine engines. If we continue to
consume these two elements at the speed at which we are going, we will not see even a trace
of them by 2025 (SERI, 2000). There is a very real solution to this, however. Humans have
already established themselves on the Moon, and while we may not have the technology to
begin living on this celestial body, we can begin to mine its resources.
According to the European Space Agency (2015), the element compound Helium-3,
which is used in the powering of nuclear fusion, is very abundant on the surface of the moon.
As we continue to deplete our Earthly energy sources, we can turn to He-3 to create nuclear
fusion and power humanity for centuries, fueling not only our life on Earth, but possible
colonizations in the future (ESA, 2015). The urgency of this operation is aided by the coming
explosion of populations, as detailed by the United Nations Department of Economic and
Social Affairs,which estimates that we will reach 8.5 billion people worldwide by 2030, 9.7
billion by 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100 (UNDESA, 2015). As we have already reached the
point of resource exhaustion with our current population, the need to begin exploratory
missions for replenishment has turned into the utmost priority.
When discussing long-term threats to humanity, one can continuously find themselves
coming back to climate change. Rising global temperatures, which can affect storm patterns,
continue to plague humanity, and according to the research of the NASA Observatory (2016),
we are expected to cross the danger threshold of global temperatures by 2036. What this
means, of course, is that within the next half century, regions that are typically cold or hot will
see themselves shifting to the other side of the spectrum. This also means that, according to
the National Severe Storms Laboratory (2016), many coastal cities and nations will have to
begin preparation of a future where coastal floods are common occurrences, and storm surges
are not out of the question. This leads into the issue of mass relocation, as those running from
the floods will begin to look elsewhere for refuge. Humans have, virtually, taken up all
hospitable land available. In the next 100 years, the only available living space will be inland
countries, which physically cannot hold the amount of people that will be fleeing the floods
(NSSL, 2016). The solution that is regularly proposed is to begin looking for a new home, one
that is not plagued by a man-made carbon disaster. One such place, from a statistical point, is
Mars. In terms of carbon levels, Mars is not as far along as Earth, as the atmosphere does not
hold enough to freeze or evaporate water (NASA, 2016). While starting over may seem much

harder than fixing our own Carbon issues, by the time we get to any solution, it may very well
be too late.
As mentioned earlier in the paper, the danger of exterrestrial objects seems like
something out of a science fiction novel, but it is very much a real threat. The event that is
usually cited in terms of describing the threat of meteors is the Siberian Explosion of 1908,
also mentioned earlier. An expedition would not be able to reach ground zero until 1927,
where, according to accounts within the Cornell University Chronicle (2009), the impact
generated energy levels about 128 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. The closest town,
which was 35 miles away, reported some residents being suddenly blown off their feet, and
some had reported feeling the heat of the explosion. Seismic rumbles were felt as far away as
the UK, almost 3500 miles away from the blast zone (CUC, 2009). The JPL Sentry System
has determined that these levels of events occur only within 1,000 year increments, but our
surface is still pelted by dozens of small meteors each year. The estimated number of impacts
in 2016 alone was 79, all within a 1 to 2 kilometer range (JPL, 2016). While small meteors by
themselves pose no absolute threat to human life, our atmosphere is constantly endangered by
the pelting. Meteors that range from 1 to 5 kilometers, if continuously hitting Earth, can lead
to degradation of the global climate, and according to Environment Health and Safety, mass
impacts can throw huge quantities of vaporized material into our atmosphere, blocking out the
sun, and creating a sort of "nuclear winter" (EHS, 2015). This can fuel extreme climate
change and lead to mass crop failure, which would indirectly kill millions of people
worldwide that are solely dependent on their own crops for survival. As crop failure spreads,
economies centered around agriculture and forestry, such as Bangladesh and Ghana, will
undoubtedly begin to fail, and while this may not affect countries like the United States or the
UK, according to research conducted by JPL on degradation in the Amazon, any region that
relies heavily on agriculture and forestry-based economies will also see some sort of
stagnation (JPL, 2015). Another point that JPL research has revealed is that Earth is within
range of multiple asteroid belts, and while destinations such as Mars or Venus have some sort
of history with extraterrestrial impact, our current observations of the planets only show the
aftermath of previous impact events, most likely near the beginning of their creation (JPL,
2016). While the risk of a major impact is the smallest of chances, dying in an impact is
surprisingly much higher, simply because, while the odds of an impact are small, enough
people would still be killed that the risk is not negligible (JPL, 2016). This makes the prospect
of moving to a new planet much more favorable, and while it would be the biggest challenge
that humanity has faced, it is a brighter outcome than impact-induced destruction.

