10 Reasons Why Space Exploration Matters to You

We May Need to Colonize Space to Survive
In the 2000 movie 'Red Planet,' a group of astronauts travel to Mars to investigate human living conditions on the planet. Frank Connor/Warner Bros./Newsmakers

Already, our ability to put satellites in space is helping us to monitor and combat pressing problems on Earth, from forest fires and oil spills to the depletion of aquifers that people depend upon for drinking water [source: Fowler].

But our burgeoning population, rampant greed and thoughtlessness about environmental consequences have already done pretty severe damage to our planet. According to a 2012 survey of research, most scientists estimate that Earth has a carrying capacity of between 8 and 16 billion – and we already have a population of over 7 billion [source: UNEP]. That's led some futurists to argue that we should be preparing to colonize another planet, and soon. Your life -- or those of your descendants -- might depend upon it.

Author's Note: 10 Reasons Why Space Exploration Matters to You

I was a child in the 1960s, a time when many of us believed that someday we would be flying off into the cosmos in search of adventure. I can't say precisely when that dream ended for me, but I remember that back in the mid-1990s, the British folksinger Billy Bragg recorded a song that seemed to capture some of what I felt. In "The Space Race is Over," Bragg sang of staring at the moon as a child, and dreaming that night of walking on the Sea of Tranquility.

But decades later, he stood staring at the same sky with his young son, who asked him, "Why did they ever go?" As Bragg lamented, "The space race is over, and I can't help but feel that we're all just going nowhere." Despite the beauty of his lyrics, I must differ with him respectfully on that last point. I continue to believe that humanity still has a chance to become a truly spacefaring race, and that we must find a way to do so.

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