Is my EPQ any good? My title is importance of space exploration and I am only 3000 words in. I am posting everything I have written so far and tell me what you think about it. I'll take any criticism, no matter how bad it is, I really need it.
Importance of space exploration
I have always been passionate about what is beyond our planet in our solar system and have been very curious about what lies beyond our solar system. This curiosity was born in me from the time I started watching ben 10, an asteroid crashed in the whereabouts of our protagonist Ben, and he went to investigate the site, and to his surprise, a watch grabs him from the smoke and dust, turning him into his first alien, heatblast. I grew up a little more, and I came across the alien move series. The plot of the movie was based on the possibility that our ancestors are not monkeys but the engineers. Sure, that is not true, but it was enough to spark my imagination about what could be out there.
-History of space exploration
Space exploration started in 1954, with Sputnik 1 becoming the first artificial satellite to be launched in orbit. Then it was real humans that went to space, Lt. Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the Earth in 1961. Then the first human piloted flight in the same year by the American Alan Shepard. And we went on and on launching satellites that revolutionised modern technology. The satellite we have sent the furthest is Voyager 1 and it is still transmitting! Now we have reusable rockets like falcon 9, huge space telescopes such as the James Webb Space telescope, the Hubble telescope, the Kepler telescope, Chandra X-ray observatory etc. The Hubble telescope helped us learn about planets and comets in our solar system. The Kepler telescope helped us understand that there are more planets than stars in our solar system. The Chandra-X observatory helped us obtain X-ray images of exotic environments to help understand the structure and evolution of the universe. The James Webb telescope helped us look at galaxies and stars that formed not long after the big bang and, it took a direct image of an exoplanet. These achievements are the foundation of future space exploration.
Sci-fi movies have also given us a lot of interesting ideas about spaceships such as Serenity from the firefly franchise, The Endurance from the movie Interstellar, the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars franchise, the UNSC Infinity from the Halo franchise, there are just so many. Such movies have given us ideas about what an ideal spaceship for interstellar travel and space exploration would look like. The hypothetical spaceships usually consist of food farms, solar panels, hyper sleep chambers, lots of solar panels, emergency pods, labs, military, scientists, engineers, everything, it is like a mini-Earth but without the beauties mother nature.
Why is space exploration so important? Well picture this, its 2100, the population of the planet has exceeded 10.5 billion, temperature has risen by 3.5 C, sea levels have risen by 70cm and 420,000km2 of land has been consumed by the ocean, displacing 115 million people and hearing about people dying of breathing polluted air has become common.... isn’t that hellish? Are such conditions enough to wipe out humanity or cause horrible population collapse which would force us to restart civilisation? Well given at the current rate of population increase, deforestation, pollution, climate change etc, Earth will not be habitable by 30-50 years. And it's all because of population. More humans mean more space is needed to accommodate everyone meaning more trees must be cut, bigger buildings, more factories, more pollution, more waste, more land is needed to dump that waste and the list of problems just goes on and on. Why face all of that if we could just repopulate elsewhere? We have a few options, like terraforming Mars, making extremely sophisticated and complex artificial megastructures which would have everything our Earth has, but instead be easier to control and you could move it around in space. Such megastructures would take centuries to make such because of their size and contents, we’ll be recreating Earth because ours would be inhabitable, and we would have exhausted all our natural resources.
We are still in the early stages of space exploration. We have figured out how everything works in our solar system, and we have explored just past the edge of our solar system. There have been many remarkable discoveries and exploration made my man-made probes, satellites and space telescopes and if I were to write about all of them, they would very well exceed 5000 words. So here is a brief history of space exploration technologies, achievements made by them and what’s next in 2023 that will add to our knowledge of how our solar system works.
Space Exploration technologies
Space exploration technologies have evolved remarkably in the 21st century. We went from the first telescope made in 1609 by Galileo, to reusable rockets in the 21st century. We are even capable of sending humans to space. Soon enough, space travel will be commercialized I believe, which will be a huge step in space exploration. Recently, Chandrayaan 3 landed the Vikram rover on the South Pole of the Moon, and it was the first in the world to do so. So far, rover Pragyan has discovered Sulphur in the Moon’s soil which will allow us to understand more about the origins of the Moon.
The Hubble telescope helped us understand the universe and what it comprises in detail such as we the Hubble helped us pin down the age of the universe, which is 13.8 billion years old, helped us find two moons of Pluto, Nix and Hydra, helped us determine the rate at which the universe is expanding and many more.
