So What Good Is Space Anyway?

Rob Furey
5 min readOct 28, 2021

Let’s have a quick sit-down, shall we?

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

How many times have I heard someone say, “Why do they spend so much money on space exploration? That money could be put to a better use right here on Earth.” Of course, they rarely follow through with better spending ideas. And while I don’t want to get bogged down with the inbuilt hypocrisy of the above opinion, these are often the same people that justify censorship on social media by saying they are private companies and can operate as they see fit. But for some reason, billionaires in a space race somehow need approval for their spending.

While I do not think that support or opposition for space exploration breaks down entirely by political bent, I do see a sort of haplodiplosion in the affiliations of those expressing an opinion. Critics of pursuing efforts in space fall to the left, while enthusiasts seem to come from both left and right. This breaks to emotional and deliberated thinking, and not red and blue.

Perhaps it’s a mistake to even dance around a third wire-like politics in this “with us or against us” world we live in, but of all things space should be a unifier. We can sit together in wonder and share the pride of human beings at the edge of space and profound discovery. I remember the night of 20 July 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and how across the world we all watched as Armstrong took those first human steps on the surface of another world. We were together if even for just a few moments. That triumph belonged to us all.

Relieving population pressures on Earth are often brought up. But this is a strawman that no one with a pencil and the back of an envelope considers, so let’s get it out of the way right up front. About 4.4 people are born every second which works out to about 380,000 brand spanking new human beings every day. Given that about 160,000 die over the same period, we’re left with a net gain to the global population of 220,000 individuals per day. This means that we would need to see emigration rates of over 9000 people an hour. That’s a lot of people going up in an awful lot of spaceships. Looks like we’ll need access to a lot of asteroids to mine enough raw material to keep up with that pace.

Rob Furey

Rob is a professor of integrated science in Pennsylvania where he teaches biology and forensics courses. He writes both fiction and non-fiction.