General Question

mazingerz88's avatar

Is going to Mars and having an International Space Station really worth it-?

Asked by mazingerz88 (18967points) March 25th, 2011

There are those who believe humans should focus their energies and resources in improving the quality of the human condition here in their own planet rather than explore worlds out there that may take lifetimes to accomplish.

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44 Answers

the100thmonkey's avatar

I don’t see why we can’t do both.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I generally lean towards a ‘no’ on that.

DrBill's avatar

Required, if the human race is to continue

josie's avatar

It puts a lot of people to work
It stimulates technological advancement
See above, it provides a return on investment
It advances science which will go a long way to improving the human condition on earth
It provides an excuse for international cooperation which never hurts
It satisfies the curiosity and the need to understand that is a human trait
A winner all the way around

Zyx's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Typical female response. I on the other hand have a typical male response: Warp 9, engage. I’ve noticed (that is if I’m allowed to notice differences between the sexes) that women don’t seek conquest (and thus exploration, if you’ll bear with me) as much as men. Women generally don’t benefit from going into the dark part of the forest, whilst men generally don’t benefit from NOT going into the dark part of the forest. That’s also the reason there are slightly more men born than women. (though I can’t prove that, lol)

Exploration is the source of all our knowledge, which is still very limited. Hard as it seems to believe: not only the earth is a single system but the entire universe is one. In order to fix* the earth we need to know what it is, what it does and how we’re a part of that.

Long story short: I agree with @the100thmonkey

Space Pirates

CaptainHarley's avatar

The human race is expansionist in nature. If we don’t explore and expand, we die.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I would say no. I really believe that we should be using our resources right here on earth. If we had unlimited money, then sure – why not? But we are taxing the people to death for all this government hoopla. On the other hand, if we stopped the space program, they are going to tax us to death anyway. Sigh! The only thing that is going to help is to throw all the politicians into Boston harbor.

stump's avatar

If the US spent a quarter of its defense budget on space exploration, we could discuss this over coffee in a Starbucks on Neptune.

Zyx's avatar

@stump Probably right. Armies are what we should be dismantling.

Nullo's avatar

There is only no point if we’re half-hearted about it.

stump's avatar

The idea that spending on space exploration takes away from humanitarian efforts pisses me off. Maybe we should gut the National Endowment for the Arts so that oil companies can have larger subsidies. @Zyx Thank you!

CaptainHarley's avatar

[ Points toward space ] There is your future… if you have the courage to claim it!

WasCy's avatar

“Is space exploration worth it?” is a pretty open-ended question. Worth what? That is, what do you propose that the “it” payment is? Is it worth $100? Yeah, of course. Is it worth the combined effort and full resources of everyone on the planet? Probably not. (Not yet, anyway.) But maybe it will be someday. In that case, if it “might be” someday worth the continued existence of our species, then it’s worth any amount less than “everything” right now, isn’t it? It might be worth more than we can possibly devote to it, someday. To humans, anyway.

My complaint is that although I think space exploration is a worthy endeavor in and of itself, I don’t think that governments should be doing the resource allocation – or directing the exploration. They have a bad habit of militarizing and politicizing too much, and spending far too much for too little result.

I think that as a species, as @CaptainHarley alludes, we have an innate desire to explore, to travel and to find out “what’s out there”, so I think that private enterprise would do this on its own eventually in any case. I’d prefer to see those who are willing absorb the risk – and be the first to reap the rewards. I disagree with @CaptainHarley that this is something we “have to do… or we die”. I think that was hyperbolic and said for effect. Billions of humans feel no particular need to explore, and that’s not what’s killing them. Conversely, no matter what we do, we die anyway. (Perhaps he meant “as a species”, but I think the same holds true. The cosmos has been there longer than we have, and we were doing all right on the survival front before we even realized that.)

