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The Practicality and Necessity of Space Exploration

Larry Rankin is among the millions of hardworking denizens of the world disillusioned by the abuses of the ultra-wealthy.

A while back I wrote a very sarcastic piece entitled “A Simpleton’s View on Saving the World.” In it I very vaguely detail how we can better human existence, and a cornerstone of this betterment involves space exploration. Though that article is tongue in cheek, the grain of truth held within is that if we humans want to extend our stay in the universe we really do need to broaden our scope from global to universal.

Like “A Simpleton’s View on Saving the World,” the following article is a fanciful look at our future as a people that does its fair share of glossing over the fine details, but unlike the aforementioned article, this time I’m being serious about what role the universe might play in our future.

An Excellent Tutorial on the Universe

Our Dying Planet

Our planet is dying. Nobody knows just when things will end, but chances are if we earthlings continue on this linear path of destruction, our large, inefficient bodies will be choked out and the life we know and enjoy will cease sometime in the not so distant future.

But if we just mend our ways in a global sense, our outlook becomes much brighter. Environmentally sound processes will likely keep our planet green and the air breathable for a very long while, but no matter how lightly we might step, resources will be used up.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at recycling as an example. Like any machine, recycling is not 100% efficient. What does this mean? Every time we recycle a can, a metal beam, a sheet of paper, material is lost to the process, and every time 3 humans are born in place of 2 the surplus of the population increases. The net result: less resources to distribute amongst more people.

Yes, we could be responsible and shrink our population purposefully through birth control (though this has never successfully been done in human history), but we can’t stop the inefficiency of the recycling process. In other words, no matter how good we are, we will run out of stuff on this planet. And though things like recycling will extend our lives and those of our children and children’s children, we should still be looking for a better way.

And even if we are good, there is still the possibility of our abrupt and violent end anyway. A large bit of solar debris crashing into the earth, a soulless black hole swallowing us whole, compressing us to nothingness, giant volcanoes erupting beneath the ocean, etc. One relatively small event in the enormity of the universe and bye bye human race.

And if we look globally, there is simply no answer, but if we look universally, preservation of the human race for millions, maybe even billions of years, becomes much more practical. Outer space was once thought of as a dead place without potential. More and more we are realizing its viability to support life. For example, colonization of Mars, a once ridiculous premise, is actually now in its infant planning stages.1

Availability of Resources in Space

And not only does outer space now look like a good place for resources, its potential for energy sources seems limitless. Imagine, if you will, a never ending supply of Hydrogen being pulled from our largest planet, Jupiter.2 A clean burning and renewable fuel source, people have been vying to legitimize Hydrogen for years. The problem? Hydrogen doesn’t exist in a free form on earth, and the process of extracting it carries a large price.3 Enter Jupiter, a gaseous planet composed of 75% hydrogen.2

Can you imagine what we could do with a piece of metal roughly the size of Delaware? I’m describing an asteroid, giant pieces of cosmic debris scattered throughout the universe, some composed entirely of nickel and iron.4 Even those composed primarily of stone are of use. “Madam, will you be choosing siding, rock, or perhaps this asteroid stone for your new home?” Or how about we build a bridge from the Americas to Europe?

When we look outside our earth, the possibilities for responsible planetary development become almost endless.

Colonization of New Worlds

And back to colonization of new worlds. Why? Again, for preservation of the human race, so one cataclysm can’t wipe us from existence. Also, if we’re going to be bringing resources from around the universe, we’re going to need colonies throughout space, not just to populate natural planets like Mars, but to build artificial ones to house a galactic workforce.

Here’s a concept: Mom’s too old to make it to the bathroom on her own anymore and requires constant care, and despite your best efforts, she’s still a shattered hip just waiting to happen. How about Mom regaining her mobility and freedom when she checks into a low gravity living facility? Sound crazy? I can only hope for such a thing once my knees finally give out.


You know these people who insist on an out of sight out of mind philosophy, the sort who toss their trash in the ocean or to the side of the road and just really junk up our planet and make it an unpleasant place to live? Well, with space travel we finally will have an out of sight place to throw our garbage without consequence.

Imagine a giant barge floating in outer space covered in garbage and not offending our eyes or polluting our waterways. I’m not suggesting we just chunk trash into outer space, though this would likely have little effect on the universe. We should hold onto the trash so it might be repurposed if we need it later, but it doesn’t have to be on the planet making a mess.

Since hydrogen will be the new fuel source of choice, we won’t have much air pollution, but for that which exists, gather it all up and fire it into space. No more holes in the ozone and melting polar caps.

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Life Expectancy

We even might be able to extend life expectancies. As things are now, we have a finite amount of space and resources. It isn’t practical for folks to live an extra 70 years. In my opinion, this effects the development of technology. Why would we make it possible for people to live longer when we can’t support the population that is already here?