The James Webb Space Telescope also has made a lot of discoveries, it discovered 6 galaxies which formed just 600-700 million years after the big bang, discovered an exoplanet LHS 475b which is 41 light years away from the earth and has a similar diameter as the Earth, took astonishingly detailed pictures of the Pandora Cluster, revealing three clusters of massive galaxies coming together to form a mega cluster. The combined mass of the galaxy clusters creates a powerful gravitational lens, a natural magnification effect which allows scientists to see the other galaxies, and many more.
Now SpaceX is also making big moves in the space exploration journey. In 2008, it became the first privately funded fully liquid- fueled rocket to reach orbit. SpaceX made the first private reusable rockets, popularly known as the Falcon 9 which is used to deliver payloads into earth orbit. SpaceX also became the first private company to launch citizens into orbit.
There are also a lot of projects and missions upcoming such as the Aditya L1 which is a chronography spacecraft that will study the dynamics of the solar upper atmosphere, its physics and heat mechanisms which will help us understand the sun better and hopefully replicate the phenomena for our own benefits. NASA is teaming up with SpaceX to study 16 Psyche. With the help of the Falcon Heavy rocket supplied by SpaceX, NASA will study the metal rich 16 Psyche which is believed to be the remnant core of an early planet that was formed during the birth of our solar system. How significant this mission is that it allows us to study the core of a planet. We cannot study the core of our own planet because it is too hot, instruments would melt. This mission will be launched on October 5th from the Kennedy Space Centre.
Why are all these missions so important? Are these discoveries of any use to us in the present?
Space exploration boils down to one convenient thought, self-sustainability. Space missions beyond Earth means stretching the lifespan of your resources to an absolute maximum. Our efforts beyond Earth have helped us develop technologies like the adult diaper, to the cellphone, the internet, advanced defense systems, advanced communication systems, advanced telescopes to explore possible new homes in a different solar system, maybe even in a new galaxy, or we might make our own new planet! The future of humanity resides in outer space because in the future, Earth will be overpopulated, and supply will probably not be able to meet demands. Sea levels and the temperature might rise so much that Earth becomes borderline habitable. Climate change might become extreme and unpredictable which would make living on Earth very difficult.
The challenging and only solution is to just move a few billion people out to mars and the moon.
Yes. They are of a lot of relevance to us in the present as one use of these discoveries is that they allow us to plan the future. Even if we cut down pollution to a bare minimum, and not exhaust all of nature's resources, overpopulation will force us to move out of our planet. In the timeline of the Earth, we are currently experiencing an interglacial period, a time in Ice Age where the glaciers spread, and this period started about 11,000 years ago. In this interglacial period, sea levels will rise due to glaciers melting which will make it harder for us to live in given that population will only increase with time but the amount of land we will have will decrease because of rising sea levels.
The missions and their objectives I have talked about in the section above are helping us understand other habitable places in our solar system and beyond it, and help us study asteroids and planet cores that, if we have a great understanding of, can help us replicate habitable conditions on other planets such as Mars.
Below are some applications of space exploration.
We have learnt a lot about outer space and its content in the last 200 years. But we don’t know everything. We know that we are in a solar system, surrounded by solar systems, which is in a galaxy and that galaxy is surrounded by billions of other galaxies. But there is more that we need to know to understand the universe. The universe is much more than just solar systems, there is also lots of dark matter, and estimated about 10 billion black holes.
We have gained a lot of knowledge about the origin of the universe as well. We can now look back and understand how the universe we live in changed from a dot to a billion galaxies thanks to telescopes like the Hubble telescope. According to the big bang theory, the universe began as a tiny dot, then exploded, expanded, and is still expanding. By observing the galaxies and how quickly they are departing from us, the Hubble telescope assisted in the confirmation of the big bang theory.
Talking about Mars, it’s a rich planet, full of ores such as Magnesium, aluminum, titanium, iron, and chromium. But it has no nature, no trees, no water, no organisms to sustain an ecosystem. Surprisingly enough, the clouds of Mars are made of water, ice and CO2 ice. But the temperatures there are about –153 degrees Celsius, which is inhabitable. However, Mars can be terraformed to be habitable. There are some ways we can terraform Mars to our liking such as replicating the greenhouse effect artificially to introduce some warmth that will allow us grow crops and start an ecosystem.
Mars is ore rich because of volcanic activity. Other than that, for future colonists, mars also has key life supporting compounds such as oxygen, nitrogen and water. The soil could be used as radiation shielding and could provide many useful industrial and construction materials. Compounds with high chemical energy can be manufactured on Mars.
