Yesterday Tim Peake, Tim Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko went into space where they will stay on the International Space Station (ISS). My first reaction was to say “I want to be an astronaut”.
I do want to be an astronaut.
That’s not just because I still have the dreams of a small kid (although that’s often true…) but because I believe the human race should be exploring space. Not just space stations but other planets and stars.
I want everyone else to be able to be an astronaut too.
Yes, we are exploring space right now. After all three people went out there just this week. It was big news. Here in the UK the event was that unusual that we had live TV coverage. It is 43 years since a human was last on the moon. We can do better than this.
With more exploration we will stretch the boundaries of knowledge, technology and society. This will help us with our current challenges and prepare us for a future where our population is larger than the Earth can support. Some might argue that we are at that point already.
By exploring space we will challenge how our own societies function. That includes the challenge working together with other nations to get into space (this spaceship carried citizens from the UK, USA and Russia) but maybe one day we will meet other civilisations and societies.
By exploring space we will inspire people with a vision for the future. A vision that might seem like science-fiction but, let’s face it, we seem to be turning what was science-fiction into reality on a near daily basis. Just look at that smartphone in your pocket and the amazing things you can do with it.
When exploring space we will get a different view of our planet. Not just a view from a million miles away but a recognition that some of our current problems and concerns really are quite tiny in the grand scheme of things.
Some of those concerns — disease, inequality, war and famine — are incredibly important in the grand scheme of things but the innovation, opportunity and vision provided by space exploration should be used to help tackle those challenges. The multi-national crew on the ISS is researching human health. Learning how to grow food on Mars will help us learn how to improve food production back home on Earth. Whilst nations and people that are working towards a common goal and vision are less likely to fight.
Space exploration is a perfect example of how governments and societies can work together to tackle incredibly complex challenges over multiple decades with a common vision and a common goal. We should be demanding that our governments do more of it.
And finally, by exploring space we meet an overwhelming human need. The need to explore and discover new things.
I want to be an astronaut. I want everyone else to be able to be one too.