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When we think of space exploration, we imagine Elon Musk’s SpaceX building vertically landing rockets, rockets big enough to land on the moon and vehicles that will someday take humans to Mars. While these are all commendable uses of space exploration, they are not of the now (barring the reusable and vertical landing boosters). They will help humanity when climate change makes it impossible to live on Earth, someday in the future.
That said, there are undeniable practical benefits of space exploration. Let’s take a look at some of them:
- Satellites sent out by big nations spy on other countries to ensure that no one is building an arsenal for a third world war.
- Resource satellites aid countries to understand where there is groundwater or where to start a mine for natural resources.
- Imaging satellites help up keep an eye on the weather and assist in forecasting natural disasters like typhoons and hurricanes. By giving prior warning, these satellites save countless lives.
- Satellites give us our beloved GPS. Without the Global Positioning System, half of us would be lost every time we drive.
- The internet we use and all the multiple modes of communication are thanks to a communication satellite. They literally help us stay connected.
- Studying the space environment gives us knowledge, such as the Van Allen belts. These belts are full of particles that damage satellites passing through them. It was space exploration that told us to harden satellites against it.
- Earth is already depleting its bank of natural resources. Space is full of it. Space exploration can help harness them, such as helium-3 from the moon and rare elements from asteroids. Already work has begun to mine the moon for resources commercially. The day is not far when the first machine begins excavation.