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  • Nivan Agarwal

Cosmos Conscience

In 1957, the launch of 'Sputnik' marked a pivotal moment in humanity's pursuit of knowledge beyond Earth. NASA's satellites like Voyager 1 and 2, along with the Hubble Telescope, have uncovered cosmic marvels. However, amid this fascination lies an ethical query: Is there a limit to the pursuit of knowledge? While space exploration offers insights, the immense challenges and inherent risks are undeniable.

Our inherent curiosity drives us to explore the cosmos, propelling us beyond familiar boundaries. Yet, the extreme conditions and absence of air in space pose substantial risks, reminding us of the dangers that come with our quest.

The true challenge of space exploration lies in its unpredictability. Despite advanced technology, the ever-changing vacuum environment remains difficult to fully comprehend. The physical and psychological risks faced by astronauts during extended missions further underscore the dangers.

Amid a focus on sustainability, the environmental toll of space exploration cannot be ignored. From carbon emissions in rocket launches to manufacturing and infrastructure, the ecological footprint is concerning, invoking eco-anxiety. During launch, rockets can emit between four and ten times more nitrogen oxides than Drax, the largest thermal power plant in the UK, over the same period.

Beyond its peaceful intentions, the militarization of space casts a shadow. Satellites that aid communication and navigation could potentially be turned towards aggressive applications, unsettling global stability and security. Peace and stability, which this world has desired for aeons, might completely unravel.

The financial burden of space exploration is substantial, with costs running into billions for ventures to neighbouring cosmic bodies. Taking the example of the recently successful Chandrayaan 3 mission, the total expenditure added up to a whopping Rs. 615 crore. The question arises: Should governments prioritise such colossal investments over urgent needs like disaster management or healthcare? Solar flares and space debris also jeopardise these ventures, highlighting the vulnerability of our non-renewable resources.

Contemplating space exploration's impact, we must consider the risk of contaminating pristine extraterrestrial habitats. Human presence could disrupt delicate balances, endangering potential ecosystems. For example, the Apollo missions to the Moon left behind a significant amount of debris, including 96 bags of human waste. This debris could potentially contaminate the Moon and make it difficult for future missions to explore.

As we navigate these dilemmas, our choices today shape the legacy for future generations. Not every question demands an answer; embracing this truth is pivotal to humanity's mission of exploration. To put into perspective, while space exploration captivates our imagination, it's crucial to acknowledge its challenges and drawbacks. The pursuit of knowledge beyond our planet is not without risks, both ethical and practical. Balancing curiosity with responsibility is the cornerstone of humanity's journey into the cosmos, and this balance should be the main crux about which must revolve mankind’s research of the endless void of space.

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