Zyx's avatar

@WasCy The human population is growing, so @CaptainHarley is right. We aren’t a static part of this world, and if we stay here we’re going to clash with it. We are going to clash with nature so hard. (emphasis)

Space Travel and Eugenics are basically the only two directions you can go in. Well, there’s genocide, or just laying back and dying. But honestly man, we’re going to need space soon. So why not master the space up there?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Zyx I sent you a pm in regards to my being identified by you as all things female/womanly/uninterested in exploration. However, I do want to mention to the entire group involved in this thread is that I never provided the ‘Why’s’ for my response and the ‘Why’s’ have little to do with me so “cleary being afraid of dark spaces” (the vagina, after all, is a dark space ~). It has more to do with what I consider to be a tremendous waste of resources and NOTHING to do with what I believe the quest for knowledge to be worth. It’s just that we’re living in such times when the quest for trying to fix this planet (even though it is possible, as @DrBill says, for us to seek our next planet/habitat) is more important than learning more about outer space. It comes down to cold hard cash and where I want it to flow. The galaxy isn’t it.

marinelife's avatar

But that is precisely what space exploration does. It is as close to pure science as things get today. All sorts of useful things for Earth life have come from it.

crazyivan's avatar

It amazes me that anyone can come down on the side that opposes expanding human knowledge. Every great accomplishment in human history begins with scientific research. Every breakthrough, every advancement… the innate misunderstanding of humanity that is encapsulated in this question is staggering to me.

It is also very likely the reason why the US voluntarily ceded its place as the world leader in scientific research. We’re no longer in the top 10. It is an embarrassing consequence of the unfathomable stupidity of people who think that there is a dichotomy between helping the human condition on earth and exploring space.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@marinelife Notice I never said I want it to not happen. I said I usually lean towards its’ not worth it. I suppose, to me, it’s about priorities. And while I will always stand by the scientific methods, @crazyivan, being a leader in scientific research shouldn’t be what our priorities need to be about, as Americans. But we can agree to disagree.

crazyivan's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I’d be happy to disagree with you ;)

I suppose that bettering humanity, making our lives easier, combating disease, furthering knowledge, saving the planet and insuring that our offspring have better lives than we did might take a back seat to something, but I’d love to hear what that something would be…

marinelife's avatar

@crazyivan I contend that space exploration does a lot of those things.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@crazyivan Doing all of that here, on Earth, first.

Zyx's avatar

Again, note this isn’t personal. I don’t think having priorities “as Americans” is going to do the world any good. Borders are just lines but “Americans” (note the quotation marks) tend to be prideful bastards that want to conquer the world. I mean: everyone wants to conquer the world, but most of us figure the world isn’t going to get any better by stomping on its face.

Am I really the only one dreaming of a communistic space-nomad society? I feel like we should be making some sort of trek across the stars.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Zyx I can get on board with a communistic space-nomad society. Hell, I’d join the team on Serenity in a heartbeat. But we must face the present as well as look into the future.

flutherother's avatar

I can see the point in the International Space Station and I would support it but going to Mars at this time is simply madness. We do not have a suitable technology for a manned mission to Mars. It is too difficult and to risky, like trying to cross the Atlantic in an oil drum.

First we should sort out the considerable problems of our own lovely world. Once we have advanced beyond killing each other we can concentrate on developing the means to explore beyond our solar system. There are many, many worlds out there to be investigated and perhaps even colonised.

Mariah's avatar

This question comes up every now and then and my response is always the same: if you think space exploration is useless, I expect you don’t own a cell phone or a GPS, and you don’t watch weather reports. Right?

Our situation down on Earth will never be perfect. There are always going to be things here we want to fix, things that are a higher priority than exploring space. But if we wait to explore space until space travel is a priority then it will never happen.

RocketGuy's avatar

NASA uses 1% of the National Budget. How much better will we be with 1% more money in, say, Medicare?

I do like @josie‘s point in that exploration stimulates technology, which will later benefit mankind.

WasCy's avatar

@Zyx you’ve made an assertion without any offer of proof that “we’re going to die” or “clash with” nature if we don’t explore and expand into space. In fact, it seems to me that if you’re right, that’s going to happen on this planet regardless of whether or not we move into space. I don’t think it’s necessarily true, and I point to tens of thousands of years of human civilization to prove my point. We haven’t “used up” the planet yet, and it’s not in our foreseeable future, no matter how much some doomsayers predict it.

In any case, I fully support space exploration and colonization; I just don’t favor supporting it through taxation. That’s just another wrong way to expend scarce public resources.