There are many people who, despite the clear and present dangers, still believe that
Earth is the permanent home of the human race, and see no need to break through the
atmosphere. However, the benefits of space exploration are not limited until we actually leave
the surface. They can actually begin right here on Earth. Space exploration is no small feat,
and requires the cooperation of many international programs. According to the annual budget
reports of NASA, RFSP, and CSA, the only three countries to achieve human flight, the
United States, Russia, and China, spend $40bn, $5bn, and $6bn, respectively, on their space
programs (NASA, 2016.) This type of budget, when put together, could fuel the first missions
of manned explorations to Mars, possibly even the basics of colonization. A huge, but rarely
mentioned, benefit of international space cooperation would be just as it sounds: cooperation.
The world is currently embroiled in the mess of international politics and dirty competition.
By bringing together the US, Russia, and China, we would be setting up a clear role model of
cooperation and friendship, even if it is not entirely agreed upon in the beginning. There are
also monetary incentives for exploring space. Because rare resources are running thin on
Earth, corporations could begin to harvest new, unsold materials from comets, meteors, even
the Moon. According to Mike Wall, a senior writer of and author of "Mining
Asteroids" on the website, asteroid mining can become a very profitable market. Most
asteroids at least 45 meters in size hold up to $200bn worth of gold, platinum, titanium, and
other various rare metals (Wall, 2013). While this reason lacks any moral motivation, due to
the operation being driven only by monetary desires, it is motivation regardless, and though it
only take us just outside of our atmosphere, this could be our first step towards establishing
ourselves in space.
There are many reasons to believe that space exploration will become a failed
franchise. The costs and dangers could just be too great of a risk. According to Wallace
Fowler, a professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas, the United States
has spent over $900 billion, when adjusted to inflation, from the beginning of the program in
1958 to 2014. A huge portion of that cost came from just the shuttle and its maintenance
alone. This can be discouraging to many small nations who would not be able to spend that
kind of money for a possible failure.
Another reason to be wary of space exploration is the actual dangers of space itself.
According to Richard B. Setlow, an author for the US National Library of Medicine, the
effects of zero-gravity on the human body, if exposed over long travel periods, would render
their body nearly immobile once they reached a planetary surface (Setlow, 2003). There is
also a risk of cancer being induced by HZE nuclei in cosmic rays. The nuclei already holds

the ability of ionizing atoms and molecules, and with research from the bombs dropped on
Japan in 1945, the research of the effects of radiation and cosmic rays on the human body
only show massive consequences (Setlow, 2003). Now that the monetary and health issues
have been addressed, they can be eased away with research in favor of travelling further.
As mentioned earlier in the paper, the United States, Russia, and China, altogether,
spend over $51bn annually on space exploration, a number that can fund quite a few projects
(NASA, 2016). If that is not enough, the potential treasures hidden on meteors and comets
would fuel exploration missions for decades. All we would need to do is harness the ability to
mine on these surfaces, a feat already being researched (Wall, 2013). As for the health risks,
those can be a bit more tricky, but nonetheless can be overcome. By analyzing how your body
changes in weightlessness and once you return to Earth, you can develop a nutritional plan for
if and when you return to space. Exercise, vitamin supplements, and a consistent nutritional
meal can combat any of the effects of zero-gravity on your body (NASA, 2016). Combating
cosmic rays differs on where you are in space. Astronauts aboard the ISS are still sitting
within Earth's protective magnetic field, so the radiation they experience is no more harmful
than on Earth. As for those travelling to planets like Mars, NASA has begun to research
countermeasures to long term exposure of space radiation, including special shielding and
monitoring systems that would block much of the radiation being exhibited (NASA, 2016).
The risks of space travel are evident, but they can easily be overcome if we are truly
interested in exploring further into the galaxy.
As the reader can see throughout this paper, space exploration is vital to the future of
the human race on the basis of escaping extraterrestrial and homegrown threats, continuing
our growth as a species, and uniting all people under the one idea: survival. Blasting through
our atmosphere towards our next home may seem near impossible and far off, but with further
research into jet propulsion, effects of space on human health, and establishing colonies, we
have the potential to grow and branch out across our galaxy, and survive any condition or
event that attempts to wipe us out. The call to action is not to exploit the resources of the
galaxy for our own wanton use. It is a call to all governments, agencies, and people to unite
and work towards a future that ensures humans will always have a place within the universe.
Even though humans are just a small speck within the endless expansion of space, we are still
the successful product of survival evolution, which means we will always hold an important
role within the universe.

Works Cited
Wall, M. (2015, August 11). Asteroid mining may be a reality by 2025. Retrieved from
Globalization and consumption. (2002). SERI. Retrieved from
Helium-3 mining on the lunar surface. (2015). ESA. Retrieved from
World population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. (2015, July 29). UNDESA. Retrieved
Riebeek, H. (2010, June 3). Global warming. NASA. Retrieved from
NSSL research: flooding. (2016). NSSL.
Retrieved from
Ju, A. (2009, June 24). Space shuttle shows 1908 Tunguska explosion was caused by comet.
Cornell. Retrieved from
The Probability of collisions with Earth. (2016). JPL. Retrieved from
Meteorite and asteroid strikes as causes of climate change. (2015). EHS. Retrieved from
Granath, B. (2015, Feb. 2). NASA budget unveiled for fiscal year 2016. NASA. Retrieved
Fowler. W. (2014, July 21). NASA and space exploration are worth their costs. UT News.
Retrieved from
Setlow, R. B. (2003, Nov. 4). The hazards of space travel. NCBI. Retrieved from

Thompson, Andrea. (2015, August 27th). 10 years later: was warming to blame for Katrina?
Climate Central. Retrieved from
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Space and Exploration. Survival of the Human Race
College Writing 121
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Boston Colton (Author), 2017, Space and Exploration. Survival of the Human Race, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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