Since the ancient period, we, humans, have been trying to understand our place in this world. And this curiosity has led us to explore unknown territories starting from raging seas to imagining the infinite universe beyond the limit of the sky. But no matter how much we explore, the drive to know more kept pushing us to discover new worlds, and the age of space exploration has already started.
Are we alone here? Is there any other planet like Earth? Can we colonize any more planets other than earth? What new information we will find out there? Will Terraforming eventually be able to save the earth?
However, in this day and age, these questions aren’t just curiosities anymore. They have become a necessity to find the answers soon to keep humankind and our home planet Earth safe.
In this article, we are going to discuss everything you need to know about space exploration and terraforming and how it can save the planet Earth.
So, let’s dive in…
What Is Space Exploration?
To put it in simple words, space exploration is the act of using astronomy and technology to explore the outer space beyond earth. While we started exploring space right after we created powerful telescopes, the real space exploration only started after we started sending physical objects to the outer space.
But before we discuss any further about exploring space, let’s have a walk through the history of space exploration.
The History Of Space Exploration
From the discovery of the telescope to the first manned spacecraft to the moon, humankind has a long history of relentless effort to touch the space beyond the skies. In this section, we are going to discuss the history of space investigation.
Telescopes: The First Step Of Space Exploration
The humankind started exploring space as soon as they discovered a telescope powerful enough to fathom the sky. According to historical records, Hans Lippershey of the Netherlands is the first person to invent a telescope in 1608. However, it’s Galileo Galilei who first invented telescopes powerful enough to truly explore the space.
And we have come a long way since then. In 1968, we launched Orbiting Astronomical Observatory 2 which is the first-ever space telescope. We have also launched the Hubble telescope to the space that is sending us pictures of outer space objects that are billions of lightyears away. And till now, we have discovered 4,000+ exoplanets, 100 billion planets, and many galaxies.
Unmanned Outer Space Flights
According to the historical data, In 1949, Bumper-WAC is the first-ever man-made object to ever reach space. And it gains a maximum altitude of 393 kilometers.
After that, in 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched the world’s first-ever artificial satellite, Sputnik-1, which orbit the earth for 22 days in the space. This first-ever artificial satellite had two pairs of antennas that only send beep sounds as radio signals to the earth. Launched with R-7 rockets, the satellite burnt during the re-entry to the earth atmosphere on January 3rd, 1958.
Manned Space Flights
The next step of human space exploration was manned space flights. In April 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first-ever human to enter space with the manned spaceflight Vostok 1. The spaceflight orbit planet Earth only one time before coming back to the surface.
Exploring Astronomical Bodies
The next part of exploring space was reaching different astronomical bodies which included the moon, the other planets of the solar system, and their satellites. The first man-made object to ever reach an astronomical body was Luna 2 which reached the moon in 1959. However, the first smooth landing of any human-made object on the surface of a celestial body happened in 1966 when Luna 9 landed on the moon.
After sending many objects to the moon, the humans first send a human to the moon in 1969 using Apollo 11 spacecraft. And it was the first time humans landed on another celestial body other than earth. With this, a new chapter of outer-space exploration began in the history of mankind.
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However, we have been sending unmanned objects to other celestial bodies from 1961. For example, Venera 1 and Marina 2 to Venus, Pioneer 6 to the sun, Pioneer 10 to Jupiter, Voyager 2 to Uranus, and Mariner 4 and Rover Curiosity to the Mars.
Thanks to these unmanned satellites and robots, we have been able to get critical data on the conditions of different planets and satellites. And without a doubt, these data will definitely help us achieve our ultimate goal of exploring space: Terraforming.
Terraforming: The Ultimate Goal Of Space Exploration
The total human population has already crossed 7 billion and the number keeps increasing every single day. However, the space on planet earth is limited. And with an increasing population, one day, it will be impossible to find enough food and resources for every single human.
As a result, in order to survive, we need to settle down in different planets and celestial bodies. And that’s when terraforming comes in which is the ultimate goal of space exploration.
But what is terraforming?
There are two types of terraforming: Terraforming Earth and Planetary Terraforming.
Let’s see what they are below.
Definition Of Terraforming Earth
Generally, terraform usually mean to make other celestial bodies of the outer space more like Earth. However, the same thing can be applied to the current state of our own planet too.
The outer crust of our planet, as well as the atmosphere, is getting polluted because of careless acts of humans. From radioactive particles of nuclear bombing, toxic water, and waste of industrialization to the emission of greenhouse gases, these careless acts is harming the only planet we live in.
And the process to stop this and rewinding our planet to the way it was before is called terraforming Earth.
How Terraforming Earth Can Stop Climate Change
If the current trend of global warming continues, then the average temperature of our planet can increase up to 2 degrees Celcius at the end of the 21st century. While it might not seem that much, but this increase in temperature would mean severe consequences. The climate will change, devastating typhoons and storms will become frequent, bug and insects will infect more people. sea level will rise and several metropolitan cities will be under the sea, and thousands of animal species will extinct.
However, if we terraform our own planet, we can stop this from happening. While terraforming, we will plant more trees, reduce the waste we produce, and decrease greenhouse gas emission.
