Mars, in a computer-enhanced composite
of pictures taken by NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor.

The Imperative to Explore

By Buzz Aldrin on October 24, 2012

Following our first “small step for man” with the Apollo 11 landing on the moon on July 20, 1969, there was an expectation that mankind was embarking on our ultimate journey—the expansion of humanity into the cosmos. Unfortunately, more than 43 years since that remarkable event, we have made little progress toward this larger goal, save for extended human presence in low Earth orbit. One might question the very premise of our undertaking such a journey in the first place.

As Neil and I first stood on the surface of the moon looking back at Earth—a bright blue marble suspended in the blackness of space—the experience moved us in ways that we could not have anticipated. We immediately realized just how precious our tiny planet truly was, knowing that everyone who had ever lived, all the knowledge that was ever discovered, everything we had ever known or loved, resided on that astonishingly beautiful, incredibly small planet we call our home.

Yet there was also a sense of connectedness. Earth is in space, and everything that formed our planet—the elements from distant stars that combined with other elements and found their way to this special crucible that produced life, our life—came from space. Given that, the very question of whether we should go into space seems moot. We are already in space. It surrounds us, provides the energy that ultimately feeds and sustains us, while tantalizing us with its mysteries and fueling our hunger for understanding—understanding our origins, the uniqueness or abundance of life in the universe, and our human destiny.

Read more: The Imperative to Explore | MIT Technology Review.

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