PhiNotPi's avatar

We must to explore new worlds, hopefully while we still have one that is habitable.

Zyx's avatar

@WasCy There is limited space and unlimited growth, it’s pretty obvious.

WasCy's avatar

You’re the only one positing “unlimited growth”. Growth will be necessarily resource-limited. It may be sharply limited, and with a large die-off, but that’s not necessarily an extinction event. I just don’t think we’re even close to the limits of the resources, though.

Tastentier's avatar

If we want to survive, we need to get off this rock. As long as the entire human species lives on this one planet, a single catastrophe (such as the eruption of a supervolcano or a new and highly contagious virus) can wipe us out.

Plus, we’ve reached a dead end and can’t increase our numbers any further. This planet is hopelessly overpopulated, and a species without a positive reproduction rate is a dead species. We need more space to be fruitful and multiply. Imagine how fast we could find a cure for cancer if we had another ten billion educated human minds at our disposal.

We should already be busy terraforming Mars, if you ask me. According to the 2007 documentary “The Mars Underground”, we have long had the necessary technology.

Shuttle128's avatar

The end of the Sun and Earth is inevitable.

How else could the human race survive other than leaving the Earth? Is it worth completely ignoring interplanetary travel to improve the quality of life? We’re comparing the improved survival of humans on Earth now to the survival of the human race past a solar catastrophe.

The whole argument is a false dichotomy. You can put money towards both without sacrificing much progress in either. Eventually humans (or trans-humans) will have to deal with long-term interstellar space travel. To ignore learning all we can about space travel while we have time is just as bad as ignoring improvements we can make to quality of life.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I have this hunch, just a hunch, that FTL travel is not all that far off. Sure hope I’m still here to see it!

Nullo's avatar

@CaptainHarley Watch it turn out to be something stupidly simple.:D
I think that Harry Turtledove wrote a novel like that.

mattbrowne's avatar

The quality of the human condition today which you and I enjoy is the result of scientific and technological endeavors of the past.

Your question translates into the following several hundred years ago:

Is looking through telescopes and creating differential and integral calculus really worth it?

There are those who believe humans should focus their energies and resources on improving the quality of the human condition here our own planet and become farmers so people have more food, rather than engaging in useless stuff such as looking at the moons of Jupiter.

CaptainHarley's avatar


It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest! : ))

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

It’s an enormous waste for our cancerous society to go looking for more bodies to infect. Until we socially evolve, the answer is a resounding no.

Zyx's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre I disagree, but I can see why you think that. The fact is I think a war is coming and the odds of our species surviving would be a lot higher if we were spread out in space. Doesn’t the fact you realise we still need to socially evolve ensure that very result? It’s all speculation from here on out I suppose, but I like to think we’ll all be fighting space-nazis one day. (the implication being that our society will continue to be forged by war, in whatever form)

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

The thing that I’ve never been able to understand is why effort (and money) is focused on exploring other planets for an alternative place to live when we cannot effectively manage our own, as well as live in peace.

mazingerz88's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer i guess this world and its inhabitants would be perfect if at the same time, our societies have evolve already to such a level that is rid of war and exploring other worlds out there. I would dare postulate we have to do both at the same time. Personally, i’m not even sure if the human race will survive until that fateful day when our sun collapses. But my wish is that it will and capable of traveling and discovering new worlds. ( cue Star Trek’s music )

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@mazingerz88 “But my wish is that it will and capable of traveling and discovering new worlds.” You and many others feel the same way. I’m just curious about what the goal is. I’m very much open to your opinions.

mazingerz88's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I thought it was clear, having this unseen bond between us and future human generations that will need knowledge to inherit that will allow them to escape a dying planet.
It is so far ahead of us, beyond what our minds can readily comprehend but it will come. Our sun will die. Discovery of another habitable place suitable for our genetic make-up would be paramount.

Zaku's avatar

It’s better than subsidizing megacorporations that are doing things to destroy our planet, or using our military to support their agendas, and we can afford to focus on keeping our planet alive and caring for our people while still engaging in a space program, so I’d say we might as well do all of those things.

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