Space travel and an endless supply of room and resources opens the door to really taking the extension of life seriously.

Parting Thoughts

Ok, where’s the punch line? Do you really believe any of this nonsense? Yes, I do. Most all of the things I’ve mentioned are theoretically proven concepts. Maybe some of these ideas won’t come to be or won’t happen just as I’ve said, but it is all based in reality.

There are some large obstacles in the way of progress, though. Infighting amongst the world and its countries is one thing that holds us back. A lack of imagination amongst the population that would support space travel and colonization is another.

Then there’s just physically getting to the universe’s resources. Obviously we have to get to these resources and return with a net gain in regards to fuel expenditure. Again, this is more practical than you might think. Back to the Jupiter example: depending on where it is at in its orbit, it is between 365 and 601 million miles away from earth.5

Currently there is a spacecraft en route to Pluto called New Horizon that is traveling at 15.73 kilometers per second, or roughly 35,000 mph.6 At a similar speed we’re looking at a round trip to Jupiter and back of around 3 to 6 years, depending on the above mentioned factors. In other words, a very manageable amount of time.

The beauty of outer space and speed is that it is a vacuum and there is no friction. Even an enormous craft isn’t going to take a tremendous amount of energy to get up to speed, and once it is up to speed, it will stay at that velocity indefinitely. Then it’s just a matter of exporting resources from large cargo ships just outside earth’s atmosphere back down to terra firma, a process that could be refined over time.

Another stumbling block that was always perceived in the past was finding water, until we started finding large deposits here and there. According to Popular Mechanics, there are at least 23 places in space we’ve found water already and probably many more.7 Additionally, with the abundance of hydrogen in the universe, it shouldn’t be all that difficult of a task for space travelers to make their own if need be.

In the end, probably the biggest key to making space exploration a reality is getting started before it’s too late. It is hard to say how long a space program like this would take to get off the ground and working, but let’s guesstimate 30 years. What if we wait too long and by the time the knowledge is in place to import the universe’s resources, we no longer have the available fuels and materials to leave the planet or the earth was destroyed before we had a chance to put theory into action?

It’s out there for the taking. Start up will be a distant and longsuffering process, but we need to start taking space exploration seriously. The eventual payoff will be well worth cost.





2. "Jupiter"

3. "Hydrogen Vehicles"

4. "Asteroids Formation Discovery and Exploration"

5. "How Far away is Jupiter?"

6. "What are the Fastest Spacecrafts ever Built?"

7. "23 Places We've Found Water in our Solar System"


Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on January 16, 2017:

Robert: thanks for stopping by. It's still largely speculative at this point.

Robert Sacchi on January 15, 2017:

Interesting article. Are there any credible sources that project when mining space resources would be practical?

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on July 10, 2016:

Lawrence: thanks so much for dropping by. I've been following things too.

The scheduling is actually quite aggressive. I hope things come to pass that quickly.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on July 10, 2016:

Deb: sorry I'm just getting back to you, but I keep not getting your messages until real late, which is just pacuiliar.

Very thoughtful comments. One thing I want people to understand, there is tremendous potential in space, but there is never any excuse to trash Mother Earth regardless of what resources might be elsewhere.

Lawrence Hebb on July 09, 2016:


Elon Musk has let it be known that SpaceX are planning to start sending cargoes to Mars around 2018 building up supplies there for a manned mission around 2025 and a permanent colony not long afterwards.

By the way the Juno probe arrived at Jupiter earlier this week and is going to be sampling it's atmosphere to see how thick it is.

Great hub


Deb Hirt on June 25, 2016:

There is no question that we must do something ASAP regarding the population explosion the has been occurring for decades. We HAVE to look elsewhere, just as a matter of survival, for we cannot even feed what we now have here. Hence come the nasty growth hormones and other things that are killing us in animal flesh. We're doing the same with fruit and veggies, which is also detrimental to our health, or is it a way to write off all those extra people? We shall soon find out.

Waste has been a problem for a while, but shipping it to another country has been the answer for quite some time, for inexpensive labor to dismantle it and recycle the good materials.

Then, comes my pet peeve. Why would you throw away an unfinished bottle of water? Put it into the earth for pity's sake. Then of course, someone else has to pick up the bottle...

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 18, 2016:

Jay: thanks for stopping by:-)

Reynold Jay from Saginaw, Michigan on June 18, 2016:

Lots of good stuff that gets one to thinking, Larry. Jupiter is for me!

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 16, 2016:

Linda: I look forward to reading stories from you. Thanks so much for dropping by.