This way, we can not only increase the amount of oxygen in the air, but we can also effectively reduce the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the air. Moreover, careful industry activities will also mean less greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
As a result, Earth will slowly get back to its old form and global warming can be effectively stopped. This way, terraforming Earth can effectively stop climate change.
Definition Of Planetary Terraforming
Terraforming of other celestial bodies such as the moon or other planets is a hypothetical deliberate process of transforming those celestial to be more like our own planet Earth. In other words, through this hypothetical process, we will change the heavenly body’s temperature, soil, atmosphere, and overall environment to be similar to earth. Then this whole process will be called terraforming.
Although the most basic requirement for sustaining life is the existence of a reliable energy source, we need much more than just a source of energy to achieve fulfill the habitability requirements. Terraforming will require a great degree of geophysical and chemical changes of the surface of a celestial body before it can support life.
In other words, the planet’s surface must at least be able to sustain and support complex multi-cellular organisms. According to NASA, to meet the criteria, the planet must have a source of liquid water, optimum conditions for complex biochemical molecule formation, and a source of energy.
Once they are achieved, we can move forward with our next moves to make the planet more earth-like.
Targets Of Terraforming
As of now, we have two major targets in our solar system that scientists are considering as the closest targets to terraform. These celestial bodies are:
- Mars: Right now, if there is any planet that is closer to be like earth, then it has to be Mars. Scientists believe that back in the time, Mars also had a thicker atmosphere, water, and an earth-like environment. However, these things slowly disappeared from the surface of Mars over the last hundred million years.
Experts believe there is two primary reasons for this loss of earth-like environment.
First, planet Mars has a lack of plate tectonic activities. As a result, the CO2 of the air actively bound with the surface to form carbonates. As Mars lacks tectonic activities, the gases trapped in the surface had no means to get back to the atmosphere.
Second, the sudden weakening of the magnetosphere of planet Mars. Scientists believe that the dynamo of Mars stopped long ago and it caused the magnetosphere to be weakened. As a result, the harsh solar wind constantly entered the Mars atmosphere and slowly erode the planet.
To terraform Mars, we need to do two things: make a thicker atmosphere with greenhouse gases and heating it. With this, the surface temperature of the planet Mars constantly rises and takes it beyond the freezing point.
- Moon: Due to the extremely low gravity and presence of no atmosphere, terraforming Moon is even tougher than Mars. In order to terraform Moon, we would need at least 200 million tons of oxygen. And on top of that, we need water that is as much as 100 Halley’s comet.
The Current Issues Of Terraforming
Although experts have suggested many ways to terraform the other celestial bodies, there are many issues that are quite difficult to overcome. Here are some current issues with terraforming below:
- The Radiation Of Sun: Although Moon and Mars are the best candidates for terraforming right now, it’s absolutely obvious that solar radiation is hitting both of these celestial bodies continuously. Moon and Mars both have rather weak magnetospheres so, there would be bare minimum protection from solar radiation. Since these radiations are quite harmful to humans or any living organism, sustaining life without dealing with this problem is going to be a major hurdle.
- Economic Problems: No matter how optimistic we are, the cost to terraform celestial bodies would be huge. Right now, we don’t have any technology that would make terraforming a financially feasible project.
- Political Problems: The primary motivation for developing space technology and its funding was to gain political power and favor people all over the nation. There is no doubt that these factors will complicate the process to terraform planets.
How It Might Benefit Planet Earth And Humanity?
There are numerous reasons why we should get serious about space exploration and terraforming other planets. And in a few hundred years, this might end up saving both planet earth and stop the overall extinction of humanity. Here are some benefits of space exploration you probably don’t know:
Space Exploration Might Solve The Population Burst Problem
No matter how you look at it, the increasing population is a major problem right now. There are already over 7 billion people on this planet and it keeps increasing at a fast rate. And if that continues, then in a few hundred years, there wouldn’t be enough place or food for all the people in the Earth.
But space colonization can solve the problem. If we successfully colonize other planets and satellites, then we can grow food on multiple planets. Moreover, since we’ll be living on multiple planets, humans won’t have to cramp into another planet to live anymore.
This way, we can stop the overuse of Earth’s resources and save the planet from overcrowding.
Fewer People In Earth = Less Pollution = A Break In Climate Change
Since we’ll colonize other planets through terraforming, a significant number of people will go to live in other planets. As a result, the population of the earth will decrease and so will the demand for different goods. And when this happens, we will start using fewer resources from our planet and there would be less manufacturing and other economic activities. The roads will have fewer cars on the roads and humans will throw fewer waste materials to the environment.
This will lead to less CO2 emit and other greenhouse gases. And this will mean not only stop climate change but also less pollution. This way, Earth can gradually recover again and it will become a relatively better place to live.
Space Exploration Is The Trump Card Against Total Wipeout Of Humanity
No matter how much we thrive on Earth as a civilization, it will only take another super meteor to wipe us all out from existence. Simply put, if we want to survive as a species, staying content on one planet is a bad idea with no insurance.
However, with planetary colonization, we can reside on multiple planets. So, even if one planet gets wiped out for some reason, humanity will survive. Also, if we colonize other planets, we can immediately shift from one planet to another whenever one planet will face the danger of elimination.
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