Mars can be used mainly for its metals such as titanium. Titanium alloys are mainly used to make aircraft, spacecraft and missiles, and these technologies are going to come in handy in the future as we can import titanium from Mars in the next 2-3 decades or so. The titanium on mars can help us expand further into space for better space exploration and studying our solar system and beyond in better detail. Could this mean all our future technologies like cars, phones and buildings be made of titanium? An interesting idea to ponder about.
Asteroids have been a constant threat to Earth. They can wipe out entire cities, even countries. And the aftereffects are much worse than the collision itself! It can cause heat radiation making areas around the crater inhabitable, cause shockwaves, in other words, Earthquakes that can also trigger tsunamis. Right after the impact, it would also create a tremendous dust plume which would result in millions dying, crops failing to grow because of lack of sunlight and possibly trigger volcano eruptions. Billions would die. It’s like buy one get 10 free!
There is a solution to this problem but there is a way we could physically prevent these asteroids from making such great impacts. Asteroid laser ablation can be used to heat up asteroids, causing their trajectory to change due to ejecting gaseous material due to heating.
Asteroids are not just a threat, but also a source of minerals, rare metals and a chance to study the formation of planets, cores of planets etc. 16 Psyche, is said to contain a core of iron, nickel and gold, which is worth around 16 quintillion US dollars and there are more such asteroids in the same asteroid belt that are combined worth around 700 quintillion dollars. It's not about how much its worth, it’s about the amount. Mega structures such as the Dyson Sphere, as sphere that surrounds a star to absorb its energy for our use, powering cities and countries for 100’s of thousands of years and capable of inhabiting literally quintillions of people, until the sun explodes of course. Asteroids are going to help us survive in space as they are going to be our source of minerals and metals that will help us build new technologies, build prototypes that require rare metals that are very expensive on earth such as rhodium, platinum, gold. All these metals are used extensively in space telescopes and satellites and having more of these metals will only help us make better technology to study complex phenomena and probably even take clearer pictures of exoplanets and study atmospheres of planets in our solar system and planets in other solar systems better to identify habitable planets and extraterrestrial life.
Being closer to objects that we want to study in space, will just be a lot easier, we will understand those objects and phenomenon better.
The concept of space mining was first known in the late 1800’s and it was suggested by the Russian Scientist Konstantinos Tsiolkovsky. He suggested that space exploration could provide an opportunity for humans to acquire new resources and expand our capabilities. Much later in 1969, NASA’s Moonwalk delivered the first space samples. These space rocks offered unprecedented insight into how our planet and solar system formed. What made these samples even more valuable is that any samples we take from Earth to study the same phenomenon would give us a lot of trouble because Earth has gone through many climate cycles which has erased the history of the formation of our planet.
Apart from improving our understanding in Astronomy, space mining would be crucial in space exploration because of the simple idea of in-space refuelling, just like how we refuel our cars, we will be able to refuel our space vehicles in the far future. This can be achieved by nuclear fission of H2O. Meaning we split water into hydrogen and oxygen to make rocket propellant. Hydrogen can be used as a fuel.
As per recent data, Moon has been confirmed to have water ice in its permanently shadowed craters (a depression on a body within which lies a point that is always in darkness). Furthermore, solar winds have deposited loads of helium 3, a stable isotope of helium which can be used for third generation fusion reactors (Fusion produces 4 times more energy per kilogram of fuel than fission and four million times more energy than burning oil or coal. )
The difference is technology. Using the basic technologies that we use here on Earth will fail as there is a long list of challenges that we must overcome to mine in space with ease. The first challenge is that the mining equipment must survive high acceleration and radiation. The fuel that will be required to deliver payloads at large distances will be immense. Missions in deep space operate in microgravity – a challenge when mining an asteroid. Difference in gravity, surface of the mining spot, etc.
If we gather these resources, how are we going to deliver to Earth? How will we preserve it? How are we going to refuel? Are comets going to be a threat to the payload? How are we going to navigate the machinery from Earth? Economics of mining, International Laws of space, there are just too many factors that can each single-handedly destroy the mission.
Study of Dark Matter
Dark Matter firstly is dark, because we cannot observe it, its theoretical, and it makes up most of the universe. Meaning it is not in the form of stars and planets and in fact, observations tell us that there is far too little observable matter in the universe. Secondly, it is not in the form of baryons or dark clouds because we would be able to detect them if that were the case. Most common view is that dark matter is not baryonic matter, meaning it is not made of protons, electrons, and neutrons. Normal mater is only 5% of the universe. Dark matter and dark energy make up most of the universe, 27% and 68% respectively. We know it affects the universe’s expansion. The rest is unknown.