The reasons for space travel are countless. Population growth is a major problem that could be helped if space travel led to discovering potentially viable living environments other than Earth. Currently, the population is doubling every 35 years and may speed up with increased technology (1). There is a vicious cycle of poverty, lack of education, and corruption that is already occurring in third world countries due to the population. A second problem that could be helped is a direct result of the first. Industrial production must be maintained, but space and resources on Earth are limited. Space exploration may allow people to relocate these processes, preventing humans from being ruined by their own wastes (1).
Discovering the origins of the universe is a major reason, as moving through space means moving back in time. Eventually, scientists hope to be able to travel back to when the Big Bang occurred, answering questions that are not yet explained by current theories. Also, spin-offs from discoveries made during previous space travel led to our satellite communications systems, GPS, and CAT scanning which has improved many lives (2). The inspiration for further research spurred by space exploration can be phenomenal. The proponents of interstellar exploration have made many advances in space travel. Amazingly, space travel did not begin until halfway through last century! In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first manmade satellite into space, Sputnik 1. Later that year, Sputnik 2 carrying the first animal, Laika, entered into orbit (4). The U.S., through NASA, launched Pioneer 1 in 1958. During the 1960s, the Soviet Union and the U.S. were in a race to be the first to land on the moon. In 1969, the United States successfully landed on the moon’s surface. In 2001, Dennis Tito was the first “space-tourist”, paying $20 million to travel into space (4).
Currently, the space program is involved in many explorations. There are missions that are exploring Mercury, as well as Spirit and Opportunity roving on Mars’ surface. The Stardust spacecraft has recently studied the dust and dirt of the comet Wild 2 and will return to Earth in January 2006. The Cassini orbiter is going on a four-year tour of Saturn to see its magnetosphere and the interaction with its moon and rings. The Cassini orbiter is also studying Saturn’s solar winds, internal structure, and atmosphere. Aura was launched to study the Earth’s ozone air quality, climate, and atmosphere. Most recently, Expedition 10 Mission was sent to the Space Station to conduct experiments and spacewalks until April 24, 2005 (4).
Physicists and aeronautical engineers have developed several new possibilities for future interstellar travel. One prospect is a space elevator. NASA scientists are currently discussing the possibility of building a 50 km space tower with a cable made of carbon nanotubes which would be bound to the top, reaching into space (5). The other end of the cable would be...