Ocean or space exploration: which should take priority?
- In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first person to travel into space, with American astronaut Alan Shepard successfully launched into space on a sub-orbital flight a few weeks later.
- Over 80% of Earth’s oceans have yet to be explored.
- NASA's Sentry Risk Table reveals that the skyscraper-sized asteroid, 99942 Apophis, has a 1 in 150,000 chance of hitting Earth in 2068, an event that would be 'catastrophic.'
- More people have visited the moon than have visited the Mariana Trench, the deepest oceanic trench on Earth.
There are many reasons why we should prioritize ocean exploration over space exploration. The fact that we know less about the ocean's floor than we do about the moon's surface is often repeated in the scientific community. It seems unreasonable to spend resources on space exploration when there is still so much left to discover on our own planet.
When considering this argument, it’s important to think about what actually may be on the ocean floor. There is a strong chance that we would find evidence of lost civilizations that rising sea levels and flooding have completely submerged. We know that the Earth has gone through massive changes throughout history, and almost every single culture has legends about advanced civilizations destroyed by deluges. By exploring more of the ocean floor, we could discover secrets about humanity's past that could potentially help us shape our future.
The ocean floor is also home to geothermal vents, deep-sea mines, and several other promising resources. We could use geothermal vents to generate electricity, potentially addressing the Earth's dwindling resources in a clean, sustainable manner. Deep-sea mining is another potentially positive aspect of ocean exploration, although steps must be taken to avoid harming marine life.
The point is, we have more to gain by exploring the ocean, and we can do it with less money. Even if we managed to find resources on another planet aside from the moon, how much would it cost to transport those resources back to the Earth? It's simply not worth the effort or money.
Space exploration has driven technology and innovation in ways that ocean exploration simply has not. Space exploration has been directly responsible for a wide range of products that touch nearly every aspect of our lives, including solar energy, insulin pumps, infrared thermometers, and freeze-dried food. It has also yielded many comfort enhancers, such as advanced insulation materials and memory foam mattresses. Because space exploration is such a bold task, it generates new ideas and technologies at an incredible rate.
We should also prioritize space exploration because it requires more time and more resources to achieve results. Those who favor ocean exploration often point to lower costs and safety barriers. While ocean exploration is often easier, as a species, we need to invest in space exploration now so that we have time to solve many of the most pressing issues of the day. If we wait until we need solutions, there may not be time to research, design, and scale up a space program that can deliver results.
Space exploration unites nations and inspires individuals. There is nothing like a seemingly impossible task to bring the best out in people. Many space endeavors involve international collaboration, often from countries that have traditionally been at odds, such as the United States and Russia. Efforts to build permanent colonies on other planets will bring opportunities for nations to work together, building harmony at home and on faraway planets.
By prioritizing space exploration over ocean exploration, we get a better return on investment in terms of developing new technologies, preparing for the future, and increasing cooperation with other nations.