Linda Robinson from Cicero, New York on June 14, 2016:

Hello Larry and so nice meeting you and happy to be following you. Wow what an in depth hub, you covered so many fascinating topics in such great detail, a hug that grabs your interest from the first word until the last, fantastic and super writing. Look forward to reading many more hubs of yours. Linda

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 13, 2016:

This is an interesting and very thought provoking article, Larry. The way in which we are treating the Earth and its inhabitants - including other people - is very worrying. I don't know whether making use of space is the answer or not, but it's definitely worth thinking about.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 13, 2016:

Kalinin: thanks for dropping by.

The universe is an endless source of energy. I can't see why we wouldn't want to take advantage of that.

Lana Adler from California on June 13, 2016:

Love this piece! I am all for space exploration and becoming cosmic humans, though I don't think that space is like an abandoned parking lot with all this useful junk lying around, like free resources and planets just waiting for us to inhabit :)

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on June 13, 2016:

I remember watching the first moon landing, too. There's never been a point where I didn't think space travel was possible, even for regular folks. So I'm very excited at the possibilities that are becoming even more possible as technology advances.

As well, like you, I know that this earth of ours is finite. Through no fault of human activity, the sun is predicted to swallow it up in the far future. So it behooves us, for survival, to explore new worlds.

Thank you for your support of our space program! Sharing hub here on HP.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 13, 2016:

One more thought to leave you with: we willed ourselves to the moon with not a thousandth of the technology in the phone I'm typing this message to you width.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 13, 2016:

Here's the deal, space exploration is dangerous. We don't want folks losing lives anymore, but in the old days it happened. We all die eventually. It's a product of living. Do we die in vein? Is it worthwhile to die in space exploration if it means safer space exploration for the generations to come and advancement of our species? That depends on the values of the species.

Some authorities on the matter are of the belief it is foolish to ever send anything but robots into space again. But one of the highest authorities on the matter, Stephen Hawking, believes human space exploration is essential to the survival of the species.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 13, 2016:

I think the following timeline puts my feelings as well as anything, and I might eventually include it in the article.

NASA founded 1958; Alan Shepard (suborbital) manned space flight in 1961; John Glenn (orbit) manned space flight 1962; 1965 first spacewalk by Ed White; 1969 first landing on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin; the next 47 years, don't get me wrong, some amazing advancements in robotics, technology, and physics, but from the aspect of exploration, we've gone backwards if anything.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 13, 2016:

Very interesting comments this morning, and I think they're all echoing the same sentiment: there is a huge difference between wanting to do something, willing it to happen, opposed to going through the motions for something as lowly as the pursuit of money, or havin a job to go to every day.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 13, 2016:

I totally agree with you on this. I think space exploration is just what we do as a species...we are explorers and always have been.

Andrew Petrou from Brisbane on June 13, 2016:

The problem with space colonisation is that it will be all about money and corporations again. It's become the raison d'etre for everything as all other philosophies are being killed off by greed. Explorers need a better philosophy than that. At the moment we're not doing a very good job at being potential benevolent aliens. The Star Trek humanity is nowhere to be seen. All we have are bunches of greedy Star Bastards squeezing the poor for more dough (metaphorically speaking:)

No the journey has to begin with philosophy, ethics and ideals but we " don't got none" here on earth so how do we export that into space?

If you ask me a particular culture on earth might just manage to get the hell outta here and go to another world to survive. Probably the Jews.

Buildreps from Europe on June 13, 2016:

You're right we have to do at least something, Larry. As long as we keep sitting on our hands it will get worse and worse. And we're running out of time. I believe we passed the PonR already around the sixties. That's now 50 years in the red zone. Good article on this wrenching topic!

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 12, 2016:

Cam: thanks for dropping by. The stuff of science fiction eventually becomes reality. Remember "Get Smart"? How far are we past shoe phones these days, lol

I didn't want to broach it yet, but it's been brought up twice now, when was space travel at it's best, when you consider they were starting from scratch and the technology that had to be developed? The old NASA days.

Personally I would far rather have an effective socialized space program that was supported by the government and the people, like we used to when we were making hay. This privatized stuff isn't nearly as effective.

What I'd like to see even more is a multinational effort, like you mentioned. The competition between nations like before was very effective, but what if we could work together a bit?

I believe we can still have that competitive spirit between nations, but also build off of one another's technology as it's developed.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on June 12, 2016:

Larry, You've written a very insightful article that looks ahead rather than down at our feet. We all know that when we are exploring space we are discovering new technologies that have applications back home as well. The possibility of terraforming Mars is exciting. I wrote a scifi story a year ago that touches on several of your points and you have nearly taken my story out of the scifi genre. There is a lot of fuel out there, clean fuel. Hydrogen and Helium3 are among them. Maybe it will be done by private enterprise. Maybe it's the best way. I'm not sure about that, but it's better than not going. I'd really like to see some multinational efforts regarding new fuel sources so that energy eventually would be free to all, everywhere. Thanks for raising these issues.